Pantry challenge update #2

The pantry challenge has been so easy that I’ve barely noticed it, except that my trips to the grocery store are quicker and I’m spending less money. You can read about the challenge and the plan here and the first update here. The idea is to use up our holiday leftovers while avoiding waste, to get the pantry and freezer organized so we know what’s in there and use it before it goes bad, and to save money as a bonus.

Here’s a quick update on how it’s going.

First of all, we’re more than halfway through the month and I can see we won’t even get to all the meals I had planned. Our pantry is getting much more organized and I’m able to see what we have more easily, so it will be easier to avoid waste. And we’ve barely even touched the freezer stash. Somehow it comforts me to know that we could easily go two or three months without shopping if we really needed to. I wouldn’t want to have to of course, and I wouldn’t choose to eat canned and frozen food all the time, but it makes me feel more self-sufficient to know how easy it is to survive on so little. And just so you know, we’re not sacrificing our health because I’m supplementing with fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, and meat, and we don’t eat packaged food.

Here’s what we’ve been eating:

Savory rosemary bread puddingcrockpot chicken tacos, pizza, potstickers/greens/sweet potato fries, and lots and lots of chili (a big bowl of chili feeds two people several times). Lunches have been leftovers, salads, and fresh fruit. Breakfast is a smoothie, homemade granola and yogurt, or peanut butter toast. For snacks and dessert, we finally finished the holiday cookies and chocolate, plus I made a pumpkin pie and some banana/coconut bread. See how deprived we are?

This week’s grocery list:

Chicken breasts, almond milk, milk, yogurt, cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa, molasses and maple syrup (I make a lot of homemade granola), spinach, romaine, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and tortilla chips.

At this rate, I’m definitely going to have the lowest grocery bill ever this month. And I’m looking forward to more delicious meals this week, plus I’ll be making The Frugal Girl’s french bread and a few new dessert items.

The main thing I’ve noticed so far is how much food is always in the refrigerator when you’re making everything from scratch, even snacks. And that’s a real money saver as well. I’ve also gotten more creative and used things I probably wouldn’t have in the past. For example, I used 4-day-old French bread for the savory bread pudding, and it was delicious.

A big thanks to all of you who’ve  joined the challenge for your great ideas and the recipes you’ve posted. I encourage everyone to check out the Comments section of all the pantry challenge-related posts to read them.

Are you participating in the pantry challenge? How’s it going so far? Let us know in the Comments section. And keep the tips and recipes coming, thanks!


  1. says

    Yes, I’ve been enjoying the pantry challenge this month and may continue it on into next month as I am also doing a NO spend February challenge. The two should work well together:) My partner is a whiz at making soups out of veggies and leftovers and I like taking it for lunch. He also works part-time at a restaurant and sometimes brings home some leftovers. I recently cut my food budget down by $50 per month ($225 every two weeks) and for the first 2 weeks I had about $40 left which felt great. But I think I can do even better the second half of January with some creative cooking. I’ve started making oatmeal every morning as I bought a large bag before Christmas – should last me quite a while! Things I’ve been buying are lettuce, spinach, celery, fruit, milk, a chicken, toilet paper, a Dairy Queen cake for a birthday, juice. We are very well stocked and I shouldn’t have to shop more than once more for this month.

    • Angela says

      Jane- It sounds like you’re on track to save a lot of $- good for you! I also love soup made from vegetables, almost any mixture pureed is tasty. And it’s so great to have something easy and delicious to take to work, and skip the $10 lunch, thank you very much!

      I wish I liked oatmeal- it sure is healthy, and a budget stretcher as well. I find I can eat it when someone else makes it, but not when I make it myself at home. I do eat a lot of homemade granola though, and I love it so much it’s like candy to me, especially with yogurt.

      So glad you’re joining in, and thanks for commenting!

  2. says

    I’ve been following along and doing our own Pantry Challenge, sort of. This week, we’ve had homemade cinnamon- oatmeal- date cookies; bacon- corn- potato chowder with scratch made cheddar biscuits; stroganoff over parsleyed buttered noodles with broccoli and red pepper ( used that lonely 1/2 container sour cream and stretched a steak to feed 4); chicken/ yams/ and green beans; and sausage and brown rice vegetable casserole. It is meat- heavy this week, but all the meat is locally grown grass pastured and “processed” with no growth hormone or antibiotics. We spend about $225 every 2-3 mo to stock the freezer with enough meat for 2 adults and 2 teenager eating machines….er..”boys”.

    From the leftover chicken bones and less than stellar veggies made a wonderful simmered stock in the crock pot, over night.( making broth in the crock pot is super easy!) Leftover cooked yams will be sweet potato biscuits, today. Most leftovers are cycled into brown bag lunches.

    Thinking a big batch of black bean chili, today, served over jalepeno studded polenta? Orange slices and pomegranate seeds on the salad greens?

    Good luck! I look forward to updates.

    • Angela says

      Susan- My mouth is watering from all your meal descriptions! Talk about not feeling deprived while doing the challenge!

      You gave me a great idea of how to use up the sour cream we’ll have left over- I always buy some when we’re doing “Mexican” meals for awhile, but we never use it up, so I’ll make chicken stroganoff. It sounds delicious, and my husband will love it. And I love the idea of making broth in the crockpot, I’ve been wanting to make my own broth more often. Do you just throw old carrots and onions, or whatever you’ve got, into the crockpot with water and leave on low overnight?

      Also, if you have time, I’ll post recipes on the next update, and would love to have some of yours, especially sweet potato biscuits, cinnamon -oatmeal-date cookies, and black bean chili/polenta. You sound like a real gourmet chef!

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      • says

        Stock/ broth is wicked easy in the crock pot! Toss the cooked and cleaned bones into the crock pot. Add generous handfuls of chopped celery, onion, and carrot. The bones ( and wings) still had herbs from roasting, but I add fresh cracked pepper or a spoonful of whole pepper corns. A few twists of fresh ground sea salt. Cover with water and set on ” low” over night.

        The next morning, you’ll be greeted by a deep rich amber chicken stock. Turn off the Crock pot and allow to cool slightly. Strain and ladle into freezer containers. I strain mine using a fine mesh colander over a large bowl. Discard the bones, etc. It made 4 pints of rich, low sodium stock for the freezer. Be warned: once you make your own stock, you won’t ever buy canned, again.

        Hardly a “gourmet” cook! More like Queen of Peasant Food. Good food doesn’t have to be pricey or ridiculous. No ersatz towers of discordant flavors floating in pools of mystery reduction sauces. Over styled food is another mind- bender. Just call it Art and forget the inedibles.

        Cook with all your senses…..does it smell good? Is it pretty? Identifiable? The texture? A lowly pot of chili is transformed by cumin and chipotle. Add a surplus of chopped red, yellow, and green peppers for color, crunch and vitamin C. Cilantro on the side for those who wish to imbibe. Boring corn bread can be recast as polenta! No time for polenta as planned? A hearty coarse whole grain corn bread laced with jalepeno and cheese. Hmmm… we have poms and oranges to use up…that sweet- tart will be a welcome relief to the chili burn…and pretty, too!

        One of the best received seat of my pants endeavors was a salad for the Cross Country team potluck. Think ” healthy eaters”. Mixed salad greens..chopped apples and pears with a touch of lemon juice…pom seeds…dried cherries for ” chewy”….toasted pecans….and honey- fig chevre ( tangy and creamy). Made a pom- orange vinaigrette to accompany. Boy returned with an empty bowl and requests for recipe. Honestly, it was a clean out the fridge creation.

        • Angela says

          Thanks Susan. I’m definitely going to start making crockpot broth. And yes, that salad sounds delicious. I find a lot of things come together when you have fresh, tasty ingredients available. Thanks for your reply!

  3. says

    Thanks for linking to that great recipe for the french bread. I’m snowed in, we have the ingredients, and I’m pretty sure some yummy french bread will be on the table for dinner 😉

    • Angela says

      Hope it came out, Kimberly! That recipe is a real winner. Hope it takes some of the “bite” out of being snowed in. When I was just 19, I lived for a winter at a ski resort. That was when I first baked bread from scratch, when we were snowed in.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. says

    Angela! It’s been a while (I was once featured in one of your Thrifty Threads post & my X-husband, was the first man ever featured, as well!) ; I just started blogging again, after a 1-1/2 break, due to personal, life situation; but I’m back! I have been getting caught-up on reading your blog and as always, LOVE it!
    I have been doing my own pantry challenge, too and boy has my life situation changed, this past year! I’m mainly only cooking for two, these days, as opposed to 8-10 folks, in the last two decades! Needless to say, that alone, has been a challenge! However, I share often and have made four wonderful, friends in my new home (downstairs neighbors; two-couple sets) that I’m sure will be friends for life—–all because of my love for cooking and sharing with friends and family.
    I’m featuring a “recipe a day” on my blog, and being Southern, there is plenty to choose from! It’s cold here about 6 months out of the year and during the cold months, I go into Soup Mode!
    I prefer HomeMade Everything, if I can scout out a good recipe! But I am lucky in the sense that I’ve been cooking for 23 years and have managed to aquire lots of helpful kitchen equipment, and I realize that many people may not have that available to them, yet. I’m currently in the market for recipes to use up 10 packets of pesto sauce mix, that my Mr. had in his pantry, when I arrived! So far, I have a pesto dip & a pesto marinade for meats & would love any suggestions. (Sorry, pesto just isn’t as popular in the South, apparently, as other places…)
    We bought a spiral ham of very good size (I can’t remember the weight…) before Christmas, for $13.66 and ate off of that for a few meals, but deboned it into quart size baggies and froze those, for later use. I also used the bone to make a huge crock of split-pea soup, which I froze into small portions; then reused the bone, to make a huge crock of pinto (brown) beans, and froze that into small servings. So, we’ve had a lot of soup, stew, chili and ham, off of that one spiral ham, as well as, ham for breakfast & biscuits. I can share recipes, if you would like.
    I really enjoy reading your posts and admire the dedication and challenge to taking a closer look, to how we all consume food.

    • Angela says

      Hi Meg! Of course I remember you! It’s great to hear from you and I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well. I’ll check out your new blog with the “recipe a day” – it sounds great, and I’m a big soup fan.

      Thanks for commenting, and I’m so happy you’re back into blogging.


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