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Pantry Challenge 2019: Week 1 Update

man's hands pressing on top of giant cheeseburger

Alrighty then! I’m one week into our pantry challenge, and my belly is full. I take that as a good sign.

Bonus: I did spent tons of time in the kitchen as I have done in years past. Over the last year, I’ve gotten into a good groove with Sunday afternoon meal prep; that habit has really served me well this week.

Over the long weekend, I baked a ton of bread (including that giant cheeseburger bun!) as well as cooked up big pots of beans to use in recipes throughout the week. Such a lifesaver!

I have a feeling that weekend meal prep just may be a game changer for the pantry challenge going forward.

My Plans

As I mentioned earlier, my general plan is to spend only half of our monthly budget (currently set for $1000/month for the new year) by shopping my pantry and freezers before I go to the store. I’ve focused on making more things from scratch and making good use of leftovers.

Most meals/days have been wins, but there have been some fails — like the crockpot full of apples and broken glass that had to be chucked. Overall, we’re doing okay, though.

Here’s what we ate this week:

Pantry Challenge 2019: Week 1 Update

collage of pantry challenge meals day 1

Day 1

Brunch: Fried Eggs, Cheese Enchiladas (from the freezer), Hashbrowns, and Seasoned Rice Pilaf (leftover) – I only had 10 enchiladas and a little rice, so I stretched it with the hashbrowns and eggs and everyone was super pleased.

Dinner: Roast Turkey Breast and all the Trimmings – I tried making my Easy Cranberry Sauce in the slow cooker. I did not like how it turned out and neither did the fam. Ho hum.

The turkey breast was way too small to fill people up, so that was a bummer, but the gravy…?

I had stashed a pot of this Mushroom and Onion Gravy Recipe in the freezer after Thanksgiving. It was a hit!

I made turkey stock the next day with the breast bone which I used on Soup Night.

collage of pantry challenge meals day 2

Day 2

Breakfast: Sourdough Cinnamon Twists – I thought these were great, but my family wasn’t overly thrilled with them. Granted it was in the middle of Christmas and New Year’s when we had a lot of sweets about. I froze the extras which I’m guessing will be devoured in desperate times later in the month.

Lunch: Giant Cheeseburger – a fun tradition we’ll be doing again! Bryan gets the credit for the idea. He’d been talking about it for days, so we went ahead and did it. It was so yummy!

I used two pounds of ground beef plus a chopped scallion and some Herbed Seasoning Mix. I loved that seasoning combination and will be doing that from now on for burgers.

I also baked one large hamburger bun from a batch of my Sourdough Hamburger Bun dough (recipe found in this cookbook, but adapted for natural yeast). I will have to do it again soon and write up a post! This was super fun!

Dinner: New Year’s Eve Mocktail Party – As you may know for years we’ve had a “mocktail party” on New Year’s Eve. The kids would each choose a dish to contribute and I would spend half the day helping each one cook.

It was super fun this year as none of the kids needed my help to cook! Life is beautiful, people!

They made a very elaborate spread including fish and chips, homemade fried shrimp wontons,  homemade Buffalo wings, cute fruit skewers, and chocolate marshmallows. Can’t wait to see what they cook up next year!

collage of pantry challenge meals day 3

Day 3

Breakfast: Greek Eggs, Various Baked Goods, including mini bagels and Vanilla Cranberry Bread from this cookbook

Not all my kids like Greek Eggs, so they fried or scrambled their own. No problem. More for me!

Lunch: Hot Dogs, Quinoa Salad, Mom’s Macaroni Salad

I really love to make many side salads at one time and have these to enjoy during the week. I was able to pack my husband’s lunches for Wed and Thursday from this stash. Wasn’t quite filling enough for him, though.

That’s probably because the potatoes for the potato salad I had planned to make ended up getting tossed. I lost my grip on the pot and they all spilled out. Ugh.

Dinner: Cornish Hen Rice Bake (similar to this recipe, but with Cornish hens), New Year’s Cake for dessert

This Cornish Hen and Rice Bake is one of the first dinners I ever made back when I was in high school. I bought the hens last month at Costco, first time I’d seen them in probably 20 years. My kids and husband had never had this dish with the hens as I’d made this Chicken and Wild Rice Bake with bone-in chicken breast instead.

It was definitely a novelty!

The New Year’s Cake was baked by my daughter. She made a Chocolate Peppermint Cake with a Mint Ganache. I was still off chocolate at the time, but everyone loved it. I disappeared really quickly.

collage of pantry challenge meals day 4

Day 4

Breakfast: Fried Eggs, Toast, and Avocado

Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for kids, Salad for me

Dinner: Leftover Hot Dogs, Mac Cheese (boxed), Salads, Cookies for dessert

This was a pretty mellow day. One son is out of town, my husband and second son were back to work. That left me and four kids at home. Nothing too earth-shattering to report.

It was also date night so I don’t have a picture of what the kids ate, but they were all thrilled with their hodge-lodge smorgasbord, believe it or not. Two absolutely love hot dogs; one was dying for boxed mac and cheese; the fourth was thrilled to have the rest of the salads to herself.

It all worked out.

For our part, we did a pretty cheap date at Ty’s Burger House. Our grocery budget and date night budget are separate, so we broke no rules in going out. 😉

collage of pantry challenge meals day 5

Day 5

Breakfast: Greek Eggs; Fried Eggs; toast

Can you tell Greek Eggs are a favorite around here? I bought a big container of feta cheese in early December, but I had the foresight to divide it into smaller containers and freeze most of it. This has allowed me to stretch our feta purchase and not let it go to waste.

Lunch: Green Salads for me and girls, boys were at friends’

Dinner: Baked Arancini (made with leftover rice from Day 3), Stone Soup (with lots of leftover bits), homemade sourdough bread from freezer

This was the first time I ever made Arancini. I scanned a bunch of different recipes on the internet and then got creative.

You’re supposed to use leftover risotto. I had leftover baked rice pilaf. Not quite the starchy rice typically used in risotto or in arancini. But, I also had leftover gravy, so I added a bit to the rice along with a beaten egg. That helped things stick together.

Once I rolled the balls, I rolled them in flour seasoned with Herbed Seasoning Mix, dipped them in beaten egg, and then rolled them in panko bread crumbs. I baked them for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. They were really good!

There’s no way my family would have eaten that rice plain, but they gobbled it down in these fun little rice balls.

I had still MORE leftover rice that I mixed with the aforementioned turkey stock, leftover gravy, mashed potatoes, chicken, carrots, celery, spinach, and sausage. The gravy and potatoes as well as the rice help thicken the soup.

FishChick10 and I absolutely loved the soup, but the guys prefer red or brown soups, so they weren’t super crazy about it. No problem. I tucked the leftovers in the freezer for me and my girl to have a yummy lunch next week!

collage of pantry challenge meals day 6

Day 6

Breakfast: Breakfast Bar

Of note: I regularly buy six dozen eggs each week. That’s the limit that you can buy at ALDI at one time, but also the amount of eggs we go through in a week. True story.

I busted out a second loaf of cranberry bread from the freezer (I made three over the weekend). Super yummy!

Lunch: Easy Slow Cooker Chili – this was a chili that I threw together early in the morning: frozen black beans, frozen pintos, frozen chicken stock, a can of roasted tomatoes, seasonings. I skipped the beef and since I had a small packet of frozen sautéed onion and celery leftover from Thanksgiving, I threw that in.

It turned out so good! Plus, adding a few toppings and chips always seems to make it seem like so much more!

Dinner: Grilled Sourdough Pizza

Sometime this month I’ll put together a recipe post of our Grilled Sourdough Pizza. We started making this last April or May. I make the dough on Friday mornings. In the evening I shape the dough and then my girls help me “decorate” the pizzas.

My husband cooks them on the grill. He enjoys the challenge while I enjoy sitting down and resting!

It’s been a little tricky with the grill the last couple weeks since we’ve had a serious cold snap here.

collage of pantry challenge meals day 7

Day 7

Breakfast: Pancakes

My youngest loves to make pancakes so we worked on this project together. I taught her to weigh flour, something she never noticed me do.

I do it every time.

It was a great start to the weekend.

Lunch: Burritos

The day before I cooked beans and chicken so that my husband could make a bunch of extra burritos for the freezer. He and the college kids will take these in their lunches throughout the month.

Dinner: Lasagna, Milk and Honey Cornbread, Lemon Broccoli

I made several lasagnas early last month and we’ve got one left. Boom. Time to eat it up.

I love having cornbread with lasagna. One of my editors gave em the side eye over that combo years ago. I think it’s because Marie Calendars always served cornbread with all their entrees? Don’t know.

But, if you haven’t tried lasagna and cornbread together, you should!

ALDI groceries in cart

Grocery Stops

I made three stops during the week, once at ALDI for a big fill-in-the-blanks shop, once at Ralphs in the hopes that I’d find good clearance items (it was meh) and once at Costco. I ended up spending $156 in total.

  • ALDI – $66
  • Ralphs – $8
  • Costco – $82

The bulk of the spending was, as one might expect at Costco, but those purchases will stretch far into the month. My theory is that spending some money now, front-loading my spending at the start, will help us have success all month long.

We shall see. One week down, only four more to go!

kitchen winners circle bookmark and cookbooks

If you’d like to up your game in the kitchen and get around-the-clock support for your pantry challenge, join the Kitchen Winners Circle, an online community to help you connect with fellow cooks and to equip yourself with resources and support to reach your goals in the kitchen.

Find more details here.

How’s the Pantry Challenge going for you?

Give us an update in the comments section. I can’t wait to hear about the progress you’ve made!

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