Archive for Pantry Challenge

Pantry Challenge, Day 35: The End!

Today was the last official day of the pantry challenge. I’m glad we did it, and I’m also glad it’s over!

For breakfast this morning we once again had pumpkin pie and chia pudding, by which I mean that I had chia pudding and my husband had pumpkin pie.

We had an early lunch snack of the leftover sushi from last night before heading over to his family’s house to all get together and do Thanksgiving baking, so the rest of our meals today were eaten with them and were therefore uninteresting from a pantry challenge perspective.

Here are the notable bits if information I gleaned from 5 weeks of (mostly) not buying groceries:

*We will happily eat just about any kind of meat, or even fish. Chicken, beef, pork, salmon, sardines, crab… any kind of animal protein we had on hand, it was all good.

*We like eating a lot of protein. I did know this already, but it was actually rather gratifying to realize that as I tried stretching out the meat more the farther we got into the pantry challenge, the more we noticed carb crashing between meals and not feeling quite as well. I’ve always been resistant to the the ‘eat less meat’ theory of saving money on groceries, and this is more evidence that we really do feel better when we get to eat more meat.

*Broccoli, candied celery and alfalfa sprouts are good in sushi.

*Celery in general is really not that good, and worse after it’s frozen.

*There’s no reason for me to ever stock up on weird vegetables we don’t like to eat.

*There’s no reason for me to ever stock up on ANY weird food we don’t like to eat.

*I SHOULD stock up on meat, dairy and other basic foods that we eat a lot of.

*I SHOULD try lots new foods and recipes even if they seem weird (just in small quantities until we confirm whether they turn out well).

And now I am looking forward to a butter filled Thanksgiving meal tomorrow and going grocery shopping next week!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Pantry Challenge, Day 34: Turkey Sushi

For breakfast on Tuesday I (finally!) had made some breakfast food ahead, so we had pumpkin pie AND chia pudding.

I had lunch on my own, and as I tend to do when I’m eating only on my stomach’s schedule, I ate two small meals, one late morning and one early afternoon. For one meal I had leftover pasta from Monday’s lunch and for the other I had part of a meat and pasta dish that had been in the freezer. (It was originally about one and half portions of meat and pasta that had been leftover and I threw in the freezer because we had too many leftovers at the time already.)

For supper I made some interesting sushi. I did quite enjoy most of the sushi, and my husband said all of the ingredients I used were worth putting into our normal sushi rotation, but almost everything that went into the sushi was quite nontraditional.

I started with my normal nori sheets and sushi rice. I used (nitrate free) turkey lunchmeat for the meat in the sushi, and added various combinations of candied celery, homemade cheese, lentil sprouts and alfalfa sprouts. The lentil sprouts were my least favorite, but everything else was really good in the sushi, especially with some honey/olive oil/vinegar salad dressing, horseradish and pickled ginger to go with the sushi.


Pantry Challenge, Day 33: Meatloaf and Celery Fritters

For breakfast on Monday we had leftover millet, once again with honey and cinnamon.

For lunch I made a casserole sort of dish with leftover elbow macaroni I had in the fridge, white sauce, sliced up turkey lunchmeat and lots of spices. With the turmeric and onion powder being prominent flavors it kind of tasted like a hamburger helper (in a good way).

For supper I made meatloaf and celery fritters. The  meatloaf turned out really well just leaving out the egg and using plenty of oats and milk as a binder. I used a homemade ketchup based sauce on top and we really enjoyed having a ground beef based dish again.

The celery fritters were actually pretty good too, and would be a reasonable way to use up celery in the future. Yay for breading and frying! They would have actually been really good, except the celery texture was a bit tough after freezing, so it didn’t completely blend in to the fritter dough texture.


Pantry Challenge, Day 32: Salmon Chowder

For breakfast on Sunday I cooked up some millet which we sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey (I also added a splash of milk to mine). It made a pretty good breakfast and my husband seemed to enjoy it more than he would enjoy oatmeal.

For church fellowship meal we took salmon chowder, which I made from pretty basic ingredients: milk, chicken broth, a can of salmon, diced potatoes and sliced carrots. As with most things, a dash of turmeric really tied together all the flavors well, and I was pleased that most of the chowder got eaten. Sometimes when branching out beyond meat and potato type dishes it’s hard to tell what’s going to be popular and what’s going to be avoided, but I may make salmon chowder more often if it continues to be a popular dish even on repeat occasions.

Sunday evening we had a couple of my nieces and nephews over. We basically just scrounged leftovers for supper. I had an extra pizza crust left from Friday, so I topped it with the last of the leftover pizza sauce, the last of the leftover pork filling (from pork dumplings), the last chunk of leftover kombucha chicken (sliced thin) and homemade cheese. That made a surprisingly good pizza, and we rounded out the meal with beef stew from the freezer (which had originally been leftover shepherd’s pie filling).

The fact that we had guests becomes important, as you will understand when I inform you that we broke into the ice cream that I bought last Thursday. There are certain serious life topics that just need to be followed by ice cream, and under the comfort of guests clause in my pantry challenge rules, we did just that.

I’m actually very pleased that we’ve had minimal reason to invoke that clause, as feeding other people reasonable food has been mostly feasible even on the normal pantry challenge limits.

Pantry Challenge, Day 31: Leftovers

Saturday was kind of an odd day, not quite like our normal Saturdays or our normal week days. I fried up a couple of potatoes in olive oil for our breakfast (eaten with fermented ketchup, of course), then we went out to help with a moving day, which went surprisingly quickly. When we came home I proceeded to nap for about three hours.

I woke up hungry and we reheated our leftover Chinese food from Thursday as a late lunch and proceeded to graze on odds and ends of leftovers until my husband (who noted that I seemed especially tired) volunteered to cook up the leftover pork dumpling meat and dough into pork dumplings for supper.

I often appreciate the fact that my husband can throw together meals of ground beef and fried potatoes or pasta, but I sometimes forget that he can actually cook when he has the time to. It’s fun to be reminded of this fact on occasion. 🙂

Because we had extra meat leftover after he filled all the dough he fried up part of it to go with the pork dumplings for extra protein (it had been a fairly carby day up until then, so extra meat sounded really good to both of us). We ate it in bowls, liberally doused with faux soy sauce, and it was amazing.

Pantry Challenge, Day 30: Sardine Pizza and Pear Sauce

On Friday, which was day 30 of our pantry challenge, my husband had the last of the rice pudding for breakfast and I fixed myself peanut butter oatmeal. My husband’s not a big fan of oatmeal, but I am, and I’m surprised I didn’t think of adding it in for my pantry challenge breakfasts sooner.

For lunch we each had our restaurant leftovers from the night before, with a little bit of food swapping to balance out the meals.

Supper was sardine pizza. I think I messed up the crust, which has turned out really well for me before (I used a different flour this time which might be the problem). I put leftover pizza sauce on the crust along with sardines, homemade cheese and a sprinkle of mozzerella.

My husband summed up sardine pizza by saying it wasn’t like normal pizza, but was very good as it’s own thing. I found it to be more ‘meh’, but I think that had more to do with the crust being off than the topping, which seemed like they should have worked fine.

Oh, and as a side to the pizza I made pear sauce out of this can of pears we had in the pantry. We don’t really eat canned fruit (except maybe pineapple), so I’m not sure I thought it was a good idea to buy canned pears, but I put them to good use in the pear sauce, with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and it was really nice to have a bit of fruit in our meal.

Pantry Challenge, Day 29: Eating Out and Grocery Shopping (Costco and Kroger)

Thursday was a very odd food day. We had leftover rice pudding for breakfast, which was on track for how food has been lately.

After that, however, we ate out the rest of the day. I almost feel like this was cheating on the pantry challenge somehow, but since it would have worked out this way regardless of our pantry challenge status, I’m trying to be chill and not stress about having to tell all of you about it.

We discovered the day before that we had Seize the Deal vouchers to a local Chinese place that expired on Friday. Clearly, we should not let this happen, and we needed to use the vouchers as soon as possible, so we planned a lunch date for Thursday.

We had also already planned to go out to dinner with my husband’s parents that evening, as we were finally making use of their Christmas present last year which was a ‘coupon’ for them to take us out to dinner. We had a very nice dinner at a local restaurant called Salt, which my husband and I had not been to before, but had heard good things about. Everything we ate was very good, but possibly the most interesting thing we ordered was the fried deviled eggs. I didn’t have any (pesky egg allergy) but I’m pretty sure just knowing they exist should inspire some sort of burst of culinary creativity.

Since I didn’t have any meals to video for the pantry challenge post, I did a video of my grocery shopping haul for the day, with explanations of why I bought what I did and how it fits into the pantry challenge rules (hint: we’re not eating most of it during the pantry challenge).

I spent about $40 at Costco and got green beans, garlic and apple cider for our Thanksgiving meal, cheese for meal I’m making and giving away to friends who recently had a baby (leftover cheese will be saved for after the pantry challenge is over) and organic canned pumpkin which I only got because I didn’t want to miss the time where it was in stock at Costco, and we will also not be eating it until after the pantry challenge is over.

I spent about $15 on food at Kroger (this number is approximate because I also had some non food purchases, such as white vinegar, which I ONLY use for cleaning). There I got sour cream and ground beef, which like the cheese is destined for the  meal I’m giving away, and whatever’s left will also be saved for after the pantry challenge is over. I also picked up cabbage, which I’m using to make sauerkraut for someone else (and regardless the sauerkraut wouldn’t be ready until after the pantry challenge is over), and ice cream.

Admittedly, the ice cream does not really fit into the rules of the pantry challenge, but I needed it for a video I’m going to film with an idea for using up some of your Thanksgiving leftovers. In order to get the video posted in a timely way I’m going to have to film the video during our pantry challenge, so we will probably cheat on the pantry challenge in that one small way. I assure you, we will be very good and only eat as much of the ice cream as we have to as responsible food bloggers.

This post contains affiliate links.

Pantry Challenge, Day 28: Pork Dumplings and Roasted Cabbage

Wednesday morning we had rice pudding for breakfast. (Yay!)

For lunch we had leftover chicken, lentils and creamed celery. It was an okay meal to start with, but for some reason after eating most of the leftovers I decided I really never wanted to see this meal again, and threw away what was left. I did save a small piece of chicken that was left, and I probably would have saved the lentils if they hadn’t been down  to a couple of spoonfuls that were covered with celery sauce, so I guess it was the creamed celery I really didn’t like, but I’m really not sure why.

Supper was a very good (almost normal) meal. I made pork dumplings, with a few minor adjustments for missing ingredients and roasted some cabbage we had in the freezer.

I’ve noticed that frozen cabbage often loses its natural sweetness and gains a bitter edge, and I really didn’t want a repeat of the celery experience, so I took some extra care seasoning the cabbage. I sliced it up fairly thin, coated it with olive oil, added plenty of salt and pepper, a good hearty dash of garlic powder and small dash of cayenne, then drizzled it with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup (the last of what we had left in the fridge at the start of the pantry challenge–there are just drippings left which I may rinse out with hot water and add to something else if it seems called for). I roasted the cabbage at 400 for 30 or 40 minutes and it came out very well. I would make cabbage like that again.

The pork dumpling sauce seemed a little off to me, but the pork dumplings themselves tasted normal despite the adjustments, so it was a refreshingly good meal after a meh meal the night before.

Pantry Challenge, Day 27: Kombucha Chicken, Lentils and Creamed Celery

Over the weekend my husband discovered a box of off brand rice crispies in the pantry, which I’d forgotten we had because we so rarely eat cereal. He was quite pleased with this discovery, and it was good timing because we’re really starting to run low on breakfast food. As you might have guessed, we had rice crispies for breakfast this morning.

I was once again on my own for lunch and I had leftover salmon and cucumber pasta from last night. The cucumber pasta was much better as leftovers than it was the first time around, and I think it might even be good cold as a pasta salad.

For our main dish for supper I cooked chicken breasts in kombucha. Kombucha has worked really well for me before as a sort of glaze for ham cooked in the crockpot, but in the this case I think it would have been better if I’d gone  with my original instinct to marinate the chicken breasts in kombucha and then cook them with this method. The skillet method has worked amazingly well the last two times I’ve cooked chicken breast, and by comparison the chicken breast semi stewed in kombucha was kind of dry.

I also made celery gratin, or perhaps just creamed celery. I was originally planning to work from this recipe, but in the end what I made bore almost no relation to the original recipe. I simmered the still kind of frozen celery in white wine to defrost it, made a simple white sauce spiced with basil, mixed together the celery and white sauce and added parmesan. It was actually pretty good, though more like a thick cream of celery soup than anything else.

To round out the meal I made red lentils, cooked them in chicken broth and added lots of spices, especially cumin, turmeric and garlic. I was counting in the RED lentils to make the meal less beige, but I forgot they pretty much turn brown when cooked.

In order to try to compensate for the  excessive beigeness of the meal I plated it up as nicely as I could, with half a chicken breast on top of a heap of lentils and the creamed celery in a half circle around it, then sprinkling the whole thing with dried parsely.

It only kind of helped. Still, my husband’s assessment was, “It was like a real meal made from weird ingredients,” so I think that qualifies as a pantry challenge success.

Pantry Challenge, Day 26: Marinated Salmon Fillets and Cucumber Parmesan Macaroni

Monday morning I was hoping to wake up energetic and ready to clean up the house and catch up on dishes after a weekend of being sick, but I wasn’t that surprised when instead we still needed another sick day.

For breakfast I fried up a bag of sliced apples I’d found in the freezer, using almost the last of our coconut oil. (This means we’re basically down to olive oil and a  little bit of rice bran oil for fats in the house. Not ideal, but for now I’m going to try to make do with those until my Azure order comes in later this week.)

For lunch we had leftover salmon chowder from Sunday.

Once again the lack of easy snacking food in the afternoon was a bit challenging (no pun intended), especially as we’re now out of crackers. I mixed up some more garlic cream cheese dip and (after my husband definitively determined that it’s NOT good with graham crackers) we ate it with ezekiel toast triangles.

I didn’t have a lot of energy for cooking supper, but I knew it would be easier to throw together that it might sound from the description, besides which, we had very limited options for food in the house if I went off the menu plan at this point in the pantry challenge, and I was also quite curious as to how this particular meal plan would turn out.

I had some flat punch, originally made from cranberry raspberry juice and ginger ale, and I really didn’t want to throw it out, so I decided to use it as a marinade for salmon fillets. Once I’d gotten to that point it was a very small jump to decide to take whatever part of the flat punch I didn’t need for the marinade and boil it down for a reduction sauce to serve with the salmon fillets. (I added a splash of red wine to the reduction sauce also.)

I also had some frozen cucumbers that I really needed to use up, or just decide to throw away, and I opted to at least make the attempt to make them taste good to eat. (Can you tell I really don’t like cucumbers that well?) I was originally just going to sautee the cucumbers and serve the salmon fillets as sandwiches, but since I still haven’t made homemade bread, I opted to serve elbow macaroni as our carb for the meal, and then I decided that if I mixed the sauteed cucumbers with pasta it might be more edible.

Overall the meal turned out pretty well. The salmon was good, the flat punch made a quite good reduction sauce, and with the addition of lots of garlic, some parmesan and touch of olive oil the cucumber pasta was not bad, though not something I’d ever plan to make again.

This was the first of our ‘beige’ meals this week, but the reduction sauce added a nice splash of color and I sprinkled dried parsley over the whole thing, so the overall effect was of a meal that was surprisingly elegant for being eaten curled up on the couch watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 at the end of a sick day.

« Older Entries