Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Food Pantry Challenge_week 1

2016 Food Pantry Challenge--are you in?

Once I pseudo-organized my pantry, baking cupboard, fridge, freezer and deep freeze I was appalled at the absolute quantity of food.  I want to keep some emergency reserves, of course, but I think I would like to move from having so much excess "raw" food to having prepared foods on hand for an easier grab-n-go during the hectic work week. Saving the weekends for preparing/cooking bigger meals when I have time or using the weekends to bulk prep.

The Rules
  1. Take inventory of contents in fridge, freezer and pantry. 
  2. Plan meals (weekly or monthly) based on contents. 
  3. The object is to rotate food based on FIFO (First In First Out) to avoid discarding food that would otherwise expire. 
  4. You can still grocery shop. Set a budget, make a list and stick to it! Avoid impulse shopping (Guilty!)
  5. Avoid or limit eating out.
  6. Have fun, be creative and enjoy!
I am going to approach this by saving time, saving ingredients and saving money.
1) Make use of the crockpot or pressure cooker. These 2 appliances turn cheaper cuts of meats into flavorful delicious morsels.
2) Unless I am bulk food prepping, cooking only what we will eat. I know it sounds silly but I tend to over cook. We are a family of 2 but I cook for 4-6 people. Planning a few twofer meals by intentionally cooking extra a main entree (e.g., pork chops one night, I can slice the extra pork into strips, freeze and have a quick fajitas another night or a double batch of lasagna to freeze and heat)
3) Utilizing my foodsaver more and packaging leftovers right away for the freezer.
4)  In my circumstances, I hope to keep to a weekly food budget $30-$40. I know that doesn't seem like much but I have a disgusting amount plenty of dried, canned and frozen goods. Since I bake my own bread, I plan to shop only for basic food necessities, such as fresh produce, milk, eggs, lunch meat, cheese or an occasional cut of meat if needed.
5) Throw in a few meatless meals and the budget stretches even further.

Week 1
Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
01/01/16 01/02/16 01/03/16 01/04/16 01/05/16 01/06/16 01/07/16
Panko crusted baked Pork Chops Spicy Meatballs in a Thai sweet chili sauce Leftovers Asian Sunflower Chop salad “Toddler Special” Crockpot Turkey vegetable soup Grilled Cheese sammies
Sauerkraut Perogies w/ peppers, onions and pineapple Fend for yourself Spiced grilled chicken tenderloins Fish sticks (using leftover frozen Thanksgiving turkey) leftover turkey vegetable soup
Glazed Carrots steamed white rice That box of cereal is calling your name! Sugar free Strawberry jello w/ diced peaches French fries

Cottage Green Beans Spring rolls
Or eat a poptart, I don't care

Mac n Cheese

Cornbread Muffins potstickers
Just wash your own dishes...

Pudding Cups

Whipped s.f. Cheescake

Friday (Jan 1) New Year's day, I cooked enough for 4-5 people but that was ok, since we had 2 additional people over for dinner. I was left with this amount of food, which is on the list for Sunday's leftovers. 

Saturday (Jan 2) resulted in 3 containers of leftovers. 1 container was mixed the remaining cup of rice and frozen "lean cuisine style" for a weekday lunch. The remaining 2 containers were also frozen, for future lunch, dinner or appetizer consumption. My goal is to use these types of leftovers within 60 days. Since these are home packaged (no additional preservatives) I feel they should have a much shorter shelf life.

Sweet n Spicy Thai Chili Meatballs 
 I made my meatballs from scratch. 1 lb each gr. round and hot sausage, 2 eggs, 3/4 c bread crumbs, 1/8-1/4 c milk, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes. Mix and shape into 2 inch meatballs. Lightly spay a foil lined baking sheet. In a 400°F oven bake meatballs for 20-25 minutes, turning about every 5 minutes to ensure even browning (and until no longer pink in center). Remove meatballs and allow to drain.

To the lined crockpot Add 1 and 1/2 bottles of Maggi brand Sweet Chili sauce, 15 oz of crushed pineapple (don't drain), add 2 cups of diced onions and peppers. Add meatballs. Cover and heat on high. Stirring frequently. Serve over steamed rice. **If you want a thicker sauce--make a thin slurry of cornstarch and water (2 tbs cornstarch per cup of cold water)--mix well. Remove a half cup if the crockpot sauce--let cool--slowly drizzle cornstarch mixture into sauce while whisking. Once it is all incorporated add it to the crockpot. Mix well let it cook at least 15-20 minutes and stir a few times.

I tried this food challenge last year and failed miserably. I think because I tried to plan ALL of the meals, it was too restrictive. By planning only the dinners, I hope it gives me more freedom to be creative and change up the menu if I need skip cooking for a day-which I will do my best to stick to the plan.

Fingers crossed annnddd GO!


  1. I always start the new year with great expectations, but I always end up getting in my own way-LOL!

    This looks like a great of luck to you on keeping your goal.

  2. you can freeze cooked rice and reheat it in the microwave. Heck, Trader Joe's and other places even sell it!

    I just found your blog. Is your list a before list or an after list?

    1. Hello there and welcome! My list is more of a during the challenge type list, ha. I am sure things will change a bit as I work through the pantry challenge, to what works and what doesn't. I will update weekly on the blog my success and failures. That is an excellent tip about cooking and freezing rice. I will try to avoid buying the precooked rice, opting to buy the rice cook it and freeze it myself. I have a list of pantry staples to buy and rice is on the list.

  3. I too am doing an empty the freezers & pantry challenge, but won't be taking inventory prior. My only tip is to set the grocery money aside, in cash. When it's gone, it's gone. Good luck to you!

    1. That is a great tip! Then I won't be tempted to buy more than I need.

  4. Love it..I am embarrassed in the amount of food I hoard..I believe it's time to work with this challenge!! Great idea! 😊

    1. Thank you. So far so good...but it has only been 3 days, haha. Just like dieting, if I can make it past the 21 day mark, hopefully I will have a better chance at success.

  5. Great idea. Went to my pantry and suddenly was hit with an extreme case of "maybe tomorrow".
    So, maybe tomorrow.


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