Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Pantry challenge

A few weeks ago some great friends of mine challenged me to a 'no spending' week long challenge. It was just what I needed to rethink what we had on hand. During this challenge we were to use up what we had on hand in the house, find activities to do that didn't cost anything and find ways to curb those impulse buys. Really it wasn't too hard since we don't go out to a lot of places during the week anyway. But the meals were a bigger challenge for me. we were at the end of our 2 weeks and just before grocery shopping time and there wasn't much food left in the house (even the kids were complaining!), so I had to get creative. I was stumped one night for planning dinner so I started to REALLY dig though the pantry and freezer. Here is what I found:

2 frozen chicken breasts
1 small can sliced mushrooms
1 can italian diced tomatoes
and a heck of a lot of penne pasta!

OH what to do?

I got the penne cooking in boiling water- about 2 cups worth.

In a skillet I put about a 1 TBSP olive oil. I chopped the thawed chicken into small pieces (this appears to look like there's more in there!), added some seasoning from the cabinet (we have lots to chose from, this time I grabbed mrs. dash garlic & herb) and I threw a tsp of chopped garlic in the pan as well. We keep a jar of prechopped garlic on hand in the fridge too. When the chicken was about 1/2 way cooked in the skillet I added in the can of undrained tomatoes and the mushrooms and let it all simmer together until the chicken was done, about another 15 min.

Drain the penne pasta and placed it in a serving dish (9x13 pan worked great for this) and then poured the chicken mix over the top. Added some fresh grated Parmesan cheese to the top and VOLIA! dinner.

This turned out amazing! Pick any kind of pasta for it. If you don't have/like mushrooms, change it up with some fresh zucchini or peppers from the garden for shredded carrots (this hides them easier from the kids eyes!) or what ever else you have on hand. This one went right to the recipe book for us. The next time we make this I'll toast up some french bread or bread sticks to go with it!

So here's a challenge for you- what can you come up with for dinner that you already have on hand? I'm sure you have a lot in the pantry and freezer. Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear what you made. Some of our best recipes come from experiments.


  1. Fried rice! I had a few slices of ham deli meat, frozen mix veggies, rice & eggs of course. Season it up & add soy sauce. It turned out pretty good and made a lot of food for our family of 5.
    Love your blog btw. I'm going to make the Amish bread, yogurt & give canning a try. You've inspired me to cut back our grocery bill too. Thanks so much!!!

  2. A favorite, cheap, easy and tasy meal for us is Beans & Macaroni. Simple ingredients that almost anyone will ALWAYS have on hand. You'll forgive me for not being specific with measurements....I never measure when cooking!

    The sauce is:

    Olive Oil
    Lots O' Garlic
    1 small chopped onion
    1 can kidney beans with the liqiud
    Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
    Salt & Pepper

    Cook the onion and garlic in the oil, add the beans, salt & peppers. Mix together with cooked pasta. We use a 1-pound box of small (but not tiny) shells because my husband, yeah my HUSBAND, not my kids....likes the way the beans "get stuck in the shells". If it's a bit dry when you toss it together, add a bit more oil. Serve with parmesan.

    A tasty pasta dish that easily feeds our family of four with plenty of leftovers, all for less than three bucks! Enjoy!

  3. Taco soup is my go to pantry meal. Combine 1 can kidney beans, 1 can Ranch Style beans, 1 can corn, 1 can rotel, 1 can diced tomatoes. Bring to boil. Top with shredded cheese and serve with tortilla chips or cornbread.

  4. I LOVE your blog!! Please keep this up! My husband must think I'm crazy obsessed with food and I am... abit. I'm more concerned about saving $$$ on our food bill. My grandfather used to say "your biggest bill in your life will always be food". I've made it a personal mission to save as much $$ as I can form our food bill. I joke that if there was ever a lengthy black-out, our family would be ok for food for at least 4 months due to my pantry. Thank you from one foodie to another.

  5. I once went 2 months without grocery shopping (aside from a couple trips for milk, eggs, bread, and fresh fruits and veggies) by using up items in my freezer and pantry. It was amazing the meals I came up with, and the creative ways I could substitute for items I didn't have. I liked to pretend I was on an episode of "Chopped". :)