Take the Pantry Challenge
Save $100 this week by taking the Freezer & Pantry challenge.
Is your checkbook looking a little light this week? Are you just looking to challenge yourself to save more money? Are you halfway through the October Money Challenge and feeling the heat?
Here is an idea – see if you can skip grocery shopping for just one week.
I usually do this about January when holiday spending has me feeling broke, but it is really good for anytime you need to challenge yourself to save a bit more money.
Take stock of your pantry or freezer. Check expiration dates, throw out anything that’s expired, donate anything you know you won’t eat, and then pull out a piece of paper and make a list. What can you make for meals that would get you through the next week without spending a dime?
You might think this is impossible. I need fresh produce, you’ll wail in despair. Never fear. I can help. It’s really not that hard!
First things first – take stock of whatever produce you do have left in the fridge. Is it on the verge of going bad? Did you buy some rainbow chard with no plan on what to actually make with it?
List out what you have to use ASAP and freeze anything that can freeze. Then get to work.
Let’s break down our different meals.
Out of eggs but have a carton of tofu languishing in the pantry? Make up an egg-less scramble with whatever veggies you have left over. Use up the bread in the pantry for toast.
Got tons of eggs and some leftover meat? Make a quick egg bake for breakfasts throughout the week. I like this basic recipe here.
Almost everyone has a carton of oats in the back of their pantry somewhere. Bust those oats out and get old fashioned. Cook ‘em on the stovetop with a little water, maple syrup and brown sugar. Or get Basic AF and make some overnight oats. If you’ve usually got bananas in your freezer and cartons of soy milk in your pantry, this can work nicely.
Dairy Free, Yogurt-less Overnight Oats
½ c. oats
½ c. non-dairy milk
½ banana smashed up
Mash up banana and stir together all ingredients in a mason jar or Tupperware. Add in any toppings you want. Ideas include mixing some peanut butter into the oat mixture and then topping with a dollop of jelly. Adding a handful of frozen berries on top. Topping with brown sugar and maple syrup.
Let sit in the fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning.
These are easy when you are working on a pantry clean out. I promise. You’ll need just a few standard pantry ingredients. Rice, beans, greens, and (if you eat meat) some sausage or chicken. Steam some rice (I fucking love my rice cooker) and prepare to behold the magic that is The Bowl.
The Bowl is a simple combination of:
- A grain
- A green
- A protein
- A sauce
Layer a bowl with some steamed rice, some steamed greens (frozen broccoli works great for this! Or whatever other frozen vegetables that are languishing in the back of your freezer), a half a cup of beans or so (your favorite kind! Or even tofu!) and a little meat if necessary. If you’ve got frozen chicken breasts you’ve been meaning to use up, bake ‘em off and shred them up.
The trick to the bowl, though, is a sauce. Whisk together some soy sauce, lemon juice, chili paste (or powder) and a little brown sugar to taste. This sauce is seriously delicious and goes well on everything. If you’ve got a favorite salad dressing or other sauce you enjoy, use your imagination. For some reason, I almost always have bottles of teriyaki sauce hanging out in my pantry. You could add a little canned pineapple to the bowl and use up the teriyaki sauce that way.
This is where we can get creative. If you’ve got some broth hanging out in your pantry you can make up a quick everything-in-the-slow-cooker soup. I call this my vaguely Mexican soup, because I suppose it has kind of a southwest flair. I almost always have the ingredients for this in my pantry. The green pepper might be the only thing the average person wouldn’t have on hand. But if you had a bag of frozen onion and peppers in your freezer, that would definitely work as well.
Vaguely Mexican Soup ala the Basic Bitch
32 oz veggie broth (water is fine too)
1 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes or tomatoes with green chilis or diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of corn
1 15 oz can of black beans
1 15 oz can of kidney beans
1 green pepper
1 onion chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce diced (optional)
2 tbs of taco seasoning (use a bit more if you’ve got no adobo pepper)
Chili powder to taste
Cook on low for 8 hours. If you’ve got stale tortilla chips to use up, crumble ‘em up on top. Or toast up some old tortillas to revive them and use them as a dunker.
You could add some greens to this soup too. Or even a potato or carrot if you needed to use them up. It’s pretty forgiving.
This will get you 6 pretty big servings of soup – you could serve this with some grilled cheese if you wanted a heartier meal. Or even just a side of steamed (frozen) vegetables.
Another of my go to pantry meals is pasta e piselli. That is, pasta and peas.
Use canned or frozen peas to make this freezer friendly. Sometimes I’ll add in a can of garbanzo beans for a little protein. But it’s super simple and super comforting. Love this dish.
Most of us completely overbuy at the grocery store. In the land of Costcos and Sam’s Clubs there is so much bulk shopping around us that we tend not to realize when we’re over stocked.
The Freezer and Pantry Challenge is a great way to knock our stocks back down to an appropriate level, do a bit of cleaning and organizing, and save a bit of money by eating through things before they expire.
Ready to take the challenge? Let me know how it goes in the comments! And if you’ve got a favorite pantry recipe, I want to hear about it!