When I took the Pantry Challenge, it was primarily to use up some of the ingredients I had on hand in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Saving money was an added bonus, but since our budget is already rather frugal, it wasn’t the focus. [Have you seen the USDA's Food Costs chart? CLICK HERE Where do they get these numbers? After seeing this, I realize we are very frugal, but eat very well!]
Then, two weeks into the challenge, I remembered something my 81-year old daddy has told me from the time I was a wee little girl,
“Every little bit counts!”
That’s some truth, folks! The very day my husband was to fly home from a stint out-of-town, I got into my car, attempted to crank it, and NOTHING! It wouldn’t start. Kids all buckled, ready to go! And nothing. Absolutely nothing! Oh, yea, that happened. Thankfully, my husband’s vehicle was sitting next to mine in the driveway. We’ve tossed around the idea of becoming a one-car family, since I work from home. Yet, in that moment, I realized I was not ready to abandon ship just yet. YIKES!
Thinking it was merely a dead battery, the next morning we jumped it off, and drove down to the local auto parts store. The handy service technicians tested it, and discovered not only was the battery fried, so was the alternator! The real kicker: a few weeks before Christmas, I had significant repairs done to my car. None related to the alternator. Back to our mechanic-friend it went. And, trust me, we’re so thankful for a trustworthy mechanic!
When my husband called me from the mechanic’s and told me the “damage,” I was ever so grateful that we’d decided to take the Pantry Challenge. The grocery money saved would definitely help pay for the repairs. What’s even better? My car drives better than it has in a couple of years. Who knows how long the alternator’s been dying a slow, painful death. And although it’s twelves years old, I plan on driving it until it literally stops in its tracks. No really, I do and will!
Today, we headed to Costco to make a produce run. And I was so thankful it didn’t suck me in. You know what I mean: all our ‘needs’ are on the periphery of the store, but all our ‘wants’ are in the middle. Yep, I didn’t even venture into that dark place. Pure perimeter shopping for me. Our purchases should easily last the remainder of the month, even with having several guests over for dinner. Sweet! Although we went over my Pantry Challenge grocery budget by about $30, I’m not sweating it.
And what was I going to make now that I had all this luscious produce? Since, it was another cold day today, I decided to make Cheesy Broccoli Soup. I used The Pioneer Women’s recipe for inspiration, but people, her recipe had an entire stick of butter, half ‘n half, and whole milk. Now, I’m all about real foods, but I’d prefer to live a few more days on this earth. Instead, I added my own twist and ingredients, using far less dairy and a bit of my Perpetual Chicken Broth.
Cheesy Broccoli Soup
- 5 slices of bacon, sliced into small pieces
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 4-6 cups of chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Heat a 4-5 quart dutch oven (I think cast iron is best!) over medium-high heat. Add bacon, cooking until just crisp. Turn heat down to medium, add onions. Cook until soften; then, add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring to combine. Cook for a minute or two. Pour in chicken broth, and slowly stir in heavy cream. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper, and broccoli. Stirring to combine. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer approximately 20 minutes, or until broccoli is tender. Right before serving, add the cheddar cheese and allow to melt. Serve with a warm, crusty bread for dipping. Delicious!
My kids love huge pieces of broccoli; however, if you prefer a smoother consistency, use an immersion blender to achieve desired results.