January: Meals for a Month/Pantry Challenge


Good Cheap Eats is hosting Pantry Challenge 2013! Now, I’m always up for a challenge, especially when it involves saving money and being creative in the kitchen! And after having a successful “No Spend November,” our family decided to eat from our stockpile and freezer the month of January. So, the timing of this Pantry Challenge is perfect.

Unlike “extreme couponers”, I don’t purchase unnecessary items (100 tubes of toothpaste or 500 cans of soup). Instead of using coupons for items I don’t want or use, I try to find the best prices on real food…with a few splurges thrown in for good measure. Sometime, this involves coupons, but most often it just takes smart shopping. Keeping a pricebook has allowed me to reduce our monthly grocery bill and free up funds to stock up on wholesome foods when they are at their lowest price. In October, we were able to make a bulk purchase of (mostly) organic items that we regularly enjoy (dried beans, oats, 7-grain cereal, wheatberries, etc.) Plus, we purchased salmon and cod in bulk from Zaycon a few weeks ago, so I need to make room in the freezer. 

Our goals:

  • Spend less than $200 on groceries/household items in January, which is half of my monthly grocery budget for a family of four (2 kids, 2 adults, 1 cat). This month, I expect to purchase produce, eggs, a few dairy items, etc. I’ve begun making our household cleaners, so that expense is minimal.
  • Be hospitable to others this month: invite folks over for a meal, take meals to others, share food boxes with those in need, etc.
  • Make a dent in freezer contents  (Dump Chicken, soups, ham, variety of meats, etc.) to make space for the fish that will be arriving in February.
  • Be creative with using freezer & pantry items in meals my family will really enjoy.
  • Not going out to eat the remainder of this month. Yesterday, we had a pre-planned Family Day, so we enjoyed ourselves and the Indian food we consumed! However, from today until January 31 that line-item is frozen!

Our reality:

This challenge is not about perfection or guilt. If I splurge on something, I’m not going to feel as if I failed. As well, if I find a good deal on an item(s) our family regularly uses, I will most likely purchase it. So long as the established funds are still available. And it’s not about eating tasteless, boring food. (BLAH!) Thankfully,  our family is beginning this challenge with a well-stocked pantry and freezer inventory. Therefore, the challenge is to continue to be creative in preparing tasty and nutritious meals for my family and friends to eat and enjoy, and to be mindful of how we spend, share and store up the resources we have been entrusted to steward.

Our inventory:

I took inventory of the garage freezer, kitchen fridge/freezer, and my pantries. Our freezers are filled with a variety of homemade freezer meals, soups, frozen meat/poultry, dairy products (shredded cheese, butter), etc. The pantry is stocked with a variety of dried beans, pasta, whole grains, rices, baking goods & items, canned tomatoes (diced, stewed, sauce), hot/cold cereals, organic beef and poultry stock, etc. So, I guess we are ready to plan the meals!

Our meals.

Breakfast for Dinner

Soaked Oatmeal Pancakes w/ Sausage, Waffles and Scrambled Eggs, Biscuits and Gravy,  Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs


Gumbo, Chicken Noodle Soup, Potato Soup, Clam Chowder, Taco Soup,


Lentils, Sausage & Kale, Spaghetti BolognesePizza/Calzones, Tamale Pie, Pasta Carbonara, Smoked Sausage & Home Fries

Meatless Meals

Mujadara, Pinto Beans & Cornbread, Refried Beans (make in pressure cooker to use in burritos, tostadas, etc.), Sloppy Lentils, Vegetarian Lentil Chili, Penne with Roasted Tomates, Garlic & White Beans

Fish & Seafood

Chutney-Glazed Salmon, Tuna Fish Croquettes, Salmon Burgers

Chicken or Turkey

Jambalaya, Baked Chicken,  Thai Chicken Curry, Chicken ‘n Dumplins, Pad Thai, Shepherd’s Pie (ground turkey), Dump Chicken (General Tso’s Chicken, Honey-Ginger Chicken, Citrus-Ginger Chicken, Chili Maple Chicken, Creole Chicken)

Baked Items

Muffins, Pumpkin Bread, Banana Bread, Drop Biscuits, Brownies (The kids and I made up make-ahead mixes that need to be used.),  No-Knead Bread, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal-Crasin Cookies, Cornbread

Snack Foods:

Fruit, Popcorn, Homemade Granola & Yogurt, Spicy Roasted Chickpeas, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate , Vegetable Tray w/ Ranch, Green-Fruit Smoothies, Chex Mix, Hummus w/Veggeis and Pita Bread


Leftovers, Sandwiches, Big Pots of Soup (Pho Ga/Chicken Pho),  Lentil Salad, Quinoa Salad, Wild Rice & Lentil Salad, Cilantro-Lime Chickpea Salad



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