Pantry/Grocery Challenge

Last year I did a bit of a Pantry Challenge here on the blog.  I was working on using up some of the items in my pantry and freezer.  Well…with grocery prices rising and my pantry full, I decided to give a pantry challenge another try.

This time, I’m doing it with a twist.  I’m trying to use up my leftovers in the refrigerator a little better.  If anyone wants to join me, you’re totally welcome to.  I don’t know if I am going to check in weekly, but I will check in 2-3 times a month.

Here are some things I did over the last week or so…

I used refrigerator leftovers to make an AMAZING vegetable beef soup.  I had a part of a can of green beans leftover, a steak, some aging raw carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, onion, and some beef broth that were all in the refrigerator.  I added some rice and a can of black beans from the pantry….There wasn’t enough liquid so I added two cups of water and some Better than Boullion along with some spices.  I put it all in the Instant Pot for 4 minutes and WOW…it was some great soup. Karl was here and had some.  He commented that I make some of the best food out of nothing.

Sandra from the Cresco Ladies brought me some …dried beans and this was in the box too.  I’ve never made instant potatoes but last week when I had a crew here to feed I made up the whole bag.  I added the remaining sour cream and chives I had in the frig along with some garlic powder.  The potatoes were actually really good.
Carver and Gannon loved them.

When Kayla came she brought Dot’s Pretzels in the Honey Mustard Version.  They were okay but no one was eating them.  It was time to use them or throw them out.  I ended up putting them in the food processor and crushed them into crumbs.


I used the crumbs to make Pork Tenderloins.  Here is Georgie working on tenderizing the meat.  She had so much fun helping, and I had fun too!!


The honey mustard pretzels were perfect for the breading.  Everyone liked them.  HERE is the recipe to make them.  They are a HUGE family favorite!!

Another thing I did was use up some Crack Chicken Kalissa made and didn’t want.  She had made some but Craig wasn’t a fan.  I tried it and honestly, I wasn’t a fan either.  For me, it was too salty.  Being I had my reinforced mindset to not waste food I decided to figure out a way to use it up so…I took half of it, added some milk and a can of cream of chicken soup, and ate it with fettucini noodles for chicken fettucini.  For the rest, I added some milk and ranch and used it for a chicken, bacon, and ranch pizza.  Everyone who was here loved both of the dishes.

Had I not had this challenge going I admit I might have left it in the refrigerator too long and then ended up throwing it away.  So, the challenge is already working.

As part of my challenge, I decided to clean this portion of the cupboard one day.  Part of using what I have is knowing what I have!!  This cabinet had not been cleaned recently.  It needed some reorganization and throwing stuff out.
I had nuts in the cabinet and I had to throw a few partial bags out.  It was painful BUT…it reinforced my need to go know what I have and then USE what I have.

Does anyone want to join me in a pantry/grocery challenge?  The intention is just to be more aware of what I’m using in an effort to waste less.  Each check-in, you’re welcome to leave a comment about some good food choices you made to help watch your food budget and usage.  Hopefully, your great choices will encourage the rest of us to make good choices too!

Feel free to leave a comment over something you did recently…

43 thoughts on “Pantry/Grocery Challenge

  1. Dianne winter

    I like to crush frosted flakes and potato chips and use as coating for baked chicken. It gives a slight sweet/salty taste. I breathe chicken with flour then egg and then the flakes and bake at about 375 til done 45-60 min.

    Reply
    1. Paula Nordt

      I’m going to try this! I have very picky eaters at my house. So frustrating to cook for them. About all they’ll eat is chicken, pasta, and potato. I think they’d like this!

      Reply
  2. Susan Smit

    With rising food prices we are definitely more aware of food waste. Tonight we used up all the left food from the weekend. Love the thought of not having to cook especially in this heat and gives me more time to sew.

    Reply
  3. Janette L

    What a great idea for the pretzels. The mustard ones usually disappear around here but I tried some of the southwest and they are hanging around, I think they’ll go in a meatloaf instead of the trash!

    Reply
  4. Kate

    You are very creative making such delicious food from your pantry foods. I’m not too creative and spouse is way too fussy to try too much. I always enjoy hearing about your pantry challenge though.

    Reply
  5. Hedy

    I’m definitely using my food creatively too. Made spaghetti one night and ate it with leftover salad and Italian bread. The next night I made toasted cheese with the bread. Made meatloaf in small ovals and froze some and ate one sliced over bread for a sandwich with leftover spaghetti. Sometimes I take the leftover spaghetti sauce and make a small lasagna just for the two of us. I had made a Mexican casserole and only made half of the recipe with a half can of Rotel and diced tomatoes so I used that in my meatloaf, that was so delicious. My beagle Ruby has to take a pill with her two meals and she hates it. So I look in the fridge and see if I have any sour cream. When I take some and dip her pill in it, there are no problems with her and her medication,she doesn’t like the leftover butterscotch pudding as much!

    Reply
  6. Carol Inman

    I throw all the nuts I purchase in the freezer, even peanuts, etc. They don’t get that ‘old’ taste when you find them hidden in the cabinet.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Excellent idea, I do that too all the time. Just pop them in the microwave if you need them warmed up slightly before using.

      Reply
  7. Bonnie in SE CT

    One thing I really enjoy is taking all those partial bags of nuts, pretzel pieces , craisins, raisins, trail mix etc. and mix them all together and coat with melted almond bark. I use a small scoop to make clusters and store them in a plastic ice cream container. Yum!!
    It’s time to take stock of pantry and freezer to see what needs replenished. I’m in!

    Reply
  8. Elle

    I tend to have ingredients. I had some bulgar in the pantry. I googled for recipes and made some FANTASTIC bulgar muffins.

    We’re in week 5 of our 2022 CSA and oh my goodness each week has been HUGE this year. Each week the day before pickup, I blanch or saute most of what is left and am vacuum sealing for the freezer. We will have a lot of freshies this winter (CSA doesn’t end until October). We are overwhelmed with lettuce so far and I had to throw out 2 heads just today. We just can’t eat it all and that makes me sad. (We have tired of chef salads every night!)

    I always try to have some cooked brown basmati rice in the freezer. Tonight for dinner, I took some of that and put in a dish with about 1/3c water and a splash of chicken bouillon powder. Had this alongside some grilled salmon and sauted sliced turnips w/spring onions.

    I’ve cooked a pot of black beans. Mixed 1.5c of those with 1.5c of that rice and mixed with a spicy sauce we got from CSA. Hubster has lunches for the rest of this week! So that sauce did not get wasted.

    I used up Couscous from the pantry under a pile of sauted veg. I think I’m done trying to make it have a flavor. We find it bland.

    I do remember your pantry challenge. Didn’t Kalissa do it with you last year? I seem to recall her saving a boatload of $$$$$

    Wishing you a fabulous week. And that little Georgie? Her has a little stinker troublemaker look on her darling little face ;-)

    Reply
    1. Rosemarie

      Ellie, an idea for your couscous. Saute chopped zucchini, garlic, black olives in butter with Italian seasonings, or chopped basil and rosemary from the garden. It should be pretty saucy from the butter when finished. Stir it into the cooked couscous I sometimes add leftover chicken while sauteing. Yummy Italian side dish. I would add mushrooms to the saute pan if it was just for me but my husband doesn’t like mushrooms.

      Reply
  9. Cheryl

    We just moved so I’ve been eating and cooking out of the frig and freezer so moving freezer food was very easy. I haven’t set up a new system yet but I did find some surprises as I packed.

    Reply
  10. Cynthia from Nebraska

    Another thing you can do… We have a good pantry on town and our church has a place people can place donations, then they take it to the pantry. Every 6 months I really go thru our basement pantry and take out things that will expire in the next 2 months. (I have started writing the expiration date on each package or can in sharpie marker when I put things away.) What I don’t think I will use goes to the pantry right away. (Like all those canned tomatoes I bought on sale and now I can’t eat tomatoes!) What I need to use up goes in one particular kitchen cabinet.

    Reply
  11. Martha W

    We have French bread when we have spaghetti. However with just two of us there is usually a lot of loaf left. So I use it to make bread pudding.
    I must add this…Georgie in your photo looks like you! What a cutie!

    Reply
  12. NJ

    I make my own broth from all kinds of vegetable scraps (clean carrot peelings, leafy celery ends, broccoli stalks, outer cabbage leaves, etc etc the stuff we normally throw out) in a plastic bag in the freezer. I process this in my Instant Pot or in a stockpot on the stove with water and spices. Strain & put 3 cups in a quart jar. Cover & store in freezer. If it’s frozen when I need it, I remove the cover and microwave the jar for 2-3 minutes. Repeat until it will pour out of jar.

    Reply
  13. Debbie Grbavac

    “Refrigerator Soup” is always a favorite at our house.
    Creative ideas. I hate to throw out food!

    Reply
  14. Kim from TN

    Georgie is so cute and what a good helper. I’m in on this challenge. I need to clean out my food cabinet and start using what I have. I really dislike when food expires on me because I don’t remember having it.

    Reply
  15. Virginia Grenier

    We have a hutch that we’ve been putting our “spare” stuff in. Things like a bottle of ketchup, can of coffee, box of instant potatoes, bottle of salad dressing, box of instant potatoes, etc. When we run out of something in our regular food storage area and we grab from the hutch, we then write it on the shopping list. As long as we remember to follow this method we aren’t having to do the inconvenient and expensive emergency run into town to buy something. We live 8 miles outside of a small town (population a little over 600) and about an hour away from a large city (a little over 15,000) so with the gas prices being what they are, I’m glad we had started this method of keeping track of what we have.

    Reply
  16. Dorothy

    Nothing better then “everything but the kitchen sink’ soup. As for Dot’s pretzels–the only good one is the original flavor

    Reply
  17. Judith M Fairchild

    I have enjoyed your recipes. They remind me of mom. Nothing went to waste in her kitchen. Her soups were like yours. Tasty and interesting. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Reply
  18. Joy

    Stir-fry is my favorite refrigerator clean-out food as it uses up the fresh produce in the crisper drawer. Taco salad is something I make at least once a month too as it uses up shredded cheese, sour cream, gets some leftover chicken or hamburger out if the way and uses up the excess lettuce from the garden. When I was a kid we always had lots of potato dishes in the spring to use up the last of the fall potato harvest before they became too shriveled to eat.

    My challenge this year is to use or preserve everything I harvest from the garden.

    Reply
  19. Carla

    Over the weekend my hubby smoked a lot of food, and then some of the kids couldn’t make it. So all week we’ve been eating the leftovers. Last night I just couldn’t face the same food, so I turned the smoked chicken breasts into pot pies. They are way better than my usual ones, plus I used the “expired” pie crusts languishing in my fridge. No waste, and relief!

    Reply
  20. Bridget

    I live MILES from a grocery store and with stocking issues I have been careful to keep my freezer full of sale priced meats, veggies, and shop only from my list. It is harder to stay on top of leftovers when there is just one or two people in the house. Easier with kids…lol. My mother has always told me that I am thrifty and creative cook which is a good combination. As she says “you know how to make a great meal cheaply!” Can’t wait to start eating from the garden. Thanking my husband for keeping it up.

    Reply
  21. Cindy

    Great ideas to help me step up the pace! Just two of us so keeping things moving is kind of a challenge sometimes. We are making a better effort of using things like that half jar of been in there awhile olives in the spaghetti sauce, adding a few big squirts of leftover bottled marinade in meatloaf, small pasta salads with the half bottle of Italian dressing and small amounts of vegetables to name a few.

    Reply
  22. Helen

    A month or so ago I noticed that we had some leftovers in the fridge. Normally we have pizza Thursday and Friday so they would have been a few days older. I suggested that my husband could put them on the pizza. Although it was my suggestion I was still surprised when we had chili con carne on the pizza, and even better it was good!
    Since then we have had some very interesting pizzas.

    Reply
  23. MarianneK

    I will just watch. I am always on alert to use up and not waste food so I always know what’s in my pantry and fridge. I think that comes from living in Florida and having to toss the entire contents of my fridge after a prolonged power outage, plus I grew up really poor.
    Your granddaughter looks like you, Jo.

    Reply
  24. Beverly

    I have been making Leftovers Soup for years. I just dump whatever goes into the soup pot and we have dinner and probably lunch the next day. As for nuts, I keep them in the freezer. They never go stale and can be used immediately.

    Reply
  25. Joy in NW Iowa

    We have been working on our freezer. It is getting spacier! But I know there are cans of OLD pie filling in my lazy Susan . Some of my spices are as old as our marriage …..hmmm. It’s easy to ignore. Love your quilts cross stitching and your blog! Oh and your family

    Reply
  26. Patt Weimer

    Facts… I live in a mobil home ( after house fire), I’m a widow, I enjoy cooking, I’m 77. So it’s… fixed income, fixed space, fixed life ( but I’m living life). Recently empted the can cupboard… veggies on 1 side fruit the other. This I doubled with my ‘Master’, shopping list, ( made every new years, keeps me somewhat on track). Used a few canned vegs in a chicken soup with orzo, YUM. ALL tomatoe goods are in a different cupboard, ( none of cupboards are large), did that one, like products together. And so on. This helps me not iver buy usually, check pantrys, check master list, write shopping list. I admit I’ve become somewhat OCD, but under my present circumstances, THAT’S LIFE. My sewing room , my rug hooking, my knitting are all adressed the same way. Presently working on my closet, the out pile is growing… Good will here i come. I ‘attempt’, to do this every season. It’s sensible organization of goods of any kind. Go from 9 rooms, basement, garage 1 shed and
    Life sure changes. Organize, use up, clean out and you have to keep moving ahead. I work on quilt tops ( and their backs) everyday, i knit everyday, i try to hook several times every week, I’m a reader, love my yard to garden in, & love to cook & love my leftovers. Have NO TV or COMPUTER, don’t know how to use either one & NO tome to do so. HAPPY LIFE, Thank the Lord..

    Reply
  27. Gayla Livengood

    I am in on your challenge. I’m from the Midwest and grew up knowing that you needed to be frugal. I hate throwing food out and I also stock up on sale items. When our kids come over they know I will be sending pantry Staples home with them. I just recently found a way to use BBQ chip crumbs as a coating for pork chops or chicken. My husband loves those chips so he was a fan of the recipe.
    You have motivated me to return to cross stitching and work on my fabric stash. I look forward to you post every day.
    You are an inspiration. Love the stories about your family and Rosie.

    Reply
  28. Cynthia from SW MN

    I am going to give this a try, it will help me not waste food as much, and I will have a better handle of inventory. Will need to go thru my shelves for sure. I will clean out and organize my refrigerator today.

    Reply
  29. Stearns Carol

    My sister and now I, will take all the wilted veggies that have gone by and throw them into a pot with water. She includes fruit and half eaten frozen packages as well. Then cook it down for several hours and you get a nice veggie broth ready to use for soup. I have some frozen in the freezer. One woman had said she threw out the lettuce but cut off the bad parts and then cook it down to leak all the goodness out of it.

    Reply
  30. Sheryl K

    We periodically “iron chef” stuff in the fridge or pantry. Last week I found a can of Spam in cupboard that I bought during pandemic. You are thinking, “Spam, no way.” My husband said the same thing. However, it does make an amazing fried rice! Check Spam recipe on Pinterest….just be sure you fry the Spam up first. It was the best friend rice I’ve ever made!

    Reply
  31. Gardenpat

    With this idea, I decided to create a new board on my Pinterest called “Use it up” where I can save ideas I find and try to use up! First thing I saw is that we had extra hot dog buns from a family bbq last weekend. But no hot dogs left! How does that happen??

    Here’s the first recipe I just tried and put into my new Pinterest board (so I can find it easily) Hopefully, many more recipes will follow!!
    Thanks for the challenge!
    https://pin.it/27anMhG

    Gardenpat in Ohio
    HandmadeinOldeTowne.com

    Reply
  32. Terri

    Oh my gosh!! I have some crack chicken and I agree-I am not a fan. I tried it a while back and decided to give it another try-still a NO for me. But your idea on what to do with it is perfect. I have had mine in the fridge 5 days-you think it is still okay to use?

    Reply
    1. Kelli

      To Bonnie in CT – love your idea or all the nuts, pretzels, trail mix together with almond bark! Can’t wait to try this thanks! I’m in for the pantry/freezer challenge – we are eating down the freezer before all the summer produce comes in and I found diced ham I had food sealed from Easter – ham salad is on the menu as it is so hot in NE OH! Thanks Jo for sharing your inventive recipes – I love them and all the others comments

      Reply

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