Eat From the Pantry Challenge: Week 3 Menu Plan


We've been Eating From The Pantry for over two weeks. The first week was hard but it seemed to get easier the second week. My creativity kicked in and I had fun experimenting in the kitchen, trying some new recipes, and using up a whole lot of odds and ends from our freezer, cupboards, and refrigerator.

There was only one night when Jesse and I both just felt really tired of the whole Pantry Eating thing. So we decided to forgo the Chicken Tetrazinni planned on the menu that night and eat at Taco Bell instead. It was a nice diversion–and then we just skipped our planned dinner out on Friday night!

Here's my list of ideas for Pantry Meals this coming week (some of these are repeats from last week because we still have more ingredients or I ended up making something else last week instead of what I'd planned–yes, I'm giving myself lots of freedom to experiment on this Pantry Challenge!):

Breakfasts Ideas:

Cereal x 3 (we're still using up some of our free or $0.50-$0.99 cereal!)

Whole-Wheat Blender Pancakes

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (A reader sent me a yummy-looking recipe to try out in my bread machine so I'll post it if these turn out well.)

Whole-Wheat Waffles

Oatmeal with cinnamon, apples, and sucanat

Side options: Fresh Orange/Apple Juice, Oranges, Grapefruit

Lunch Ideas:

Creamy Mac and Cheese

Tuna Salad

Homemade Stromboli

Taco Potatoes

Beans and Rice with cheese sour cream, and lettuce

Leftovers x 2

Side options: oranges, apples, carrot sticks, frozen veggies

Dinner Ideas:

Barbecue Chicken, Cornbread Muffins, Oranges, Chocolate Pudding

Hot Wings/Chicken Nuggets, Steamed Mixed Veggies, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Oranges

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stirfry over rice with Chow Mein Noodles, Apple-Pineapple Salad

Turkey Meatballs, Sweet Potatoes, Homemade Rolls, Corn, Grapefruit

Chicken Tetrazinni, Mixed Green Salad, Broccoli, Homemade Bread

Homemade Pizza, Carrot Sticks, Apples, Brownies

Dinner out

Snack Ideas:

Popcorn, Crackers/Cheese, Popsicles, Fruit, Cereal, Hot Cocoa

your Pantry Challenge going? If you've been blogging about it, be sure
to stop by FishMama's place tomorrow morning and leave your link so we can all be inspired. See more menu plans for this week over at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

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  1. Krista says

    I was just wondering how well the stormboli survivied the freezing? Which turned out better, freezing before baking or freezing fully cooked? That looked like a great make-ahead recipe, but I don’t have room in my freezer for that particular experiment. :-)

    Thanks for all you do here. It really is a big encouragement to me (and I’m sure to many other moms/women).

    Money Saving Mom here: Both turned out just great, actually! I didn’t particularly care for the ingredients *inside* the stromboli, but the crust has turned out beautifully on the ones we’ve eaten!

  2. WilliamB says

    I think I could eat for several months from what I have in th house, if I wasn’t too picky about nutrition or variety. (To start with, liking different types of rice and buying in bulk means I have over 100 lbs of rice!)

    My challenge is to eat down the deep freezer. The deals and coupons in December were too good to pass up so now it’s time to get really serious.

    My most extreme effort to date: I had leftover turkey and leftover mashed root veggies in the freezer so I ate some. Then I mixed them together with cream (also frozen leftovers) and baked “muffins.” When that didn’t turn out as tasty as usual, I mashed them with cheese (also frozen leftovers) and more cream, then dipped them in breadcrumbs (also frozen leftovers) and pan fried. They came out a little dark so I made tomato sauce from onion, garlic, canned chopped tomatoes to soften them up. I smile just thinking about how many different solutions I thought of, all without buying a thing. (Although I frown at the poor cooking that made it necessary.)

  3. says

    Just wanted to pop in and say, I’ve been cooking A LOT with beans and rice lately (actually, challenged myself to make beans or rice every day this year) thanks to Dave Ramsey’s encouragement and blogs like yours. I’m blogging about my beans and rice adventures and have lots of recipes if you are interested in some more meal ideas :).
    Thanks for your blog. Love it!

  4. says

    The pantry challenge has gone amazingly well for us. I’m still buying some fresh produce and the deals that are for things we’re truly low on, but even at that I’ve only spent about $45 this month, and I can’t think of a think we need at this point.

    I have enough fresh citrus on hand for this week and possibly the next. Same with apples, plus we have cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes…maybe we’ll need a head of lettuce by next weekend. (yay!)

  5. says

    I’ve noticed that when I’m working extra hard to stay out of the grocery store and be creative with what we’ve got, I have to ‘up’ the comfort factor with yummy desserts. They don’t have to be fancy, but sometimes those are the things that entice my guys to eat at home!

  6. says

    I haven’t been officially participating in the challenge, but it has served as a great reminder to check expiration dates and also as additional motivation to officially inventory my stock. I am about 1/2 way through that process, which I am thrilled with. The big challenge was the second freezer, which is really fun to sort and organize in 10degree weather in an unheated space! You bet I was wearing all my winter gear for that!
    The taco potatoes look yummy! I think we’ll be trying those soon!
    Thanks for all you do!

  7. Rachel says

    I love following along with Eat From the Pantry Challenge! What a great idea.

    I also wanted to share with you a local high schooler’s senior project entitled Simply Haiti. He’s proposing a ‘Simple Week’ in Feb. in which one eats only rice, beans, and water to raise awareness (and donate money that would otherwise be used for more expensive food) for those in Haiti. It’s very inspiring and reminded me of this blog (in the best of ways!) The site is

    Thanks for writing such a great blog!

  8. Lisa says

    Hi Crystal,
    I do applaud this and for various reasons, we are not participating. However, it sounds like you are going to deplete your freezer / pantry. If so, won’t you have to buy some food next month that isn’t on sale or a good bargain just to have staples to eat? I think I would… but you are so creative – perhaps you won’t!

    Keep up the good work!

    Money Saving Mom here: We are depleting our stores–but that was the point! Much of it is expiring expiring soon and needs to be used up. However, I don’t plan to spend any extra on groceries next month, I’ll just be a little more vigilant about hitting up the good deals so we can restock. Stay tuned for my grocery trips next month to see how we restock our pantry on a $40 grocery budget!

  9. Katherine says

    Hey, I have been trying to eat from my pantry as well, and I have used up a few odds and ends (marshmallows, corn meal, tuna, etc). I’ve even discovered a few great new recipes–a Food network insert had 50 ideas for a jar of pasta sauce, and I thought pasta sauce mixed with mashed potatoes, and parmesan cheese was actually really tasty! (You bake it for 20-30 minutes, so it’s kinda like twice baked potatoes, but with the added Italian flavors.) I am about to hit a wall, though, unless I get some meat! Without some sort of protein, my next week of meals is going to be rice and . . . chocolate chips? I noticed that your dinners for the week are full of chicken and turkey and such. Have you added those items to your grocery list or are you planning to? Were they already in your freezer? (My freezer is actually just about empty at this point except for a few more frozen veggies.) I’m somewhat curious about how you are doing this now so that I can try to better plan what to store in my pantry and freezer in the future.
    Thanks for all your help!

  10. Monika says

    I love this challenge. I’ve been using up my dried seasonings to make room in my cabinets. I cleaned them out last week and donated to my food pantry unopened seasonings. If anything I’m also helping those in need. This week I need recipes to use up canned tomato products. I have a whole cabinet of those as well. Thanks for the challenge.

    • says

      Hey Monika, have you heated and pureed/blended your tomatoes to make a yummy tomato soup? You can add milk to make it creamy..or use it on toasted french/roll type bread for a nice “bruchetta” type appetizer or meal..just some ideas!

  11. Christy McCullough says

    It has struck me both from your previous freezer pictures and your current challenge how much more you buy raw ingredients vs. already prepared foods. Because of that I think you have so much more flexibility now.

  12. Ann says

    Have you tried the blender pancake recipe before? Please let us know how it turns out. Is the blender enought to process and soften those wheat berries. The pic on the link looks delicious. I was just wondering what the texture was like.

  13. Shelly says

    We have been doing the challenge but have gone out to eat twice using up gift cards we got for Christmas. We don’t seem to be making much of a dent though. I’ll probably have to go into February to use eveything up that is close to expiring. This has opened my eyes to how much I should be stocking up on things. I need to set limits….like only 5 boxes of hot pockets or 10 bags of frozen veggies at a time…5 boxes of waffles, etc. We have lots of frozen food that is starting to collect ice crystals. Our meat is great because we buy that from a local meat processor that raises it’s own pork & beef so that is well packaged. My 16 year old thought that she would die because we were doing this. When I asked last night she said she hasn’t noticed a difference in the cupboards and when we were eating beef tips, gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli and crescent rolls last night she didn’t have a complaint! All we’ve bought was milk, potaoes, carrotts and eggs so far. We’ll have to buy some produce this week I’m sure too but I’ve stayed under $20 a week.

  14. KellyH says

    We have been doing pretty well. I bought some milk, apples and a couple things I was out of but needed. I need to get some fresh spinach today. And apples, they are on sale here.


  15. says

    We’ve been staying out of the stores since mid-December, and we won’t be going shopping for several months unless my husband’s income picks up.

    We started January with 200 pounds of potatoes still left from the 360 pounds I bought before Thanksgiving. We’ve already eaten 120 pounds this month.

    We also have lemons and pomegrantes from our garden that we are still enjoying. A warm weather spell for the first two weeks helped our swiss chard grow much bigger, and that’s provided some greens for us to eat besides our canned and frozen vegetables.

  16. Jen says

    This challenge came at the perfect time for me and my husband as we are planning an out-of-state move in mid-February. In fact, I started in December and am still going strong!

    I’m also due to have our first child in less than two weeks! So I’ve really been creative in making freezer meals with what’s left in our pantry to last us the first two weeks in February. I think we’ve spent $30 this month and we’ll only be needing a few more things from the store in the few weeks.

    I do a pantry month every year. Because I use so many coupons throughout the year for my food storage/pantry, I feel eating from the pantry doesn’t deplete my pantry, but gets it down to a normal, more manageable level. But I also probably keep 3 plus months worth of staples/canned foods in my pantry. It’s my food emergency fund!

  17. Patti says

    My husband commented, “This Eating from the Pantry thing is better than our usual meals.” I know I am being more creative! That night (Saturday) I had made meatball sandwiches from some hoagie rolls, spaghetti sauce, mozarella cheese and Italian meatballs — all bits and pieces left over. This was what I came up with when my family decided they didn’t want our usual homemade pizza.

  18. says

    Just came across this challenge..Awesome idea! I was just thinking we needed to do something like this as I opened the freezer and couldn’t find anything because it’s so STUFFED! Thanks for the inspiration to actually DO IT! = )

  19. says

    Yummy menu plan. I’m hoping to start building up our pantry after I receive my first paycheck. It’s been extremely difficult trying to make ends meet on unemployment.

    Well, I got to get back to watching “Young & the Restless” online.

  20. says

    Well, I admit, I have not been doing as well as I would like at actually eating from the pantry rather than the grocery store, but I am getting better. And, I am having fun trying to stay disciplined. This week will be especially challenging for us as we try to keep our food budget down and use some of our pantry foods while dealing with a surgery and a possible deployment as well as a wish to celebrate Our Lady of Altagracia and Domincan recipes this week. Our plan is at Wish us luck! And, thank you for encouraging so many of us to be better stewards of our kitchens and our finances.

  21. Angie says

    My husband and I were amazed last night when we sat down to do our finances just how much this “Eat from the Pantry Challenge” was helping our grocery budget! We have only been to the store to buy milk and bread, and a few other small things. We had our kiddo’s first birthday party this past weekend, and that took some money out of our grocery budget, but we still have lots left. I’m (we’re) so pleased! I think I’m going to need to incorporate this challenge into my year more often, maybe seasonally. I’m also realizing my need to check and double-check my pantry and freezer before going shopping– I don’t need 4 bags of french fries! Thanks so much for posting this challenge. Yes, its been a challenge at times, but its certainly teaching me things and helping me to grow! Hope you’re all doing well!

  22. says

    We call Taco Potatoes “Baked Potatoes Ole”! It is a favorite at our house, that started when I was doing a month of eating from the pantry and freezer, and now my husband requests them all the time! It is amazing how many different and tasty ways you can top a baked potato!

  23. says

    Great ideas! If only it were easier to find things in my 70s pantry. It’s so dark in there it seems like the abyss sometimes! I think I found things last week that expired in 2008. Sad, huh?