Happy New Year Y’all. On New Year’s Day, I posted about the yearly Pantry Challenge. I had meal prepped, and menu prepped…and I was excited to get back to it and use what I have over the next couple months. If you don’t know Jessica of Good Cheap Eats, get to know her – she is amazing. Regular mom logic. AND here is her info about the Pantry Challenge. But as life does on occasion – we came home to a change of plans. Our electricity was off and we lost all our frozen/fridge food.
We cleaned up the mess, cleaned out both fridge/freezers, and then washed our pups (who were with a sitter whilst we were gone, who has other animals and watches lots of dogs) and finally got to bed about 2am. I have not given up though.
January 5th was my hubby’s 63rd birthday, and by this past weekend, we were semi stocked up and ready to participate again. We only replaced parts of what we lost and didn’t buy new pantry items… and though we won’t technically save money, we have pledged to eat at home for the next few weeks, and were creative with our purchases.
Speaking of Creative… I wanted to share with you how I made my kitchen bigger by extending/creating a wall. Here, I extended the living room wall with bookshelves and a hutch (it needs painting and was free):
These pics show the pantry (aka the backside of bookshelves) and the refrigerator behind the red piece. The meal calendar was what I’d done before I left.
Our Second fridge/freezer is on our enclosed porch. I will be contacting our insurance company today about how to recoup anything we can. And later on this evening, I will post pics of our apartment we moved into in September (not duplicating today’s pics). Other than power outages, we are really enjoying it.
Don’t let anything sway you from your plan. Regroup and get back to it.
It’s the most budgeting time of the year! Are you singing it with me? Uh… my husband says, “everything is NOT song.” I beg to differ.
This year for New Years, we visited The Netherlands. I will post a few pics, but you can click on the link, “The Netherlands” to see the album on FB. It’s public.
So for the past 10+ years… I have participated in the Pantry Challenge, hosted by Good Cheap Eats. You can read Jessica’s thoughts on it by clicking the link. But for me – and everyone, it can be adapted to your own goals. I use Pantry Challenges to work through the pre-cooked meats in our freezer, as well as foods that may expire in the pantry. But more than that, I also challenge myself to only buy peripheral goods during this month – six weeks. For me, that means dairy, produce, etc. Let me lay it out in bullets:
LadyEm’s Pantry Challenge Goals:
Use Pre-cooked meats.
And meats that are dates November or earlier in 2022.
The reason behind this is that in Italy, meat and foods don’t have preservatives, and you can’t keep them, even in the freezer, for more than say four months.
Use soon-to-expire goods.
Shop my pantry/freezer.
Cans of tuna/veggies
Bake my own breads and muffins, etc.
Only buy dairy and veggies…ok, maybe paper goods.
Participate at least six weeks.
Many only do 30 days, but we have things to get through.
I get home late tomorrow, but I knew the challenge was coming, so – I have two weeks meal plan done, and a list of items to buy. In this way, taking Jessica’s classes on organizing my kitchen and knowing what’s in my freezer/pantry is an amazing way to live and not waste in my kitchen and in many ways have helped my family and I be more creative.
Now that we are empty nesters, we are even more creative because no one is saying “I don’t want to eat that!” Ok yes, we miss them all. But you know what I mean.
One of the ways I’m kicking off 2021 is to participate in the Pantry Challenge with Jessica at Good Cheap Eats. The dates are January 1-31! I’ve been doing this for at least a decade. I love her blog because I get her logic. She helps me see what I am doing right, wrong, and what I can do better. The Pantry Challenge is a fantastic season that my family looks forward to twice a year.
I would love to invite you to go to her blog, read about it, and subscribe. When you subscribe, Jessica will send you the tools you need to participate. It’s been different for us here in Italy. My pantry and fridges/freezers are full because of extra holiday purchases, and we have set some attainable goals for this Pantry Challenge!
We will stick to our meal plan.
We will only grocery shop every 2 weeks…
When we do, will will only buy dairy, produce, paper/personal items.
If we don’t have it, we will make it! That happened today!
We will repurpose food and use up our frozen foods.
With the exception of Marque’s birthday, we will not eat out…
All of the things on my list will either save us time or money. In the states, there are coupons, and sales fliers, etc. here in Italy, not so much. We did find a store called AdHoc, which is similar to Costco. That has helped with meat costs, etc.
Here’s a pic of my pantry:
Beside my fridge (to the left of this pantry), I have a dry erase calendar where I place my meal plan, and a dry erase empty square where I write my grocery list. During the Pantry Challenge, we take stock of the meats and dry items we have… and we use our imaginations to make it all last at least a month, sometimes longer.
January 1st we had our traditional New Years Meal. Pork roast (because a proper ham is not common here), black eyed peas, greens/cabbage. Leftovers today, the 2nd, and tomorrow (the 3rd) we will have shrimp tacos.
Earlier, I said we needed something we didn’t have, so we made it. So here’s the story. We love the Pioneer Woman’s Shrimp Tacos, and they call for Mexican Tomato Sauce. Usually we use El Pato, but we ran out and they don’t sell it here. So we made it from this recipe – Mexican Tomato Sauce.
One of the things I have learned from Jessica @GoodCheapEats is that you can make just about everything from scratch… and it’s such a benefit. I’ll let you know how the shrimp tacos turn out.
We’re excited! Come play along… get organized, use what you have…and save money! AND let us know how you do!
Happy Monday! Happy Feast Day to Saint Sebastian! Check out the Saint of the Day Calendar @Franciscan Media, and learn something about a Saint every day. Saint Sebastian stood up against Cruelty to Christians. We could all learn from Him. Saint Sebastian, pray for us!
I’m here today to UPDATE you on my Pantry/Grocery Challenge Progress. If you are NOT familiar with this challenge, go to Good Cheap Eats and follow Jessica on FB, Instagram, etc. Most “make sense”, real person… I mean – no hoopla, she really cares and tries to help.
If you recall, on January 7th, I created some goals for my family and I to stick to. It’s really been going well. I am happy to say that we are REALLY sticking to it. Here are the basic rules (I screen shotted it for ease of use).
In the kitchen, I keep two white boards on the wall, next to the fridge. One is a calendar, so that we can make a meal plan, and one is where we write our grocery list. Taking stock of what meats and things we have in the freezer has really helped us plan the dinner meals. Much of lunch is leftovers, or bento-style boxes (which I will explain below), or maybe a protein smoothie, so I don’t have to put a whole lot of thought into that. Taking stock of the pantry, has reminded me that I have plenty to make bread, pizza dough and other things. Also – I apparently am a cheese and a spice hoarder. Who knew!
This past couple weeks, we only bought water, eggs, creamer, milk, and produce. Not a lot of produce. Just supplemental.
For Dinners we had:
Chicken & Veggies
Stir Fry (code for throw all the extra into a pan)
If the boy child has a practice or goes to the gym, we also add a protein bar or shake to the mix, and an extra water. Here are some of our lunch favorites.
Tuna or Chicken Salad
Thai Chili Dipping sauce (or ranch or salad dressing)
For Breakfasts we had:
Whole Grain Cereals
If I am being honest, lunches and breakfasts are basically the above during the week. Occasionally I make pancakes or waffles. But we are all watching our non veggie/fruit carb intake. And so – that is not we actually took a meal to a family in need AND took desert to a Pot Luck and didn’t have to grocery shop for extra because I had extra on hand. Let me explain — I keep all kinds of crazy baking things for holiday baking…. so – that is where much of it comes in. But, in the pictures below…
Pics 1 & 2 were for a potluck at our Parish. 1 – Deep Dish Brownie (scratch) with white chocolate chips, roasted coconut, and maraschino cherries baked in them, chilled and iced with vanilla whipped cream (scratch), and embellished with cherries, chocolate syrup, coconut and almonds. 2 – The M&M covered brownies are the rest of the deep dish brownie batter, baked with mini m&m’s in them and then on them. The other half of the tray is a bag of Betty Crocker Peanut Butter cookie mix (I swear to you they are fantastic), baked in an 8×8 pan, and melted chocolate chips as the topping. Pics 3 & 4 were for a family. Pic 3 is MacNCheese, the same Peanut Butter brownies, and french style green beans. Pic 4 is chicken cutlets – some for their family, some for ours. Pic 5 is the fantastic stir fry I made from so many veggies – onions, garlic, yellow bell pepper, parsnips, and zucchini on top. We added some beef marinating in teriyaki sauce and it was divine.
We are enjoying using what we have. And we aren’t missing anything. Y’all, the fun we have trying new things.
Tomorrow I will be making bread. My husband’s birthday present came in and y’all we are excited to use it. It’s a slicer…. I have found one of the best things to do to ensure we love Italy, is to make sure we have what we need to cook like we did in Texas. We are truly blessed y’all. I’ll share how it goes. But first…
May I ask for prayers y’all? My husband is having a medical procedure tomorrow. It’s a normal – I’ve turned 60 – kinda test. But pray the outcome is good. Additionally, and probably more earnestly – pray peace and comfort and healing over my friend Nancy. She is starting Chemo tomorrow. I hate not being there. And I love her so. Standing with her – praying with me, I’d sure appreciate it.
I’ve gotta go get dinner for my son and I. We have a great neighbor who gave us a pasta dish, so we won’t have to cook since the hubs can’t eat today as he’s prepping (and now you know what the tests are). HA
Happy First week of January 2020! Are you a good steward of your money? Sadly – I suck at finances. 2020 is my year to be on a better path to fixing it. God has really laid people in my path to help. I am hoping to memorize Bible verses about self-restraint and being a good steward. I have to focus and live better within our means. Sigh.
One of the ways is with the Pantry Challenge. What is a pantry challenge? Well, Jessica over at Good Cheap Eats started doing these about 2008, or so.. You can read her explanation of the Pantry Challenge, and I’ll explain how I view it/use the challenge for our home! I have been doing it for 10+ years and it just feels comfy now.
If you’re like me, you need to purge your freezer/pantry shelves after six weeks of entertaining. First of all, January’s budget is always super tight… but more than that, since my hubs and I like to entertain, and typically cook for others from before Thanksgiving to after New Years. AND, in Italy, I’ve noticed that can mean you have way more extra than you need. Seriously! Because of where we are, we have learned to buy for “just in case”… because if ya see something and don’t buy it at the commissary, you may not get it. Bottom line, we have food for weeks… and we’re about to get creative!
For me, it represents, using what I have (aka minimal $$ spent on groceries); weeds out what I don’t normally keep as pantry basics (aka holiday entertainment items, extra flour, etc.) thus leaving room on our “pantry” (shelves we bought from IKEA) so that it’s not so unorganized looking; AND it allows me creative. Additionally, it allows me to really look at EVERY item in the pantry/fridge/freezer that may have expired, etc. (y’all do not want to know the science experiment-looking things I’ve found).
I typically start my challenge after my hub’s birthday (January 5th). This year, he turned the big 6-0! We had dinner with friends and ate leftovers. Y’all we’ve been eating so much he literally asked for no cake. HA – Serious business y’all.
So Monday, I spent the whole day in the kitchen prepping bento lunch items, and looking into creative ways to use leftovers. Here is what I did:
Cleaned and chopped carrots, celery, cucumber, onion, bell peppers.
Made stuffed bell peppers with beef, Italian sausage, chopped onion, and leftover rice and tomato sauce..
Made egg cups with the meat mixture that did not fit into the bell peppers.
Made chicken salad with leftover grilled chicken, boiled eggs and veggies.
For me, the rules are as follows:
Take stock of what I have using the worksheets Jess provides (Free). If this is your first time, buy the eBook. It’s the best $6 you will spend – trust me.
Use what I have.
Only buy needed items. Here it’s water (you can’t drink the water, though we do have a Berkey – and we use that for cooking), dairy, produce, and paper items.
No restocking till February 7th. We hit it super hard for a month.
After Feb. 7th, plug in more meatless meals and keep folks on track with lower carbs. We have weight to lose. BLAH!
To show what I mean about creativity, I took meat out of the freezer and create dinner and a week’s worth of breakfast with it. As a side note, I’m volunteering with the USO tonight, and my guys have choices for leftovers. BONUS!
It will never be my goal to lecture you about finances or show you what an idiot I’ve been. But when I find something good to share, and a lesson learned, I will do that from time to time. I pray you learn from this old lady’s mistakes.
I hope and pray your Tuesday is blessed. Join me in the pantry challenge if you want. I’d love to hear your tips too.