The Pantry Challenge Journal ~ Week 3

I’ve completed week 3 of my Pantry Challenge and I realize that I’ve definitely got more than a months worth of food here. I will keep going until I can go no further, but in the meantime I will confess that I still make weekly trips to the grocery store. Although I use coupons when I can, I am only buying necessities and I’ve given myself a much smaller budget. Because my unemployment was extended (thank the Lord) I still have some money to work with, but eventually that will run out for good and I have no expectations of another extension, nor will I ask for one.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to stretch the money twice as far by cutting my weekly food budget in half, aka $60 a week. Can I do it? I’m sure there will be difficult weeks ahead, but last week when I did my shopping for the week, buying milk, olive oil, cat food, apples and bananas, and a few other items needed for meals this week, I spent $60.66. Not bad.

So here’s what we had for dinner last week, including anything I purchased separately from what I already had in inventory on Jan. 5th.

MONDAY, January 16th: Homemade Chicken Chili. I used all the leftover chicken from Sunday’s Roasted Chicken dinner to make a white bean chili. I wasn’t following a recipe. I put in about 2 1/2 cups of navy and pinto beans, chicken stock, garlic, onion, shredded chicken, 1 can navy beans- mashed, about 1/2 cup leftover hummus, cumin, and salt. It was pretty good but a bit brothy for a chili, so I added 1/2 cup brown rice and the rest of the kale I had.

TUESDAY, January 7th: Fish Tacos. I love ordering fish tacos from a good restaurant that does them right. In the past I have tried in vain to make them and this time I think I actually did a pretty good job. Now I did use some of the fresh tuna, which isn’t normally the kind of fish used for this dish, but it really turned out quite well. The trick I’ve learned it to use a lot of seasoning when cooking the fish. I’ ve always gone too light, thinking it was enough because I could smell it. It was a hit- all my boys ate it up!

Chop up the tuna (if using tilapia or a lighter fish chopping isn’t necessary) and place in pan heated with olive oil. Sprinkle on seasonings liberally and toss. I used a lime pepper mix with some added fresh lime juice, cumin, and dried cilantro. I served this with warm corn tortillas, diced tomatoes, shredded cabbage and shredded lettuce (for the non-cabbage-loving kids), shredded cheese, salsa, and black beans. Sour cream, guacamole, and black olives would all have been a great addition.

This was the most expensive meal this week, as most of the ingredients were purchased this week. I had a coupon for .50 cent off 2 pkgs of Kraft shredded cheese, plus they were on sale so I got them at $2.25 each, which was a better price than store brand. We only used 1/2 of one package, allowing for potentially 3 more meals. That’s about .28 cents per serving. I also purchased Roma tomatoes at $1.40, used one for a cost of .28 cents, as well as a bottle of taco sauce for $1.69. I would guesstimate we used about a third of the sauce, costing .56 cents for the meal. 2 limes at .25 each- used only one.  Total cost for a family of 4 to eat their fill on fish tacos = $2.23!

WEDNESDAY, January 18th: Jumbo Meatball Cups and Butternut Squash Bake.

THURSDAY, January 19th: Grilled Tuna Steaks. This was the easiest meal prepared in our house this week. Cory grilled the tuna with olive oil, salt & pepper, and I warmed up all the leftovers in the fridge :) We’ve only gotten through half of our tuna in the deep freeze, but at least we are finding great ways to make it.

FRIDAY, January 2oth: Cory’s 40th Birthday! I made his favorite cake ~ Butter cake with homemade Maple frosting. We had dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant and saw a movie.

SATURDAY, January 21st: Beef Stroganoff. I love this dish. It’s a bit fattening, I know, but I love the tangy creaminess with the mushrooms. I substitute ground turkey or ground chicken and whole wheat noodles. Alas, this picture is not mine as my stroganoff was NOT picture worthy. My standby recipe is Betty Crocker’s Beef Stroganoff.

Image borrowed from Photobucket: AKBerryPrincess

SUNDAY, January 22nd: Dijon Dill Chicken with bulgur and green beans. This chicken dish is another standby. Everyone in my house loves it. I noticed as I got closer to the end of the week I was running out of steam for cooking much. It’s my fault for not finishing the menu for the week, but most times I’m just glad to make through the week nights! I can’t believe I haven’t shared this recipe with you yet. I was pretty sure I had but looking back through my archives I couldn’t locate it- so that must mean I didn’t tag it properly. Anyway, here it is again. Definitely worth a repost. My mom gave me this recipe. She found it printed in a Chicago newspaper years ago.

4 boneless chicken breast halves, patted dry with paper towels

3 T. butter, divided

1.2 cup chicken stock (broth works as well though I’d usually add a roux to thicken the sauce)

1 T. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp fresh minced dill weed (or 1 to 2 Tbsp dried)

In large skillet heat 2 T. butter over medium heat until foam subsides. Saute chicken halves for 3 or 4 minutes on each side until golden. Remove chicken and cover to keep warm. Pour off excess butter and discard.

Deglaze pan with chicken stock (pour in and cook until reduced and browned bits are loosened from bottom of pan). Whisk in rest of ingredients. Add chicken back to pan, cover and cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through- about 5 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken to serve.

Look for post #2 today: Yellow Butter Cake with Homemade Maple Frosting :)

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