I Like a Good Challenge

As I was linking from one blog to another I came across The Pantry Challenge. I have heard of this before but have never been very good at maintaining it because eventually I get twitchy about my food stores getting too low (not that it’s ever happened, so how would I know.) What I liked about this one were the basic rules that grocery shopping, and even stockpiling, was still allowed. The goal of this challenge was to do specific things, such as lower your monthly grocery bill and being able to defrost (yay!). Obviously this means that the contents of the deep freezer are included in the challenge, and I for one would like to defrost.

My deep freezer frustrates me. It builds up ice quicker than I can bat an eyelash, and I defrosted just this past September. Part of the reason is because the only place I have to store it is in a non-weather controlled room, meaning no AC in the summer and no heat in the winter. It’s all I’ve got to work with and that’s okay. My only problem is I keep throwing more and more in there and it’s impossible to ever defrost.

January is the perfect time for cleansing and renewing. A revamping of the finances usually cames into play (several times a year, in fact), and I am looking at a particularly difficult winter. There is no work on the island and since I was forced into unemployment because of Hurricane Irene, the money will run out in 2 weeks. Emergency unemployment benefits were put into place but even that has a limit, so my once $120 a week grocery budget will quickly become $0.

I went through my pantry and deep freeze and made a list of everything I had on hand. The next step is working out meals. That part should be relatively easy because I am already in the habit of planning out dinners each week. My goal is to see how many meals I can make, what recipes I can come up with, and how much can I save this month by attempting to only purchase milk and other necessities, both food and personal, and any great stockpiling deals that come via store sales + coupons.

I can’t believe what I found. WHY do I even go to the grocery store? There are so many meals here, and because I stocked up on canned veggies and other non-perishables around the time of the hurricane, we truly are stockpiled (well, short-term anyway). Here’s what I have:

CANNED & JARRED GOODS: 17 green beans, 4 peas, 4 corn, 2 diced tomatoes. 3 cream of chicken,3  blackeye peas, 2 black beans, 1 navy bean, 1 pinto bean, 1 garbanzo bean (think we have enough beans?), 1 enchilada sauce, 1 salsa, 1 artichoke hearts, 2 red pasta sauce, 1 vodka pasta sauce, 1 dill pickles, 1 green olives, 1 container chicken broth.

RICE, PASTA & GRAINS: 4 pkgs. spaghetti, 5 boxes macaroni & cheese, 10 pkgs. of rice (variety), 1 risotto, 1 gnocchi, other loose rice and pastas (many, many meals), 1 pkg. frozen tortellini, 1 pkg. frozen cheese & spinach ravioli, 3 meals worth of bulgur, 2 meals worth of quinoa, 2 meals worth of quick barley, 1/2 canister of quick oats.

MEAT & SEAFOOD: 3 pkgs ground turkey, 4 pkgs turkey meatballs, 2 pkgs beef stirfry, 2 small whole chickens, 6 roundeye steaks, 18 boneless & skinless chicken breasts, 11 salmon fillets, 8 meals worth of fresh tuna, and 1 of fresh blue fish.

FROZEN VEGGIES & MORE: 1 lb. collards, 3 lb corn, 1.5 lb. lima beans, 1.5 lb. tater rounds, 1 lb. preseasoned baby potatoes, 1 lb. hasbrown shreds, 2 pkgs creamed spinach, 3 meals worth of pesto sauce.

DAIRY & MISC.: 2 lb. butter (8 quarters), 1 qt. buttermilk, 2- 1/2 gallons organic milk, 15 eggs, 4- 1 qt. conatiners of turkey or chicken stock, 1 frozen cheese pizza, 16 frozen steak taquitos, 5 frozen philly beef steaks, 2 containers tomato and roasted red pepper soup, 2 cans vegetable soup, 2 bottles BBQ sauce, 1 pkg panko bread crumbs, 1/2 doz. onions, 3 sweet potatoes, dried mushrooms, 1 box chicken stuffing, 1 pkg shake ‘n bake, 2 lbs organic sugar, various shredded and sliced cheeses, plain yogurt, honey, 1 head lettuce, 1 lb baby carrots, 1/4 lb sugar snap peas, 2 1/2 containers cottage cheese (about 4 lbs!) 1 ricotta, 1 sour cream, and 1 pkg wheat flatbread.

*A meals worth serves my household of 4 people.

I think it’s safe to say that I can get a whole months worth of meals out of this stockpile. What do you think?

Meals for the next 3 nights are already planned, which will deplete my pantry by 3 of the roundeye steaks, 1 onion, 1/4 lb frozen corn, the sour cream, 1 pkg ground turkey, all the red sauce :(, 3 eggs, ricotta cheese, more than half the shredded cheeses, 3 or 4 chicken breasts, some of the dried mushrooms, 1 can diced tomatoes, and the panko bread crumbs.

What will I be making? Stay tuned for homemade Manicotti (my first time),  Creamy Skillet Corn, Roundeye Steaks with Tomato and Mushroom Ragu (possibly with carmelized onions and Polenta if I can find a good recipe), and Chicken Parmesan.

Do your own Pantry Challenge and let me know how it’s going for you. Keep a watch for my Pantry Challenge Journal, which will be updated periodically.

Happy budgeting!

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