What is a pantry challenge? It can mean different things to different people. For me it’s a way to use up what we already have in our pantry, frig and freezer, while only buying necessary items to stretch what we have. Being of a frugal state of mind, this is one of my many plans to save money and be a better steward of that with which I have been blessed. When I checked out Good Cheap Eats this morning and found that Jessica was hosting a pantry challenge I thought of it as a welcomed omen to get back into the blogging swing of things for 2013. I love a challenge and am so happy she’s invited everyone to share in this journey.

Our supper menu for the week:

Sunday – Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and broccoli.

We had a lot of left over stuffing and decided to freeze it for a future meal. I have never frozen stuffing, but have frozen bread. I’m sure it will be at least edible. I was lucky to have a five-pound chicken in my freezer. I cooked it in my slow cooker because I find it gives you an awesome broth and also makes the meat super fall-off-the-bone tender, which helps with deboning. I picked our chicken clean and plan to utilize the leftover broth and chicken meat for future meals. Waste not, want not.

Monday – Matzo ball soup and apple butter bread

We are not of Jewish descent but I love this ethnic dish. When I worked outside of the home my office manager introduced me to this and it has become one of my family’s wintertime favorite dishes. Saute a small onion and a few stalks of celery with about a carrot per person in some olive or canola oil. Add your chicken broth. I’m using my leftover broth plus a 32 ounce container of chicken broth. I use a store-bought matzo ball mix and form the balls, drop them in the boiling soup, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. I then stir in leftover bits of chicken meat and heat until warm. Easy, filling, and delicious.

Tuesday – New Year’s Day dinner at my Mom and Dad’s house – Pork and sauerkraut, hot dogs (the jumbo beef ones, usually), mashed potatoes, buns and applesauce

This is one of my favorite meals. I really should watch my sodium intake though, but am always tempted by the hot dog. It goes so well with this meal. Maybe I’ll ask for one “to go” this year and eat it on another day so that I may eventually enjoy that part of the feast. 🙂

Wednesday – Lasagna Roll ups, with Italian sausage meat sauce, green salad, and garlic bread rolls

Same concept as lasagna except you spread your cheese mixture on the noodles, roll them up, place them in your baking dish, cover with sauce and bake.

Thursday – Possible leftovers from the holiday meal OR Chicken, bean and rice tacos with shredded cheese and romaine.

My parents do not enjoy the sauerkraut meal as much as we do. They like it, but not too many times a year. On occasion we are blessed with some leftovers. If so, I will whip up some mashed potatoes and serve those leftovers with them and some applesauce. If not, I have a back-up plan of tacos. To stretch your taco filling add beans (mash with fork or potato masher) and cooked rice with your seasoning mix. It’s frugal, more healthful and quite tasty too.

Friday – Homemade mac and cheese with fresh steamed broccoli in garlic and olive oil.

Yes, this is a meatless meal. Husband is not a fan. Hopefully he will relive the  memory of the yumminess of this mac and cheese recipe I made for a holiday party and forget about not having any meat. There is so much cheese, and butter, and milk anyway. 😉 I’ll be using farfalle for this recipe. It’s the only pasta shape I have on hand at the moment. Mac and cheese with butterflies, who would have thought, but that’s what a pantry challenge is all about. Start by boiling your pasta and drain well. In the meantime melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan. To your butter add 1/2 cup chopped onion. Cook until tender. Stir in 1/2 cup flour. Cook until golden. Slowly stir in a quart of milk. Add 8 ounces American and 8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese. Stir until melted and pour over your pasta which you have placed in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Feel free to add buttered breadcrumbs or crushed garlic and cheese croutons to the top of the mac and cheese before baking.

Saturday – Bean with bacon soup (from a can), peanut butter crackers and apple butter bread

You may see a canned food trend on some Saturdays. We’ll call it cook’s day off, unless it’s some sort of special occasion of course. Here’s my thought process for why I saved this kind of meal for a Saturday.  I like to have a hot, home-cooked meal ready for Husband when he gets home from work. After working 10+ hours I don’t feel canned soup meets the mark. He would argue that point with the statement, “As long as it’s not liver.” Others may argue too, feeling that he’s lucky to have whatever. It makes me feel better though knowing he works hard and long hours to support our household and deals with the occasional meatless meal, so I’ll work hard to do my part too.

Check back at the end of the week for a recap with some photos, what worked and what didn’t, and what I actually spent on groceries to tide us over for the next two weeks.