Tag Archives: cooking challenge

Pantry eating challenge – week 1


So for the New Year, I decided to try a cook-from-the-pantry challenge.  See this article for full details, but pretty much the plan is to cook mostly from what is already in my house (fridge, freezer, pantry) and $20 per week for fresh produce & dairy.

How’s it going so far?

Pretty darn well, actually.  I’ll try to keep posting updates every Sunday on how the previous week went, and at the end summarize the whole month.  But for the first week, things are going along as normal.  Here’s the week’s menu:

Jan 1 – Pork roast & sauerkraut (leftover from day before, and it’s good luck on New Years Day!)
Jan 2 – Chicken & rice soup
Jan 3 – Chicken quarters & rice & broccoli
Jan 4 – BBQ spare ribs & baked potatoes
Jan 5 – Crock Pot Turkey Chili
Jan 6 – Seafood linguine (recipe coming Tuesday!)
Jan 7 – Pork chops w/apple chutney, mashed sweet potato, and cranberry sauce
Jan 8 – Spinach stuffed chicken rolls, rice, salad

You get one bonus day because Jan didn’t start on a Monday. 🙂

For breakfast, I have had smoothies using frozen fruit & fresh, wheat English muffins (from the freezer) with almond butter & jam, and cereal (cold and hot).  Lunches are most often leftovers from one of the dinner meals, and one day this week I had a caprese sandwich for lunch out with some coworkers.

Oh, how am I doing with not shopping?  That part is a little harder… as you may know, I’m a sucker for a good sale, and have no qualms snagging them and stocking up when I find it.  Well, that’s a no-no this month, I have to make a strict list of only fresh veg and fruits we want or need, and stick to it.  For me, this is the toughest part of the challenge so far.  So, what did I buy this week?

Dairy Fruit/Veg
Kefir (2) 5.92 Bananas (5) 0.96
Org. milk 1/2 gal 3.5 Spinach (12 oz) 1.49
Heavy cream 1.69 Kiwi (4) 1.49
Asparagus (1 lb) 2.69
Romaine (3) 1.99
Avocado (2) 1.98
 TOTAL $23.30 Raspberries 1.59


Yup, I went over budget by a little more than 3 dollars… but honestly that’s still pretty good, given on average I spend $100 per week on groceries.

The cream was so I could make our own coffee creamer, (we are trying to get away from packaged, processed chemicals as much as possible) and organic, grass-fed milk is way more expensive than factory milk.  But it is a choice we are making, to be healthier all around.  The same goes for adding kefir to our diets, to get more gut-healthy probiotics.

The fruits will mostly be eaten as snacks and in lunches, and added to smoothies.  The spinach & romaine will be salads to go with things from the freezer & pantry, and compliment any frozen veg. I already have.  The fiancee eats a banana per day for breakfast, and both the asparagus & raspberries were on sale, how could I not buy them?!

Well, that’s it for this week, stay tuned for next week!


How about you guys, ever done a no-spend or low-spend challenge?  Do you think you have more food in the house than you think you do?  Could you go a month without grocery shopping as usual?


Tomato Basil Chicken Cacciatore


One of a busy and/or tired cook’s favorite things is being handed an idea for an easy dinner. Don’t you just hate thinking to yourself or asking the family “what do you want for dinner?” and getting blank stares, or hearing the wind whistle between your ears? Cooking fatigue can happen to the best of cooks. And especially those who are new or new-ish to cooking on the fly have a tough time with this exact question.

Something I’ve used since college to help get the creative kitchen juices flowing (literally and figuratively) is a website called Supercook.

This website curates thousands of recipes from site members and other sites all around the web. All you do is input what ingredients you have in your kitchen or pantry, or what ingredients you want to use, and presto, hundreds of recipe ideas at your fingertips!

Let’s say you have a can of black beans, a can of corn, and some tomatoes from your garden. Those three simple ingredients bring up 26 recipes alone! And by adding in staples that most all of us have (hello, black pepper and salt, flour, oil, sugar, etc) your options expand even more. You can filter by type of dish you want to make, what cuisine you are in the mood for, and even filter by dietary restrictions like excluding nuts, fish, or dairy.


Supercook is sponsoring a Back to Work cooking challenge, whereby they asked who can make magic using super simple pantry ingredients: chicken, rice, and tomatoes.

PICK ME! I can make kitchen magic with next to nothing, as abundantly proven over the years on this blog.

Conveniently, those are three of my favorite ingredients of all time. Entering them into Supercook’s website opens up over two dozen options. Several are too simple (plain steamed rice? yawn), but a recipe for chicken cacciatore catches my eye. With a few more ingredients I have on hand from an abundant harvest (fresh basil, yum!), I know this is what’s happening for dinner.

The recipe is for chicken cacciatore in the crock pot, which is even better for busy working adults! But, I’m impatient, so it had to be made tonight, and that meant on the stove top. Keep in mind you can indeed take all the ingredients and simply chuck it in the slow cooker for a truly hands-off meal that turns out like you slaved for hours.

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See? Pretty dinner, but oh so easy.

A basic cacciatore recipe includes, of course, chicken, vegetables sauteed in the chicken oils, and diced or peeled tomatoes. The seared chicken is returned to the pot of vegetables and simmered about an hour until done. I of course added a few extras, which you can choose to include, or keep it simple. I used a quart of pasta sauce I’d canned myself, with garlic & basil included. You can just use a can of diced tomatoes for the same effect.

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  • 2-3 pounds chicken (breast, thigh, legs)
  • 1 cup brown, wild, or white rice
  • 1-2 cups diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • Optional extras: spinach, garlic cloves, zucchini, bay leaves

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Step 1: In a frying pan, sear the chicken on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Pour off most of the oil and set the chicken aside.

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Step 2: Add the onion, and any other vegetables or spices you’re using, and cook 10-15 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent and the carrots are soft when poked with a fork.

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Step 3: Pour in the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the pan, cover and cook 10-12 minutes.

Pro Tip: The longer you simmer this, the softer the veggies get and the more the flavors meld. But if you’re pressed for time and don’t mind slightly crunchy carrots, this can be done in as little as 15 minutes total.

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Step 4: Serve warm over pasta, rice, or with a thick rustic bread on the side. I just made some rice in my cooker while the rest of the dish simmered on the stove.

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This dish is super tasty & satisfying, and also quite healthy. Especially if you pack it full of delicious veggies! You could throw all kinds of things in there, like cauliflower, beans, or broccoli. This flavor combination worked out very well.

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This dish is also quite frugal in addition to being healthy and delicious. A pack of chicken quarters is often on sale for $0.99/lb or less, rice is an affordable staple, and the veggies were mostly free at the height of gardening season.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and that discovering Supercook can help you too save time and energy by answering the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”



This recipe & post have been entered into the Supercook “Back To Work” Cooking Challenge! #SupercookChallenge #BacktoWork