Monday, January 3, 2011

Menu Plan, Pantry Challenge

A lesson learned (repeatedly, it seems...) is that life goes better when I have a menu plan. I'd also like to get my recipes organized (a huge project) and be able to refer back to where I found something. I have a couple of ideas for how to do this, but need to experiment to see what works best. Ideally, I want to be able to look something up by main ingredient (e.g., bananas, ground beef, etc.) or by type of food (breads/muffins, casseroles, soups, etc.) and, potentially by which one of my cookbooks it can be found in.

FishMama over at LifeAsMom is hosting a Pantry Challenge this January, and I hope to participate in that, as well. Like her, part of my motivation comes from the fact that some frost is starting to build up on the walls of my (almost full) freezer. On the other hand, I really appreciate this time of year all of last season's produce that got stocked up in there -- and the other stockpile items. It's really helped with not having to worry about needing to do any major grocery runs during holidays/vacations...and our regularly scheduled blizzards.

In addition to the blizzard/time-saving issue, eating mostly from our freezer/pantry is a nice way to save money in January after the month of December. Plus, it's kind of a fun challenge. :)

So, here's the menu plan for the first full week of January:

Sunday: Chicken and Wild Rice Soup [Busy Woman's Slow Cooker Cookbook], Basic Banana Muffins [N/D 1998 Taste of Home magazine].

It's National Soup Month, and my husband said something a couple of days ago about a good bowl of soup being nice on a cold day. And I spent part of December browsing through old issues of Taste of Home and Quick Cooking magazines for the season and finding recipes I wanted to use. We are now almost out of wild rice, but it did come from the cupboard. Other ingredients -- frozen broccoli and corn (scraped from last summer's ears) were in the freezer, as was the chicken. (One of our grocery stores had a "Buy $25 worth of chicken, get $5 - I think -- off promotion in December, plus I had a $10 grocery gift card that expired the end of the year.) The bananas for the muffins came out of the freezer, too -- they were the ones that started getting soft from bunches we'd eaten throughout the year, so got put in the freezer to be used for banana bread (or muffins).

Monday: Spaghetti with Ragu Sauce

We had half a giant jar of spaghetti sauce left over in the freezer, plus a remaining free box of Barilla Plus spaghetti from a VocalPoint offer.

Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie [Kraft Food and Family magazine Winter 2002 issue] (or, maybe, Popcorn Chicken and Seasoned Oven Fries -- for which I need to look up the recipes)

The soup only used a breast and a half of the three-breast package of chicken, so I need to use up the rest -- in something that stretches it. Hence the idea for the pot pie (which would also use the frozen pie crust in my freezer, and probably some frozen corn and shredded zucchini from the same source). The popcorn chicken and seasoned oven fries would use up the last four potatoes -- which are on their way to soft and shrively -- from a 99 cents for a 5-lb. bag purchase.

Wednesday: Church Supper and Epiphany Festival

Nobody has to cook!

Thursday: Blueberry Pancakes and Bacon

I actually had something else in mind for this day, but the memory completely escaped me before I could write my menu plan. I hate that. I'd been thinking of blueberry pancakes some time anyway, though (a request from the four-year-old), using some of last summer's blueberries from the freezer, and some deal-purchased bacon also in there. (This means I'll need to plan a way to use more of that bacon in next week's menu plan, before it goes bad.)

Friday: Pizza

Our family is still eating purchased frozen pizza; some day, I'd like to try the homemade stuff. It goes well with Family Movie Night, though. (Note to self: use free Redbox rental before it expires!)

Saturday: Weather willing, we'll be at a family gathering.

Since some of that family may read this, we could, theoretically, plan the meal now instead of engaging in our traditional sitting around throwing out various ideas an hour before mealtime while kids (OK, just mine) complain that they are Starving. To. Death. But where would be the fun in that?

(See more Menu Plan Monday links at

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