Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Cupboard's Not Bare Yet

We just finished week two of the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. It hasn't been too tough yet, which probably means I keep way too much on hand.

I was able to use up a tuna noodle "helper" that I don't even know why I bought. I suppose because it would be fast and easy. But they aren't that tasty, so I turned it into a tuna noodle casserole that was MUCH better than the original "helper" meal. All of the meat and the homemade tomato soup in my menu (below) came from my freezer.

In addition to the tuna casserole, this week's experiments included making cauliflower cheese soup from a frozen cauliflower with cheese sauce mix and making my own flour tortillas. The soup turned out pretty well, and the tortillas were perfect.

By perfect I mean they were edible, but not so good that I feel compelled to make my own instead of buying them from the store, which is ever so much easier! Oh, and they were all oddly-shaped. The only way I could have made them round was to cut them. But this was more fun, like a Rorschach test on your plate!

Hmmm...they never look this way at the restaurant.

Really, the tortillas were a lot of work. There's a reason Mexican restaurants have those little machines that flatten the tortillas for them. But we had an avocado that I needed to use up and it was really only good for guacamole. With no chips or tortillas on hand, I didn't know what to do for a meal. But I had flour, shortening, baking powder and salt, so I thought I'd try making tortillas. Everyone needs a new challenge once in a while, right?

The tortillas were much better turned into oven baked chips, this week's Pantry Recipe of the Week. I will definitely make these again, but probably from store-bought tortillas. They were tasty, and I like that they have less fat and I can control the salt content or add any other seasonings I want. (Cinnamon and sugar chips, anyone? Yum!) Unlike the tortillas, the chips were fast and easy to make.

Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips (Adapted from

Flour tortillas, corn tortillas, and/or wheat tortillas
Olive oil or cooking spray
Seasoning of your choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay the tortillas out on a cutting board and brush both sides with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice. (Salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and sugar, etc...) Stack the tortillas in piles of eight. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut through the pile of tortillas, cutting into 4 equal triangles.

Arrange tortilla triangles in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake for approximately 6 to 7 minutes until crisp, and the edges start to curl and turn lightly brown. Watch the chips carefully after 5 minutes, as they can burn easily. Once the chips are done, remove from the oven to cool. Chips will continue to crisp as they cool.

Here's our supper menu from the rest of the week. Again, we mostly ate leftovers for lunches, except for a couple days when Jeff took sandwiches for lunch instead.

Sunday - Chili with venison, veggies and dip
Monday - Tuna noodle casserole
Tuesday - Tomato soup with grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches
Wednesday - Baked potatoes, cauliflower cheese soup, salmon patties
Thursday - Fish sticks, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables
Friday - Chicken tacos, guacamole, homemade flour tortillas
Saturday - Perkinsville pork with pasta and red sauce, garlic bread, green beans

Total groceries purchased: $17.43

I did have to buy groceries this week just to keep the kids in milk and get some fruit and vegetables. I bought milk, bananas, oranges, canned peaches, avocados, sweet potatoes, and one loaf of bread. The milk at $2 a gallon for 4 gallons was almost 50% of my bill. Still, since my total last week was $0, we're well on our way to meeting our savings goal for the month.

Next week watch for more venison and cod to appear on our menu somewhere, though I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to use them. We also will have the answer to the great "bake or buy" debate over bread. I know how to bake bread. (Thank you 4-H.) I have the ingredients to bake bread. But do I have the time or energy? Stay tuned...


Girl said...

This is great! I've been watching this blog because I have four kids too. Our grocery bills are gigantic! I'm really impressed at how you've been able to cut down and budget. Maybe I could make a few improvements too... :-)


Abby said...

Oh, I so need to try that website we have some stuff that has been in our pantry forever that we need to use. I love homemade bread, but I would say buy the bread :)

Aunt Mary said...

OK so my question is, if you drain your pantry and freezer- won't next months grocery bills be twice as much and then you defeated the purpose? Just wondering!

Christy AKA Trippin' Mama said...

Mary, there's no way I will empty my pantry OR freezer in a month, so next month's bills shouldn't be much different than usual.

The challenge for me is to use up things I never seem to get to. You know, that extra stuffing mix, the Chicken Helper I bought on sale probably 6 months ago, the frozen cod that I bought with good intentions, but never seem to cook. It's also made me go through my cabinets and freezer and see exactly what I have. (How did I get 7 cans of tomatoes with chiles?)

As a bonus, my freezer was so full I hardly had room to add anything more, so I couldn't take advantage of sales on things like boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Now I'm ready for the next sale, which will save us money.

In a few years there will be no need for this challenge. I suspect my boys will keep my pantry and freezer clean as a whistle! :-)