How do you motivate yourself to cook?

It seems to me that 4:30PM (time to start dinner) comes around WAY to fast on a daily basis.  Not only does it sneak up on my most days, but if I didn’t actually thaw something to make BEFORE 4:30, there isn’t actually anything to make!  I did follow advice from a news article and create a year menu plan.  I actually only got half a year done, but I figured I can repeat it the second half of the year.  This has helped!  Whenever I get to the witching hour, I can look to my plan to see IF we have the pantry items to make one of those meals.  Just knowing WHAT to make is a huge burden lifted from me.  I must think about it too much, so when I can’t come up with anything I feel like a huge failure as a wife and mother.  It is my JOB to provide healthy, nutritious meals for my family.  Anyway, what do you do to get the meal to the table every night?  How often do you /can you afford to eat take out?



Pantry Challenge - Week 4

Ok, so I know this post is late, as January is officially ended.  All told we did ok!  Many pantry items were used up and the grocery trips were SUPER scarce.  We ate better than usual too.  In the end, eating out killed the reduced budget, but we still did much better than we normally do.  I am counting it as a WIN!

I am thankful to FishMama @ Life as Mom and Crystal @ Money Saving Mom for posting this challenge.  It was a fun way to spend January.  I bet it will be a reoccurring event!  They are sponsoring a new challenge in February for Freezer Cooking.  Since my freezer is not empty yet.  I won't be participating fully in this challenge.  I love to do freezer cooking, especially when Papa Elston takes our little man out for the day and I can work in peace.  He and I did this before Liam's birth.  It was awesome.  We had 2 weeks' worth of good meals in the freezer and could concentrate on being new parents instead of worrying about food.  Another wonderful thing about having meals in the freezer is your ability to give them away!  In my PTA, we make meals for families in emergencies and with newborns.  How wonderful to be able to give generously to those in need at a moment's notice.
We did do a little freezer cooking this week.  I made the whole box of pasta for our seafood pasta meal.  I figured that the stove was already heated and energy was being used, so why not get 2 meals out of it.  So, marinara pasta bake is in the freezer.  Also, I ran out of pizza sauce for lunch.  I remembered an easy Betty Crocker recipe for it and had the canned goods on hand.  It made more than I needed that day, so I froze 3 bags of single serving pizza sauce.  Papa Elston made up some freezer pizza dough I found online too.  We are set for 3 homemade pizzas in the near future!  It tastes soooo good and costs pennies to make.  You just can't beat that!

Eat From the Pantry Challenge - Planning

I saw a video article on a Texas Mom who plans an entire year worth of dinners to save time and money.  Here's the link:  It was inspiring to see that she doesn't have to worry about what to make each night.  I started working on my own version.  I am not sure we'll save any money with it, especially since I am up to May and haven't repeated a meal.  It's pretty hard to stock up on grocery items if you only use them twice a year.  But, peace of mind and saving a bit of Mom's sanity may be worth more to me!

Pantry Challenge - Week 3 - temptations

So, as I mentioned earlier this week, we are all out of eating out 'tokens' for the month.  I have a weakness for doing it at lunch. Here's a typcial day, I work at the computer for a few hours first thing in the morning, with my trusty mug o' joe.  Liam gets up and eats, and eats, and eats.  We get dressed, then get an errand done mid-morning.  By now it's noon or 1, (have you guessed it?), I haven't eaten yet.  This is when I am tempted.  Today I was determined that I would not completely fail my challenge by spending money on lunch.  I wanted to use a gift card I have instead.  Ok, so it is still eating out, BUT no addition money out of the budget, so I felt good about it.  We drive to the next town over to get to the restraurant, only to find that they are not OPEN for lunch!!!!  Well, that was just what I needed to put me back on course.  The hubby did eat out for lunch today, which was another temptation.  I can justify my lunch with his, right?  Well, then he calls on his way home, asking if we can go out tonight too.  This is going to be a hard week to finish.  Here's hoping next week is EASIER!  As far as menus go, we still have plenty to eat.  I even had a brunch meeting this week with homemade (& from scratch) coffee cake.   There are a couple of parties at our home next week; that will make the challenge interesting!
See you on the post side, Jen

Pantry Challenge - Week 3

Ok, so I have to admit, we fell off the bandwagon this weekend.  Traveling is difficult without quick food to refuel and keep moving.  We were able to stay under budget for food in total though, so we are still good with this challenge.  Unfortunately, as the hubby pointed out, we have no more meals out left for the month.

The fridge is pretty sparse now, so there will be few leftover lunches to be had.  The hubby surprised me over the weekend with homemade egg noodles from the extra flour we had on hand, so homemade chicken noodle soup is on the menu tonight.

The rest of the week looks like this:
Dirty rice with sausage
Salmon filets with asparagus
Pasta and Alfredo sauce w/ salad
Leftover Smoked Sausage w/ Sauerkraut and potatoes
Spinach Quiche
Ground beef chili
And one mystery meal! 
(Not the kind in the school cafeteria, but it is a mystery to me at this point, so that fits.)

See you on the post side, Jen

Pantry Challenge - Week 2

Liam and I are loading up the car and traveling over the weekend to a friend's house.  Normally, there are additional food expenses when we do this.  The trip is a few hours, so typically there is a McDonald's stop somewhere.  But I am planning ahead this time.  I am packing lunch and beverages in an effort to avoid the temptation to stop.  I'll let you know if it works! ;-)
There has been only one additional food purchase this week.  Somehow a Starbucks coffee made it onto our bills.  Hard to believe that one coffee (which I love) can cost as much as the bill for a month's worth of eggs.
I hope the hubby will stick to the plan in my absence and enjoy his night off!
See you on the post side, Jen

Bread Machine Buttery Rolls

Bread Machine Buttery Rolls

Looks like we're not the only ones doing the Pantry Challenge and baking our own bread. Money Saving Mom blogged about it earlier today too. Unlike her, when my bread machine died several years ago, I upgraded to the 'live in' model. My husband is an AWESOME baker and bread is one of his specialities. I found 10+ pounds of whole wheat flour and 3 pounds of active dry yeast in the back of my unkept pantry at the beginning of this challenge. Paul has been baking with it ever since. This is an wonderful addition to our menus.

We have managed our spending on food better than even I expected this month. The pantry and freezer are still well-stocked, so I think we'll make it through fine. I may have to extend it into February. I was born in the 70's but I hord food stock like a depression era survivor. It has made this an easy challenge, but is really a waste of money. It ends up tied up in 'Inventory' instead of paying down our debts or even earning us interest.

What ways do you find that your money is not working as hard for you as you'd like?

See you on the 'post' side! Jen

Pantry Challenge - Days 8-10

Continuing the Eat from your Pantry Challenge from Life as Mom and Money Saving Mom this week.
For one of our Christmas gatherings, I needed a cup Buttermilk for a recipe. The hubby picked up a quart of it. So he made 6 cups of buttermilk pancake batter over the weekend. Pancakes are a family favorite at our home AND they freeze really well. We added 2 pancakes into plastic storage bags and have a nice stock of ready to eat snacks or meals anytime we want. I may have to make homemade syrup to finish the month though! ;-)

In our home, Sunday night is a good time to make recipes that are more labor intensive or that take more than 20 minutes to prepare. So Champagne Shrimp Risotto was a great meal for that night. I did have a few challenges though. When I picked the recipe back in December, there was a bottle of Champagne in the house and I had parmesan cheese on my shopping list. Neither of these were actually available on Sunday when I made the dish though. I also had known changes to the recipe. I never buy raw shrimp or have fresh spinach on hand. So here are the changes I made to this recipe:
Substitutions (mine vs. recipe)
1. Precooked Frozen Shrimp - Raw Fresh Shrimp
2. Homemade Chicken Stock - Champagne & Store bought stock
3. Frozen Spinach - fresh chopped leafy greens
4. Shredded Guyere - Grated Parmesan

Doesn't it look yummy!
The substitutions worked out great! Additionally, I had fresh mushrooms that were going to go bad soon, so they got sliced and added too! It was a delicious meal for our family, plus there was enough leftover for an entire meal later. It is in the freezer waiting for another day.

This week's menu looks like this:
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches w/ Tomato Soup
Calzones with Salad
Brocoli MacNCheese
Shrimp Gumbo (Frozen from a previous meal)
Smoked Sausage w/ sauerkaut
BBQ Beef (also Frozen from a previous meal)
Leftover night
I added a leftover night, so that I have the option of NOT cooking as well as making sure that the extras from other nights get ate too.

There are several veggies in my fridge that need used this week too. I find that a canned meat salad is a great way to get rid of several small amounts of fruits or veggies left over from other recipes. Chicken salad for lunch this week will have grapes, celery, and onion added. I also store pecans, walnuts, and other nuts in my freezer, so one of these will go in also.
I have several evenings full this week with church, PTA and Uppercase Living so a week of quick and easy meals was in order.
Leave me a comment and tell me if you have joined and what you're meals look like this week.
Posting again soon! Jen
Posted by Picasa

Pantry Challenge - Day 6-7

Last night's Ramen Noodle meal was... just ok.  I can tell when I have not made the best meal when the hubby goes and finds additional food to eat at the table instead of just getting seconds.  The sauce I added turned out to be too hot for Liam, so I had to get him a different dinner too.  UGH!

Tonight we are having leftovers.  There is Pot Roast, Sausage Pasta and Ramen Noodle meals all leftover.  Plus I have a PTA meeting at 7PM.  I find that I am 'working' more evenings every week.  Not that I stop running the house all day too. ;-)  It is very nice to get out of the house though and Paul tries very hard to be home in time to let me go!  God bless my Man.

Pantry Challenge - Day 5

Ok, so I already had to break down and buy one grocery item.  I struggled with this quite a bit, but we can't make it 26 more days with 1 egg in the house.  I did find out that Egg-beaters is freezable!  (  So one carton of regular eggs and a carton of Egg-beaters should suffice for this month.  I love my freezer!  There are 3 gallons of milk in there right now!  Did you know you can freeze milk?  It is awesome to know I can buy even one extra gallon and not have to run to the store at 7AM, because the 'little man' needs his 'guk'.  About 2 weeks ago, we decided to finally take him off Whole milk, because he would rather drink milk than eat.  I know it has vitamins and all, but that can't be very healthy if that is ALL you eat.

Anyway, here's the game plan for this week's dinners.  (Yes, I have a mammoth white board in my kitchen!)

I listed items that are going bad on one side and prepared meals for consumption on the other. Leaving the middle open for a weeks worth of dinners. Pasta w/ Sausage, Tacos, Ramen Noodle Bowls, Broccoli MacNCheese, Fish Sticks and Tater Tots, and Shrimp Risotto. There is a meal out this week in celebration of my one year anniversary with Uppercase Living. ( That will have to break the rules this week, because we only get to celebrate milestone accomplishments as they happen. Besides, Paul and I need a night out! ;-)

I found a couple of recipes using Ramen noodles on  We're going to try this one:
I also found a shrimp risotto that looks yummy for Sunday dinner.  Here's the Risotto recipe:
They have a neat alternative to most sites for recipe searching, by using one or more ingredients you have on hand. This is likely to come in VERY handy this month. (Thanks, Suz for reminding me about this!)

I tried to make up an entire month's worth of menu, but it was more work than I was up for. The last week of January may be harder because of this, but I am up for some diversity.  (Applesauce and Peanut butter can be combined into something edible, right?) heehee ;-)

Pantry Challenge - Day 4

We had another wonderful day of eating in the Elston household.  Liam, who is potty training, had "cookies!!!" almost all day.  This is 'the' reward of choice for a successful trip to the potty room! He started the morning with one and would have finished the day with one too, but he was already too tired to eat anything.

For the Pantry Challenge in our house:

  1. We are not grocery shopping for the month of January.

  2. We are not eating out or take out either. (at least not on our dime)

  3. We are eating from the pantry and freezer as best we can.

  4. We are going to spend the money saved on new shelving for the pantry.

Normally, we spend around $400 a month on food.  I did a stock up shopping on December 31, 2009, which cost us $132.07.  I intend that to be it for the month!

We had a few items that were going bad, so I made sure that those got onto the menu immediately.  Tomatoes and smoked salmon were in salad for lunch.  Mushrooms and half a jar of marinara made wonderful sausage and pasta.  Apples and grapes with leftover fruit dip made nice snacks today.  I even used a few apples in a Tastefully Simple Nana's Apple Cake!

Tomorrow, we're having carrot raisin salad and leftover pot roast.  So far, we have had pot roast, breakfast, steak fajitas, and pasta w/ sausages for dinner.  Not bad for being almost snowed in the first week of January!

For meals this week, I am looking at uses for chicken stock (frozen from crocking chickens over the last year).  There is plenty of it too, maybe 7-10 quarts.  There is more in the bottom of the freezer, but I have to dig it out first. HA!

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

So this is it!  This is the reason I decided to blog at last. I have so many thoughts to share about this pantry challenge brought to my inbox by that I can't think of a different/better way to put them together than this.  I love to cook and even better is to challenge myself to use the food on hand!  It is so much fun that way.  I find more new cool recipes this way.  The hubby is always full of praise for the meals, even so having extra cash in our accounts didn't hurt his feelings either...
Eat From the Pantry Challenge: My Goals and Plans (and come link up yours, too!)


Organize, organize, organize, sometimes to a fault. (At least my hubby thinks so).  Truth is I hate clutter and I am lazy.  However, not the kind of lazy most people think of.  I don't have hours to clean my house, or find a lost sock, or deal with paperwork that is not where I think I left it.  SOOOO, I put things where they belong the first time, every time.  If it doesn't have a place to belong, I create one.  Here I will share my tips and ideas for organizing my family.


This page is dedicated to all Food related subjects.  I love food of all types and discovering new recipes too.


Back to Home Page
Related Posts with Thumbnails