Eat at Home Habit #7 – Pantry and Freezer Challenge!

It’s the final post in our series on 7 Habits for Eating at Home.

If you are just joining us and would like to catch up on the other topics we’ve covered including topics planning meals around your calendar, quick and simple grocery shopping tips, stocking your freezer, the 15-minute meal, tools and tips for mastering time-saving cooking methods and a collection of dinner conversation starters. Today we have the perfect way to wrap up our series on healthy eating habits with a pantry and freezer challenge.

Habit #7 – Pantry and Freezer Challenge

One habit that needs to be in the rotation for all of us is the occasional pantry and freezer challenge.  We are blessed to live in a country where food is abundant and getting it in hand is easier than it ever has been before. We have the ability to buy and store all kinds of food to keep on hand whenever we want it. We can even have it delivered to our door in some instances!

But the other side of that coin is it’s easy to keep buying things we don’t need while letting ingredients we already have languish and spoil in the pantry and freezer. Of course, wasted food is not only sad but it’s not really great for the budget either. So I like to be intentional about taking a week or two every so often to go through what I have and make a plan for using it up in my meals. This means I waste much less food than before and still put great meals on the table for my family!

Here are a few tips for taking a week (or more) and using up the food that’s been hiding in your kitchen and turning it into delicious and satisfying meals for your family.

  • Go on a search and rescue mission in your pantry and freezer.  You need to know exactly what you’ve got in there.  Examine expiration dates, pitching what’s already past its prime.  Make a list of what you find.
  • Search recipes for meals that use the foods you find.  Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients and get creative in your cooking.
  • Grab a calendar and plot out your meals. You might surprise yourself and be able to plan several weeks or a whole month!
  • Commit.  Stay out of the stores as much as possible and keep to your plan.  One way to commit is to designate a way to spend or save the money you’re not spending on groceries.  If you budget a regular amount of money for the grocery, during your pantry and freezer challenge you won’t be spending that.  That means you can put that money aside for something needed or fun!

I think this pantry and freezer challenge is the perfect way to end our 7 Habits of Eating at Home series.  I’d love it if you took a moment and told me what you’re making from your pantry and freezer this week!

Here are a few more things that might be helpful in your pantry and freezer challenge this week

 

Next week we’re starting a new series on Summer Slow Cooking and Pressure Cooking. Let’s keep the kitchen cool together!

Read all the posts in the 7 Successful Habits for Eating at Home

  1. Plan Meals around your calendar and lifestyle
  2. Simplify Grocery Shopping to save time and money
  3. Stock up your freezer with easy meals and shortcuts
  4. Plan 15-minute meals for busy days
  5. Master time-saving tools in the kitchen–before you are in a time crunch!
  6. Create intentional conversation and connection with your families at the dinner table + FREE PRINTABLE!
  7. THIS POST: Use up what you already have by shopping from your pantry and freezer when you plan your menu at least a few times a year!
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6 Classic Meal Builders Your Pantry Needs

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The key to good meals at home is having a well stocked pantry.  There are lots and lots of options for filling the pantry, but keeping a few classic, basic items on hand ensures that you have what you need to fix a meal.  Here are the items I always keep around.  These things are true work-horse ingredients.  They’re flexible and timeless.

1.  Canned Tomato Products

My favorites in this category are crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Crushed tomatoes can be the base of nearly any type of Italian sauce.  Use it to top pasta, in a pasta bake, for pizza, on sub sandwiches, to top chicken or meatloaf.  Endless possibilities!

Diced tomatoes are much easier to keep on hand than fresh and go in all kinds of Mexican and Italian dishes, as well as many others.

Other tomato products worth keeping in the pantry include tomato sauce, paste and salsa.

2.  Beans

Canned beans make for quick meals, but you may also want to have dry beans on hand.  Dry beans can be cooked and frozen, then used just like canned beans.

Use beans in soups, casseroles, quesadillas or other Tex-Mex style dishes and much more.

3.  Broth

Chicken, beef and vegetable broth are all essential pantry ingredients.  Make your own and freeze it or use canned or boxed varieties.  Broth can be used in making soups and stews or in cooking grains or pasta.

4.  Aromatics – Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are both essential in many, many recipes.  They add so much flavor to any dish, but really bring out the best when you’re pulling together a quick easy meal.  They elevate the most simple ingredients to something delicious.

5.  Grains and Pasta

Rice, quinoa, couscous and all shapes of pasta are great building blocks for meals.  Top them with your protein of choice mixed with veggies.  Let your imagination guide you!

6.  Freezer staples – Meats and Veggies

In our modern world, the freezer acts as a (very) cold pantry.  I prefer fresh vegetables, but I do keep frozen veggies on hand.  It’s nice to know we can have vegetables even if we’ve eaten all the fresh and I haven’t made it to the store.

Frozen vegetables can also be roasted in the oven with great results.  Toss the still frozen vegetables (green beans, carrots, butternut squash, broccoli etc) with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done.

Having cooked meat stashed away in your freezer is a fantastic way to make quick and easy meals.  Cooked chicken can be ready to add to a soup, stew or casserole in just a few minutes of thawing in the microwave.  Cooked meatballs (make these homemade for the best flavor) are versatile for all kinds of dishes – sweet and sour meatballs, sub sandwiches, topping for pizza, served alongside rice or pasta.

These are items that show up on Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plan grocery lists over and over again.  They work in lots of different meals and you can find them in any grocery.

If you’re looking for a way to simplify dinners at your house, check out Weekly Meal Plans.  We do the planning for you so you can focus on time around the table with your family.

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meal builders your pantry needs

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