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Spring Pantry Challenge One Week Check In

If you’ve been participating in the Spring Pantry Challenge, you know we just hit the 1 week mark. How has your stockpile been dwindling? Have you encountered any interesting situations or problems so far?

I remember the first time I had a pantry challenge in my house to try to use up all my stockpiled food items. It was very difficult for me to get into the mindset of making substitutions to make a meal out of the ingredients I had on hand. In my everyday cooking I’m much more used to deciding what I want to cook, looking to see if I have the right ingredients, then going to the store to buy the rest of what I’ll need.

Having to substitute and work around ingredients was a real adjustment for me in the beginning! I felt like a spoiled kid whose mom was forcing her to eat gross meals I hated! Who can relate to that childhood memory?!

Even if you’re having a difficult time with your pantry challenge, dig deep and enjoy the savings from huge grocery bills right now. How much did you spend this week at the grocery store for just your perishable (and baby items)?

Stay strong and work on pulling all of the old food out of the back of every cabinet this week. If you’re continuing your stockpile use-up for another week, let us know how it’s going for you in the comments below or on the Home Ever After Facebook page. Use it up!

Today is the Start of the Spring Pantry Challenge – What to Expect and How to Get Started!

Pantry Challenge at Home Ever After

Today is the start of the Spring Pantry Challenge!   If you’re joining us this time, you’ll be able to use up most of what’s in your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and cupboards, and save on grocery costs for the next 2 weeks.  Does this sound like a great plan?  Then keep reading and let’s get started!

When to Do a Pantry Challenge and How Long It Takes

At Home Ever After, we recommend doing pantry challenges several times a year so that you can use up the stockpiled food in your pantry or kitchen cupboards.  Believe me when I say that there is nothing less frugal than throwing away expired food that you never had a chance to use!

If you have a bigger stockpile, you may be able to keep your pantry challenge going for longer than 2 weeks.  If you have a very small kitchen and not very much food stocked up, your pantry challenge may only go for one week.  The length of time really isn’t important though.  During this pantry challenge what we really want to accomplish is getting all of the older food (canned items, boxed items, dry goods, grains, boxed cereals, etc.) used up so that it doesn’t keep getting pushed to the back of the cabinets.

What to Expect if this is Your First Pantry Challenge

If this is your first time doing a pantry challenge with Home Ever After, here’s what you can expect.

→  While the challenge is underway, you’ll only be able to buy grocery items that are baby foods, baby formula, and perishable foods, such as milk, eggs and produce. If you’re a hard-core pantry challenger like me, you’ll even be skipping the produce on your shopping trips and opting to use up your canned fruits, canned vegetables, and frozen veggies in meals as substitute ingredients.

→  Today is the only day during your pantry challenge that you can shop for grocery items that are not perishable.   Since today is day 1, you’ll be planning your meals and finding out what ingredients you are missing to use up what you have in your pantry.  For example, if you have all the ingredients to make open face tuna sandwiches for your 20 cans of tuna except for mayonnaise, put mayonnaise on your shopping list today.

→  You’ll see a starting post, like the one that you’re reading right now.  This reminds you that it’s time to start the pantry challenge.

→  You’ll do a food inventory, which includes logging all the food in your refrigerator, freezer, kitchen cabinets, pantry, and any other food storage area you might have. The food inventory is an actual count on a piece of paper of which foods you have on hand and how many of each item you have.

This may seem very old-fashioned and low tech, but it really is the best method I have found to watch your food items dwindle down.  The paper method works so well because you can print it out, put it on your refrigerator, and cross off or highlight each item once you’ve completely used it up.  You’ll also want to use pencil on the quantities so that you can erase and change the numbers each time use up one of something.

→  You’ll see frequent reminders about the pantry challenge on HomeEverAfter.com, on the Home Ever After Facebook page, and in the Home Ever After Twitter stream.  We’ll check in with you to see how you’re hanging in there and to make sure that you have inspiration and support to keep going all the way to the end of your challenge.

What to Read Before You Start Your 1st Pantry Challenge

Since you know that pantry challenges are a staple at Home Ever After, we’ve got quite a few past posts on the subject.  If you’re like me, you like to learn all that you can about something before you get started.  It’s also helpful to see the pantry challenge as part of the bigger picture of homemaking.  Click on any of the articles below to read up on the how and why of both creating and using up food stockpiles before you start your pantry challenge.

How to Use up Food in a Pantry Stockpile.  In this article, you’ll see how I spent only $20 for an entire month of groceries during a pantry challenge.  You’ll also learn step-by-step how to use up a food stockpile during a pantry challenge.

Pantry Challenge: Just Do It!  In this article, you’ll see a little bit about what one of my long pantry challenges looked like for my family at the two-week mark.

Recession Proof Your Pantry and Food  In this article, learn how to prepare your family’s food supply for the possibility of a hard time without hoarding or wasting!

2 Week Challenge: It’s Time to Use Up the Pantry!

Spring Pantry Challenge: What to Do Next

Step 1: Make a food inventory.

Step 2: Make at least 2 weeks of menu plans trying to use up as many ingredient as  you can from what you have on hand.

Step 3: Make a shopping list that includes all ingredients you’re missing to make the meals on your menu plans.

Step 4: Do your last grocery shopping trip (except trips for perishables) and start your pantry challenge first thing in the morning!

That’s it – let’s use it up! You’re all set to get started on your very first pantry challenge (or, if you’re an experienced stockpile user, your next pantry challenge)!  You’ve got a busy day ahead of you getting all of your steps completed, so good luck and we’ll be checking in with you in a few days.  As always, feel free to leave a comment below if you have questions or if you just want to share your strategies for how you do pantry challenge in your house.  We’d love to hear from you!

Dinner Date Night at Pei Wei (That WON’T Wreck Your New Year’s Resolutions)

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pei Wei Asian Diner. All opinions are 100% mine.

 photo 1029d01a-8b80-45c8-8e25-2fe1b5556032_zps6fc4b326.jpgI’m always encouraging moms and dads to keep up their date nights. However, if dinner out at a restaurant is your go-to date with your spouse and your new year’s resolution is to eat healthier, you may have put date night on pause. The good news is that you can still eat healthy at a restaurant and enjoy the company of your spouse or significant other without feeling guilty about the food.

Pei Wei Asian Diner is on your side with healthy restaurant food options! Pei Wei’s reFresh in the new year means they will keep inventing new menu items this year and have introduced a new small size entrée. Let’s talk about that for a second.

Making a smaller than regular portion is basically the opposite of what many restaurants do. In our American dining culture, we’re used to restaurants offering “super size”, “mega”, “extra large,” and “jumbo” portion sizes. The restaurants try to get us to increase our portion size and many of us do, because the food looks and tastes so good! Then we over eat because we have too much food in front of us. Does this sound familiar?

Pei Wei now has 2 sizes: regular and small. You can order a reasonable portion size and know that you’re eating fresh ingredients. Here is the difference between the two portion sizes of the same meal:

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Your budget won’t be hurting from this dinner date night either, since the fresh wok’d entrees start at $6.39.

New Dishes at Pei Wei

If you want to look at the Pei Wei menu before you plan a date night there for you and your spouse, check out all the meals online. Explore the Pei Wei Asian Diner menu .

Plus, they just keep releasing new exciting flavor combinations that offer lots of fresh options. The newest addition to the Pei Wei menu is the Thai lime & chile flavor. You pick your meat (shrimp, chicken, steak, or even tofu for vegetarians), and if you want it with white or brown rice, and they make your dishes to order using hand-cut veggies. If you really want to step up your fresh healthy eating, you can get the Thai lime and chile as a salad too!

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The new flavor includes Fresno chilies. In case you haven’t heard of that variety of pepper before, they have a medium hotness rating (the Scoville heat rating is 2,500 – 10,000, or about as spicy as a jalapeno pepper or Tabasco sauce).

If you’re a spicy food fan but your spouse isn’t, Pei Wei is perfect because they can choose their own flavor and still get the same fresh ingredients made to order (even if they are a little less on the spicy side!). The new ginger orange edamame, wok roasted vegetable salad, or Szechuan green beans may be the perfect choice. And you know I love that Pei Wei offers gluten free meals and lots of vegetarian options.

If you want to check out Pei Wei online, here they are:

What are you waiting for? Grab your calendar and schedule your next dinner date night at Pei Wei! Go ahead – dinner at Pei Wei won’t wreck your new year’s resolutions! Which dish are you going to try? Are you spicy and ready to go for the Thai lime & chile?

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Christmas Dinner Just Got Easier with Real Organic Food in Tetra Pak® Cartons!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Carton Smart. All opinions are 100% mine.

Pacific Foods real food cartonsHoliday dinners can be a huge production with all the family-favorite dishes that have to be made at the same time for one enormous savory meal! For many of us who have food allergies to cook around, finding ingredients for our favorite holiday meals is not just difficult, but close to impossible. I’ve got great news! Christmas dinner just got easier with real organic food in Tetra Pak® cartons from Pacific Foods.

Food Allergies and Holiday Cooking

When Tetra Pak® contacted me to check out their foods in cartons, I first went to their website pacificfoods.com to see what the ingredients were.

Since I have to prepare meals with 2 family members’ food allergies in mind, I have to cook with foods that have no dairy, no soy, and no gluten. Finding cranberry sauce that didn’t have any of those 3 ingredients in the store at Thanksgiving was impossible. I was so surprised to find that the popular brands and store brands both were full of chemicals and ingredients my family can’t eat.

I was happy to see that the Pacific Foods organic jellied cranberry sauce was gluten free, dairy free, and soy free. not only that, but it also only contains real food! The three ingredients are organic cranberries, organic cane sugar, and water. See – all real food!

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Another item that gives me trouble for holiday meals is gravy. Prepared gravies in cans and even packaged gravy mixes from the grocery store are all full of gluten, soy ingredients, or dairy. Most even have all three of those common food allergens. Unfortunately, that means that unless I’m making gravy from scratch with drippings from a turkey, we’re out of luck for gravy. Even chicken stock purchased in the store often has chemicals or food allergens (even “natural flavor” can contain dairy or soy).

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The Pacific Foods organic simply stock chicken (unsalted) has no allergens! Now, I’ll be able to use the chicken stock not only for making holiday gravy, but also as a real food base for chicken soups, for baking chicken breasts, and for crockpot dinners.

Pacific Foods real food cartons

You can start switching over the ingredients you normally use to real foods in cartons now, just in time for your holiday dishes. They have broths, sauces, cranberry sauce, pumpkin puree for your pumpkin pie, wild rice soup, macaroni and cheese, and more.

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You can also bulk up your pantry because these foods in the Tetra Pak® cartons have no preservatives, no chemicals, and you don’t even have to refrigerate them. The expiration dates on the items I got to try from Pacific Foods were all far in the future (2014 and 2015) even though they have no preservatives!

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Become Carton Smart and be good to the earth! The cartons create less waste than aluminum cans (1/3 less) and the squared off shape uses space efficiently in your pantry. In fact, if you’re bulking up your pantry stockpile, carton foods are perfect because of their long shelf life.

You can Tweet @CartonSmart with your ideas about how to incorporate carton food ingredients into your holiday cooking and use the #CartonSmart hashtag. Follow #CartonSmart on Pinterest and check out their smart Christmas cooking board for holiday recipes.

Are these cartons from Pacific Foods going to be lifesavers for your family’s food allergies?

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Kitchen Tip: Make a Crockpot Dinner the Night Before

Using a crockpot to cook your dinner all day while you’re busy or at work is a great time saver! However, what if you don’t have time to cut up the food, add the ingredients to the crockpot and otherwise put together the meal in the morning? Do it the night before!

Kitchen Tip: Make a Crockpot Dinner the Night Before

A great way to take advantage of your crockpot is to make your meal the evening before. Add all ingredients to the crockpot and make sure it is ready to cook. Then take the insert (this is the part of the crockpot that the food goes into; usually they have small handles to lift them out of the crockpot), put the lid on it and put it in the refrigerator. In the morning, remove it from the fridge, set it back into the crockpot, and turn on to cook all day.

Presto! A wonderful low-maintenance meal that took zero minutes out of your already busy morning to prepare. Happy crockpot cooking!

We originally published Kitchen Tip: Make a Crockpot Dinner the Night Before on Home Ever After on June 17, 2008.