Category Archives: Use it Up

January Cooking From Storage–2022

I have been cooking from my storage so much this month, it warranted it’s own post. I have a lot of pantry items, purchased in bulk. I also have a lot of home-canning and freezing. I am always inspired to really dig in and use up a bunch of it every January. I did not do any kind of a special pantry challenge, as you read about on the internet–the kind of challenge where you don’t shop at all, or use a certain number of jars per day, or any other fun game, even though the challenges some people come up with sound like lots of fun for those who do them. Instead, I just tried to find some items on my pantry shelves that had been there for a while and use them up, along with the usual jars of home-canned and the frozen containers of food, mostly from the top of the chest freezer, if I’m honest, because I could grab them in a hurry.

I found some red beans that I’ve had for a long, long time. We’ve been using pinto beans so much lately that the red ones have been ignored. I tried making chili one day and didn’t soak them long enough and didn’t add enough liquid for such old beans. I had a hard time getting them to soften. In the end, I used my Instant Pot to cook both the chili and the beans I wanted to freeze to use later on and it did the trick. I now have a large bowl of them soaking. I will soak them for a couple of days in lots of water and then just use the Instant Pot to cook them. Then, I will freeze in meal-sized portions. Then, I will do it again until they are gone. There’s at least another gallon out there that doesn’t need to linger longer.

I am making refried black beans right now. By morning, they will be cooked and I will grind them with my stick blender, serve some right now and freeze the rest for later. I have a recipe, which I did make this week, that uses them. I was going to buy a can for next time, then realized I had lots of black beans and I could make my own. (I usually use pintos for my refried beans). The recipe has a masa crust with chili powder, green onion and other spices. You bake that. Then, you spread with the refried black beans and cheese and after baking that a little while, you can add taco toppings like tomato and cheese if you want. It’s a bit like a pizza, but not quite.

I fed Patsy several frozen burritos. When I have beans cooked, I take tortillas and fill them with brown rice and beans, cheese and a little salsa. Then, I roll, wrap in foil, and freeze for quick meals. There are a few frozen ones left, then I need to make more.

I made apple crisp more than once this week. Rob’s sister gave us another large box of apples so that’s become my go-to dessert.

We’ve had frozen corn, canned corn, canned green beans, used canned carrots and frozen and canned broth in chicken-rice soup, plus had lots and lots of peaches, cherries, pears and applesauce. We also eat relishes, pickles, and jams every week. We have been eating the peas and broccoli I grew and froze, along with frozen peaches, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and any other fruit I can find in the freezer. We’ve also used frozen onions and peppers of assorted varieties in cooking and lots of onions from our garden, which are storing well.

I cooked 4 Butternut squash. Some was cut in cubes and roasted and some was cut in half and baked and mashed. We were given quite a few of these squash by Rob’s uncle and cousin, who grow a garden together. Mac loves, loves, loves squash. I froze a bunch to make meals easier.

If you are wondering why he has 2 pony tails, it’s because his Mama got his little, tiny braids undone over a couple of days and had the hair pulled back so as to not tangle up too bad. When she gets enough time, since she’s working a lot right now, she will re-braid his hair up into the little braids she likes him to wear. It will likely take her a couple of days to get it done, as it’s time-consuming and he doesn’t like it being done, so it’s a battle.

I cooked both brown and white rice. The white is the most popular around here with the kids, so I did that more than once. Rob likes brown, so he ate all I had frozen, and I made more.

I used a lot of thighs and drumsticks I had frozen. I also used hamburger, turkey burger, and bits of turkey and chicken I had previously cooked and frozen. I made home-baked chicken nuggets and also home-baked fish sticks. The fish was some kind of frozen white fish I got at Grocery Outlet for $2 for a pound. I bought 3 bags. It’s good. I wish I had gotten more, but you never know until you try unknown items from there, and I haven’t been back in that area. Since things fly out of that store, it’s not worth an extra trip to see if they have any left. So, I’ll be happy for the 3 bags I did get.

There were lots of other things I cooked, as well, like scrambled eggs almost every day for breakfast. We did use some oatmeal, cereal, pancake mix and other items as well, but eggs are our breakfast most days. We’ve baked several items, pulled some from the freezer, made pear-raspberry popsicles, and other things I’m sure I can’t quite remember.

What did we do with the grocery money we saved? I ordered from Azure Standard. I got some cleaning supplies and some more bulk food to fill up empty gaps in the pantry, including a 25 lb. bag of gluten-free flour, which cost almost $50, right there. I took Jake (my nephew) and Patsy to Grocery Outlet and let them buy snacks of their choice for a “party” when he spent a few nights. (That means eat snacks and watch a movie–we’re not very wild partiers around here.). I bought produce and dairy products and I sent Rob and Michaela (my niece) to Costco for things like Ziplocks, deodorant, and a hot dog, of course–her favorite lunch in the world!

If you think I cook a lot for 3 people, you are right. I don’t cook for 3 people, actually. It’s not uncommon for me to feed 4-6 extra people on any given day, and one day this week, I fed 17. So, when anyone offers me food of any kind, I gratefully say “thank you!” and add it to my storage. Sometimes I have to can or freeze it, sometimes I don’t, but it’s all welcome and used.

I’m so thankful that we are able to easily feed so many people on our grocery budget (around $300/month). I haven’t sent out a meal for a long time, but this week, Rob delivered two meals for some friends who needed them. (They both got home-canned corn (I cooked it so all they had to do was warm it), BBQ’d chicken, salad, a few oranges, and of course, apple crisp!) The girls and babies are here quite often. My niece and nephew are, too. I love to cook for my family and friends, and a large food storage lets me indulge my little hobby!

The Lord always blesses us–it seems food pours in here faster than I can cook it up sometimes. I feel very grateful and blessed, especially in light of all the bad news I always hear of shortages, supply chain issues and items being unavailable. We are not suffering one bit around here. Occasionally, an item is not on the shelf at the store. We simply eat something else, and we are fine and full. After all, sometimes a new recipe can become a family favorite. Who knows?

What did we eat? february 14, 2019

I served lots of salads and veggies this past week. One time, I put it out on a platter and added lots of goodies to make it look different. Somehow, it worked. We felt like we had a whole new kind of salad!

I made carrots sautéed in apple juice. Carrots are one of the most reasonable fresh veggies at this time of year, so we’ve been having them more often.

Rob made himself some cooked cabbage and chicken sausage with a side of sautéed mushrooms. The cabbage is also a good price, as it is in season at this time of year and he found 2 large packages of mushrooms on the mark-down rack, so he got to enjoy a bunch of those. We’ve had omelets from the mushrooms, as well. Another day, I made coleslaw from more cabbage.

I found a bag of frozen pesto cubes in the freezer. During the summer, I make it and freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop the cubes out and freeze in a bag. My recipe is very simple–it includes basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. There are no pine nuts in it. I made brown rice pasta with the pesto last night. It was really good. I ate way too much.

I crumb-coated some rockfish that was in the freezer and served it with the pasta, and home-canned green beans. We ate several jars of green beans this week, several jars of fruit, and quite a few odds and ends from the freezers. I’m noticing that the chest freezer is starting to feel less tightly packed, which is good news since it’s hard to see what’s in there other than the top layer. It’s easier to dig around if it’s not too crammed. The 2 uprights are showing some spaces as well. The little freezer on top of the fridge in the kitchen is still crammed because I keep bringing veggies and things in from the shop for immediate use. Now that I’m getting more space, I plan to make up a few more things like muffins to have on hand for quick meals.

One night, Rob made hamburger patties, baked “French fries” and carrots with a little honey on them. Then, he took a picture of it (that’s his foot and knee there) and sent me a picture with the caption “I’ve got dinner for you.” I was super happy he did that, as I was heading home and was starving:).

Patsy made gluten-free crepes. They were really good. Way too good. We’d better not make those too often:).

We ate leftovers quite a few times as well.

I am happy to report that I have finally (hopefully) got things organized again so that I can stop going to the store every few days. I will do another produce run in a few days, and I’ll grab eggs if I see them on sale, but the staples are back in the pantry, at least for now. We are ready for a weekend with Jake and Michaela, and have the foods they will eat all stocked up. I have other things I’d rather do than go to the store, so I’m excited about that. Still, the reality is that if we cook from scratch a great deal, which we do, I am going to run out of foods we use, and it’s worth the time to me to go from store to store and get the best possible prices to stock back up, so I will always make time for that. I haven’t checked the ads yet this week, but last week I got butter for $1.99/box…’s aways worth looking:)

Last day of january use-it-up project 2019

The last day of January is here and I am officially done with my January “use-it-up” project. It seems like we ate like kings and my stockpile is not used up. I think I will continue this project into February, and expand it a little to include other things around the house that I want to use up along with the food. I will have to restock a few staples–some spices, oat flour, etc., along with the considerable amount of produce Rob is eating. I will likely save money again, but that’s not my main emphasis–it’s to make sure my stockpile is rotating properly.

I won’t let the stockpile get too low. After all, I like to buy things when they are at a low price and eat the extras when the price goes up, so there’s no point in running completely out of something unless it’s not on a good sale, or is about to get too old! Rob already brought home a case of canned mushrooms he got at Bi-Mart. I had told him I was almost completely out, so he grabbed them when he saw them. And, I can and freeze enough garden produce for more than a year, on purpose, in case there is a crop failure next summer on any item. (It’s happened before.). Now is the time to really hit those home-preserved products, though, when nothing much grows around here.

I had started the week with about $20 that I wanted to use this week. I used $24, because when I sent Rob with a detailed list to the store, I realized at the last minute that he could get 2 boxes of butter for the extra $4. So, of course I had him get that, as well.

The way the numbers came out was that I had about $225 set aside to work with in January. I used about $125 for food and about $100 for non-food items, like vitamins, because I had it to spare. I’m going to give myself $300 in February, because it’s possible I need to do a stock-up run to either the Natural Grocers or Costco. I’ll see how it goes. I never have trouble getting rid of extra money, in case I’m being overly generous with the budget:)

This week, I made smoothies a few times. I used frozen strawberries and bananas and plain milk with a splash of maple syrup and vanilla in this one. It didn’t need much sweetener because bananas are so sweet.

I made some sweet and sour chicken in my Instant Pot, using some chicken that was looking old and therefore a little tough. It softened right up in there! The sauce was made using the very last few carrots from my garden, some home-canned pineapple, some frozen lime juice, some frozen peppers from 2015 (they were a little over the hill, but gave good flavor in this kind of dish), a little vinegar, salt, ginger and soy sauce, and a scrap of date sugar that was lingering in a bag in the garage. We ate it with some brown rice I had frozen previously. It was very tasty, which was a bit of a relief considering how many odd ingredients I threw in there!

I made these gluten-free buns. They are SO good. I haven’t made them for a long time. I used several odds and ends of gluten-free flour I had in my bin and cleaned out the oat flour. It was time to get fresh anyway, so now I’m on the lookout for it.

We ate quite a few leftovers this week, as well. There was pork left from last weekend. Last weekend, Rob had made teriyaki pork and salsa verde pork (we had a large package that we unthawed and he cooked half each way), and there was some chicken. We ate the pork in tacos one night, then I made a chili-like soup from the rest. There was still some of that left, as well. He ate chicken and pork on lots of salads. We also had hamburgers last night. I ate a bun with mine, he just ate the patties. Tonight, I just ate a bunch of cheese over at my sister’s and a little cold cereal. Then, at home, I just snacked to finish off my dinner. The others ate leftovers and salads.

I’m not sure all of what we ate from my home-canned and frozen food, but I know I had to take one basket of empty jars and cartons out to the shop where they live when empty, and have another basket 1/2 full to take out tomorrow, so I know I was successful in using a bunch of that this week.

Did you use all of your things that needed to “go” up, or do you need to continue your project for a while longer, as well?

Use It Up project–january 25, 2019

I am still working hard at using up things that need to be used. As simple as that sounds, it has taken some effort and creativity to stay on task. As the month nears an end, I am realizing that there are still a LOT of items that need to be used. So, I will continue this project into February, while buying a moderate amount of groceries as needed. Here’s what I did this week.

Did I mention the ugly produce I got for free 2 Wednesday nights ago? I’ve been working to use it up. We’ve been eating the mandarins, trimming up the apples, I cooked the spaghetti squash and am working on using the potatoes. None of this is keeping well, which makes sense as I picked it out of the bottom of a tote bin which contained a lot of bad produce, as well as this usable stuff. (It was outside the church, for people to take if they wanted it. I don’t think it could have possible lasted much longer in the condition it was in, so I’m glad I found some good things)

I made cheesy scalloped potatoes with ham yesterday. I cut down the amount of the cheese a lot, and made it lower-fat and we had small portions so Rob could still enjoy some on his diet. It was really good, and there’s lots left.

I baked the spaghetti squash towards the end of last week. We ate some with salt and pepper and a little butter a couple of times. I put the last of it into these muffins instead of zucchini. It worked fine. I just chopped the strands up into smaller pieces and stirred them into the batter at the end. I put cinnamon sugar on the top and they were great! We have not used spaghetti squash very much in the past. When we put pasta sauce on it as they say to do, neither of us liked it very much. So, we just decided to treat the free one as squash, which we both do like and not even pretend it was spaghetti:).

I did fry some up instead of hash browns one morning, along with some chicken sausage, and I enjoyed it as long as I didn’t try to pretend it was potatoes.

I got a few veggies from the old produce rack. There were 3 little zucchinis in one of the bags. I made zucchini noodle lasagna with them. I used cottage cheese that was in the back of the fridge, mixed with mozzarella cheese, frozen long ago, found in the depths of the freezer out in the shop. Although the cottage cheese was expired, it was never opened, so was perfectly fine. It really lasts a long time as long as it’s sealed. The sauce was turkey burger, onion, and the pasta sauce I canned last summer. Rob really likes this kind of lasagna, and it’s low-carb, low-fat, so he wanted some this week.

Much of the food we ate for the rest of the week was leftover from last weekend. I’ve had soup several times from the big pot I made last Saturday, and I started in on the ham I’d been saving out in the camper fridge. It is the last 77c/lb one I got right after Christmas and I didn’t freeze it because it is good until mid-February.

The other thing we’ve been burning through around here is eggs. Thankfully, my aunt got 2 dozen for me last weekend, and I got 2 dozen more. Rob eats eggs several mornings a week. I had eggs for dinner one night. Jake and Patsy started in on scrambled eggs last night and ate several. They were both back at it this morning, and I had some, too. Most of a dozen disappeared between last night and this morning. I’m delighted! Eggs are so healthy for us all.

How is is going for you?

Use It Up Challenge–January 17, 2019–Pink Beans!

I went out to the garage, where most of my pantry storage lives, and brought in an ice cream bucket, 1/2 full of what I thought were pinto beans from the 50 pounds Rob bought last fall. Instead, they were pink beans. I seriously do not remember when I bought them, but I know it’s been a long, long, long time. I determined they would be the focus of the challenge this week as it was time for them to go.

I soaked them over night and part of the next day. I hoped they were not so old they would not soften. They softened. Whew!

I made a crock pot full of southwestern beans for the college age group to eat on Tuesday night. It was our turn to cook the meal. I wasn’t sure if young adults these days liked beans, but there were very few left in the bottom of a full crock pot. They were cooked with ham broth, salsa verde, and onion. I want to make it again soon, for our family, probably using pinto beans. They were that good!

I cooked the rest of the beans with water and salt. I froze 2 packages for later.

My purchases this week were from Costco. I bought Mexican cheese, a rotisserie chicken and 2 huge cans of peanuts. They were $6.50 (ish) and it was BOGO for free. In all, it was about $25. Otherwise, I’m still using things from the fridge, cupboard, home-canning, freezer, etc.

Some corn tortillas were way in the back of the fridge. I pulled them out. I made 2 pans of enchiladas. One was using frozen poblano peppers from 2015 (yikes!) and some cilantro, 1/2 and 1/2, onion and garlic made into a sauce. I got the recipe from the current Rachel Ray magazine and changed it a little to fit what I had on hand. I added some of the chicken from Costco and used the Mexican cheese. I also used beans in there. In the second pan of enchiladas I used the same filling, but used the enchilada sauce I canned last summer. I froze that one for another day. Its pretty small, and will be just right for Rob and Patsy to quickly warm up one evening while I’m still at work.

Another thing I made from those beans was a chili that also used some of that rotisserie chicken, plus a sweet potato that has been lurking under the sink since Thanksgiving. When it was grated into the chili, it looked like cheese in there, but neither my mother or I could really taste much flavor from it. Regardless, it was healthy, and the recipe tasted good.

I used some frozen spinach that was put into my freezer last year to make turkey-spinach meatballs. We are having a family gathering tomorrow, and I want to serve meatballs. I was also able to use some gluten-free bread crumbs that had been frozen sometime in the past and stuffed into the little freezer.

Rob made some tuna cakes. He used more of those breadcrumbs, some onion, a little of the cheese, 1 Tablespoon of lite mayo, salt and pepper. Then he baked them for about 20 minutes. They were really tasty little cakes. We are eating lots and lots of salads these days, and these went well with his salad today at lunch.

I am very pleased with how this challenge is going. I’m finally finding a little space in my kitchen freezer and things are no longer falling out onto my feet when I open it. There’s even a little space opening up in some of the outside freezers! Even though it was gross, I finally used enough things from the refrigerator to be able to really see the terrible mess it was. I had a feeling it was bad, but this surpassed all expectations. It’s clean now, and that’s a good feeling!

I have been using any extra grocery budget money for non-food items I need, like vitamins, shampoo and things like that, and am easily staying within the amount I want to spend. How’s it going for you?

Use It Up Challenge–January 2019

I was able to spend quite a bit of time cooking this week, and used up several food items that had been lurking around for some time. I made this quinoa salad. I have quite a bit of quinoa in my pantry, because it’s a good gluten-free choice, but truthfully, Lovana was the one who used it the most. Now that she’s in Hawaii, there it sat. I looked up several recipes, and mixed and matched ingredients to make a salad that sounded good to both Rob and I. I plan to put the recipe in my recipe section before long, but basically, it was quinoa, black beans, home-canned corn, green onion, lime, olive oil and cumin dressing, and some home-canned salsa from the cupboard.

I made home-made tomato soup from a jar of tomatoes I canned, 3 scraggly carrots left from last summer’s garden, some garlic, a little home-canned broth, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup 1/2 and 1/2. Rob likes it, and it’s certainly low calorie, but I, myself, would rather have a little more dairy in there, so plan to put some milk in mine when I warm up a bowlful.

I used some masa flour from the pantry (I got 2 bags when Grocery Outlet had it for super, super cheap, what was I thinking? That is a lot of masa when you don’t make tamales!). I have a recipe for a Mexican pizza with a masa flour crust, which is why I got the masa in the first place. The crust has green onion, cumin and garlic powder in it, along with the masa, eggs, salt and water. You cook that for 10 minutes, then add refried black beans and cheese, and cook for 5 more. It’s really quick and easy. I chopped up a hamburger patty leftover from the birthday party we did not have on Sunday (rescheduled due to a sick child), and added that to use that up as well. The recipe calls for tomato, lettuce and avocado on top. We were in a huge hurry to get Patsy to an event, so we just ate it plain this time.

We ate several jars of home-canned fruit this week. We are finishing up a ham, and cut off pieces frequently for lunches, scrambling with eggs, topping our salads and so forth.

I went to Winco and purchased a few more salad ingredients, and a few items that I needed to make these recipes and to round out meals. I’m delighted, because I’m doing great staying within my lowered budget, and we are eating better than ever, and better yet, several items are getting used! I have been looking through old magazines for inspiration, and will do that again this coming week.

We will all be cooking a great deal this upcoming weekend, as my sister is heading up a formal dinner for the high school group at church. I am making a couple of items ahead, and got the final ingredients I needed for those. Rob will be pulling the big barbecue over there and doing appetizers, green beans, chicken and salmon on it. She has the bulk of the food at her house and we will cook most of it on Saturday, over there, where the event is being held. They already set up tables all over her living area, and the couches are all pushed back for that purpose. It’s going to be fun!

Grocery Plans for January 2019–Rotating the Stockpile Challenge

Every January, it’s the same story around here.  We have just enjoyed a wonderful holiday with lots of time with friends and family and quite a few treats and goodies and we are in the mood to pare down a little in the areas of eating and shopping.  I think it’s naturally that way for most people. This year was a little different.  We did have a few treats, but so much less than in previous years.  Rob is still slowly and steadily losing weight, and we don’t have that over-stuffed feeling we’ve had in years’ past.  Still, I want to work on my usual practice of using items from my stockpile, so they can be rotated in future months.  This is very important because if items slip to the back of the shelves they may go bad.


The garden is not producing right now, because it’s rainy, cold and of course, muddy out there.  So, it’s a perfect time to use the food I worked so hard to preserve.

My stockpile has 3 main areas:  The freezers, the home-canning cupboards and the pantry shelves.  This month, I’d like to challenge myself to use as many items from each of those areas as I can in my daily meals.  I plan to shop whenever I run out of things like dairy, eggs and produce.   Although this is primarily an “use-it-up” challenge, I plan to easily stay within my grocery budget, and will use any extra money to fill any gaps I create during this challenge.

I plan to post once a week, showing some of the meals I created with what I had on hand. It’s only January 4th, but I’ve already made several items.

I used some cottage cheese on top of a peach half and sprinkled it with sprinkles to make it seem more festive for Patsy’s lunch yesterday. I also found this summer sausage lurking in the back of the little freezer over the fridge, and pulled it out for sandwiches.

I also made this casserole with some of that same sausage. It has some black bean noodles on the bottom that were gifted to us for Christmas, the rest of some pizza sauce that was in the fridge, the last scrap of mozzarella from a bag found in the freezer, the sausage, mushrooms and olives. It was delicious!

I also made some soup from some frozen cauliflower, zucchini shreds and broccoli and a carton of home made turkey broth. I added an onion, cooked until soft, blended it with my stick blender, and added a tiny bit of 1/2 and 1/2 with a little sweet rice flour in it. It was simple and good.

I hope you come up with some good ideas to use your items up. If you do, please share with all of us. Who knows, maybe you have the perfect way to use up something someone else has an abundance of as well!