Eating Cheap From the Pantry

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Just to be clear, I am usually a watchful eye of meals/groceries year round! However, during the months of January and February, in particular, I have a little challenge going on with myself. I see how many meals I can come up with using up the stash that I have in my pantry and freezers, supplementing with a few fresh ingredients, as needed. It gives me great joy to be able to go down to my pantry and see what I have and think of what I can do with that. Many of the meals are everyday ones….others get a little more creative. I thought it would be fun to give you some inspiration on “using up” what you may have on hand. Remember, I do can several hundred jars of items each year with a large garden and we also have our own cows and chickens.

So, here is a sampling of meals that we have come up with thus far into this new year! Most of these meals are simple, throw together meals, taking minimal time. I do use my crockpot several times a week for many of these, but they can also be made last minute using a skillet or stock pot.


Chili: (crockpot)

  • 1 lb. of browned hamburger (or shredded chicken)
  • 1 quart of canned tomatoes
  • 1 quart of canned chili beans
  • 1- 4 ounce can of diced green chilies
  • seasonings as desired: cumin, chili powder, dried onion

Pour all ingredients in crockpot, add spices as desired. Cook for at least 6 hours on high.

english muffin pizzas

Quick Pizza:

  • 1 bag of brown and serve rolls or English Muffins 
  • 1 pint of canned pizza sauce
  • toppings you have on hand : pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, peppers, shredded cheese

Cut the rolls or muffins in half. Spoon on a small amount of pizza sauce. Top with your favorite toppings. I broil mine for 10-15 minutes in my toaster oven, but you could use your regular oven on broil or bake, until the cheese is melted.

potato soup

Crockpot Leftover Potato Soup:

I had several leftover baked potatoes. I had made a crockpot full of baked potatoes the other day. (Just wash potatoes, wrap in foil, and put in the crockpot on low for 8 hours. Add a cupful of water on the bottom of the pot. They get done perfectly.)
To crockpot add in:

  • leftover baked potatoes, diced
  • diced fresh carrots, celery, and onion
  • Enough chicken broth to cover the vegetables

Cook on low all day.
About an hour before serving add in any combination of cream, half and half, milk, cream cheese, and shredded cheese….enough to make your soup creamy

Ok…so back to using up what I have!

Next I looked in my freezer and found that I had a bone-in ham that I had bought between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a great deal….on sale for 99cents a pound, plus I used an extra 20% off coupon from anything Safeway brand….this ham happened to be. We usually don’t eat pork products very often, but for the price and taste, this would be a nice change.

So, I ended up placing the whole ham in my crockpot to cook/warm. For supper that night we had the ham, oven “fried” potatoes and I sauteed up some swiss chard (from our Coop Box). Lots of leftover ham, a nice bone (for soup), and leftover potatoes.

To take a break from the ham, we decided to make this recipe for Korean Beef, modifying it, and using diced carrots and swiss chard for vegetables in the stir fry and we also used cube steak, sliced thin. I use only brown rice….so that is what we served it over. It was a huge hit!!

Ok…now back to the ham and using that up.

Bean and Bacon Soup

My family loves a good bean soup. I use up all the leftover of potatoes, carrots, rice, etc….to add into the basic bean soup recipe. You can use bean flour to thicken soups, if you would like. Here is information on making and using bean flours and some recipes using bean flour.

Another concoction that I came up using up some things in the frig was a twist on Stuffed Peppers. I had some bell peppers that needed to be used. I washed them up and cut them off at the top (for stuffing). I soaked 1 cup rice and 1 cup of dried beans overnight. The next morning, I rinsed them and placed them in a pot to boil with some water. I simmered them, together, for approximately 1 hour (or until they were close to being done). I had to drain a small amount of water off of them. In a separate bowl, I placed the bean/rice mixture, small pieces of leftover ham, small amount of minced onion, a tomato that I had that needed to be diced up, and some shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Mixed this together and stuffed it in 4 medium to large size peppers. I placed the stuffed peppers in my crockpot and added about 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pot. Cook on low for 8 hours.

This is just a quick sampling of using up what you have. Get creative! Put a twist on your tried and true recipes, using basics or what you already have on hand. It isn’t always necessary to follow recipes…to a T!

If you are challenging yourself (and your budget) to use up what you have, please share what you are doing to accomplish that. If you are interested in seeing more “throw together” meals and ideas, let us know…..we like to hear from you!!


This blog post was originally post in February 2013. It has been updated as of January 2023.

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  1. I love shopping from my pantry! I usually start meal planning by opening the freezer to see what meats I have on hand, then I open the pantry and start pairing meats with pantry ingredients to see what inspires me.

  2. I had no idea that rice and beans could be cooked together! I also like the idea of all the veggies in the bean soup. Maybe we would like that better than just beans.

  3. Thanks for these ideas, Julie! It’s fun seeing how other ladies use up their foodstuffs. I try to cook a couple of nice, large meals 2 – 3 times a week and then can “relax” and serve leftovers from them for several days. It’s so gratifying to come across a really good sale, isn’t it? And shopping from the pantry makes me feel like a supermom! 🙂 You are so fortunate to have cows! We just have chickens presently.

  4. Hi Julie,
    Thsnks for sharing the ideas. I have been eating from the pantry since the 2nd of January. It has been a bit of a challenge but I have only bought a few items so far, milk,apples,dog food, butter and cheese. I still have meals to go!! I am trying so hard not to go to the store.
    I made a soup base one day with all of the leftover veggies that I had saved and also had one smoked ham bone left. I gave the veggies to the chickens( they were in heaven) then after straining and have used the broth for several meals. Perfect! I also had one package of spinach and a few meatballs left fromChristmas and made my own version of Italian Wedding Soup. That was a huge hit!
    Friends came for the weekend and I thought oh geez can I do this and I did! Some brats and home canned tomato and salsa in the crocckpot along with my own version of green beans in tomato sauce and rice with onions cooked in some of tha tbroth..Huge hit~ then for breakfast fresh eggs from my girls along with homemade monkey bread.

  5. The chili sounds great and similar to what we make here, but I add some chili powder and about one teaspoon of cinnamon, yes cinnamon, it’s delicious!When it’s almost ready, I add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup honey, and just simmer for about 10 minutes top, so the honey still tastes nice and sweet. The amount of honey depends on how much chili I end up with in the pot! Yummy! Very delicious! Also, I love this blog ~ you guys lead the good life!

  6. I’m on a 5 month fast from spending anything frivolous or unnecessary. My goal is to cut our grocery budget in half and be creative. While I know I have a HUGE challenge ahead, I know that the Lord will provide. This is an excellent post! Thanks so much!

  7. Hi Merissa,
    I love your site and your topics. On this topic I hope you may have some ideas to help me. I have digestive issues, trying to eat whole foods, also trying to lose weight and i hate seafood. I cant eat starch, sugar(unless just a sprinkle), gluten or grains. I cant eat spicy foods and I hate broccoli and cauliflower. Hubs wont eat anything fried, any dairy, hates beef, loves seafood and venison(which i hate) and prefers processed anything over the natural ‘real’ versions. Basically he likes what i cant or wont eat and vice versa. I am trying to be frugal w the food but it is a constant battle daily and mostly making seperate meals all the time any ideas???

    1. Kim, I actually just end up making different meals much of the time, at least for some meals. Me and the baby have allergies and my hubby doesn’t like to eat our food so I generally make supper the same for all of us (if I can, occasionally he adds some extras that we can’t have) and lunch I make differently for him while he’s at work and me and the baby eat the same thing. It’s a little complicated but I’ve found that having a very detailed meal plan helps us so much with the costs of everything and knowing what everyone is going to eat each day. I have a post I’ve been working on with this detail I plan on sharing here soon.

  8. I saw a recipe to make your own recipe for rice-a-roni and store in a jar. All my saved recipes have disappeared from my timeline. Was it your guys who posted this? If so, could you email it to me please. Thank youl.