This is the fifth day of my 28 Days of Spending Zero Challenge.
To read all the posts in order, start with Day One or visit the Overview Page.
If you’re anything like me, you probably winged the first few days and used what you had on hand without much thought to the remainder of the month. Today, we’re going to plan using the food we found in our pantry, fridge, and freezer to come up with some satisfying meals for our families.
If you’re single, this may not be an exercise you want to spend time on or not. It depends on if you like to cook and if you are used to cooking meals for one. I enjoy cooking and so I often make a casserole and then split it up and freeze so I have multiple meals. You could do the same thing and find you have plenty of meals available to you throughout the challenge.
For the rest of us, we need to use our creativity to find ways to use what we have on hand that will keep the masses feed and happy.
With a freshly organized freezer and pantry, the load on your shoulders is hopefully just a little bit lighter, and you are feeling good about what’s ahead. When it comes to food, at least you know what you have; but now you have to figure out how to use it!
Day 5: Meal Plan By Using What You Have On Hand
So, today’s assignment is to brainstorm as many meal ideas as possible!
- Make a list of your family’s favorite meal and recipes. Don’t worry if you don’t think you have all the ingredients, just do a brain dump and get them on paper.
- Grab your inventory list and try to match your families favorites with ingredients on hand.
- Next look at what’s remaining and think of additional dishes for foods that are on the list. For example, if you have corn on hand you could make corn casserole or corn chowder.
- If you’re stumped for an idea, just move to the next item.
- If it’s a ready made food item like soup, you can just write down soup.
- Print out our meal idea form and list all your meal ideas from the brain dump session you just had.
Consider your family’s tastes. Hopefully, the majority of your pantry items fit in with meals your family enjoys. (Otherwise, you may have to really hunker down for a long month.) If there are a few favorite meals, jot them down and assess if you have the ingredients or at least most of the ingredients on hand. Pasta can be substituted for rice and vice versa. One of my favorite meals growing up was rice, tomato sauce, and grated cheese.
Find more ideas to be inspired by taking a look through cookbooks, magazines or browsing the web! Pinterest is a great way to find recipes as well.
Over at A Debt Free Mess Free Life, we have a small collection of recipes that you might find helpful.
Here are a few collections you can find some great recipes, sure to become family favorites:
Some other favorites are simple ones like pasta with a simple, fresh tomato and basil sauce with olive oil and fresh cheese; or anything with eggs! Try a quick frittata or quiche to use up veggies, proteins, and products you have on hand.
Having a month of no spending is no reason to assume you have to eat pasta or cereal at every meal (unless, of course, that’s all you had on hand and you’re committed to spending absolutely zero).
Try to have at least 28 meals on your list. One for each day of the challenge. More if you need to plan breakfasts and lunches. (I tend to rotate through the same few meals for these, but I think it’s still important to write them down.)
No matter what you decide to make, remember this is a limited exercise, and the whole purpose is for you to use what you have on hand and make do with what you’ve got.