Pantry Challenge

May 6, 2013 | Kitchen, On the Cheap, Projects

I wanted to paint and organize my pantry and when I took a peek inside to decide on a paint color, I saw that holy crap (!), there’s a lot of stuff in there that I bought a while ago that has been forgotten.  Dried figs, a giant bag of sesame seeds, half a box of barley, various half bags of dried fruit, and the list goes on.  So, this vegetarian family is going on a “Pantry Challenge.”  There’s been lots of blog posts written on pantry challenges, but the basic premise is to use the food in your cupboards, in your pantry, and in your freezer first before heading to the grocery store to purchase food.  If your house is like mine, you could live off of the stuff in your pantry for a couple months without having to spend money at the grocery store, but I’ve just been too lazy to use the more “exotic” items and they’ve been sitting there staring at me.  The goal of the challenge is not to eat tasteless garbage food but it’s to save some cash by not going to the store (hold out as long as possible!) and to come up with some creative recipes that you wouldn’t normally think of to make.


If you’re going to do a pantry challenge, you’ve got to fit it to your lifestyle so that’s what we’re doing.  We’re vegetarian (me and the kids, and mostly my husband) so we NEED our fruits and veggies every week and because of that, I have to buy those weekly.  I’m also going to buy necessities (soymilk=necessity, brownies=not so much!) but everything else that we eat will come from what we already have in the house.


Some people who do this like to take an inventory of what they’ve got in the pantry that needs to be used.  I am not that organized!  I just pull out a few things that I could make a menu around and put them on the counter and stare at them until inspiration comes (or I just plug in the ingredients into  For example, I really wanted to get rid of a half a box of barley and some mushrooms that I had no plans for and that were on the downslide so mushroom barley soup is what we’re having tomorrow for dinner.  I haven’t made that in a long time and it’s tasty and easy to make.  My kind of dinner!


I will try to post the recipes that turned out the best.  I’m busy and also a lazy cook so the recipes will be easy and quick!  I always work off of a base recipe that I find in a cookbook or online, but I modify it to maximize the amount of stuff I can use in my pantry.


First recipe of the challenge:




Super Easy Mushroom Barley Soup


1 cup barley (I used quick cooking barley but you could use slow cooking too)

6 cups veggie broth

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, thinly sliced

2 (10 ounce) packages sliced mushrooms

2 cups of any veggies that are about to go bad! (I did half a green

pepper, parsley, some thinly cut spinach, and a few diced squash)

1 cup of sherry or white wine

Salt and pepper to taste


1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stir in the onions, carrots, and the rest of the veggies MINUS the mushrooms; cook and stir until the veggies have softened and turned translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more.

2.    Pour in sherry or white wine and cook for a couple more minutes.

3.    Pour in the veggie broth, and bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat, then stir in the barley and continue simmering until the barley is soft.  Season with salt and pepper before serving.


I’m serving this with the three half eaten boxes of crackers that I found in the pantry.  With this recipe, I got rid of the mushrooms, the half box of barley, the veggies that I had in the fridge that were half eaten/used, and a few half eaten boxes of crackers.  Not bad for one recipe!


My goal after a month is to save some cash and to have a more minimized pantry so that when I do paint and organize, I’m not throwing away a bunch of perfectly good food to make room for my OCD organization!


Here is my pantry before the challenge:





It’s almost too embarrassing to post!  But, there it is in all its messy glory.  I’m really hoping that by the end of this challenge, it’s much more minimized and organized!