Budget Meal Tip: Raid Your Pantry

I’ve set out to live within a budget, I’ve quickly realized that realistic expectations are necessary to do this.  The price of food is going up, up, up my friends, definitely not helping my grocery budget at all.   While I love to cook, I often look in my pantry that seems to be overflowing with stuff, but still think to myself, “There’s nothing to eat.”  Shame on me!  Isn’t part of being a good cook is that you can create a meal out of bits and pieces of what you have on hand?  Yes, the answer is yes.  I’m demoting myself — I’m no longer a good cook, I’m just a cook.

In order to earn my status back, I’ve challenged myself with this upcoming grocery run.  Instead of  cooking the same old thing and buying the same old ingredients, I’m raiding my pantry/fridge/freezer to see what’s on hand.  Having the energy or the time to plan new, exciting meals with a baby around seems dang near impossible.  How did I do it you ask?  I woke up at 5;30 am this morning, had my coffee, took note of what I had on hand, and found recipes to fit my ingredients instead of the other way around.  Admittedly, I’m  a morning person by nature and today, it has paid off!

STEP 1:  What meat do you have on hand?

Meat has gone up substantially I feel like.  So I looked in my freezer to see what I already had and here’s what I found:

  • A 2 lb bag of tilapia (that was bought on a day I was feeling energetic evidently)
  • Approximately 1/2 lb of shrimp
  • Approximately 1/2 lb of scallops
  • Tons of burger patties
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • Chicken wings

That’s at least 4 meals worth of meat and it’s already in my freezer — I HAVE to stop being lazy and work with what I’ve got!  Anyone with me?

STEP 2:  Find recipes that fit your meat

I love all recipes.com and Taste of Home websites.  I went to them and entered my meats into their search bar.  I’ve never made fish tacos and thought I might give them a try.  They usually have great recipes and I love that I can read tons of reviews before making my decision on  a recipe.  Who has time or money to waste on food?  No one, that’s who.

Here’s what’s on my menu for this upcoming week:

  1. Blackened Tilapia Baja Tacos, but replace the jalepeno peppers for chipotle peppers.  I got the adobo pepper replacement idea from this recipe for Grilled Fish Tacos.  I’m also going to play around with the sauce a little.  Maybe I’ll see if I can recreate a little Chipotle-style medium salsa!  I’m also going to try my hand at making homemade tortillas.
  2. Baked Seasoned Tilapia with rice and a veggie, I’ve made this before and all it requires is some Creole Seasoning (which I already have on hand).  I love it because it is delicious and easy!
  3. Herbed Slow Cooker Chicken.  I’ve been looking for a good crock pot recipe for chicken.  I love my crock pot, but the truth is that I don’t have hardly any recipes for it at all.
  4. Drip Beef, again this is a new recipe, but Ree Drummond hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I’m sure this will be amazing.  Will also be making my own deli rolls, using this recipe.  If you haven’t learned to make your own bread, give it a try!  Making homemade bread is actually really easy, just remember — bread needs tlc, you can’t rush it.
  5. Slow Cooker Carnitas, I had so wanted to make these, but in the spirit of sticking with my budget, I passed on picking up this meat once I got to the grocery store.  There wasn’t a piece the size that I needed and I would’ve had to buy way too much.  It’ll have to wait for another day… maybe next trip, I’ll plan for a “expensive” meal.
  6. Burgers with fries (I already have the fries).
  7. “Finger Food Night”:  In addition to the chicken wings, I also found some fries  and other finger foods that I’m going to whip up when the day feels right.

For all of this, the only meat I purchased was some extra chicken (I was afraid the 3 pieces I had wouldn’t be enough) and the chuck roast.

Other purchases I had to make or complete these meals:

  • Lettuce (for tacos and hamburgers)
  • Broccoli (for seasoned tilapia dish)
  • Minced garlic (I sub this in place of fresh garlic or garlic powder)
  • Onion (several recipes)
  • Hamburger Buns
  • Bay Leaves

I think that was all the necessary food purchases I had to make!

I’ll be posting my results and “tweaks” of the above recipes, so stay tuned!