October Challenge

September 28, 2022

Both my pantry and freezer need a good cleaning. They are unorganized and jumbled and despite my good intentions, I've simply let them both go. I know I can't even begin to think about cleaning either of them until I use up much of the food I've been storing. So before the hectic holiday season begins I'm going to challenge myself to eat mainly out of my pantry and freezer--use it up and create some space with a bonus of making Zero Dollar Dinners. After the challenge, I can give everything a good scrub, but October is going to be for cooking and eating what I have, not for shopping. Want to do it with me? Please say yes! Read on to see how we'll do it.

Let's start October 1st and plan our October meals with the intention of making Zero Dollar Dinners, aka Pantry Clean Out Dinners, for all our dinners, and go as deep into the month as we can. I've done this for a week before, but this is the first time I've tried a month. We'll give ourselves a pass to shop for anything we need to complete a pantry or freezer dinner. Example, I have 2 cans of chopped clams but to make chowder I'll need to buy potatoes, clam juice and half and half. Of course I'll always need to buy apples, lettuce, milk, etc., but  shopping for anything that goes into the pantry or freezer is off limits. My idea is to use it up before freezer burn or expiration dates force me to throw out food because that is something I really hate doing.


The key to this challenge is meal planning. Assess what you have and create a dinner list. I already did this and have about a dozen dinner ideas to start. Canned clams will turn into clam chowder. Cans of salmon, salmon patties. I have a slice of ham in the freezer and I'll make lentil soup that we will eat for two nights. A single frozen steak will be broiled and sliced for a steak salad for the two of us. With a package of frozen brats I've planned a sheet pan dinner. I love making those dinners when I know I'm going to have a busy day. I also have 3 boxes of muffin mixes thinking I was going to make muffins when my grandson was here but haven't, so in October, we are going to do just that. I would be embarrassed to show you all the little European sauce packets I bought on a recent trip to World Market. What was I thinking? My bad, and now I've got to figure out ways to use them. This could make for some interesting dinners. 


I hope this strikes a chord with you. Let's make some interesting Zero Dollar Dinners together! I'm pretty excited about this, especially if you do it with me. I haven't explained this to my husband yet, but I know he'll get on board when I tell him my reasons, especially if he thinks we will be saving some money.


And don't forget Crazy Soup! My most recent concoction ended up being southwest in flavor and was a real hit! Mostly made from a frozen container of sliced tomatoes and summer squash and something else I didn't recognize or remember--I whirred it together with stock, then added salsa, corn from two cobs, ground sausage and then topped with crushed tortilla chips and snipped chives, all leftovers. I usually make a salad but this week I had leftover bread and I always have cheese, so cheesy bread made a nice compliment.


I know so many of you come here for the knitting and I do have several knitting posts planned for the future. I have 3 test knits either finished or close to it, but I can't share until the patterns are published. Sit tight for knitting content--it's coming!


Please scroll down to leave a comment. I love to hear from you anytime, but especially interested in knowing if you are going to join me in October. Just imagine how wonderful it will be to face the holidays with a clean pantry and freezer, and just how nice it will be to save some money. Send this to your friends, your mom, your aunt, let's do it together!


Photo source from the top of page: Lacademie


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26 Comments

  1. This is exactly the push I needed to inventory my pantry and freezer! I'm on the Zero Dollar Dinner bandwagon with you!

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  2. Me too! πŸ˜„πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

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  3. I have been trying to do this exact thing and will definitely join. I lost my husband on 10-3 last year and I still have things (not many) that he bought in the freezer so really need to use up. Itis difficult to know what to do with things you didn't plan so I have been looking up lots of recipes. I haven't cooked anything but Thanksgiving dinner for 35 years, so learning to cook and shop all over again... and learn to use instapot ans yet to tackle air fryer. This will be fun and much needed.

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    1. Oh my dear, I am so sorry for your loss. So many new things to learn and conquer now and I'm very flattered that you want to join in. I have yet to tackle an instapot or air fryer and I wish you luck.

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  4. Me too! I'm in! Thanks for the prompt!

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  5. I’ve thought about doing this…. Maybe now I’ll succeed! Will give it a try 😌

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    1. Of course you will succeed. I think this challenge will be easier than we think.

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  6. We will be out of town for much of October but I have a ton of tiny prep bowls full of left over sauces, etc. that are still fresh enough to use up instead of pushing to the back of the fridge (to make room for more tiny bowls) so I will use my short home time to concoct ways to use those up - so I am in. Back in the 80s-90s a Maine family made a big splash by using the money they saved over the years to send all their five kids to college. They were really stringent. Among other things the mom would use the dregs of jam jars to flavor homemade popsicles (yechh!) but I think that’s where I am heading with my tiny prep bowls. LOL. Hope to have fun with this, Kristen! Chloe

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    1. Thank you Chloe. Happy travels! I am so with you on tiny bits of leftover sauces. I do the same thing, try to remember to use them up before the mold appears. Ugh.

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  7. I'm in. I have been fretting about the seemingly permanent foodstuff residents in my pantry with vague notions of cooking out of the pantry. You've made it a thing. I'll do a meal plan this week. And, I'm looking forward to more knitting posts.

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    1. This week I've used things I somehow bought then never managed to use--evaporated milk, whole green chiles, JELLO even! When this is over I've got to get better at shopping. I'd love to know what you made!

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  8. Wow, it must be something in the air! I've been thinking that I need to do exactly the same thing - clean out my pantry and use up the items I already have. I started the other day by going over my spices and tossing those that were old.

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    1. There must be something in the air indeed. I also cleaned out my spices this week. Even though I did it a year ago, I went through again and even decanted, something I said I would never do! I'm so glad you are joining the challenge. We'll have more fun if we know more people are in the same boat.

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  9. Your soup sounds delicious! I have only a small chest freezer and I am waiting for slightly cooler weather to take inventory so we can enjoy the food before it’s too late. We are experiencing very warm temperatures here in Atlantic Canada this September. Love your blog. I’ve followed on various blog readers for years. Thanks! Kimberly

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    1. Thank you Kimberly. I'm so glad you are joining in! I'd love to know what you unearth in there and what you will be making.

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  10. I’m joining! I just used some homemade ham and bean soup that was in the freezer when we had company so I feel like I’ve started.

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  11. I'm in! I just had the engine replaced in my car $$$$!! Exactly what I need to get through October!

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    1. Oh, don't let's talk about car repair--we've just had a similar car expense. It's heartbreaking, isn't it? Yes, we will save some money!!!!!

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  12. I'm in!! I already have one shelf cleaned out of my upright refrig freezer. Inviting friends over on Sunday to eat the frozen hamburger patties with the frozen sweet potatoes. :)

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    1. Yay you! As long as we don't tell our fam and friends, they'll never know we're doing our housecleaning and serving them dinner at the same time!

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  13. I do this "eat only from the freezer and pantry thing" too, only my timing is different. I like to clear out everything in late winter, early spring so that my cupboards and freezer are clear to accept the bounties of summer and autumn. Thank you for your amazing blog full of great pictures and ideas.

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    1. What a great idea. I’ll join you again in spring! Doing it twice a year is better than once and besides, I’m really enjoying it.

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