Day 3 – New Dishes

I love fresh fruit and vegetables in the summer and try to incorporate them in every meal. Frozen and canned come second to fresh but sometimes a mix is necessary. Most days I do a salad like this one:

but I find it hard to go several hours without protein. I suppose I could add tuna, a hard boiled egg or chicken to the salad but it’s not the same. I’d rather do a cold salad, no dressing with hummus on the side.

Day 3 – New Recipe

My dinner tonight also included a load of fresh vegetables: peppers, onions, zucchini and brown rice. It was a new recipe that mixed sausage (I can’t remember what I bought but I needed to use it up) with a bunch of vegetables and spices. It’s always a little risky trying a new recipe but you may be pleasantly surprised.

This recipe, a vegetable and sausage skillet, was just the right balance of starch, vegetables and protein. I didn’t add the spices so I just substituted with pepper and garlic salt. Serve over brown rice or just mix it up like I did here.  If I run out of rice I could serve the rest of this dish with pasta or couscous.

Action Step: Identify a substitution in a favorite dish

For dessert tonight I had a cup of coffee with french vanilla creamer. But when the coffee got cold I was in the mood for ice cream. So mixed up vanilla ice cream and the last of my coffee. It’s back in the freezer now to firm up – hopefully it tastes good!

Day 2 – Breakfast is Served

If I had a nemesis, it would be breakfast.

It is just so difficult for me to fight my way out of bed in the morning (especially with an 80 pound dog who tries to sit on me) not to mention be coherent enough to provide myself with sustenance.

Day 2 – Start Small

Normally I don’t go out for breakfast, I just don’t eat it. The only benefit of working in an office I mourned was loss of my morning coffee. But I also hate making it every day at home. So every few days I make a pot of 10 cups of coffee and put half in the fridge. This morning I had a simple breakfast: oatmeal, orange, coffee.

idiot proof breakfast

This morning I mixed a packet of oatmeal with flavor added to a quarter cup of regular oats. Add hot water. Done.

The best thing about oatmeal is that it requires mindfulness. If you leave it for 20 minutes while answering emails it gets cold, hard and icky. When the premade packets run out I might make my own using this guide from the Simple Dollar.

I took the cold coffee from the fridge, added some milk (expires today – eek!) and then a little creamer to add flavor.

the best part of waking up...

I started rinsing and saving my coffee cups so I could take smoothies to work and not worry about cleaning the cup. Now I use these one more time to drink my morning coffee cold.

Action Step: Check out fridge items with short life spans NOW

After looking all the way in the back of my fridge, the doors and the easily ignored drawers I found out I’m having a salad for lunch!


Day 1 – Getting Started

Getting started on any new project is fun until you realize that you may not know where to start. So I’m going to make this easy if you’ve never tried to eat entirely from your pantry for any sustained amount of time.

Day 1 – Clean Up

Commit to the fact that you’ll be spending time in your kitchen. Maybe more time than you’re used to. So you should start by cleaning it up so it’s a place you want to work. If you walk into the kitchen and think ‘ug, let’s order pizza instead…’ that’s a bad sign. The challenge is an adventure, not a punishment.

For me this means doing the dishes (there’s always dishes in my sink!), cleaning out the microwave and then wiping down the counters. I also took some time to put away my Fall-ish decorations and put away things on my counters I don’t use every day.

Action Step: Set the timer for fifteen minutes and just clean something!

Tonight I wiped down the cabinet doors (jeeze, I spill too much) and then cleaned off the fridge doors. Best thing I’ve found is a Mr. Clean Eraser, those things are awesome.

embarassing how dirty these get

Other things to try

  • empty the utensil drawer and clean the organizer
  • take everything off one shelf and wipe it down
  • go through the spice drawer/cabinet/shelf and throw away expired spices
  • refill your salt and pepper shaker
  • start a list on the fridge with food expiring in the next week
  • sweep the floor and/or mop
  • wipe down the window sills
  • move out non kitcheny things like the mail, your camera, phone chargers

Then, if you’re ambitious, take one step to prevent the bad habit that bothers you most from returning. For me that’s the dishes. When I do get ambitious and cook up a frenzy I’m excited to eat and never follow through with the dishes. Until my parents come to visit. My dishwasher is broken so it’s really up to me.

I just took a break to find a blog post by Leo at Zen Habits that I meant to read, never clicked on but wanted to include here. It’s worth reading and it’s a practice I want to incorporate this month: Wash Your Bowl.

Don’t think that the only way to keep your kitchen clean is to never step foot inside. Take a few minutes to mindfully decide what you’re going to eat for your next meal (hopefully from home) and plan for it, including the clean up.

Tomorrow: breakfast is served!

Empty the Pantry December

Well I’ve decided today, for the second year in a row, to empty my pantry in December. Or as close as I can get.

I picked up some food today and have a breakfast scheduled for Friday but other than that no food related outings on my schedule.

It can be really interesting when I start eating out of the pantry so I’ll do my best to keep this saga updated here. The worst (for me) is no coffee. I have a ton of it at home, and the fancy creamers, but it’s just not the same. Sad.

This year I’m going to keep an ongoing “January Shopping/Stock List” running on my fridge so I don’t forget what I don’t have.


Now that I think about it, aside from Christmas presents, I pretty much have all I need at home already. The dogs have plenty of food (and treats!), I am not lacking for clothes or entertainment and  I have plenty.

There are a few planned purchases on the horizon

  • iPad purchase (swap with my mom)
  • Christmas tree
  • Final gifts & shipping

So let’s see how close to $0 I can spend this month outside of my usual $1200 ish for expenses. It’s nice to go into the New Year with a fresh slate!


Mix up dinner

I love this recipe mix from the Complete Tightwad Gazette:

Amy Dacyczyn’s Universal Casserole Dinner

1 cup Main Ingredient

1 cup Second Ingredient

1-2 cups starchy ingredient

1 ½ cups binder

¼ cup “goodie”



Main ingredient suggestions: tuna, cubed chicken, turkey, ham, seafood

Second ingredient suggestions: celery thinly sliced, mushrooms, peas, hard boiled eggs chopped

Starchy ingredient suggestions: potatoes thinly sliced, cooked noodles, cooked rice

Binder suggestions: cream sauce, sour cream, can of soup

“goodie” suggestions: pimiento, olives, almonds, water chestnuts

Topping suggestions: potato chips, cheese, bread crumbs


Mix your combination of ingredients, add ½ cup milk or stock if the mixture seems dry. Place in buttered casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

If you think about common casseroles they follow this pattern. Think chicken, broccoli, rice and cream of chicken soup and almond sliced topped with cheese.  If you don’t have rice use noodles. Out of cream of chicken soup, use mushroom soup. No bread crumbs in the pantry?  Toast and crumble a bagel.