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Cooking for One January Challenge

tunarigatoni Cooking for myself in the month of January means a major cleanse for my freezer and pantry, while hopefully boosting my wallet. After the excess of food and spending during the holidays, I like to issue myself a challenge in the New Year to only shop for perishable items like skim milk and fresh produce. Other than that, I try to go the entire month using all of that random stuff that builds up throughout the year. If you're like me, then you have a few boxes or bags of whole-grain pasta that have less than one serving remaining. When combined with that random can of water-packed tuna and some white beans and fresh veggies, it becomes a hearty pasta dish. If there are leftovers, then you can serve them cold as a filling salad. spinach_pasta_soupThe four cans of fire-roasted tomatoes that I bought on sale in September are still sitting in the pantry, unused. When combined with the tiny amounts of frozen vegetables that have accumulated through the year, they'll make a great vegetable soup. For added protein, I can defrost that chicken I bought on sale or toss in that can of garbonzo beans sitting at the back of my pantry (for the hummus I intended to make, but never did). Remember all of those frozen portions of soups, stews and casseroles you made and froze with great intentions of taking them to work for lunch? Well how about doing that now. Pair them with a simple salad for a satisfying lunch and clean out that freezer! mediterranean_tuna_saladThe chances of you making it to the end of the month on this plan might not be realistic. If you run out of pantry and freezer stuff before the end of the month, you win too because that means you're using what you buy and not letting things go to waste. But if you're like me, you're probably going to get close to the end of the month without any major spending and a clear picture of the things you tend not to use (like that can of sardines that seemed so healthy at the time, but which you just can't bring yourself to eat). By paying attention during the cleanse hopefully you'll carry some of the lessons with you throughout the rest of the year. So, are you up for the challenge? What's in your pantry/freezer and how are you going to prepare it?

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Diane says …

It's amazing the things you can come up with when you are short on time and $. Out of desparation the other night, I created an Asian-inspired dish out of misc stuff." And the kids LOVED it! Steak, thinly sliced, sauteed with green onions, garlic in a bit of olive oil. Combine soy sauce, hoisin sauce and a bit of chicken or veg broth. Pour over steak. Toss in thawed broccoli and cooked until heated through. Serve over any kind of noodle or pasta on hand. Simple, cost effective and delicious!

Jaye Joseph says …

Glad to see others think this is a good challenge! I actually checked in on mint.com to see how I was doing on my grocery budget and I've only used about 15% of my budget and we're halfway through January. My freezer already looks so much bigger!

Mary http://www.mygreendiet.com says …

I love to make Veg Taco Soup when it is cold out side and I am looking through the pantry for a meal to make. 2 TbsExtra Virgin Olive Oil 1 onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 3/4 cup brown rice, uncooked 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp dried thyme 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 1 can (15 oz) Fire Roasted diced tomatoes in juice 1/2 cupprepared salsa 1 quartvegetable broth (or water) 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained 1 can (15 oz) white or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained 1 can (11 oz) corn, drained salt and pepper I like to garnish the soup with: avocados green onion, sliced cilantro, chopped cheddar cheese tortilla chips If you don't have these garnishes in your kitchen, skip them. Saute the onion and garlic in a large pot over medium heat. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add seasoning and rice. Stir together. Add canned ingredients, broth and salsa. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 45 -60 minutes. Serve with whatever garnishes you want! This soup freezes beautifully and it is even better the next day!

screwdestiny says …

This is a really good idea! We're pretty broke right now but have several random foods in the pantry/freezer, so I shall be trying this.

Margo says …

okay, this is just the challenge for me. I have all kinds of things that I really should use up. I've got beans in the pantry that I never seem to get around to using, it would be good to use them up. I bought pot stickers to see if I like them well enough to learn how to make them, but they are buried in my freezer still. I also have all kinds of bits of fruits I froze with the intention of using in muffins, but there it is. That is my goal for the month to get through these extras and I plan to begin this weekend. Great idea - this would be a good yearly plan to have.

Kristen says …

Last night I was really bummed because I felt like I had nothing to eat in the house, but I didn't have the time or money to go out and buy dinner. So, I looked at my lone can of crabmeat and made some really delicious crabcakes with breadcrumbs and an egg. Creativity is key!