Saturday, February 19, 2011

Party from the Pantry

We're on the downhill slide of the February Eat from the Pantry Challenge, and I thought I'd share some ways I've been able to stay on course and still be prepared for various celebrations. It's helped me know what to keep on hand in a pinch and how to get creative when necessary.

Valentine's Day means several parties for the kids. The first was with our MOMS Club chapter where everyone brought something sweet to share. I had thought about rice krispy treats but someone had already planned on that. So I settled on homemade granola bars. I chose this recipe because it didn't call for wheat germ (like many recipes online) which I didn't have. I wanted to use up some oats, honey, coconut, and dried fruit. It was simple enough to make but in my haste of multi-tasking, I forgot the sugar. Who forgets the sugar?!

Rather than scratch the whole batch, I decided to get creative. I'll just use another ingredient in abundance in my pantry: prepared icing! I had gotten several for free awhile back and forgot about them. So I broke up the granola, took a small dollop of icing and rolled it in the granola. Not surprising--they were delicious! How could they not be? I know they're not healthy, but they made for a yummy treat. When I ran out of the icing, I used peanut butter to do the same thing--also tasty. I plan to make another batch correctly soon.

Continuing on valentines parties, both boys had celebrations at school. Bobby needed to bring "something salty;" he was thrilled with a can of multi-grain Pringles nearing their expiration. Devin brought apples and grapes, which I'd bought a lot of the week prior. Both boys took valentines with Hershey kisses taped to them (another deal I had in abundance).

Our party scene continued with Brooke's second birthday party. I kept it very low-key at home with three of her friends. We played Elefun, Hullabaloo, and built towers out of our eco blocks. They had a great time. I served apples, grapes, and pretzyls for a snack and then cupcakes on reusable plates. I had the cake mix and frosting in the pantry already. My only costs were $1 for balloons (which I forgot to blow up), $1 for streamers, and $1 each for the balls I gave as party favors. Devin and Brooke helped me make a sign from poster board and stickers we had on hand; I even re-used the 2 candle and hats from previous birthdays. Hey, why not? A two-year-old doesn't care! What she did notice was that for a small period of time, she was the queen bee and garnered attention and presents.

Lastly, I planned two special valentine dinners: one with our family and one as a couple. The family dinner was steamed crabs I'd picked up at Sam's Club a few weeks ago, scalloped potatoes (AMAZING recipe!) that were starting to spud with heavy cream I needed to use, and steamed broccoli. We ended the meal with our favorite dessert: the chocolate fountain. I had the chocolate, marshmellows, and pirouette cookies in the pantry. The bananas and organic strawberries I'd bought fresh that day.

The special couple meal was supposed to be a dinner out at The Melting Pot (where I of course have a half off certificate), but kids' illnesses have put that plan on hold. So tonight I'm going to use the rest of the crab to make crab cakes and have a candlelight dinner with just the two of us after they go to bed. Plan B's not so bad!

If you ask my hubby if this challenge has been terrible, he might respond, "What challenge?" I haven't changed my habits greatly and have added some fresh fruit, bread, and veggies to balance our diet. I've saved a TON of money by simply not going to the store as often or buying only selective items. I may have to break down and pick up some cinnamon to keep the peace, but I'd say this has been a good experience. Thank you, Couponing in Critical Times, for suggesting it. I'm hoping to win that $5 gift card to Walgreen's to see how far I can make it go!

What has been your most creative use of items in your pantry?

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