Pantry Challenge: 4 Cheap and Healthy Meal Ideas

SouthernWife EverydayLife
by SouthernWife EverydayLife

I have been doing a no-spend pantry challenge, making yummy dinners out of what I already had in the pantry without purchasing any extra ingredients.


I made four meals this week that I want to share with you. If you are interested in being frugal and saving money while feeding your family delicious meals, here are my pantry challenge recipes.

1. Homemade hamburger helper cheesy Italian shells

Brown a pound of ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat.


While the ground beef is cooking, add in minced onion and some seasoning: the recipe suggests Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.


Drain ground beef and return to the skillet. Over medium-high heat add a jar of water and a jar of tomato sauce.

Making homemade hamburger helper cheesy Italian shells

Add in the shells and add some more seasonings, mixing everything together. Season with your heart.


Cook until those noodles are cooked through and it starts to thicken up. We did not have any cheese at home, but you could add some shredded cheese and let it melt.

Homemade hamburger helper cheesy Italian shells

Here is what it looked like when it was all done. Everybody loved it, and I will definitely remember this recipe for the future.


2. Barbecue chicken

I was given a pack of frozen chicken thighs, so once I thawed them out I had to use them within a couple of days. I ended up dividing it up into two separate meals: barbecue chicken and honey garlic chicken.

Making barbecue chicken

Take the chicken and add some W sauce and all-purpose barbecue seasoning. Marinate that chicken for about 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge to lock in that flavor.


Get the chicken going on the grill and cook it until it is cooked through. The internal temperature of cooked chicken is 165. Then brush on some barbecue sauce for about five or so minutes just so it gets cooked in.

Making barbecue chicken

I knew my husband was not going to eat the chicken thighs, and so I also grilled a pack of hot dogs that I had in my freezer.


With that, I made potato skins and canned corn. I made my first canned corn this year, and I liked it much better than freezing it.

Barbecue chicken

Here is our delicious spread. We got the barbecue chicken, the hot dogs, the corn, and then our potato skins. This was such a good pantry meal, very filling and delicious, and we did not spend anything this week to make this meal.


3. Honey garlic chicken

This is definitely one of our favorites. We have had this several times, and it is a super quick and easy crockpot meal.


Add your chicken thighs to the crockpot. You do not have to cut off the fat because it cooks down, but you can if you choose to.

Making honey garlic chicken

To make the sauce, mix garlic, other seasonings, ketchup, soy sauce, honey and basil. Add the sauce on top of those chicken thighs and mix everything together, making sure they are well coated.


Put the lid on and let it cook for four to six hours. Chicken thighs get so tender and just fall right apart.

Making honey garlic chicken

Once the chicken is done, break it up with tongs, and add in a little bit of a cornstarch slurry to thicken it up a bit. Top it with sesame seeds.


We are going to be serving this chicken over some rice. Cooking rice has always been a struggle of mine, but recently I have been making it a lot more because I finally found a recipe that I love and it does not stick.


Just rinse the rice, boil the water, stir in the rice, then immediately cover the pot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer the rice for 15 minutes, leaving the lid in place the whole time.


Finally, remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes without lifting the lid.

Honey garlic chicken

I served it all with sautéed zucchini, and it was a lovely dinner.


4. Mac and cheese burgers

Making mac and cheese burgers

Burgers are always a good go-to, but we did not have any cheese, so I fixed some mac and cheese to balance that out.


I also had a half a bag of green beans in the freezer that I needed to use up, so I steamed those in the microwave with some W sauce, minced onions, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper.


Then I thawed out about a pound of ground beef, which ended up making us three burgers, so it was perfect for the two of us.

Mac and cheese burgers

I had my burger on my carb counter tortillas, Luke had his on a loaf of bread. I did not have time to make any buns tonight, but this was super good.


Pantry challenge

All four of these delicious meals came from my fridge, my freezers, and my pantries. I love that with this pantry challenge I was able to shop from home this past week and save us some money by not going to the grocery store.


What is the best meal you have ever made with just the ingredients you had on hand? Leave a comment below and share.

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  • Teri Vinson Teri Vinson on Oct 18, 2023
    I solved my rice cooking problem with a rice cooker. I put it on and forget it. It flips to warm until we are ready for it. I am going to buy a smaller one now that I have only one son at home, but the rice is perfect every time.
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