We’re coming to the end of our first week of the Pantry Challenge. It’s been a good week, using up various food items that have been in the fridge and the freezer. For today’s recipe I found a delicious recipe that used a butternut squash that had been sitting on our counter. Other than some fresh baby spinach I had everything I needed to make this recipe.

butternut squash, onions, barley and cheese

Ingredients for risotto

I was very pleased with the result; it was creamy, filling and delicious! I imagine it would freeze well although I haven’t tried that yet. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into1” squares, about 3 cups.
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup pearl barley
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
5 ounces baby spinach
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, optional ( forgot to add this and it was not missed!)

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, ¾ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, 4-6 minutes.

risotto, butternut squash, onions, prudent living

Saute squash and onions.

Add the barley to the vegetables and cook, stirring for one minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring until evaporated, about one minute. Add the both and bring to a boil, cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the barley is tender, 35-40 minutes.

Stir in the spinach, Parmesan and butter. Serve with addition Parmesan.

cheese, risotto

Freshly grated parmesan cheese.

spinach, risotto, homemade, prudent living

Baby spinach

The recipe said it serves four – that would be four generous servings!

Vegetarian dinner, butternut squash, barley

Dinner's ready.

risotto, homemade, prudent living

Stir in spinach and cheese.

We are doing well with the pantry challenge, so well in fact I’m thinking of extending it for at least a third week. I have quite a few frozen meals put away in the freezer that we can eat up. I usually go to the grocery store no more than once a week. It is quite a drive from our house so I plan a morning out where I take care of other chores as well. This week I was in Rutland on Wednesday so I made a quick stop, but I only needed to buy a few things. I spent $19.81.

fresh fruit, vegetables, prudent living

The few items I purchased this week.

I have to go to a meeting/potluck Sunday night and am responsible for bringing a salad. I decided to make the delicious Pear & Blue Cheese Salad; everyone always enjoys that. It did mean I had to purchase two pears and an avocado as well as some lettuce. The dressing will be made from ingredients we have on hand. I also purchased a gallon of milk from our neighborhood farmer. I used ½ gallon of it to make yogurt.

raw milk, local dairy milk.

Milk purchased locally.

I pretty much followed our meal plan that I mentioned last week; I did switch a couple of the days around. For the most part our lunches have been either leftovers, soup from the freezer or a delicious egg & salsa burrito. This is what we ate this week:

Sunday: Pork, Kale & Bean Soup (leftover)
Monday: Spinach Quiche (used up a bag of spinach, a couple of pieces of bacon leftover from when our boys were home and a premade pie crust I had on hand)
Tuesday: Chinese Stir-fry with chicken from the freezer and a cabbage on hand.
Wednesday: Beef & Chinese noodles (leftovers)
Thursday: Spaghetti & Meatballs (freezer)
Friday: Baked Barley Risotto with Spinach and Butternut Squash (squash on the counter)
Saturday: Quiche (leftover)

Next week the plan is to eat the following:

Sunday: Meatloaf (freezer)
Monday: Corn & Bean Chowder
Tuesday: Shepherd’s Pie (freezer)
Wednesday: Chili Mac and Cheese Casserole (freezer)
Thursday: Chicken Parmesan (chicken in the freezer)
Friday: Homemade Waffles (much to my husband’s delight!)
Saturday: Chicken Soup (freezer)

For those of you who decided to join me, how is your week going? Are you making progress at using up those leftovers and frozen meals in your freezer? Let me know how it’s going!

Did you know that by composting you could save money by using less fertilizer and watering less? Did you know that your plants in the garden would grow healthier and be stronger? These are just two of the benefits of composting. In the wild composting occurs when the leaves fall of the trees and decompose providing nutrients for the plants and trees growing in the woods. Perhaps you’ve heard that composting is good for your garden but you don’t know where to start.

First of all composting is easy. Think about how often you put something in the trash, a few minutes here and there. That’s how simple composting can be. It’s basically lifting a lid up and putting something in a container, that easy! You need a small investment for a container to put your household scraps into another spot outside where you can empty your composting pail. I keep a small composting pail right next to my sink; into it I put all the vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grinds, anything that’s not cooked and no meat scraps. When the bucket is full I take it outside and empty it into a larger compost bin. I continue to compost even in the winter, although I realize it is too cold for anything to be decomposing outside, here in Vermont.

composting, kitchen scraps, gardening

Outside compost bin.

composting, prudent living

Compost pail next to the sink.










I also have a large compost pile outside not far from our chicken coop. It’s not very organized and basically it’s a spot where we dump garden refuse and chicken shavings. This spring we will be building a much larger three-bin system outside. I want to create an effective compost pile that is actively decomposing.  Having a larger composting area will allow me to compost all sorts of material: grass clippings, yard wastes, such as weeds, old plants and spent flowers. We had a large load of wood chips delivered last year when the men were working on the power lines. They were happy to deliver to our house which was just up the street from where they were working. It saved them from having to drive elsewhere and get rid of the load. These wood chips will have been sitting for months by the time we get our compost system set up and will be starting to decay. It will be a good addition to the pile.

When building your compost pile you want to have a good ratio of “browns’ to “greens”. What do I meant by that? Greens are such things as food scraps, grass clippings and rotted manure. “Browns” are cornstalks, leaves, straw, paper, sawdust and wood chips. The “greens” provide the nitrogen and the “browns” provide the carbon.  A pile that is too high in carbon will stay cool and sit a long time without breaking down. A pile that is too high in nitrogen will give off the smell of ammonia gas. It’s also likely to get slimy and have a foul odor. Eventually it will all decompose but your goal is to have an effective compost pile that heats up and decomposes so you can use it in your garden. A hot pile is useful for composting food and yard wastes together without pest problems, killing soil diseases, weed seeds and produces compost in a short period of time.

As you start planning your garden this year think of a spot where you can set up a compost pile. Next week I will talk about the different kinds of piles from very simple to more complex. Lets have healthier gardens this year and start composting!


After making my first batch of laundry soap I decided to look into making our own liquid hand soap. We don’t go through it that quickly but I figured I should look into it as it might be cheaper to make some myself. To my surprise it is rather easy. I did a bit of online research and decided to give it a try.

This is all you need to make your own liquid hand soap:

homemade soap, liquid glycerin, prudent living

The ingredients for liquid hand soap.

Cheese grater
2 Tbsp of Liquid Glycerin (I didn’t have any on hand but a good friend gave me some)
One 8oz bar of soap
1 gallon of water

The first step is to grate the bar of soap.

handmade liquid handsoap, prudent living

Grate your bar of soap.

Fill a pot with 1 gallon of water and add the soap shavings.

Add 2 Tbsp of liquid glycerin to the pot and turn the heat to medium-high and stir until the soap dissolves. At this point it pretty much looks like soapy water.

liquid handsoap, prudent living

Looks like soapy water to me!

Leave it alone to cool for at least 10-12 hours. It begins to cloud up after 3-4 hours.

homemade liquid soap, prudent living

Water finally begins to cloud up.

After it has cooled completely, around 12 hours later it will thicken and look like liquid soap. If it is thicker than it should be you can take some beaters and blend it while adding just a bit of water until the consistency is more like liquid soap.

For the cost of a bar of soap and some liquid glycerin you now have a gallon of liquid hand soap. Now you can refill your bottles of liquid soap. In a cute dispenser this would make a great handmade gift!

homemade liquid hand soap, prudent living

Success, a gallon of liquid hand soap.


Eating healthier and making good choices – good goals for the New Year. I am really enjoying the book I received for Christmas called Eating Well in Season – the Farmers’ Market Cookbook. Now that our farmers’ market is re-opened after all the flood damage from Irene I can enjoy their wonderful produce. This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found in the book. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

1 tsp olive oil
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into one inch pieces
¾ tsp salt
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp paprika
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 cup white wine
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
4 cups chicken broth (reduced sodium)
1 bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped (about 8 cups)
1-15oz can cannellini beans rinsed

kale, tomatoes, beans, onions, pork

Ingredients for the soup.

Heat oil in a heavy Dutch oven. Add pork, sprinkle with salt and cook until no longer pink on the outside, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate with tongs, leaving juices in the pot.

homemade soup, prudent pantry, prudent living

Cooking cubed pork.

Add onion to the pot and cook, stirring often until just beginning to brown, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Ad wine and tomatoes increase heat to high and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add broth and bring to a boil.

Add kale and stir until it wilts. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the kale is just tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in beans, the reserved pork and any accumulated juices; simmer until the beans and pork are heated through, about 2 minutes.

beans, homemade soup

Beans ready to be added to the soup.

Serves 6.

homemade soup, kale, prudent living

Pork, bean and kale soup, delicious!


I have a well-stocked pantry and a well-stocked freezer. For this I am very thankful.

frozen foods, frozen meals

My freezer is full of frozen meals!

pantry, prudent pantry, well stocked

My pantry cupboard is full!

I usually have ingredients on hand at any given point to come up with a meal. I have decided to challenge myself. For the next two weeks I am only going to purchase items from the grocery store that are absolutely necessary such as fresh vegetables. I will give myself a budget of $50 for the two weeks. Milk I will get at the local farm. Our chickens will supply eggs. For the rest of the time I will be utilizing food from our pantry and freezer. This will give me a chance to use up leftovers, unbury freezer items and clean out my pantry. I will use the money normally spent on groceries to bolster our savings. My desire is to continue this challenge for an additional two weeks which would mean we only spent $100 on food for the month. Do you think it’s possible?

This challenge will start on Sunday and go for two weeks. I will give you our meal plan as I go along. This is what I’m planning to eat for the first week:

Sunday: Shepherd’s Pie (freezer)
Monday: Pork, Bean & Kale Soup (leftovers)
Tuesday: Chicken Stir-fry
Wednesday: Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash (squash on counter)
Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs (freezer)
Friday: Country Chicken Chowder
Saturday: Quiche

Breakfast will either be dry cereal we have on hand, homemade granola, oatmeal or eggs. If inspired I might even make pancakes or waffles (much to my husband’s delight, he claims they are an excellent excuse to enjoy our local maple syrup!). Lunch will be leftovers or soup from the freezer or sandwiches from what is on hand. I’m hoping this will inspire me to make better use of the food we do have in stock. I usually cook meals from scratch but don’t always do a good job with using things already in the pantry! I spend a lot of time in the summer preserving our harvest, now it’s time to make use of it.

soup, broth, prudent pantry

Homemade soups and canned broth.

canning, tomato sauce, prudent pantry

Lots of tomato sauce on hand.

Next Thursday I’ll give you an update as to how we’re doing! If you’d like any of the recipes I’m going to be making please comment below and let me know, I’d be glad to share them! This challenge is something we’re taking on personally, would any of my faithful readers like to join us?

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