Inspired Meal Ideas {Day 3}

31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero. Freeze your spending. Change Your Life. Awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget!

This is the third day of my 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero challenge.  To read all the posts in order, start with Day One here.  

 *   *   *

With a freshly organized freezer and pantry, the load on your shoulders is hopefully just a little bit lighter and you are feeling good about the days to come.  When it comes to food at least, you now know what you have; now you just figure out how to use it!

Thus, today’s assignment is to brainstorm as many meal ideas as possible.

First, as fast as you can, make a list of your family’s favorite meals or your favorite recipes.  Don’t worry if you have the right ingredients, just start writing things down.  If your kids are old enough, they can help you with this task!  Keep writing until you can’t think of any more

Read through your inventory lists and try to think of one dish that corresponds to each different food item.  For instance, if canned corn is on your list, you could write down “corn chowder” or “corn casserole” or “goulash.”  If you are really stumped for an item, keep moving.  For items such as ready-to-eat canned soup, it is okay to just jot down “soup”

Print this meal idea worksheet and list your favorite meal ideas from all the brainstorming you’ve just done.  Be sure to include exactly where the recipe was found!

{get brainstorming worksheet here}

Finally, get inspired!   Look through your favorite cookbooks or magazines or on Pinterest for some new ideas, or check out 2o of my favorite stockpile recipes for inspiration:

1. Dutch Babies
2. Perfect Scrambled Eggs {Breakfast for Dinner}
3. Pumpkin Coconut Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Muffins
Soups & Chili
4.  Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup
5. White Bean Chili
6.  5-Star {Vegetarian} Chili
Main Course Meals
7. {Vegetarian} Quiche
8. Taco Casserole
9. Simple Vegetable Frittata
10. Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Feta
11. {Vegetarian} Goulash
12.  Grilled Pizza
13. Roasted Shrimp & Broccoli Garlic Spaghetti
14. Roasted Vegetable Pot Pie Pockets
15. {Vegetarian} Meatloaf
16. Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
17. One Bowl Brownies
18. Princess & Trouble’s Everything Cookies
19. Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies with Maple Cream Cheese Icing
20. Caramelized Pear Upside Down Cake

*   *   *

Be sure to a comment below listing at least one easy meal idea or recipe from the list you’ve just made, then be sure to check back to see the ideas that others have provided.  You are welcome to post more than one–the idea is to gather as many “stockpile” meal ideas as possible. 

*   *   *

{Go to Day 4}


  1. Amanda
    October 3 at 08:49AM

    Oh my gosh Ruth, I am LOVING this challenge! I can’t even explain how invigorated I feel!!! You ROCK! Thank you for inspiring me to do this!

    • Ruth
      October 3 at 05:28PM

      Yay, I’m so glad to hear it is going well for you Amanda! Thanks so much for letting me know! 🙂

  2. Claire @ alittleClaireification
    October 3 at 11:45AM

    Day 2 was our freezers too! I love your menu sheets!
    I am so impressed you have your days posted so early. Good grief my Day 3 will post sometime before midnight. lol This is hard work!!

    • Ruth
      October 3 at 06:27PM

      LOL Claire! What is your blog address? I couldn’t find it. To keep myself organized I *try* to keep a rough editorial calendar going with different blog post ideas; that way I can work on several at once. It’s a learning process for sure!

  3. Dolores Smith
    October 3 at 12:33PM

    I’m planning to make a bean salad. I’ll put the recipe here, but I’ll be using various cans of beans I have on hand plus canned corn and frozen green beans.
    Here ’tis:
    1 Cup vinegar 2 cans Kidney Beans
    1/2 Cup oil 1 can chick peas
    1/4 Cup sugar 1 can Lima Beans
    1/2 tsp paprika 1 can yellow string beans
    1 tsp. celery seed 1 can green string beans
    1 tsp. dry mustard 1/2 sliced onion
    Garlic (few shakes of powder)
    Mix it all together and you have a few days of salad.

    • Ruth
      October 3 at 06:29PM

      Oh Ms. Dolores, I have been staring at the same bags of green beans in my freezer and the same cans of chick peas and kidney beans in my pantry for a MONTH just wondering what to make with them! Now we are down to little more than beans and here you are with the perfect recipe. Definitely trying this one! Thanks!

  4. Jenny
    October 3 at 02:15PM

    I am so sick of spending over $2 on a tube of pizza crust. I just can’t ever find a good sale. So I bought pizza yeast (with a coupon) and was wondering if anyone had a good pizza crust recipe?

    • Claire @
      October 3 at 02:19PM

      I know my Husband has a good recipe that I will try to find. I also know it is BOGO at Publix in the Bakery through today at our stores as well so we bought 4 the other day and froze them so that’s another way to have quick dough on hand. 🙂

    • Katie
      October 3 at 03:01PM

      I use this one from Annie’s Eats. She is great about offering tips for freezing on many of her recipes.

    • Ruth
      October 3 at 06:31PM

      Hey Jenny, I don’t have my own pizza crust recipe but if you click that grilled pizza (#12) link above, there is a link within the post to a good (and very easy) one I’ve used several times. How’s the challenge going for you guys?

      • Jenny
        October 4 at 10:17AM

        Thanks for both recipes. I printed them and will test them out. Ruth, we are actually on month 3 of an actual budget (not necessarily a freeze). But by the third month I was just aching for October 1st so I could have more money again! And we too are saving over $1000 per month. Its so sad how easily we spend money without even thinking about it (until now!)

    • Sylvia
      September 22 at 06:09PM

      I love the pizza dough recipe from Lauren’sLatest blog. Really easy and always a success!

  5. October 3 at 05:44PM

    I can’t say that I took the plunge into no spending, but since reading your challenge, I’ve gone to two places and didn’t spend on food or drink (my vice). I purposely ate before I left, then did not SPEND! I purchased the one item intended, then left. No scoop of ice cream, small bag of candy, Starbucks coffee. After considering Starbucks, I told myself, I have coffee (and plenty of it) at home. I can make there. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Ruth
      October 3 at 06:30PM

      Yay! Every little bit helps! Thanks so much for sharing this April! 🙂

  6. Sharon
    October 3 at 06:34PM

    I spent the entire day cleaning closets and cupboards. Had to go to the store for a few staples but only spent 52.00. No side spending!! Thanks for the inspiration and all of your hard work!

    • Ruth
      October 4 at 06:31AM

      Awesome Sharon! Thank you so much for sharing that with me!

  7. Sam
    October 3 at 10:09PM

    I am SO EXCITED about this challenge. I have to work on my inventory lists, but have really been chiding myself about not having a meal plan. Were you reading my mind again Ruth?! My plan for the month is to challenge myself to only spending $50 on my weekly shopping (now that I have a decent stockpile) and not buy any food out. That alone should really help our budget. Keep up the awesome work Ruth! I’m IN!

    • Ruth
      October 4 at 06:30AM

      LOL Sam, I am not a mind reader but you have NO idea how happy it makes me to hear that you (and others) are enjoying this challenge! Keep me posted on your progress! 🙂

  8. Neila
    October 5 at 12:50AM

    I love chicken spaghetti and everything can be put aside in a pantry. You can make it more economical by canning your own chicken and making your own rotel for the dish. If you’re feeling really ambitious and you have the equipment, you can make the cream of mushroom soup out of bean flour instead of using the cans. Yummy 🙂

    • Anonymous
      March 2 at 01:49PM

      Thanks for the chicken spaghetti reminder. I knew I would have some chicken, spaghetti and Rotel in my stash but forgot I could combine them all! I do a cream soup by mixing 2 cups dry milk, 3/4 cup cornstarch, and 2 teaspoons onion powder. I store the mix in a bag in my pantry. To make a can of it I use 1/3 cup of the mix and add 1 1/4 cup chicken stock to a pan and thicken. The mix recipe makes the equivalent of 9 cans.

      • Margot
        October 16 at 05:23PM

        I like the idea of this as I detest using CREAMED SOUPS. We don’t own any. Hence, I struggle greatly with typical freezer meals due to the ” creaminess”. I like to know WHAT we’re putting in our bodies; garbage in–garbage out. My husband is facing a major surgery and I have had more than I care to share happen to me. Suffice it to say, Murphy’s Law it’s my #1 follower!! I’m always on the lookout for the healthiest, full of volume meals I can create. I just never know what freezes well.

  9. October 9 at 03:11PM

    Visiting from Tasty Tuesday – enjoyed your post! And I will have to look up the links for your 12 recipes – just clicked on the pumpkin muffins (#3) – they look sooo good!

  10. Anonymous
    September 4 at 07:13PM

    Hi Ruth, I love your blog! I linked to it from Facebook on the article about taking your kids toys away. I saw a recipe for homemade granola when I was looking around that day, but I can’t find it now. Would you mind pointing me in the right direction. Thank you!!

  11. Sue G.
    January 2 at 07:54PM

    I found your site today and wanted to try a recipe. Since I’m doing the 10 day challenge I have to use whats on hand. So I chose the upside down cake. Let me say it was fantastic!!! We didn’t have the cherries or the cornmeal but this cake was so tasty. Hubby LOVED IT!!! And that is what’s important. So Thank You!!!! Will be looking at your other recipes to try. Thanks!!!!!

  12. Lizzie P
    January 3 at 11:32PM

    I’m like some of the other gals….very invigirated by this challenge. I am really working hard to follow this to the letter! I enjoyed cleaning out my cabinets. I had just done it a year ago and still found a can of diced tomatoes from 2009!! Thanks again.

  13. Jackie W-Piatt
    January 4 at 11:42AM

    I am loving this challenge. Days 1-4 are great…a friend who turned me on to the site, said I should start getting nervous about day 9…I will not look ahead, but as she knows me so well, I am deep breathing already!

  14. marie
    March 11 at 06:24PM

    Just found you on Pinterest and am going to start this challenge today while husband is away.

  15. Crystal Miller
    May 23 at 09:05AM

    Good morning! I just wanted to say thank you for this inspiration! My husband and I are on day 3 of the challenge and he is actually taking it seriously! We have had money trouble from the start even though i know we have plenty coming in and it is very frustrating! so I am really excited to see how this plays out for us!

  16. Jackie
    June 19 at 07:05PM

    I was hoping the recipes would be in one download. Oh well I will get to them later.

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  55. elisa
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    Hi! Nice to found you. I’ve been reading you for a while. I would like to follow your challenge , but we don’t have pantry or big freezer. We also don’t swap meals . But i will give it a go just for the fun of it!!! 🙂 thank you for you ideas!!!

  56. Alexandra
    July 31 at 04:32AM

    You can save a lot on your food shop, especially in Europe where we currently live. No coupons here but shops have sales on all the time. I stick to a weekly food shop, check cupboards to see what I have left and plan my meals. When in shop, I buy these items on sale that we use and are part of our diet. This is where the saving starts. I plan my meals, each week is different here. I love batch cooking, it works out cheaper to cook more than one meal at the same time and it saves you time and electricity too! Pasta sauces, casserole dishes, soups, etc. are ideal meals which you can freeze and use at a later time. I also tend to cook a little bit more during the week, so we can have leftover night on Friday evening, perfect way to start the weekend. Not all food is suitable for leftovers though, however, some pasta, soups, etc. is perfect. Also leftover potatoes make a great and quick tortilla later in the week. Last but not least, be creative. It sometimes happens that I run out of something before I am due another food shop or the children moan because the box of cereal only last 5 days rather than a week. Rather than running to the shop, we make it work by being creative and come up with other ideas. I can highly recommend a bit of planning, it gets easier when you do it more often and feel very rewarded to see how far my budget stretches!

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