“Spring Clean Your Fridge” Challenge Day #7: Crock-Pot Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili, and The Last of It!

Day #7, which means it’s the last day! We made it, ya’ll! Phew!

Here’s what our fridge looks like today:


And Pantry…


Compare that with Day 1!


This week I’ve learned a lot about living more minimistically, modestly, and humbly. I’ve been to the store once, to buy more spinach and a couple of bananas, two of the exceptions that I started out saying I would allow myself to buy if we ran out. I didn’t even have to go back for more apples, thanks to a catered career fair lunch, some generous (or green-apple hating) friends, a PT Olympics with excess sun-ripened bananas (“perfect for banana bread!”) and animal crackers, and Summit VHQ granola bars (a few Nature Valley Oats and Honey granola bars may or may not have jumped into my purse on the way out of church today… ‘holy’ granola?)

In a way, I probably obsessed about it a bit too much (recall The Great Tomato Shortage of 2014 incident) but in my defense, I really wanted to get the full experience of what it would be like to raid the ‘pantry of my mind’ for ways to mix and match ingredients and perfectly good leftovers.

I was surprised by how little we were able to live on, and how creative I was still able to be with my cooking/baking. In the course of a week, I feel like I was able to reset my idea of what it means to have a “full kitchen” and really make things stretch. I made a bunch of pretty decent mash-up meals, including pita pizzas, mini pork and potato shepherd pie-like “quiches,” a chicken, apple and maple-dijon pierogie lasagna (still deciding how to describe that one), corn chowder made from leftover Indian power salad, and tonight’s crock pot chili (see below). I feel pretty good about myself, and a bit relieved that I was able to make it a whole week without setting foot in Kroger (and only once in HT!). Reflecting on it tonight with Ben, I think that this could definitely be a regular thing to add to the end or beginning of each month- a “challenge” in a sense to see how far we can make things go, but also to remind us that we have a LOT of food sitting around, much of which goes to waste or pushed to the back of the refrigerator and thrown out three weeks later.

I don’t know how much money we saved this week, as I allowed myself to still buy beverages and coffees with friends (we also went out to frozen yogurt one night and out to dinner with my grandparents another evening), but I’d imagine overall we probably saved close to $150. Not bad! We could definitely benefit (emotionally and financially) by incorporating this little ritual into our month-to-month routine.

And so, my dear friends, tonight I bring you the last mash-up meal, created entirely from things already on hand. Crock Pot Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili! This is a similar recipe to the one I made last fall, that all of you kept telling me you were planning on making, except that I had to make a few changes because we didn’t have everything I used in it last time. We only had one onion and one sweet potato left this time around, only 1 can of tomatoes and black beans, no cheese for topping, and no chicken sausage. Instead, I used regular frozen chicken breasts, on which I rubbed some mole seasoning before letting them thaw in the refrigerator for the morning; a little less cocoa powder; a little more cinnamon; about 1 tsp each of chili powder, garlic powder, minced garlic, and cumin; a pinch of nutmeg and cayenne pepper, and some hot pepper flakes. Yes, I am aware that I can at times go spice-crazy. I also added the last of the carrots we had, and the end of the frozen peppers and onions blend. Finally, since we were a bit short on tomatoes, I dumped in the remainder (about a half-jar) of salsa for some extra juice. The real key here is that I kept the Latin Style Black Bean Soup base from Trader Joe’s, which really does “make” this stew, whether or not some of the other ingredients are there too.

To the top I dolloped (verbage?) a spoonful of regular plain yogurt (Trader Joe’s Australian Style), which is not greek like last time, but equally tasty as its tartness blends perfectly into the smooth black bean soup base. Served with leftover blue corn tortilla chips, this chili was just as good as the first time, except probably better because this time it was FREE!


The goods, minus a few.


Set to low for the chicken (about 4 hours), followed by high for the rest (4-6 hours or until potatoes are tender)


Tomorrow is Monday. And you know what that means? Time to make a BIG trip to the grocery store! I’ve never in my life been more excited about buying milk and yogurt. I had to start my list last Wednesday… and I’m sure it will be twice as long before noon tomorrow. It’ll sure be nice to wipe out those glass refrigerator shelves, spray them with some Windex, and refill them with all the usual staples!

Thanks for helping me learn so much about life, myself, and food this week! I got to push myself a good bit, and I couldn’t have done it without all of your support! I hope you felt inspired and maybe you’ll one day tell me about embarking on your own similar “Spring Clean Your Fridge” challenge!


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