One easy way to save money is to skip shopping for a week or two and use what you already have on hand in your pantry and freezer. I like to think of it as shopping in my own home. I like to do a “Pantry Challenge” at least once a year, when I notice my freezer and pantry getting really full! I can usually find quite a few things that I’ve forgotten about :P. Being really intentional about using what I have already purchased saves us a ton of money!
Here’s how we make it work for us:
This is a major key to success in doing a pantry challenge for us. If I don’t know what I have stuck in the nooks and crannies, then it’s hard to make a plan of attack.
Based on what I wrote on my inventory list, I’ll come up with a menu plan that will carry us through until most/all of the food is eaten. I’m terrible at “inventing” meals so I’ll usually add our tried and true recipes along with some really basic recipes that I’ve found via Pinterest or something. (I need a recipe to work with)
Set a Goal
Having a goal or two when you embark on a Pantry Challenge is important. Usually when I eat from the pantry, I do a month long challenge. So one of my goals is to avoid any major grocery shopping for one month. Another goal I set is to only spend $25 a week on essentials (fresh fruit/vegetables, dairy, eggs). I think it would be impossible to do a month long challenge without shopping for some essentials. However, setting a goal of spending only $25 a week will still help significantly in keeping more money in the bank account!
Here’s how you could make it work for you:
Make it a Game
Along with taking inventory, making a menu plan and setting a goal or two, turning a pantry challenge into a game can really add fun to meal time. Rather than thinking of a pantry challenge as a hard thing, why not see how long you can survive without going to the store. Or see what kind of wacky (edible) meals you can create to give the whole family a laugh.
Focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t have
Be thankful for the deals & steals that you have already taken advantage of to fill your pantry and freezer, instead of thinking of all the ones you’re missing out on in the grocery stores. Or, are you really wishing you had more rice? Find some new ways to love all those potatoes that you do have.
It’s time to get creative again! Whether it’s breakfast for dinner to finish up some pancake mix, using stale bread to make bread crumbs, cooking is about enjoying the process and breaking out of the mundane. Creativity comes when you have 12 boxes of pasta and need a new recipe. Think of all the ways you can use up that leftover ham and go for it!
Here’s a list of basic meals that you should be able to create with some of your inventory:
- Mexican Lasagna
- Zesty Burger Soup
- Peanut Butter Pork
- Hobo Dinners
- Overnight Oatmeal
- Black Bean and Rice Quesadillas
- Ham and Cheese Pasta Bake
- Empty Your Pantry Casserole
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
- Picnic dinner (mixed plate of cold cuts, cheese, nuts, apple slices, crackers, veggie sticks…etc)
- French Dip Sandwiches
- Brown Sugar Chicken
For more ideas check out this post: 7 Frugal Meal Ideas for When you’re Broke.
Eating from the pantry is a great way to ensure that you don’t spend money you didn’t have to and that you don’t find good food that has expired.
Have you ever tried an eating from the pantry challenge? If so, how long have you gone without going to the store?
See the other articles in this series, here.