If the following sounds like you, a pantry challenge might be in order.
You currently have more food in the house than you’re eating.
It’s common to plan a meal, buy ingredients and then change the plan before ever using the ingredients.
Now you have cans of Manwich and a random jar of pearl onions (or similar random odds and ends) in your pantry collecting dust.
You remind yourself to use them every time they catch your eye but forget again when the pantry door closes.
What is a pantry challenge?
A pantry challenge (also known as a no grocery challenge) is similar to a no spend challenge. The ultimate goal of a pantry challenge is to reduce spending on food, in an attempt to save money. This happens while you’re using up odds and ends to prevent food waste.
You set a goal to not buy groceries for a period of time (often 1 month). Instead of shopping for meals at the store, you’re shopping in your pantry.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a civilized challenge without rules in place. During a challenge, it’s recommended to leave an amount of money to shop with weekly to keep fresh milk, eggs, and produce in the home as those are important dietary staples.
A pantry challenge is great to cut costs, save money, reduce your grocery bill and just have fun. A creative challenge that puts money in your wallet.
How to use everything in your pantry
Cooking from your pantry can be much easier than you may think. There are very little foods that can’t be turned into a soup or a casserole dish of some sort. Creatively piecing together meals is key to having a successful pantry challenge.
As the month wears on you may start to fear that you are using essential items and will need to restock. Where are the savings if you have to rebuy items all over again next month?
Kitchen seasonings should be replaced once a year, flour, oats, and rice when they are too old will have bugs. Food goes rancid, expires, loses the quality and old dry beans are dang near impossible to cook to an edible texture.
Using items is really doing yourself a favor.
You basically give yourself a clean slate to work with, which is great. Yes, it may cost a little money to replace some ingredients in your home, but if you do the challenge correctly, you can use the grocery savings to replace the items and have money in your pocket.
Have an issue with always eating out?
I had a conversation with a 54-year-old woman who was a stay at home wife, that refused to cook. Not because she didn’t know how, but because she didn’t want to. So they were spending over $1,000 a month eating out and having fast food delivered. All I could think was “ouch.” 2 people spending that much money a month, and never eating a home-cooked meal.
You can save a lot of money by cooking your food from scratch. Even so, if you compared store-bought ready-made items to the cost of a sit-down dinner, you’d still looking at savings and minimal effort.
Use pantry recipe generators to help you piece together meals when you need help with creativity.
Here are 3 great websites you can use to put meals together using the random food items in your home. You can find some great dishes you didn’t even know were possible!
My fridge food
How to get ready for a pantry challenge month
Before you jump straight into a pantry challenge, there are some things you should do to prepare yourself mentally and physically.
Write out a list of goals. Why are you doing this and what do you hope to get out of it? Are you saving money for something specific or are you just trying to use up as much food in the house as you can?
[Related] How to eat when you have no money for food
Purchase the basic grocery items to help you get started. If you don’t already have milk, flour, eggs, and fresh produce, you should buy them now before starting the challenge so you can reduce trips to the store later.
Set a grocery budget for the month.
For example- if you normally spend $600 a month on groceries, bring it down to half. Pull the money out in cash, leave your debit card in an underwear drawer or freezer somewhere out of the site and out of mind for the month.
If there are 4 weeks this month, take that $300 and divide it up into 4 envelopes. One for each week, and if you use a white mailing envelope, you can also write on it to label it with the date and your shopping list for extra efficiency.
Spending less is always a plus in this challenge, but don’t feel that you need to do it at the risk of your families health.
If you want to save more money, you can opt for canned or frozen fruits and veggies whenever possible, but make sure that children are meeting the nutrition requirements. Choosing to skip a meal, is your choice, but always make sure that kids have plenty of food options during the day so they can stay healthy.
If you want to make some frugal foods fun, Pinterest has a wealth of great ideas!
A slice of toast, with peanut butter, two chocolate chips, a raisin and 3 sliced coins of banana makes a really cute teddy bear toast for breakfast.
Proof that even the cheapest of meals can be made more fun.
Now that you have an idea of how a pantry challenge works, it’s time to take action!
- Make realistic goals
- Make meal plans based off of what you already have in the house
- Set up a small weekly grocery budget for necessities
- Stick to the budget and get creative with your meal planning to use up odds and ends
- Enjoy the money you’ve saved and the goals you’ve reached
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