Are you looking for an easy way to save money this month? you can easily cut your grocery bill by 75% with a freezer and pantry challenge.
What is a Pantry Challenge?
A pantry challenge can be performed in a variety of ways and for whatever amount of time you set from a week to a month. The main goal is to “eat down the pantry” by creating meals from ingredients in your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. This eliminates the need to go grocery shopping for most things except for fresh produce, dairy, and eggs.
Many people also include a no-restaurant challenge to their pantry challenge. Because what is the point of cutting back on your grocery budget, if you end up spending more on food by dining out?
Why do a Pantry Challenge?
There are a number of reasons to participate in a pantry challenge.
- A no-spend pantry challenge can help you save money on groceries when your budget is tight.
- Eating from your pantry stockpile allows you to consume food before it expires thus preventing food waste.
- Using the food you have in the freezer and pantry allows you to eat down your stockpile and clean out your pantry and freezer. This makes it easier to defrost and clean out your freezer and organize and clean out your pantry.
- Cooking with what you have from the freezer and pantry allows you to consume food before a move, so you don't have to figure out how to move it or give it away.
How to Participate in a Pantry Challenge
Inventory your pantry. Here is a Printable Pantry Inventory Sheet to help you.
Inventory your freezer(s). Here is a Printable Freezer Inventory Sheet to help you.
Take stock of what is in your refrigerator and when it will expire. Create a shelf where you can place food that needs to be eaten soon. Food waste is always disappointing, but especially so when you are doing a pantry challenge.
Establish how long your pantry challenge will last. After you have an idea of how much food you have available to you, you can set a goal of how long you want your pantry challenge to last. It can be one week to get you through to the next payday or a whole month to help you eat down the pantry and avoid food waste. In my freezer, I discovered 19 pounds of meat and 12 pounds of fish. I also found lots of frozen vegetables and cooked and frozen beans. I found over 6 pounds of frozen fruit; smoothies anyone? And I found 5 loaves of frozen bread; that's a lot of sandwiches! In my pantry, I found quinoa, oatmeal, rice, and pasta. I also discovered canned fruit, tomato sauce, peanut butter, jam, and plenty of baking supplies for making pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods. So I feel that it will be easy for me to successfully complete a month-long freezer and pantry challenge.
Next set a budget for fresh produce and dairy. Depending on your family size and special dietary requirements this could be anywhere between $10 – $50 a week. I will plan to buy 1 gallon of organic milk, a half gallon of almond milk for my oldest son, bananas, oranges, organic apples, and organic salad greens the first week which should cost me about $20. As I use up the vegetables and eggs I already have on hand, I may need to increase my budget a bit, but I am going to try not to exceed $30 each week.
Create a Meal Plan. Once you know what you have to work with, start creating a menu plan by matching up ingredients to create meals that you have the ingredients for. Plan to use any foods in the refrigerator that are near their expiration date in the first week. You can plan out your meal plan for the entire challenge or just plan for one week at a time.
Things to Consider When Planning a Pantry Challenge
Do you need to prepare your family for the pantry challenge? Are there packaged goodies that your kids are used to you buying each week that you are now going to ask them to forego? You may need to let them know in advance, but also let them know that you plan on making cookies from scratch. Are your kids used to drinking bottled juice? Stretch the juice you have on hand by using it to make popsicles. They may be more accepting of having to drink only milk and water if they get to have a juice popsicle each afternoon.
If possible, plan a batch cooking and prep day each week. Do you have quinoa or rice sitting in your pantry? How about dried beans? Do you have a basket of onions or potatoes waiting to be used? If you want to follow through on your goal to eat from the pantry it helps to set aside some time on a day off to make a large batch of rice or quinoa to use throughout the week. Dice those onions in advance so they are ready to be added to recipes. And make a double batch of pancakes or muffins, so you have premade breakfast foods for busy mornings.
You will need to get creative with your recipes towards the end of your pantry challenge. That may mean using lasagna noodles in lasagna soup instead your usual recipe. You may have to substitute apricot jam for mango preserves in your chicken recipe. Taco Tuesday may consist of tacos made with ground turkey, white beans, canned tomatoes, and Monterey Jack cheese because that is what is available. This can be challenging, however, you may come up with some new favorites out of your creative meal planning.
Resources to Help with Your Pantry Challenge
Come share your freezer and pantry challenge successes, struggles, and creative recipes in the Premeditated Savings Facebook Group.