This site contains affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read more about our Affiliate Links and Disclosure Statements in the Resources section.
I’ve decided to challenge myself to spend as little as possible on groceries over the next three months (October – December 2017), while using up as much as possible from my pantry and freezer stash.
I’ve long had a habit of keeping a very full pantry and freezer. We live in a rural area and have several kids, so “a quick trip to the store” does not exist in our world. Especially in winter, when we can sometimes awake to 4 feet of snow. So I like to make sure we don’t run out of anything.
But every so often, it becomes clear that it’s time for a Pantry Challenge. Whether because of excessive couponing (LOL), looming expiration dates, a tighter than usual budget, or a random bout of “we need to become minimalists!”. Last time I did this in a big way was 2015. All of 2015. For nearly the whole year, I fed 7 people (2 adults, 5 kids) for around $600/month, and my pantry made it possible. That included food for several pets, toilet paper, dish soap, and any other household goods. In my budget, “groceries” pretty much means “anything I might buy at the store”.
The purpose of a Pantry Challenge, of course, is to use up what you have, buy as little as possible, and reduce waste.
My Three-Month Pantry Challenge (October – December 2017)
- Buy as little as possible. I’m hoping to keep my overall grocery spending to $200/month or less. Yikes!
- Use up as much as possible (everything, if I can. Pantry needs a total reboot.)
- Waste not
- Keep track, take pics, and update this blog as we go
- I am feeding 7 people, two adults and five pre/teens. We all pack a lunch almost every day.
- Some of us have dietary restrictions. Some of us are rebellious and picky. But that’s ok because #iloveachallenge, right?
- We are not home much during the week, so cooking-from-scratch time is limited. Although I do try to spend time on Sundays preparing food for the coming week.
Yes, I’m making exceptions already, LOL!
- Dinner every other Tuesday is Taco Tuesday at Cafe Rio. Non negotiable, lol.
- Lunch every other Friday (opposite weeks) is $5 Pizza Lunch at school.
- In general, I’m not buying meats because we already have so much – but I will buy atleast one or two holiday turkeys. Maybe hams if I find an awesome deal.
What I Will Buy:
Fresh produce, milk, coffee, eggs & bacon, various lunchbox items. This is the “spend less” category. As you’ll see from the inventory below, we don’t have a lot of these things – they get used up too quickly. So my approach here is to spend as little as possible and still keep everyone’s lunchboxes happy 🙂
And yes, bacon is another non-negotiable.
What I Won’t Buy:
Meat, in general. Vegetables for stews. Bread. This is the “use it up” category. We have a ton of various meats (that I undoubtedly got a screamin’ deal on) and enough dehydrated veggies to last us til my Jesus comes back. We get bread for free (I’ll write about that below).
I had planned to write a detailed list of everything we are starting with, but….nah. Pictures will suffice 🙂 These are just the two stand-up freezers and the canned food shelves in the garage. There’s also the actual kitchen pantry, a smaller set of pantry shelves in the laundry room, a locked cabinet (so the kids don’t eat all the good snacks) and whatever’s in the kitchen fridge. There’s more here than there seems.
Locally, we have a food bank that distributes a massive amount of bread, free to anyone. It’s all from local stores, who have to rotate their shelves way before expiration dates. We often find organic, specialty, and interesting loaves mixed in with the usual white, potato and wheat varieties. Even an occasional bakery cake or bag of produce. I try to go every couple of weeks, depending on my schedule. Bread freezes beautifully.
We’ve done without it, and I never want to take anything that somebody else needs more than I do, but I’ve seen this process in action long enough to know that they can’t possible find takers for all the bread they get. And it sure takes a load off my grocery budget, which I’m very thankful for 🙂
Updates – October
I will update this blog post every so often throughout the challenge. I’ll post a mix of menus, recipes, budget tallies, and other interesting tidbits as I go. Be sure to watch out for the Pantry Challenge Fails I’m sure to have! Here’s the first one:
Saturday, October 7:
For dinner, we had oven-baked chicken thighs (a cheap favorite), sweet potatoes and elbow macaroni. Total cost to feed 7 (plus Monday’s lunch for hubby) was around $7.
Sunday, October 8:
Breakfast this morning was pancakes from Gamma. There’s a story here, folks. Hubby and I both have very frugal Mamas. Mine is a yard sale treasure hunting expert; his rocks the restaurant coupons like nobody’s business. Every so often, she and her boyfriend will show up with a huge container of carefully saved and frozen pancakes, extras from their breakfasts out. She once fed 20 people breakfast for three days this way! #goals
Lunch was Search & Starve (you’ll hear this a lot around here). My kids are pretty proficient in the kitchen, but today was not a day for cooking, as we were going swimming. Several of them chose mini tacos I’d made and frozen last week (with free bread wraps).
Tonight, we’re having our Favorite Crockpot Chili (recipe below) and cornbread. Entire meal is “free” in the sense that I already had everything I needed, either from long-ago purchases or that had been given to us. There will be more than enough chili for tonight, several leftover meals, and probably a couple of freezer containers for future lunches.
- [yumprint-recipe id=’1′]