Eat from the Pantry Challenge – Join Us!

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For the last couple months, my friend Crystal and I have been “cooking up a storm” at the beginning of each month and storing what we’ve made in the freezer to use throughout the coming weeks. This “once-a-month” cooking venture has saved us loads of time and money. It has been fantastic to go to the deep-freeze every couple days and pull out the makings of the next few days’ meals.

This past month I went a tad overboard and have a lot left in my freezer as well as the fridge and cupboard. Crystal also reports quite a bit left in her stores. That coupled with the fact that Crystal will be spending New Year’s with me has prompted us to do something new for January. The first month of the year is a great time to take inventory, make goals, and move forward. We’re simply taking this concept into the kitchen. Join us as we spend the month of January cutting back and using up what we have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.

I’ll be posting any spontaneous culinary creations (read: recipes I make up on the fly) over at Good (& Cheap) Eats and giving a daily update as to what we’re actually eating. This should prove quite interesting, or quite boring, depending on your perspective. But, I’ll also be sharing general tips and suggestions to make your pantry challenge a success as well as posting my grocery geek adventures here at LifeasMOM. I hope you’ll not only follow along, but also be inspired to see where you can cut a few corners in January to give yourself a little more freedom in February.

If you’re not already, you may want to subscribe to GCE in a reader or via email. And follow along at the Eat From the Pantry Challenge Facebook page. You can also follow us on twitter (@crystalpaine and @fishmama) as well as use the hashtag #pantry)

Out with the Old, In with the New! 
If you have your doubts, that’s okay. I did, too. Last year when I watched Crystal do this, I thought you couldn’t spend any money. I can’t do that! Not with the Hobbits that live at my houseBut it’s not like that. In fact, we want you to make goals that work for you!

Here are some guidelines to help you think about this challenge and how you can grow in kitchen management this month:

  • Reduce grocery spending. We’re talking about reducing grocery spending this month, not eliminating it. Set a goal that is lower than your regular food budget and shoot for not exceeding it.
  • Take stock. Take an afternoon and empty your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. Ditch what’s gone bad and make a list of what’s left. Knowing what you have will make you less likely to buy more.
  • Use what you have. Check your pantry before you meal plan or head off to the store. Develop meals based on what you have rather than buying new.
My goals for the month?
  1. Use up what’s in the deep freeze and be able to defrost it at the end of the month. (We live in California, so yes, it will thaw.) I want to jump back into February’s Once-A-Month-Cooking knowing that we’ve wasted as little as possible.
  2. Spend $400 or less on groceries this month. My usual budget is $600+. I have four growing boys who. eat. a. ton. so I know I can’t scale back too much. We can go through 5 gallons of milk a week! Also, we’re instituting some new healthier eating goals this year that I need to accomodate as well.
  3. Focus on being creative with what we have. Enough is as good as a feast. I can get a little carried away while shopping. So, this will be good discipline.

What’s your plan to make the most of YOUR grocery budget next month? Share it with us! And don’t forget to link up your Pantry Challenge post over at Money Saving Mom.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. I think this is a great idea. I'm actually doing my freezer/baking day on Friday using up stuff in my freezer and pantry. I'll be posting my monthly meal plan tomorrow so I'm looking forward to spending WAY LESS on groceries in January. Look forward to your "culinary creations".

  2. Jennifer says

    Oh boy! Your suggestion of pulling out everything from the pantry and freezer hit a nerve. I know that I have odds and ends lurking here and there. I think I'll join you and possibly uncover some hidden treasures in my own kitchen!

  3. The Prudent Homemaker says

    We were already planning on doing this for January when I read Crystal's post.

    For us, it's a matter of neccesity. My husband's income varies, and in January it is going to be less.

    We're used to not going to to store; we've done it before for over a year. Powdered milk, eggs, canned fruits and vegetables are helpful in making it easier to stay home. They are also a real blessing when you simply don't have the money to go to the store.

    This last year, we've been able to restock most of our pantry at a reducd amount per month. I know we can do this for a long time if need be (again).

    Here's what we'll be eating this month:

    I'm off to plant some more seeds in my garden today!

  4. Family, Money and Stuff says

    Funny! You and I are on the same page on this one! I just decided this morning that I would do this, then I read your blog! I'm so excited about starting this. I too, aim to save money on groceries, eat healthier and use what I have. Check out Frugal Steward 101 to see some money saving tips. Thanks! Look forward to doing this together!

  5. Saving Money says

    I'm in!

    I just laid out my four goals for the challenge:

    Thanks for putting this together!

  6. What kind of freezer do you have? We are thinking of buying a stand alone freezer.

  7. sodbusters says

    I plan on doing this the GF way. We'll see how creative I can be. WOOT.

  8. Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs says

    LOVE this post, and I love that you are keeping it real with the challenge. Thanks for outlining your goals for us!! Good luck!

  9. I'm planning to scale back our grocery spending. Today I went to the bank and took out cash for groceries and gas. That's it. No more for 2 weeks. Going to the store tonight and I'm even taking my calculator. I'll be the grocery geek tonight.

  10. That is so weird! I just went through my areas and I have an agressive plan for the coming year:-)

  11. Twinsmom says

    I'm looking forward to joining in, but I had to laugh….We're a family of 3 – me and boy/girl teenage twins, and just the 3 of us have been known to go through 4-5 gallons of milk a week! I seriously feel like I should buy a milking cow! lol But my kids don't drink pop – they don't like it – and rarely drink even 100% fruit juice, they just drink milk and water, so I really can't complain.

  12. Rochele says

    I am amazed that you only go through five gallons of milk a week! I go through 3 with a family of 5! So kudos to you!

  13. Great challenge! I got paid on December 21st, and won't have a paycheck again until January 29th, so this is a great time for our family to try this challenge!

  14. Our grocery goal for 2010 is to take out our usual grocery amount in cash (I normally just use our debit card and keep track in our budget spreadsheet). I want to see if I will really spend less if I am forced to part with actual greenbacks. Anything that we have left from the grocery cash each month is going towards a large item that we would like to purchase–hopefully that will motivate me to cut spending!

  15. Calandra says

    Thanks for telling your monthly budget. I too have four boys and they can throw down some milk. A year ago I started couponing and reduced our food/household items budget from $700 to $500/month. I'm pleased it is reduced, but I read about all these people who spend only $50/week and can't figure out how to do that. I feel like you lifted some of the clouds following me. Thanks!!!!

  16. Anjanette says

    Thanks for the guidelines, I'm excited to join!

  17. Annystribe says

    I had planned on unstocking my pantry, mini-superstore storage room and freezers when I found your post.
    I am joining you on the challenge and will not just do it for January but February as well! For me it will be a huge challenge, as half of my house has to eat Gluten-free which makes it more complicated as I have to cook from scratch and it is an expensive diet. Add the fact I have a daughter with autism who can be really picky on what she will eat!

    Anny at

  18. says

    Totally doing this! Love it!!

  19. Coupon Addict says

    What an exciting challenge!! I have to admit, it's pretty scary at the same time for me, but I'm definitely looking forward to it! I posted my goals up on my blog at and am anxious to see how this goes! Hopefully I'll learn more about the value of stockpiling and work on that a bit more!

  20. Heather says

    I kind of did this in December, but we were gone quite a bit so it's spreading over into January.

    Here's my blog post about it.

  21. We are totally planning to do this for the month of January. I have my first two weeks planned out.

    Check out my plan here:This Crazy Amazing Life: The Pantry Challenge

  22. HappyMom says

    I too plan to cook from my freezer and pantry this January. So far, I have just been using up leftovers from the holdays. But, I will be making up my menu soon. Some of my best meals have been made up from just what we had on hand.

  23. I am a 19 yr old, living on my own with my boyfriend. He makes more money than me so his responsibilities are the mortgage and bills, and mine are the other things, including grocery shopping. I try to spend less than $40 a week on groceries, so my cabinets are pretty bare. Hence, I can not complete the whole challenge but I am going to try to spend $25 a week on groceries this month.
    Thank you for your encouragement and tips!

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