Eat From Your Pantry to Save Money

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One of the ways that I’m most able to control our expenses is how much I spend on food.

At one point in our “serious debt-fighting days,” I cut our food expenses down to $400 a month for a family of 7. It was difficult and I’m not sure that I could pull it off today, but, it was a big help to making ends meet.

We spend more than that now as my kids are bigger with bigger appetites. And I’ve moved away from some of the processed foods that I used to get for mere pennies after sales and coupons. But, we’re still able to eat pretty well on a lower food budget.

Interestingly enough, one thing that helps us keep things low is to occasionally “eat from the pantry.”

Instead of shopping for a lot of food each week, I spend my energy using up things that I already have. I’ve done this for the last two Januarys and it’s really helped us save a chunk of change. While I still buy groceries during a “Pantry Challenge,” I focus on making more things from scratch and using up what we have in the cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer.

It’s like the Food Network show Chopped, but in real life.

The Benefits of a Pantry Challenge

  • We discover that we really do have a lot of food. If there were a true emergency, we’d be okay.
  • We find new recipes and food combinations.
  • We enjoy more baked goods because I bake more often.
  • We rotate our stock.
  • We become more mindful of expiration dates.
  • We save money.

Not only do we make use of what we have, I’m more thankful when all is said and done. Most of us live in a world of abundance. And when you’re challenged to make the most of what you have, it’s a beautiful reminder of God’s provision.

Summertime Pantry Challenge

Starting July 1, I’m on a Summertime Pantry Challenge: to build my menus around what we already have and then supplement sparingly from sales, the farmers’ market, and surplus produce that my friends want to share with me. 😉 I’m not afraid to go shopping. But, I want to make sure I’m making good use of what we have first.

Want to come along? The details are over at Good Cheap Eats where I’ll be recording the adventures and dishes that result from this summertime “eat from the pantry” challenge.

How do YOU save money?

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  1. I went a little nuts and took advantage of some great deals – so much that our freezers are overflowing! (I couldn’t pass up the 8 pound package of meat that was marked $0.44!) I think we might just join you on your Summer Pantry Challenge. 🙂

  2. The Summer Pantry Challenge is such a good idea! I think we forget what we have in there a little too often.. I’m excited to see what new combinations I can come up with! Thanks!

  3. Sharing two of our favorites. Homemade Hummus and Homemade coconut milk ice cream – mint chip flavor. It was $4.50 or so for 1 pint in Chicago. Our price — hmmmm….well, maybe 1/10 of that? 🙂

  4. Eating from the pantry is my first line of action when I want to quickly cut our budget.

    I am sharing a tip that I use to take advantage of sales on lemons and limes when they are on sale.

  5. I am SO bad at this sort of thing. I am not a natural cook, and have only been able to begin a bit of freezer cooking (I do it weekly instead of monthly) by closely following recipes made by other people. Otherwise I am lost. Just looking at what we have and trying to decide what meals could happen out of that would make my head explode! It’s the whole reason I had to start menu plans and freezer cooking, so I would not have to stress out every night about what we would be having for dinner.

  6. I like how you take a challenge head-on and give it your all. It’s very inspiring and motivating! This week I did buy a lot of meat, but I am counting on my pantry to pull me through. =D I have some rice to make for sure!

    Living So Abundantly: New meme this coming Thursday, July 7, 2011, Give Back Thursday–join the fun!

  7. This sounds like a great idea! I think it will come in handy in August when our baby girl is born, and I don’t want to head out to the grocery store.

  8. I save money by buying local seasonal produce whenever possible. This year I signed up for a CSA. Local produce is SO much less expensive and tastes SO much better. Plus, it feels good to support local farmers.
    I shared a recipe for Swiss Chard Gratin today. It’s frugal, healthy, and delicious.

  9. Can’t wait to check out the challenge! I’m still trying to use up stuff to make room for the new harvest coming from our garden. The tomatoes are beginning to ripen; I need to make room in the freezer to collect them in gallon freezer bags before canning.

    This week I shared a list of my favorite inspirational frugal resources. I’d love to hear what others read to keep themselves inspired to be frugal.

  10. A couple times a year we do a pantry challenge as well. I limit our budget to $75 a week for milk and fruit and veggies. That’s it. The rest has to be taken out of the pantry and freezer. It’s amazing how much we stock up and don’t realize it.

    We then take what we didn’t spend (usually about $500-$600) and give it to a local food bank or charity. It feels good to give above and beyond!!

  11. Sadly, my own pantry is pretty depleted. I’m due for a stock-up! I’d love to see a post on frugal shopping at the Farmer’s Market. While I love the idea of market shopping, I always end up spending a small fortune. It’s a real budget-buster!

  12. We do the pantry challenge when money is tight but mostly during the winter. Winters can be harsh here and with a husband that commutes an hour away, having car trouble in the middle of winter with 3 kids is not my idea of a good time. I prefer to stay home, stay warm and just use what we have. That being said for the most part I work myself silly all summer long gardening and gleaning then canning and freezing whatever I can to get my freezer and pantry stocked up. I also use coupons and sales to stock up as well on everything!! Then once the cold weather rolls in, the only thing I need are fresh items like bread, eggs, milk etc and as luck would have it, dh drives past a grocery store and Target on his way home so I technically don’t have to go far at all. Saves us money on food, and gas as well as time!!

  13. I did a pantry challenge in January right after my baby was born. Now things are beginning to fall out of my cabinet again, so maybe I’ll join you!

  14. This is such a great idea. I try to have a week of pantry eating every six weeks or so, just to help cut costs and also use up any odds and ends we have on hand. They’re not always the fanciest meals (or the most nutritionally balanced!), but it makes good financial sense – and it’s a fun challenge!