My Pantry Looks Different than Yours

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If you’ve been following along with Crystal and I regarding the Eat-from-the-Pantry-Challenge, you may be wondering what in the world we’re talking about. I had a great conversation yesterday with a friend who had lots of questions. It really helped me see that there are a number of perspectives on this. You may have a picture in your head of what we’re doing and think that it is an impossible or crazy thing to tackle. You may be right. But, you may also have an inaccurate picture in your head of what we’re doing.

So, let’s look at one fundamental point:

Every pantry is different.
Perhaps you are a hard-core coupon queen and your cupboards are bursting with food? Jen’s are.

Or maybe your cupboard is not dangerously full, but you know you could get by for quite some time. Myra was able to plan 21 meals from what she had:

Or maybe you regularly stock up on beef, like Amy, and you know that you need to make room for your new supply.
The point of the Pantry Challenge is not to see who will be booted off the Island because they can’t keep up with the others. There are no “others” to keep up with! Just yourself.
Each of us is starting from a different point. You may have food coming out your ears or you may not. The goal is to use what you have, be creative, and shave a little off your budget. Your challenge may only last a week. Or you may be able to eat for two months on what you have in storage. There is not one “right way” to do this.
My friend Jen is only going to spend $100 to feed her family of 7 in January, per her husband’s encouragement. I don’t have the stockpile she does, so my grocery trips will look different. And that’s okay. We’re each trying to “look well to the ways of her household.” And the ways of my household look different than someone else’s.
Are you taking the challenge? If so, what are your fears, concerns, or questions?
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'm so glad you shared Amy's freezer on there! I had some people contact me yesterday thinking that the challenge only involved your pantry! 🙂

  2. Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs says

    Awesome post! Great encouragement, too. I definitely need to keep in mind that it is not a "fail" if I only make it 2 weeks on my pantry. Just imagine how much I would save by doing that!!

    My big "issue" is trying to figure out how much money to put in my envelopes since our month goes from the 15th to the 15th. Stupid issue. Hee, hee! I currently put $50 per week in there. (I cut my groceries down to $200/month for our family of 4!!) I think what I will do is take $25 out of weeks 3 & 4 (since they are the first 2 weeks of January) and then move the money into weeks 1 & 2. Hmm . . . I think I have my solution! LOL!

    Thanks for letting me use your comment space to talk to myself. Ha!

  3. Great post! I am going into this challenge with a depleted freezer and pantry because of lots of snow over the past few weeks. So my pantry has done what is supposed to, but I also think I have several more weeks of food. It will be fun to find out how far I can stretch the stock pile!

  4. I think it's so cool that Crystal is coming to visit you!
    I plan on doing some sort of food budget challenge this month ($400 car repair & $140 in unexpected dr bills throws us for a loop)
    My concern with a eat from the pantry challenge is that the last time I did this, it backfired for me becuase after I was done my grocery bill went up since I had nothing in stockpile I found myself needing to buy even more pasta/rice/beans (what I consider the building blocks of a meal) each week, plus the meat & produce & all the kid snacks or munchies to have on hand.
    So I'm still trying to figure it out.
    But my goal is to use up the steak, pork loin, flank steak, pre-cooked chix breast, at least 3 lbs of green beans (might make it 5 I have a LOT of frozen beans from the summer), the bag of okra (I have NO clue what to do with, any suggestions?)and a pound or 2 of shredded zucchini I have in the deep freeze. If I get really desperate I also have a turkey, but we are kind of turkeyed out.
    I also need to use up 4 cans of manwich, 2 bags of split peas, 3 cake mixes, various 1/2 bags of short & medium grain rice, lentils & quinoa.

  5. It looks GREAT!!

  6. being molded says

    I plan to join so I can actually see what I have. I know there are 16 boxes of pastain my pantry, and that's probably my childrens least favorite thing to eat. I have tons of stuff I've bought to use and just never do.
    I'm looking forward to trying some new recipies too.

  7. I look forward to the challenge. I hope we can stick to it and meet our goals. Part of our goals are to buy what's free and cheap at the store (usually our staples of rice and pasta and can goods)…Can't wait to see how it all pans out!

  8. I can't stop thinking about this idea, so it's probably a good idea to sign up and participate. I'm worried about being a big flop, that all the new recipes will bomb, that nothing will be on sale with coupons when I want to buy it… 🙂 I do look forward to watching what everyone else does though!

  9. Davis Family says

    To be honest, you have encouraged me to look in my pantry and freezer and include those items in my January meal plan.
    I have a lot of extra pastas and soup stocks, spaghetti sauce, etc…
    I need to use.

  10. lipsticktocrayons says

    I'm going to do this! I will send you a link when I'm done posting. I can't wait!

  11. Awesome! I participated in the AllYou grocery challenge over the summer and really loved the game of it! I will look forward to this!

  12. I'm not actually going to participate but I am looking forward to seeing how you, Crystal, & others do. I'm actually going to be doing some more stockpiling as I have a baby due in early Feb. & want to have the freezers/pantry as full as possible. Maybe I can join you all next time.

  13. madonna says

    I like the idea of this challenge. I make a habit of keeping a fairly well-stocked pantry. I like to cook and have at least 200 cookbooks, plus i am a food network watcher and go to their web site to find interesting ideas for scrumptious meals. My suggestions to those wanting to keep to the plan is to make your own soup stocks. They are so easy, vegetable peels, a potato, onion, carrot, cerlery, an apple a head of garlic and what ever simmered on the stove can add such depth to any soup. so save all the veg. scraps in a bag in your freezer. I'd also try to make pizza dough if you have yeast in your pantry. it's such as passive activity…water, flour, yeast, salt, a splash of oil and you have the makings of a wonderful dinner…
    omelets for dinner couldn't be simpler with a salad. and again, those soups, or stews as versatile as can be. What isn't simpler than leek and potato? basic two ingredients! I also find that if I make a large amount of soup it lasts for two meals and a couple of lunches!
    The way I see it, for Jan 1-31 or 30 calendar days you might not have to make more than 15-20 dinners. just about anyone can do that. and on a day off or a Sunday, if you have flour on hand, bake some muffins, or corn muffins if you have cornmeal, and don't forget polenta and all the rice dishes, like risotto!
    I can't wait to start!

  14. Heather Robinson says

    I'm in! I would like to shave 25% off of our current weekly budget. We are a family of 4 eating on $100/week. For the month of January we'll try it on $75 a week. That saves us the equivalent of one week's worth of food at the end of the month!

    I agreee with another poster that I'll probably have to put that $ back into the depleted pantry stocks after all of this, but it's a fun challenge!

  15. It's so refreshing that we don't all have to do our challenges the same way. We just do the best we can with what we have and what our needs are!

    I'm so excited to see what January holds!

    Thanks for the mention! 🙂

  16. Thanks for the reminder that each of us is unique!! It's daunting at times.

    I am joining in on the challenge (with not alot in the freezer but a whole bunch of pasta & beans in the pantry). I am planning on shaving 25- 50% from our monthly grocery bills.

  17. Chef Owings says

    I am taking this challenge. Need all the support I can get.Pantry is over flowing. My dad calls the freezers "ice houses"My daughter has even volunteered to go to the store with me to keep me from buying more that actually needed.Just make sure I have a good reason for buying something off the list LOL

  18. Heather says

    My food budget has been $150 ish a week for a family of 6. Since Grandpa passed away last week and my husband is working out of town during the week thru January, I truly believe, with what I have on hand, that I can get thru the month on $100 week, maybe even $75.

    I belong to a Produce Co-Op so that is $20 every week, and a freezer cooking group that I will need to buy for, but this is still way doable. Looking forward to it!!

    7 gallons of milk a week sure takes a bile out of it :-/

  19. The Tidwells says

    In an effort to save money and to test my creativity, I am going to participate in the challenge but I must say that I am a bit terrified of what will come out of my efforts. I will definitely have to go to the store for eggs, milk, and fresh produce at least 2x/month but think that all my couponing has resulted in a stockpile that is a bit out of control for our teeny tiny kitchen, so this challenge will be a good way to use up what we've got. Thanks for the idea and keep up the encouragement. I will need it!!

  20. Michele says

    Thank you for explaining. I hope to only spend $200.00 a month for food in 2010. This is a great way to start.

  21. zekesmom10 says

    I won't be following your challenge to eat only from my pantry, as my current challenge is to build our supplies and stay in our budget. However, you have inspired me to get down there and take inventory and check expiration dates. I am not the greatest at rotation! So, I will be cooking with foods that have been down there for quite some time.

  22. I have a stupid fear. I fear that Meat, chicken, fish whatever will be on such a FANTASTIC sale that I will not be able to get any. LOL
    Aside from that "fear" I am ready and excited for this challenge, I have a fully stocked pantry and freezer. My goal is to spend $100 this month on food.

  23. Jessika says

    I'll definitely be doing this-I don't want to move into our new place in Feb. with all the foods that have been in the cupboards just waiting to be used. I'm looking forward to the challenge of cooking creatively with what I have.

  24. The Prudent Homemaker says

    We are planning on doing this; we already started, and we'll be continuing into February and possibly March or more.

    When the grocery ads come (they come in the mail here) I will be tossing them without looking at them. I find that when there isn't money to go to the store, it's easier for me if I don't look at the ads.

    I've been out in my garden today, planting seeds for fresh vegetables this spring. We're still enjoying lemons from our garden, and we thankfully have 200 lbs of potatoes left in our pantry.

    We won't be going to the store at all in January, and probably not in February or March either.
    We've eaten from our pantry for a couple of years before (2007-2008), so I know what recipes we will be making.

    Here's what we're having for the months of January and February:

  25. Nichole Kennard says

    A couple of posters have already made a comment concerning this but what will your family do in February to replenish items when you use a lot of it up in January?
    We live in an apartment and don't have the space to keep a lot of extra stuff but we do have things that need to be used. I just wonder if I do a great job of using things in January how will I not need to go over board in February.
    Excited about the idea just wanting to go at it wisely!

  26. Julie Artz says

    We're definitely on board! We made a little modification though, which is that we're only going to live out of our pantry as much as we can, and will try to only buy produce at the grocery for the whole month.

    We have a few canned fruits, frozen/canned veggies, and stuff in cold storage, but not much, so we'll supplement a bit!

    Thanks for the great idea!

  27. The Schneiders says

    We just went through a "pantry challenge" in Oct/Nov. to get ready for hunting season and our tamale making day (100 dz tamales were made by us and some friends!).

    One thing I do that seams to be helpful is that if I'm making something that I know my family isn't thrilled about I will make a yummy dessert to go along with that dinner. That way they get a treat and I get an empty pantry and freezer.

  28. It's so funny i should come across this post today. Just two days ago I had the throw some beef out because it had been in my freezer to long and was looking a little worse for the wear. It killed me so I decided to go through my freezer and plan meals to use up all the items I have in my freezer and fridge right now. I was able to come up with 23 meals.
    I am only going to purchase fruit, veggies, milk and yogurt as well as the "almost free" or free items at the grocery store.
    I look forward to reading your posts and that of your readers over the next month.

  29. Stardust says

    I'm wierdly excited about doing this challenge. My goal is to last the month of January. See my progress here:

  30. zekesmom10 says

    Boy did I fool myself! I took my inventory and checked everything. Yikes! We will be eating from the pantry a lot this month. I have a ton of pasta, rice and tomato stuff to fix. 😛

  31. NerdMom says

    My goal is to not buy any more meat until I can defrost my freezer! I currently have ribs, a ham, a turkey, fish and a ton of other little meats. That should save quite a bit off the monthly expenses! I also want to use up all my canned goods!

Thanks so much for participating in this conversation about "a mom's life."

This is a place where moms can be themselves. Remember that each mother's path looks a little different. Please keep your comments respectful and kind. Reasonable minds will disagree in a nice way.

So let's talk about it, using "our big girl words."

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