Pantry Challenge: How We Did

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Someone's been eating from the pantry.

This week marks the end of our “Eat from the Pantry” Challenge. On Friday, I’ll get back to filling the freezer. Here are some of the things I learned this month:

Money Matters – I spent $365 out of my budgeted $400 for January. In months past I’ve been spending $600 or more, so this was an amazing reduction. Most of my proteins and grains were already stocked in the freezer or cupboards, so this shows me I generally do a pretty good job in keeping a good supply on hand. Going into February, I’m wondering if I can keep my monthly grocery budget to the same $400. I’m not sure if I can — or want to — but I’m going to see. Using envelopes instead of swiping the debit card definitely kept me more on top of things.

Habits – I tend to get locked into a theme dinner, such as Friday Pizza Night, which can prompt me to go buy the missing ingredients on Thursday or Friday. Doing the pantry challenge helped me see that I do have a little “last minute gotta have” mentality and moved me to rethink this when I was out of mozzarella cheese this past week. I  just made something different this past Friday and no one noticed the difference!

My Cooking Mojo is Back – After months of making the same old, same old, the pantry challenge renewed my sense of adventure in the kitchen. I created several new recipes that we are eager to try again, so that is a fun thing for me. Being more creative in the kitchen has also helped me think through my freezer cooking habits and how I can simplify — and healthify — them. I’ll share more on that later in the week as I get to some major big time cooking in the February Freezer Cooking Days this weekend with Money Saving Mom.

Clean Sweep – eating up so much food has left the pantry a little bare and the freezer almost empty! It’s nice to have a fresh start. I still have some ingredients in the cupboard that need to be used or donated, but overall, we’ve done a good job with “stock rotation.” I’ve also completely cleaned out my coupon stash and am getting ready to get back in the swing of deal shopping — as it fits our food goals for the year.

Did you participate in the Pantry Challenge?
I’d love to hear how it went for you! I’ve been hearing some amazing stories from people who are able to lower their expenses and use up what they have. I can’t wait to hear yours! And don’t forget to link up at Money Saving Mom later today.

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  1. Yes! This has been so good for inspiration! I am excited to meal plan again and saved $80 from our food budget this month! Thanks for hosting!!!

  2. I rotated stock out of my pantry that needed to be used this month, but we are expecting a new baby in early March, so I did not want to deplete our supply. I plan on doing this after the baby is born at some point to get rid of the old.

    When our daughter was born, my husband’s family came for about a week and we did a lot of takeout. I made two big (5#) batches of BBQ pork. Can you suggest any other freezer meals to feed a crowd?? Thanks! Love your site!

    1. Sara, be watching later this week for some freezer-friendly ideas. And congrats on the new little one!

  3. This was a GREAT idea and something I never considered. THANK YOU for getting the word out and our creative juices flowing. Spent less than $100 this month and still have 2 freezers, 2 closets and 2 bookshelves full of food. Yes, I do can and freeze during the summer but was still spending a horrendous amount on groceries every month and we’re unemployed. YIKES! We’re going to try this for February as well and see how long we can keep the momentum.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for hosting this challenge and allowing us all along for the ride! It was a TRUE eye-opener for our family…I am one of those who would just run out and pick up what we needed for dinner any specific night instead of working with what we already had. We used some new recipes; some of which achieved the “make it again” status and others – well, not so much. At any rate, we are at a savings of over $100 from our previous month’s grocery budget AND I included some cleaning products in my total so we are REALLY under budget PLUS I still have $10 left for this week – which I will use to buy some produce and fresh herbs this week. I am looking forward to following along in February to see what else I can learn.

  5. Thanks for the ideas this month! I’m really gonna try the envelope system and hopefully cut down on grocery expenses. Love to have a bigger pantry…..

  6. We started living from our pantry mid-December, as our income stopped. I knew we wouldn’t be going to the store in January at all. It’s been SO nice to know other people are eating from their pantries this month, too! I’ll be continuing to not go shopping and eat from our pantry and freezer for at least the next couple of months, unless my husband’s income starts up again enough for us to go shopping.

    I’m due to have our sixth baby any day, and while it would be nice to have some fresh produce, we’ll keep eating what we have canned, and eat what our garden is producing. A good garden can really help stretch your shopping trips!

  7. I didn’t participate in the pantry challenge but am doing one this week myself. We had a tough end of 2009 and I am also looking forward to regrouping. I have just gotten back on the menu planning wagon and am hoping in the next week to get back into grocery bargain shopping and replenishing our stockpile. I love your blog and have it as a blogroll link on my own blog.

  8. I probably saved about $50 this month using what I had in the pantry, even with a birthday party. So it was totally worth it and I think the stuff in the pantry needs to be used up and new things added. Just thinking about what I already had and not buying it again really helped. I will definitely do this again in a few months. Thanks!

  9. I’ve spent a little bit this month (about $30 on groceries — including cleaning supplies and overnight pull-ups), but we’ve mostly been eating from the pantry/freezer — and there’s still more stuff in there! Like some of the other commenters, I, too, am going to keep this going through at least a portion of February: we have a bunch of strawberries frozen from last summer that will make nice red Valentine’s day dishes, and I also usually set a goal of using up the previous year’s frozen produce during Lent.

  10. I did the pantry challenge and boy was it challenging. With my grandma moving in with us too, it stretched us to the limit. I am committed to it until Wed (a payday) and it feels great. Except for an unplanned meal for a family of 14, we only spent $150. It felt so great. My freezer is just about cleaned out and I plan on actually cleaning it too (hehe).

    As you, I put on my thinking cap and got out of the rut we wer stuck in.

  11. I met my goal of spending under $200 on groceries this month… And it’s amazing how full my pantry still looks! It helped that hubby went away… 😉
    I’m wondering, too, how low I can keep the grocery bill in February. My goal is at least under $400 — hubs will still be away, so that’s for me, one teenager, a 7yo and 5yo. It’s the teenager and his lunches that kill me.

  12. I love your site and practical mom posts, even though my three daughters are all grown up and with babies of their own!

    Cooking for two has its own dilemmas, and therefore, the pantry challenge is always welcome! Last week I wanted to heat up some homemade turkey soup from the freezer, but it desperately called for some spark. After a careful search, I added black beans, some broken-linguine noodles, and chopped jalapeno peppers. The results were quite tasty, diverse and….all eaten up!

    Thanks again (fyi, also joined your Booking it 2010!) Linda

  13. Thank you so much for the inspiration and encouragement with the Eat from the Pnatry Challenge. Although we went over our self-decided budget, I still think we met with great success ewith the challenge. I just posted our wrap-up, with thoughts on money matters, habits, creativity and ease and good will. (It’s at ) Again, thanks bunches!

    I’d join you for freezer cooking this coming month, but I know our schedules won’t allow for it with lots of appointments and hubby away for aprt of the month. But, I will be sure to check back for ideas when I am ready to do some OAMC. Thanks, again!

  14. I just wanted to thank-you for this challenge. We did great and we’re still going. It’s been a tight budget month and February will be the same, but I’ve learned I have a ton of food in the house! We’ve had some of the best meals as a result of me cooking by ‘what do I have and what can I make of it’ rather than planning out meals and deciding what we felt like eating. I’ve even been able to serve guests every weekend! My freezer is still full (though re-arranged and now full of whole meals from left-overs as well as prepped veggies and meats). We’re finally eating the way I hoped (nice home cooked meals rather than last minute toss togethers). We should make it through most if not all of Feb. only buying fresh veggies, eggs and milk, Thanks again!