The pantry challenge is an excellent way to save money, decrease food waste and organize your kitchen. The challenge has been consistently saving money for our family for years.
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WHAT IS THE PANTRY CHALLENGE?
The pantry challenge is a period of time where you use the food that you have in your pantry and freezer before buying more food. This period of time can be 10 days, 15 days, although most people try to participate in the challenge for a month. Whatever works for your family. This is your pantry challenge, you make the rules.
A month long pantry challenge is a great length of time since you probably budget your groceries per month and you can do a reboot with your grocery budget. This is a great chance to use everything in your pantry/freezer. The pantry challenge also is the perfect compliment the no spend challenge, where you try to not spend any money during a set time period.
PANTRY CHALLENGE GOALS
Before you even start a pantry challenge, you need to figure out your WHY. What are your goals with the pantry challenge? Why are you starting the pantry challenge?
Do you want to save money? Maybe you know that you have a really slim income month coming up, that might be a great time to participate in a pantry challenge.
Do you want to clean out the pantry and/or freezer? Picture this, you open the cupboard door and the cans fall out. Too many veggies at the can-can sale last fall? Or, how about this – nothing else will fit in your freezer. You bought a few too many turkeys on clearance after Thanksgiving. You need to make some room in your cabinets and freezer.
How about organizing your pantry/freezer/kitchen? Do you actually know what you have in your pantry or your freezer? Are items getting buried in the bottom of your deep freeze and maybe you could have hot dog rolls from 1974 in there? If you do not rotate your items in the deep freeze often, and especially if you do not keep a freezer inventory, a pantry challenge would be perfect for you so you can clean that freezer out and organize it better.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A PANTRY CHALLENGE?
We will get into the money saving benefit a bit later, but a few of the other benefits are:
- Less time shopping
- Less food waste
- Better organization
- Increased knowledge of food inventory
- Discover new recipes
- Rediscover favorite recipes
HOW DO YOU START A PANTRY CHALLENGE?
You first need to start with an inventory of your pantry and your freezer. I inventory all cans, boxes and meats/fish/chicken. More than likely you have enough staples to get you through at least 10 days. This inventory taking will take a little bit of time, but it is so worth it!
Then create a meal plan for the time period, trying to use only the food that you already have. Try to improvise with your recipes instead of running to the store for that one can of soup that the recipe calls for.
I have a free printable meal planning workbook that includes a printable pantry/freezer inventory worksheet as well as weekly and monthly meal planners that you can download to get you started.
Actually stick to that meal plan! Look, I know what it feels like to get close to dinner time and you are just not feeling what you have planned. You want to go out because you had a bad day. Or you want to just order pizza. Think about your WHY. What was that reason you wanted to start the pantry challenge? Write it on your refrigerator. Put a big sign inside your cabinet doors. Keep reminding yourself of that WHY.
WHAT IS LEFT AFTER THE PANTRY CHALLENGE?
You might find that at the end of the pantry challenge, you want to get rid of the rest of the food items that are in your pantry. These might be items that you will never eat, that your kids will never eat, you only bought something for a holiday and forgot to use it, or bought extras (cranberry sauce, anyone?) and just want it out of your house.
First, check the dates. If it is expired, then heck yea, get rid of it. Open the cans, empty them and recycle, please!
If you have items that are not expired, donate to your local food pantry, church or give it to friends/family.
HOW DOES THE PANTRY CHALLENGE SAVE MONEY?
There are so many ways that the pantry challenge can save you money. You have to be disciplined though! Don’t give up half way through because it’s boring to eat this way. Get creative with your recipes and meals. Have breakfast for dinner to use up the pancake mix.
Remember, you are challenging yourself here.
If you are strictly eating out of your pantry and your freezer, you are not going to the grocery store as much. I only shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and milk during the pantry challenge.
If you are staying out of the stores, there is less chance that you will impulse shop. You won’t grab an extra package of chicken breasts just because they are on sale this week for $1.49 per pound.
If you stick to your meal plan, yes, it will save you money. You will realize that meal planning really does save money. Then you will be able to incorporate meal planning into your everyday life. You don’t have to meal plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. I only meal plan our dinners. Whatever works for your family and your life.
If you are a shopper and stockpile, this is a great time to clean off your shelves. I do this once or twice a year when I know the deals are coming up. Stockpiling during the deals is my go to to save money on groceries.
The pantry challenge will help form new eating and shopping habits. You will eat what you have in your house already instead of constantly running to the store because you “feel” like eating something else. You will become disciplined and eventually you will only need to grocery shop once a week or even once a month!
If you follow these Pantry Challenge steps, you be sure to not only save money, but you will have less food waste and your kitchen, pantry and freezer will become organized. Let me know in the comments below about your own pantry challenge and how it went.
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