Pantry Challenge Week 3 (Share Your Progress)

We’re three-quarters of the way through our Pantry Challenge. Are you seeing bare shelves and better able to navigate your kitchen?

Where has the month gone? Seems like we just celebrated Christmas, didn’t we? We’re three weeks into the Pantry Challenge. As I mentioned on Saturday, I stocked up on lunch fixings so that we didn’t have to do a lot of cooking in the middle of the day when things are at their busiest.

In other news, it was kind of a boring week. I wasn’t feeling at that well, and we had several appointments, so things were kinda busy, too. My cooking mojo took the week off, I think. But, we gotta push through, right?

I did tackle ONE of those butternut squash on Saturday, resulting in squash soup, squash muffins, squash pie, squash cake, and squash cinnamon rolls. Yes, really.

Here’s how big that squash was:

I do have to say, using what you have takes work! It’s so much easier to go shopping, is it not? The curse of prosperity….

Anyway, here’s the lowdown on my goals for the month:

Goal 1. Lower my budget.

Currently, we’re just under $300 for grocery spending this month. I am pretty confident that it will be in the $400 range by this time next week, but that is remarkable considering what I normally spend (between $600 – $800). And since we will still have food in the house!

Just “food you have to cook.”

Goal 2. Help my kids be more independent in the kitchen.

I consider this part of a pantry challenge because it will save me money and trips to the local fast food joint. If my kids are able to help with food prep, I know I will be more likely to cook something at home than to make a run for the proverbial border.

In fact, on Friday night, I was too pooped to party — or fix the planned pizza. And by the time I went to start the dough, it was too late to eat a reasonable order. Talk of Chinese food as well as burgers was bandied about. And then I realized I’d have to tell you that we ate out more than twice. So, I grabbed my 9-year old and we worked in the kitchen making grilled cheese, spinach salad, and vegetable crudites. Crisis averted.

Not only do I appreciate the help, but it also gives us a chance to hang out and chat.

I’m sharing more about teaching my boys to cook over at Life as MOM today.

Goal 3. Clean out my freezers and be able to defrost.

We’re not even close to hitting this goal. It’s not that there is a lot of stuff, but there is just too much to cram easily into the refrigerator/freezer. And I’d rather not let my kids eat two boxes of Christmas cookies in one sitting (though they might love it). So, I have a back-up plan.

It’s called Thursday Thaw Out. The high on Thursday will be 74 degrees in my neck of the woods, so I plan to empty the garage freezer, stash the stuff in a cooler, with ice, if need be, and just thaw the freezer out now.

(And yes, whereas you get notice of extreme weather, we get a high surf advisory. It can be dangerous to surf in certain tides. FYI.)

How’s it going in your kitchen?

There’s my update for my three goals for this month. I’d love to hear yours! Either tell us about it in the comments section OR link up a recent post of your Pantry Challenge update. Be sure to link back to this post so that it’s easier to share ideas.

Every Monday this month we’re sharing updates here on GoodCheapEats. What works, what doesn’t. The challenge officially ends on January 31st, but next Monday will be our last link-up.

Hop on by these blogs and see how they’re making this Pantry Challenge work for them:

I’m posting daily updates on my Daily Pantry Challenge Log. Visit that page to see how well — or not — we’ve eaten on a given day. I’ll also share links to recipes that are helping me make the most of what I have.

How’s your challenge going?



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Comments

  1. I’m so glad I’ve been pantry challenging!

    I went out to the garage to visit the outside freezer, which I’ve really been trying to empty since it has to be wedged closed and I want to get rid of it [we have a big one inside too].

    Guess what? Yup, dead as a doornail. But thanks to the pantry challenge:
    a) I didn’t have to toss TOO much – some much older breads that no one liked, and a few packages of meats [well, more than a FEW, but really nothing like a giant stocked freezer full] because they were too defrosted for my comfort.
    b) I salvaged a LOT – because the inside freezers were not completely crammed full [one in the fridge and an upright] due to the challenge. They ARE crammed now though LOL. I saved a lot of breads and vacuum packed cheeses, plus there is another big bag of nuts/seeds/flours/grains that will go into the big freezer as we use up some of those breads
    c) I had literally just baked up a bazillion waffles that morning, still waiting packaging, plus I’d bought a loaf of rye bread I was yearning for when I got sandwich stuff. ALL the waffles [except for today's breakfast] and half the rye bread made it into the freezer too :)

  2. Sarah Cassill says:

    I make and prebake home made pizza crusts and keep in the freezer– think Boboli, but home made, cheap and frozen.

    It makes home made pizza FASTER than delivery. Might be an idea when you’re ready to fill your freezers back up!

    (Or a quick change to English Muffin pizzas, tortilla pizzas, french bread pizzas or whatever you DO have on hand is nice too!)

  3. I am doing the pantry challenge much like you – lowering my grocery bill (by half!) as well as using up a lot of what I have but still having plenty of fresh produce and perishables. I refuse to “do without” the good stuff during this challenge.

    In years past I have gone bare bones and been left with practically nothing at the end of the challenge and then needing to restock quickly. That doesn’t really save much money I don’t think. This time I have even been able to do a little stockpiling with my $250, eat tons of fresh produce and still use a lot of what had been hanging around awhile. Yay!

  4. I have barely touched the stuff in my freezer! EGADS. I had no idea how much I had stashed away. I might have to extend my challenge a little longer. But, at least I got my pantry organized.

  5. I’m out of money. We have quite a bit of food, but I had to adjust my weekly plan a bit this week to accommodate only food I already have in the house if I hope to make it through the end of the month. I am very pleased to have cleaned my pantry and spice cupboards. We’ve used a lot of food, and I’m excited to start with a clean plate next week!

  6. Major ice storm in Pacific N W left us without power for four days. We lost some food due to it, but not what we would have lost if i hadnt been doing the pantry challenge. For this I am so grateful!

  7. Going well over here. Just a tiny bit of meat left to work through, and then all stock will have been rotated. I was doing great on cleaning out bread and rolls, and then daddy went shopping yesterday and brought three fresh packs home. GGGRRR! Was really able to clean out/use up shelves and freezers this week and prep ahead a bunch. A few more use-up ideas for this week to clean out the last of it, but it’s been great. Thanks for your help with this!

    • @Hollie, it’s been fascinating to hear about husbands and housemates bringing home food during the challenge. Cute but counter-productive sometimes. lol

  8. I added some food to my freezer but since normally pre-cooked breakfast sausage links are $3 getting them for $1 seemed worth the diversion. I also found a spiral cut ham on sale for 99 cents a pound.

    This week I’ll be working on getting some marinara sauce in the freezer for pasta nights and refill my supply frozen beans.

  9. I’ve been baking my own bread so we have only bought two loves all month. I even made my own ketchup one day just so we wouldn’t have to run out to the store again for something small. I have made three cheesecakes this month too using up graham cracker crusts and cream cheese I had stocked up on over the holidays as well as condensed milk I for some reason over stockpiled (I had to throw out two way outdated cans). Fortunately friends like when you share cheesecake. :)

    One week we ate a ton of turkey but I’m down to one left in the freezer and both freezers are reorganized. I will tackle the pantry this week. I will need to do some restocking of several things but it’s been fun to see what I can make on my own in a pinch. I am slightly over budget at $113 for the month but it’s still saved us a lot of money. The kids have been enjoying candle light dinners to save electricity too.

    When I reorganized the freezers I pulled out several things that I wanted to be used and I thought they’d make a nice chili (sausage, peppers, tomatoes) but since I used up my chili powder and forgot to buy more we called it pizza soup. The kids ate that much better than they would have eaten chili.

    I’m looking forward to restocking my stock pile and also glad to have used up items that would have spoiled before I found them.

  10. I got my pantry clean enough & I had enough money left over that I could buy/fit 25 pounds of beans this week. I was really excited for that!

  11. I’ve done well with using up the older things in the big freezer. I’ve got some ice bricks from medications we’ve used that I can put in the open spaces. Now that my kids are getting more willing to try new things, I am experimenting with more recipes, focusing on ingredients I already have. I try never to buy anything that’s not on sale or I don’t have a coupon for, but for baking items, I usually just have to get the best price I can. The warehouse store is a great help for this.

  12. I am loving your pantry challenge. I just found your site a bit ago, so this has been really fun. So far this month I have spent under $100 which makes me so happy. I think by the end of the month, I will be able to combine freezers and defrost them one at a time. They are long overdue! Thanks again for the idea!

  13. Was wondering how your squash tasted? A local farmer told me that those arent actually butternut squash but neck pumpkins, and are used primarily for canned pumpkin. I don’t know if that’s true, but I was reluctant to buy any because I don’t care for much of the winter squash other than butternut. Last year I bought some that were shaped like acorn but were different colors and the flavor wasn’t as intense as butternut or acorn.

    • @Trish, I thought that was a gooseneck pumpkin, too, Trish. I got one free a few years back, and I backed it and rendered it and froze the resulting puree in one cup chunks for use in pumpkin bread. Worked great.

    • @Trish, well, I’ve heard that from readers, but they’re calling them butternuts here. Maybe it’s a regional thing? Where are you?

  14. We have eaten like kings just from the stock pile in the pantry and freezer. I did a quick inventory and I think we should have about 28 meals using the meat in the freezer. We will not be eating like kings by the end of it, but we will be full and able to start over. (This is due to 2 deer from the fall hunts.)
    I found a couple of new recipe’s today that will use the ingredients we already own… Honey Lime BBQ Sauce (homemade) for tomorrow night over Christmas Turkey from the freezer. Hope it is good!
    This challenge has been good on the food budget too. I am glad that into week 3 we are still sticking with it.

  15. We’re doing well so far.. We’ve spent $100 total so far this month and that was for milk, eggs, bread, and then this weeks stock up when I found boneless skinless flash frozen chicken breasts at a great price. I bought 6 bags. 4 are thawing in the frig.. 3 to can, 1 to have for dinner one night this week and the other two went into the freezer. M’honey also NEEDED desperately hard salami and swiss cheese.. sigh. He has no clue there is a pantry freezer challenge going on in our house.. haha.. Owell. We’re still doing great!

  16. Here is a real time saving tip for defrosting the freezer. Put a hand truck under it and wheel it outside, then take the hose to it. Way faster and it gets nice and clean. Then we use some old bathtowels to dry it thoroughly, wheel it back in, PLUG IT IN, and reload it. I am always afraid we will forget to plug it in! A friend told me that she defrosts hers that way more than 20 years ago and we have done it that way ever since.

  17. Last night I used up old packets of instant oatmeal and 1/2 jar of coconut oil that were lingering in the pantry by making oatmeal pancake mix from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
    http://www.lynnskitchenadventures.com/2008/11/homemade-oatmeal-pancake-mix.html

    I made up one batch for this week and put baggies of 4 more in the freezer. Those will get used unlike the oatmeal no one liked and the random jar of coconut oil that i haven’t really learned how to cook w/ yet.

  18. Week 3 has been my best so far! I spent nothing other than for my produce basket and an add on of 20lbs of cara cara oranges. Because of the Gas X/Excedrin recall, I took back boxes that were in my stockpile netting me a $36 Fry’s (Kroger) gift card. I then used that to take advantage of five bottles of cheap Tide, four body sprays for my teenage son, a few freebies/cheapies & the milk and eggs we needed last week. I still have $$ left on the gift card. So like your Costco trip, I really didn’t spend anything. *g*

    The freezer is down to exactly what we need to put my share of 40lbs of Zaycon chicken a friend just picked up she’ll bring over this week. I hope to have the rest of the pantry shelves redone/organized this week too.

  19. Been working hard to get my non-perishable pantry cleaned out. I realize I have bought a lot of items because they were on sale or had a coupon and they had just been taking up space for items we really use. I packed up 2 bags of items to take to the food pantry at church so I could make better use of the space I have for food we actually use. Working through the freezer has been a much harder challenge, but this week I am going to tackle inventorying the much ignored deep freeze and work on making my menu for February based on the contents and continue the pantry challenge.

    The biggest change I have noticed is being aware of what I own and making a dedicated effort to using it. This morning I drove by my favorite deli and thought about stopping in for some chicken salad to take to work this afternoon. Then I thought about the 6 dozen eggs in my fridge and realized I could make egg salad with little effort and zero cost. Easily saved $7 just by being cognizant of food I own.

    Thank you for pushing towards eliminating food waste and using up what we own. It’s been very eye opening about how much food we buy and ignore. Time to refocus the grocery list and shop the menu not the sale!

    • @Angela, I love how you’re making it work for you. I, too, ditched some stuff taking up space in the pantry. And it feels like such a triumph to replace take-out with something from the kitchen.

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