The Pantry Challenge is On!

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Last January, I kicked off my grocery budget with a pantry challenge. I challenged myself to reduce our grocery expenses by $200 during that first month of the year.

This resulted in not only a emptier tidier pantry, but it also produced a renewed sense of creativity in the kitchen. I ended up throwing together some yummy meals that we revisited even once the challenge was over.

After much thought and number crunching, I decided to give it a go once again this year. My goals this year are a little different than last year. While I still intend to cut back on our grocery spending, I’m also going to be smarter about the shopping that I do.

My goals this month:

  • Spend $100 (or less) a week on groceries.
  • Focus on buying fresh produce and dairy.

My challenge for you?

Make the Most of What You Have.

  • For some that might mean digging deep into the cupboards and using up those odds and ends.
  • For others that might meanΒ building a frugal pantry, scouting for good sales, and starting to stockpile items that you regularly use.
  • Still others might want to give the pantry an overhaul and remove unhealthy items and replace those with more wholesome alternatives.

I’ll be posting a daily update here on Good Cheap Eats as well as talking about the Challenge on my other blog, Life as MOM. If you’d like to participate and create a challenge of your own, I’ll be sharing more details about how to do that on Sunday at LAM as well as offering a link up opportunity on Tuesday.

I hope you’ll join me!

Have you ever done a Pantry Challenge?

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  1. Yes, I participated last year. I saved a TON by staying out of the grocery store. I don’t buy clothes; groceries are my passion, along with the coupons.

  2. I’m joining in again! It was a lot of fun last year!

  3. This sounds awesome. Just yesterday I went through my cupboards clearing out all the unhealthy carbs and snacks.
    I keep an up to date inventory of the food I already have. It can be separated by food groups, mealtimes, or by how quickly it will go bad. When I make my weekly shopping list I create meals based on what I already have that will go well together and then buy only a few things to go with it.

  4. I didn’t join last year as I had just started creating my stockpile but I’m definitely on board this year. I was glad to see this challenge as my husband and I just had this conversation about cutting our grocery budget this month and just buying produce, dairy and bread. I’ve also started to bake a lot more so maybe I’ll try to make bread this month and cut that out too. Thanks for the push to put our plan into motion.

  5. Sign me up! I wanna frugel pantry. I just discovered ypur blogs and they are awesome!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Okay, so I’m gonna join you this month for the pantry challenge. I have a lot of things that need to be used up and I’d like to get some of the ‘bad’ stuff out of my house for good. I’m excited to see how your meal plans look with $100/week for groceries. I have 6 children as well and that is my target goal for groceries.

  7. OH i just did that throughout the whole week/weekend! I did make some tasty but interesting meals and the kids ate without fussing! I’m trying to change the way we are eating so trying to use up as much processed junk as we can.

  8. I am co-hosting a pantry challenge on my blog as well, & have similar goals to you! I am actually really excited about it too! πŸ™‚

  9. I’m definitely in! I want to spend less than $300 this month on all food(eating out, cooking at home etc), health and beauty, clothes…

  10. Nope, but I TOTALLY am going to this year!

  11. I did the Pantry Challenge with you last year and it was awesome! I’m definitely in again for this year. It helps a lot that in the weeks before Christmas we had eaten our pantries/freezers down pretty far, and then did a major stock-up right before the holiday. I then did my meal plans (dinners only) for December 27 – January 30, based ONLY on what we already had available. The goal is NO GROCERY SHOPPING except for milk and fresh produce until February 1. We are also setting a goal of NO EATING OUT in January.

    It’s on! πŸ™‚

  12. im in! we actually need to eat from our pantry for the next week(hubby’s check was messed up, shorting him almost 20 hours) . I also made the goal of getting our food budget back under control after sort of slacking for a few months.

  13. This looks like a great challenge, but I won’t be participating because my goal for January is to do the exact opposite! I’m going to try to get as close to a 30 day food supply as I can (and then just replenish through the year). Our previous 4-6 week supply came in handy when husband was laid off twice (!!) last year but I never restocked.

    I’ll be reading though!

    • Well, I had envisioned that those who are stockpiling to build their pantry would be able to participate as well. Really you are doing a pantry challenge — making the most of what you have — with your shopping. (Look at the second point under “my challenge for you.”)

  14. Is the $100 just food or does it include toiletries, diapers etc. ? I have 5 kids and feel like I’m doing a terrible job lately with my budget. I used to do better when I was more motivated to do coupons.

    • Do you mean is that what our family’s budget includes? Generally. But, my stockpile is running low. We’ve been living off it for quite some time. Now it’s time to get it back up with coupons if I can.

  15. I’m in! We are cooking a fair bit over the next couple of days (pork tenderloin in green salsa, meatballs, marinara sauce, chili) but after that I will definitely “shop the pantry.” I’ve got to clean out the pantry anyway — this is a perfect way to do it!

  16. I am in. After 3 weeks of holiday indulgence, I am ready!

  17. I have been doing this for the last month… Over Christmas I just bought fruit and ham and turkey. As of now I only have 4 meals of meat left.. We have lots of fruit let because of gifts and a little veggies.
    Now I have to make out some frugal dinners for the next 3 weeks.

  18. I’m in!!! This sounds just like what i need to use up the food in my freezers and pantry!! πŸ™‚

  19. I’m IN! I did it last year too. I could live off our stockpile for a couple of months! :O thanks for doing this!!

  20. Angela Shrader says:

    I plan on doing the challenge, however, if I find a good buy, I will have to get it while I can. Money is too tight to wait on it to possibly be low again. Although, I can pass up on toiletries for awhile πŸ˜‰

    • This is not a “no spend” month. It’s a be “mindful of what you do” month. Buy the good deals if they come!

  21. I participated last year and love it! This year I don’t have as much of a stockpile so for me, like you, it will be a be “mindful of what you do” month! I will try do get eat as much out of the pantry and freezer as possible but it will not be all we eat;).

  22. I’m excited to participate this year! I have a LOT of stuff in my freezer and pantry!

  23. SO glad to see the Pantry Challenge is making a comeback! This challenge was the motivation I needed to set me on the all-around frugal path; this round it will be my motivation to clear out prior to a move. Count me in!

  24. I am in! I participated last year and it made the lack of funds in January so much easier. Looking forward to it.

  25. I’m in. I was going to inventory the pantry and freezer today anyway.

  26. I let the holidays get me into a funk and quit using my coupons for a few months, so my pantry challenge is to make the most of our allowed grocery budget and build my stockpile back up.

    Good luck to all! And thanks Jessica for the encouraging posts you always provide for us.

  27. Fun fun! I don’t know how much I’ll participate b/c I am heading back to school this month {therefore we will all be in survival mode}. I plan to continue with my freezer cooking before classes start, use food I have on hand {which I normally do unless I’m trying a new recipe}, but the biggest thing for me is including more seafood in our diet. I have 2 recipes on my menu plan this month…one using fish and the other shrimp. It’s not cheaper but I am focusing on creating well-rounded eaters {read: not-so-picky like I was as a kid} and more healthy variety in our diet.
    I do need to get back on track with our grocery budget….oy. Happy New Year!

  28. i’ll be joining in. i started on saturday when i did my shopping. what is typically a $200 trip was a $150 trip. didn’t have to buy any meat because i have vowed to use what is in the freezer — clean it out and start fresh in february.

  29. I’m in. I need to cut down on sweets for me and my kids. We have lots of food left over from the holidays to eat up and get creative! We already eat pretty healthy and natural most of the time, but cutting the budget would be great!

  30. I got almost giddy when I saw you were doing the Pantry Challenge this year. I loved reading your blogs last year when you were doing the Challenge. This year I will be following along with you. We need to cut spending!

  31. I am joining in as well! I did this last year and only spent $50 on produce and dairy for the month of January for my family of 3!

  32. I’m definitely in on this!!! Our pantry and freezer are way too full and we need to go through them before stuff go bad. I’m coming up on a little over one year of serious couponing and for a while I was getting a little too enthusiastic in the grocery store. This is a perfect time for a pantry challange as I am finally fine-tuning my couponing skills; I’ve learned to leave bad-for-you-foods alone in the store and figured out what foods we use regularly and roughly how often they come on sale. Less shopping for me in January, except the really good deals, of course. I’ll be so excited to see the grocery bill drop after the holiday season! This week will be EASY since my husband is traveling and it’s just me and the dog at home. : ) I’m excited!

  33. I didn’t join in last year, but this year I decided to set aside January as my Eatin from the Pantry Challenge a few months ago – I’m glad you are setting this up again! My son was born Dec 30th, so I had already stocked the freezer with prepared meals…now we get to eat those up and exercise my frugal brain!

  34. I’m in for the Pantry Challenge! Last year I didn’t participate because I was just starting my “stockpile” and new to couponing, but after a year I’m ready to work through all the great food I have found on the cheap! We also bartered for beef & pork last year, so my freezer is full & needs to be cleaned out. Thanks for the inspiration! I can’t wait to follow along with everyone and see how we all do! =)

  35. I am beginning this on Monday. My pantry is not stocked just has a few things in it we use. A neighbor just gave us a bunch of can goods and Wheaties. Aldi is cheaper that using coupons in my area on most can goods. So that I understand correctly, the challenge is to cook from what you have and try to spend less each week and buy on sale what you use to get a good stock pile?

    I am going to cook from scratch more. I plan my meals each week. I think I will get more creative with lunches and breakfasts. I have 6 under age 10 and I homeschool. They need better luches and breakfasts.

    This should be fun!

    • @Claire, welcome! The challenge is really to do what you need to do based on your specific situation. I’m still shopping, but I’m spending less and I’m focusing on what I already have in order to build my meals. If I find a screaming deal, I’m not going to pass it up, as long as I have the budget to pay for it.

  36. Rockporter says:

    I am in, this sounds like just the ticket for my husband and I. How do I join this? I already signed up for email and I am currently making my lists for the pantry. I must print things out or I will forget them, a little medical condition causes me to not have much brain power quite often so I need a visual to keep on track. Thanks for this opportunity.

    • You just do it. πŸ™‚ The signing up for email will make sure you can good my updates and help you feel like you’re not alone.

  37. Wow. Intimidating but potentially good motivation… I’m reading this and simultaneously nodding and hyperventilating. I’ve been working on trying to rebuild the stockpile that I decimated when my husband lost his job, but it’s HARD when he doesn’t have a job yet.

    Where do I even start? I can reorganize the closets (desperately overdue, since it’s all overflowing onto the counters, nothing ever gets put away properly!) and take an inventory of that and the two refrigerator/freezers. But meal planning… that’s scary stuff!!!!

  38. I have decided to try and reduce my budget to $100 a week. I am trying to shop for big items every three weeks and then buy fresh produce and milk every couple weeks.

  39. I am doing one right now. I am reducing my food bill to 200.00 a month for 3 people. I am one week away from payday and am living off what is in my pantry and freezer. Unfortunately the freezer contains chicken,chicken, chicken! But being the creative soul that I am I will make due! I will be making a roaster chicken with fresh herbs from my garden along with mashed potatoes and peas for a great Sunday meal. Then whats left gets turned into soup with whats left of my fresh veggies in the fridge. Tue I will make spaghetti and sauce with lentils. Wed will make rice and beans with baked chicken and salsa. Thursday I will make Matzo Ball soup and Friday it is PAYDAY! BUT I will be once again FRUGAL with groceries. I have made home made pizza this moth and hamburgers and ham. But chicken was on sale so I did stock up. Next month TURKEY,TURKEY, TURKEY!

  40. No I have not but I would like to…

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