Grocery Geek: Final Week, Pantry Challenge

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While a Pantry Challenge can save money on food costs, it can stretch you in terms of other resources, namely time and effort, depending on the contents of your pantry.

I must confess, I’m so excited to see the end of this final week of the Pantry Challenge. It’s been good, to be sure. I think we saved some cash. And we used up some things that I might have continued to ignore. But, I’m done.

On Thursday Thaw Out, I was able to empty the deep freeze and place all the contents into the refrigerator freezer. It’s a tight squeeze, but it works. I even let the kids eat Christmas cookies for breakfast one morning and then eat all the ice cream they wanted for dessert that night. I myself put gelato in my morning coffee because we were out of cream.

So, this is the final report on my pantry challenge shopping. Next week is more February than January and with a big freezer cooking session on Monday, I’m counting January done.

So, here’s how we ended the Challenge at our house:

A trip to Ralphs: Ralphs is typically my clearance/sales stop. I found chicken and mushrooms on markdown as well as hot dogs and chicken breast on sale. I didn’t want to completely empty our reserves and then miss chicken sales for the next six weeks. I picked up a few odds and ends: milk, apple cider vinegar (for the boys’ shampoo), flour, sugar, cream, cilantro, and pepperoni. See? random.

I spent $55.00

Stop at Trader Joe’s: I picked up some of our regular staples like rice cakes, yogurt, bread, vitamins, and cheese as well as some snacky things and raclette!

Total spent: $55.53

Our produce box: The produce pickup was a little sparse compared to previous weeks. I think it’s the lull of the season, as far as California is concerned. There were a few rutabagas in the box as well, but I gave those back. We are maxed out on the turnips and rutabagas.

But, we’ll figure out something to do with that daikon radish! Holy root veggies, Batman! I have a feeling that I’ll be supplementing with some fresh fruit next week though. Those oranges will not last long around here.

Total spent $37.80

So, after four weeks of shopping our kitchen and then shopping elsewhere, I spent a total of $446.33 for the month. Typically I spend between $600 and 800 each month depending on the sales and what stocking up I do. Obviously, this was a significant savings.

As I scroll through some of the purchases over the last month, I know that there were plenty of “extras” thrown in like chips and special cheeses. If push came to shove, we could probably reduce our grocery spending more if we had to. I find that good to know.

I also know that I still have several packages of meat, beans, and grains left in my stores, so it’s possible that I could continue this challenge into next month. Gonna have to think on that one.

Total Spent in January: $446.33

Come back on Monday when we talk about how the Pantry Challenge ended as well as goals achieved.

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  1. I went to Costco yesterday to save $5 on a crock pot set & spent $135.. lol.. Only about $25-$30 of it was grocery, so that was good.. Im glad I went anyways.
    All told, I spent probably $130 on groceries in January and a good part of that was for 6-3# bags of chicken breasts that were on sale, I bought so I could stock up & can them. Couldnt beat the prices and like you, I wasnt going to wait for another 6 weeks to stock up on chicken breasts.

    This challenge really helped me this month and I appreciate you hosting it.

  2. Results of our challenge: There is actually room in the fridge/freezer! Actually quite a lot, and we are super proud of that. We have cycled through most all the older stuff, and have focused on buying healthy unprocessed foods. I While we were really focused on the fresh foods, we still have a lot of work to do in the pantry area. We have cut back on buying fresh fruit a bit (we were buying somewhere near 30 bucks a week of fresh fruit for our 3 yo & 1 yo) and are making sure we get into the canned fruit too (primarily mandarin oranges, pineapple, and peaches, all in juice). This cut our budget a lot and made things easier. I have also focused on using EVERYTHING. Baby doesn’t eat his banana, throw it in the fruit bag in the freezer. Kids don’t finish apples? Pare them down, throw it in the fruit bag. Great for baking or smoothies. I also did that with the drained juice from diced tomatoes, and used it to thin tomato sauce for last night’s meatloaf muffins.

  3. Brandy I like your idea of using the uneaten fruit in baking or smoothies! Why haven’t I thought of that?! I know I throw away a good bit.

    I’m not sure we spent any less this month. But I did have the plan in the back of my head to use all the “junk” stuff we’d bought over the holidays and start replacing them with better things….like boxed pancake mix, canned cinnamon rolls, etc. We also got a BJ’s membership and I am trying to shift to shopping there every other week and then filling in at Kroger or Publix will the stuff I can’t find at BJ’s (like, organic canned black beans.) Hubby wants me to use more coupons, and I feel like I should with household stuff, but I’ve found that I’m not even cutting that much out of the inserts by the time you flip through the junky stuff.

    Anyway-I think our total was $475, and that should get us into the next week and a half or so, too. I’d like to get down to $400/month because there are only 4 of us, but I’m ok with spending a little more on organic stuff that we use frequently, (like, bagged frozen spinach & berries for my smoothies), fresh produce, and non-hormone infused meat. I found it to be $4/lb at BJ’s, which I think is a steal considering ground chuck at Kroger is $2.99 on sale.

    This concludes the novel. 🙂

    • @Julie, coupons are definitely not what they used to be. I’m finding that I can keep to our same budget buying organic “ingredients” and making my own. A little more time, but better diet. My kids miss the cold cereal, but I can’t get it for FREE like I used to, anyway.

    • @Julie, I realized the same thing! I can’t believe how much I have saved over the last couple weeks! What a savings :). We are also replacing our not as healthy foods, reducing grocery, and increasing Costco shopping as we increasingly get closer to our “whole foods” goals. Speaking of which, I go about 1x a month to Whole Foods. Awesome coupon deals on basics (including stuff like dry beans and lentils). My biggest challenge is changing my 3yo’s taste buds!

  4. You could use that daikon in a daikon carrot pickle. I could eat the stuff straight, but it’s great in salads and on sandwiches too.

  5. Love, love, love TJ’s!!! Never tried their rice cakes…maybe next time. I buy their Organic Creamy Tomato Soup {which is milk-free}…which is great with grilled {rice slices} cheese sandwiches.

    I did good until this week. We are almost completely out of everything…so I’m going shopping later today. Total spent in January for me: $189.77 {which includes some non-food items, like laundry soap and dishwasher soup. =)

  6. I second the pickled radish idea. I’m sure you can recipes online [,] I’m sure there are recipes for Korean-style pickled vegetables. Use the pickled radish on noddle bowls or inside of wraps…

  7. AllieZirkle says:

    Holy squash batman LOL we’ve transitioned our shopping to Wedensdays, the best produce prices of the week are then and can be price matched at one store. Our budget for the six of us is around $60 for the week plus $70/month for chicken from Zaycon.

    One interesting thing through this pantry challenge is the solidifying of what we do eat and what my family will tolerate. My family is patient and willing to try new things. They are fine with two veggies on the side rather than a carb & veggie. (BBQd chicken & grilled veggies & salad for dinner or scrambled egg tacos with fresh salsa for breakfast.) new recipes are reserved for lunch and once approved, served for dinner on a different night (to make it easy on dad to try new recipes!).

    Fun times!!!

  8. Per a Quicken report, last year’s groceries averaged from the whole year were $215/month. That is just food, not HBA and paper products. That actually sounds a little high to me considering there are only two of us. Anyway, this month – not counting the eggnog I bought at the beginning of the month before it disappeared for the year – I spent $75. We even went out to eat twice but used gift cards so no out of pocket expense. I think all I bought were some mixed nuts, a Costco-sized box of Fiber One bars, some Cheerios, a bag of onions, and a couple gallons of milk. We used up the fresh produce from the holidays until a) it was gone or b) it fed the compost (oops) and then I just opted not to go get more for now. I have been entirely working on the frozen stuff.There is entirely too much food in the freezer to justify purchasing anything. I could easily feed us with existing food for the next 6 weeks until whatever is on sale comes around again, and that is just excessive. That doesn’t even count the pantry foods, which are thankfully in smaller quantities as I don’t have the cabinet space in which to store them. A dent has been made, but I’m going to carry on for Feb as well. I’ll probably continue into March at this rate!

    • @Sandi, I think I’m going to continue into February too, not sure about March yet, but probably. We haven’t spent that much less, but that may be because DH’s work is seasonal and roads have been bad so he has been along on grocery trips and adding stuff to the cart. I hope I will be able to go on my own in February and spend a lot less while I try to make a bigger dent

  9. Well, I didn’t really do the pantry challenge in the detailed way that you did, but you gave me the reminder to shop my pantry first, and I’ve been doing that all month. It is something I need to do on an ongoing basis. Since doing that, I’ve definitely noticed smaller grocery costs. In fact, I really haven’t made any big grocery trips this month, just a quick fill-in-the-missing-staples trips, such as milk. Thanks for the good reminder. Also–I just got the Mireille Guilano book and have been reading it. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I studied in France too, and when this book came out, I thought about reading it but never did–so thanks for that suggestion.

  10. Also, you mention the vinegar for shampoo. What’s that about? I just did a search in the search box and nothing else came up about shampoo. I was just reading on Simple Mom about her baking soda shampoo.

    • @Stacy, yes, it’s the ‘poo free thing. The boys and I realized that that might be a good route for them. So, I needed apple cider vinegar as well as baking soda. Can’t remember if it’s in her post or in One Bite at a Time.

      • @Jessica, After writing here, I read more about it on Simple Mom. I think it’s interesting, but probably not for me. My hair has issues. 🙂 I want to check out the refried beans post. I made a slow cooker version last year sometime and I did like it but haven’t done it again.

  11. I believe I spent around $600 although I was hoping to spend $400. It was eye opening for me – I didn’t buy a lot of extra snack food, but shopped mainly at Aldi since my lists were short. Although $600 sounds like so much to me, I have to remember that I fed 6 people on that budget, with very few times eating out. I do plan to continue this challenge next month since it has fewer days and see if I can get the cost down more!

  12. @Stacy, I’m also here to find out about the shampoo.

    Wanted to let you know that I have been making your “re fried ” beans for taco night. One night I wasn’t prepared and used a can of re fried beans and my son (who hardly eats anything and is very picky) was wondering where the good beans were 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!

  13. I use a lot of daikon in my cooking. In fact, I’ve found it to be an excellent substitute for potato in soups or stews. Once cooked, it loses that peppery taste of radish. Also, it doesn’t go mushy like potatoes do but rather keeps its shape and texture. It’s also delightful eaten raw, dipped in hummus or another family favorite dip.

    Give it a try. It’s a lovely, healthful vegetable.

  14. Stephanie says:

    I am going to get going on my pantry challenge this month. It has been a crazy month but we have some goals set for this year and I know if I can cut down our grocery budget, we will be able to make these goals much easier. I start a new job on Monday too, so I think it would be a great time to start things fresh.

    I cleaned out the deep freezer today and I am going to work on the pantry tomorrow. Friday I am going to be working on the fridge, small freezer and cabinets. As I’ve been doing it, I started an inventory to make it easier to know what I have on hand.

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