Pantry Challenge Finale

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Shopping your kitchen can save you money and be a great way to rotate the ingredients you keep on hand.

Stick a fork in me; I’m done!

Oh yes, I did my four weeks of pantry challenge. And it was good. I cleaned out the freezer and thawed that baby out. I worked through our stock on hand, shopping my kitchen before heading out for more. I shaved a good couple hundred dollars off our grocery budget. And I even started some baby steps toward making my boys more independent in the kitchen.

But, I am happy to be done. Yes, yes, I am.

It’s not that it was all that difficult. Truly, it wasn’t. But, it was a little more work than normal. And while January was a sleepy month, trying to get my bearings on school and daily schedules, I know that we can’t move quite so slowly in the months to come.

Life is picking up speed. We’ve got two boys playing hockey this season — and possibly a husband, too. We’ve got school and a new school schedule. I’ve got writing projects to tackle. And life is just busy.

That said, I’m so thankful for having given the pantry, fridge, and freezer a good once over. This week I’m tackling a big freezer cooking session and going to refill the deep freezer. But, for this week, I’m hoping to chip away at those little odds and ends that I found in the fridge freezer when I finally stopped to look. We’ve got a few soups, some fruit, vegetables from the produce box, and a few sauces. I can work those meals into the coming days so that we really are rotating stock.

Overall, my three goals were accomplished this month:

  1. Spend less on groceries. (See my final grocery total here.)
  2. Empty and defrost the freezer in the garage.
  3. Begin teaching my boys to cook.

The curious can see what kind of meals we ate by shopping our kitchen first over here. Don’t forget to hop on by these blogs and see how they made this Pantry Challenge work for them:

How did the Challenge go for YOU?

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  1. I think you did great in meeting your goals for this challenge!

    I am continuing on! I have saved some money [almost $100 from our regular tally] and survived the loss of one fridge. My big freezer is still crammed full though, and with some not so useful things. SO I’m going to make them all earn their keep LOL.

    I’ve also learned that I no longer need to buy bread. Ever. I’d rather bake it. We don’t eat enough sandwiches to justify the space it takes up in the freezer!

    Ah, knowledge is power.

  2. I’m also done. I can’t wait to hit the Amish bulk food store this week and get some supplies to stock my kitchen. I especially need oil. I can’t believe I made it two weeks without oil. That’s dedication! I learned some fun things this past month. Thanks again for the inspiration to make it happen.

  3. In Ohio unlike CA. (i’m jealous) the high temp today is 30ish degrees. Which means it will be easier to clean out my freezer – which i am looking forward to – i spent less for my groceries this month but my freezer still seems too full and has never been defrosted. I love your idea of baskets in the freezer because, in mine everything is just thrown in there and i cannot find anything? I think those freezers have some design issues? You are a blessing!

  4. You did a great job meeting your goals! Thanks so much for the inspiration for this challenge. I got my pantry organization under control with this challenge and it looks so much better.

  5. We spent 35% less than normal on groceries–and that included cereal and pasta stock up. The freezer is still packed, so I’m going to try to continue on with the challenge for another month.

  6. I came in $75 under budget and I managed to stockpile some breakfast sausage, spiral cut ham and a bunch of gluten free stuff for my daughter. Most of the food that is in the freezer I put there in the last month. I also managed to use up some stuff that had been in the pantry for awhile and clean/organize the pantry.

  7. Your pantry challenge inspired me. We spent about $400 less than usual eating what we had. It got us back into the habit of baking snacks instead of buying them–a good thing. We did stop and buy food when we normally would have had something from the grocery store a few times, so we could have done better with that. I did discover that I tend to buy fish and not eat it as we found lots of packages of fish in the freezer. Learned lots–thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Thanks for hosting this challenge! I saved almost $120 this month! My family has actually eaten better, they didn’t suffer that’s for sure! I made more interesting meals and challanged myself a bit more. I think we have a few more new meal ideas now. (Last night I made homemade guacamole and decided on cheeseburger quesadilla’s!)
    I think I’m going to try and go another week or two, since I still have a lot of items left to go through. I might take this week off, since 93% gr beef is on sale this week (I need about 12 pounds). So no dent in the budget reduction this week.
    Feels good to start the year off fresh!

    • @Sarah, great job on what you accomplished. And cheeseburger quesadillas has me fascinated. How do you make that?

      • @Jessica,
        I browned up some ground beef with red onion, added cumin and chili powder (to taste). Then I put it on a tortilla, sprinkled lots of cheese, folded it in half and browned both sides in a skillet until cheese is melted. Served with sour cream, guacamole, green onion, and salsa.

  9. I also can go another week or two. My pantry is HUGE and in Dec. our college graduate moved home with all of her stockpile from her college apartment. We had/have ample supplies!
    Funny story: tonight my husband was packing his lunch for tomorrow. We had thawed out some smoked pulled pork and he was going to put BBQ on it and make sandwiches. NO BBQ SAUCE! I said, “So make some.” He said, “Make BBQ Sauce?!?!” So I got out the cookbook, found him a recipe, and he proceeded to make up some very good sauce 🙂 See! Old dogs can learn new tricks.

  10. Christine A says:

    Well, I certainly learned A LOT about myself and our family spending and eating habits! I consider this a success in so many ways:

    #1 – I actually participated!!! Yay me! We pretty much stuck to our plan the first two weeks….by the third week, I was starting to lose my steam. A last minute 3 day business trip didn’t help the cause, either! But, we recovered…somewhat, at the end of the month.
    #2 – In the month of January, our overall food spend was slashed by nearly 50%…and could have cut even more!!! Oh my! We spend WAY too much on food in this house! Includes eating out, take out, and groceries. I knew this was the case but never wanted to take the time to face reality. I am now more conscience about what I spend $$$ on food!
    #3 – I was able to showcase my cooking talents!!! Well, maybe not showcase….and not sure I would consider cooking one of my “talents”…but I cooked more this month then I ever do and I got to be creative! It was fun and felt good to make the effort — even if my kids would not try the meal!

    Areas of Opportunity:
    1.) Waste Less – We ended up wasting some food that did not need to be wasted. I am not sure if I need to be more conscience of portion size (cook for 2 vs 4) or just plan out the meals better and incorporate freezer cooking. I found myself trying to figure out if I could freeze the leftovers, still. I need to come up to speed on the freezer rules in general!
    2.) Handling my picky little eaters – My kids would not even try what I made for dinner some nights because it was not on their limited list of items (pasta, chicken, pb&j, pizza). How do you get your kids to try new things without wasting??? I guess their taste buds will change as they get older!

    Thanks again for hosting this challenge!

    • @Christine A, this comment made me so happy! I’m so glad you joined in — and that it was so fruitful! Yeah!

      As for getting kids to eat. I think it’s a question of consistency (you must try everything) and making sure there are enough things they do like on their plate. Also, having them help cook it sometimes helps.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I was looking for a link to the recipe for snickerdoodle bars and I can’t seem to find it. Do you have a recipe for them?

  12. Our family did really well with the Pantry Challenge. We slashed our food bill and I still have lots of frozen items in the fridge to go through. Many of the meals I prepared made enough for multiple days. There were a few nights that my son didn’t like what we were having but there were always alternatives in the pantry (and at nearly 16 he is old enough to make his own dinner). I am still planning on keeping it simple in the upcoming months. Thanks for the inspiration

    • @Dana, so glad it went well for you. I’m coming upon those choppy waters myself of an older child bucking the system I’ve so carefully crafted. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Sorry that it took me so long to get to this. We were successful. I rotated all meat freezer sock and all homemade baked goods freezer stock. I purchased (on sale) and prepped as we went. I do cook for a friend who is battling cancer, so I didn’t count those purchases and items in my plan because gosh darn it if something tasted or sounded good to her, I was gonna make, hang the cost and plan! Even with that though, I accomplished my two goals of rotating stock and prepping more ahead.

    Having a huge baking mix prep today. I honestly don’t know how you do it with six to feed, four of them boys. I only have four to feed, one of them a boy, and my oldest is only eight, and i already feel like all I do is mix and cook and freeze. Repeat.

    Thanks for the challenge. It felt long, but the feeling I have now that it’s done was worth the drudgery!

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