Pantry Challenge Week 1 Done (Share Your Progress!)

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Challenging yourself to “shop the pantry” is a great way to make the most of what you have. Today we’re sharing our progress during Week 1.

The first week of the Pantry Challenge is behind us! Hopefully, you’ve been able to stick to your resolve and plug away at your goals for the new year.

One of the challenges of the Pantry Challenge is that typically it involves more than just one individual. Many of us are not only cooking for ourselves, but for other family members or roommates. As such, there are many appetites to accommodate and also other shoppers to contend with for the grocery budget. I feel ya.

So, if things didn’t go exactly according to your plan, hang in there! There are still three weeks in the month. So keep on keeping on.

You can check out my daily log to see what we’ve been eating. Where applicable, I’ve tried to link to recipes that I used as well as techniques I employed to put together seemingly mismatched ingredients. Eggplant in chili? Oh yeah, baby. And no one was the wiser!

As for my goals, let me see…. how did last week compare with my original intentions?

Goal 1. Lower my budget.

Saturday I shared my grocery shopping trips. I spent a total of $64.40 out of pocket and got a “free” grocery trip to Costco.

I spent almost $100 less than we normally spend in a week. However, as I mentioned before, there are three more weeks in the month, so who knows how this will pan out? Too early in the game to predict the final score. But, the first quarter has gone well.

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

I have six children, aged 14, 11, 9, 7, 5, and 3. Each child seven and older has a regular kitchen job, including: emptying the dishwasher, loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, wiping the counters, clearing and wiping the table.

On a good day, they can get the kitchen cleaned up on their own, save the pots and pans which I typically do as well as any dishes that don’t fit in the washer. (Yes, sometimes we exceed the capacity of our dishwasher, usually when we try to combine loads from two different meals.) As I type this, I realize that it’s time to teach some folks how to scrub pots and pans.

So, what else did I do to help make my kids more independent?

  • FishBoy7 helped me make muffins one morning. We had to be stealth so that the younger kids didn’t clamor to help and steal his job.
  • I started a binder of recipes that my family can access. In order to share ownership, I asked FishBoy11 to organize the printed recipes and create the dividers.
  • I enlisted children to form their own pizza dough and add their own toppings on pizza night.

Obviously, I have a lot to do in letting go of control in the kitchen. In that vein, I’m setting specific goals for next week and assigning at least one meal to each child to help prepare.

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

I am nowhere close to having the freezers cleaned out. However, we used several containers of vegetables, cooked pork, marinated chicken, and tamales. This past weekend I spent some time organizing that nightmare of a freezer pictured. More on that later. And I had to adjust my week’s meal plan accordingly, since my original mental inventory did not match up perfectly with reality. Ahem.

So far, so good.

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’ll share updates here on GoodCheapEats. What works, what doesn’t. The challenge officially ends on January 31st.

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.

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  1. It wasn’t a totally successful week here, with eating out one night and takeaway another. I cooked easy meals that used more fresh than pantry/frozen ingredients. At least I’ve done an inventory and know what I’ve got now. Thanks for the continued motivation!

  2. We stumbled along here some too. I’m trying to get our grocery bill around $100/week (we are a family of 4 but I’ve found that the $100 mark is about as low as it’ll get on a regular basis) but this week I think I only spent around $60. I browsed our sale ads and looks this this week is FINALLY a good one for Publix & Kroger, plus we rejoined BJ’s so I may make a trip there at the beginning of next week…but I AM shopping my pantry first. This week’s goal is to make some muffins & breads to stretch out our breakfast & snacks 🙂

  3. Good job! We’re doing well. There was a big Costco trip which was really about fresh stuff that we were OUT of. And it will last quite some time but for the milk [already nearly out again LOL]

    I’m anticipating a good savings this month, plus a month of great meals using what’s on hand.

    I’ve now included in my weekly menu plan a ‘defrost’ line so I can remember to take out what’s needed for the next day or two!

    Also we’re doing pretty well with our new vegetarian in the house – which means more complicated meal planning as we don’t all wish to go vegetarian! I do try to do meatless or fish [apparently fish are not cute enough to want to save] at least 2 nights a week.

  4. Things are going pretty well.
    my challenge is to use what we already have and build up a pantry so that we have stock and I don’t need to shop every day.

  5. I must say I am starting a week late, but was really happy yesterday with making dinner out of items that were near the end of their freezer life. They may have been on the verge of freezer burn, but still made for a tasty dinner. (Garlic makes everything better) The best part of all was when my hubby showed me a picture he had taken of the items in the fridge/freezer we keep in his barn. There is enough items for nearly a week of dinner – that I had completely forgotten about!!! After losing a fair amount of meat due to a freezer failure 3 weeks ago, it was such a blessing. So this week starts our week 1, so I hope I can save some money so when I find some great deals I can begin to restock (and pay down some debt).
    Thanks for the challenge and helping us see the potential that our pantries hold. Buying food and letting it waste away is a horrible habit that so many of us have.

    • How great that you found some frozen assets! 😉 And yes, American prosperity is a blessing and a curse sometimes.

  6. Since we had quite a bit of food leftover after Christmas, I have only grocery shopped once in the last 19 or so days. Officially, we began our pantry challenge on December 26 and I have spent only $31.13 since that day. I completely inventoried freezers and pantry so I could create a clear list of available food. I plan my meals for the week (have done this for more years than I want to count) and it helps tremendously.
    There are only two of us, so I expect we will save quite a bit this month, and the ultimate goal is to reduce the monthly grocery bill permanently.

  7. Thanks for this challenge – a good month for it, after all the expenses of December!

  8. I did really well. Haven’t shopped at all in 10 days, but will have to make a trip today to get our 8 gal of milk and 10 doz eggs, but that will only be 26, so I will still be well under my goal of 60$. Will make a trip to sprout’s on Wednesday, double ad day, to get produce for the week. Normally spend about 25$ there, so we will still be under budget. That will bring my 2 week total to 360$. Normally we would be about 600 and we would have eaten out. I’m happy with our progress.

  9. We’ve done well.. I had to get milk one day and m’honey stopped to pick up milk, bread, & egss once as well. Other than that, we’ve not been anywhere near a store.
    I will need to stop to get a few staples soon though.. I buy them in bulk and they last a good long time.. except for now. Stock up time. 😉

  10. well I did make all that was on my menu but I spent more than I had planned on spending on our groceries. There were really good deals on meat that I just couldn’t pass up since our meat inventory consisted on mainly ground beef. But all in all we are doing okay since the extra costs were on things we needed and not on junk. Hoping next week’s grocery bill is a lot less now that we got the meat out of the way.

  11. Just started on Saturday, but it was great to do an inventory of my pantry. Learned a few things about what I WON’T be buying anymore! I’m also using the “savings” from eating from the pantry to re-stock up in the areas I’m “weak” and missing things. That went well this week. I was able to purchase our “needs” for about $15 so I used the rest to stock up on some great sales. I’m sure it will get tougher to eat what we’ve got as the month goes on though, so we’ll see!

  12. breanna b says:

    My goal was simple. Don’t eat out! we were eating out 3-4 times a week… we’ve only eaten out once since Thursday, and I don’t plan on quitting now!I shopped for a weeks worth of food and made a meal plan. We skipped a dinner so I likely have enough food to not shop til thursday! YAY!!!

  13. Well done! I like how you’re encouraging independence in the kitchen. I need to be more intentional about doing that.

  14. Last week I bought $67 worth of groceries, the majority of which were produce. This week I spent $45 at BJ’s (like Costco) but got stuff we needed and had run out of (lunchmeat, milk, etc.). I have a monthly idea of spending $200 this week but I’m thinking that wasn’t realistic. Time will tell. Our pantry and freezer is still pretty stuffed. I need to get creative!

  15. Here is my blogpost about it… we’re doing ok!

    Keep up the good work and thanks for being such a good motivator.

  16. Last week was easy because my husband was out of town and I don’t cook “real” meals for just me and the kids. I found three boxes of bisquick so I’ll be finding ways to use that as well as all the bananas, turkey, and ham. I cooked one of my turkeys on Saturday and we had turkey sandwiches for lunch on Sunday. I was very tempted to order pizza on Friday but resisted and made Hamburger Helper instead. I have a bunch of boxes of that from getting it for 30cents a box a few months ago. (I like to have it on hand for when a quick meal is needed or my husband has to cook.) This week we have a birthday in the house so things might get a little off. I spent $20 on groceries last week but already $25 this week. My goal is $25 a week. 🙁

    • @Kelly, On the side of the Bisquick box is a really good recipe for coated chicken tenders. My kids really like them. sometimes we do biscuits and eggs as breakfast for lunch too.

  17. The leftovers in the refrigerator from having company in town are mostly gone, now we’re starting on the freezer and the pantry.

  18. We’ve been doing great. We had a birthday meal and a birthday party, so those we’re both planned eating outs. I cook for a friend every week who is battling pancreatic cancer. If she has a taste for something, as miserable as she feels, I make it…no matter what. So, I did choose to purchase a few things rather than making do for that, but we are rifling through frozen meat and baked goods and using uo LOTS of pantry items for school lunches.

  19. while I have noticed that I actually need to restock my freezer, this has been an excellent idea to make me evaluate what’s hiding in the pantry. today I pulled out a box of Jiffy corn bread mix and a bag of stuffing cubes that didn’t get used on Thanksgiving. also a jar of gravy. I have a great recipe for a casserole with the stuffing, corn bread, chicken, celery onions, a can of cream of chicken soup and the gravy on top. I didn’t say it was healthy (lots of sodium), but tasty and uses up a lot of pantry items.
    later in the week I’ll pull out that jar of enchilada sauce and one of many cans of black beans. also took a pork roast out of the freezer to put on the crock pot with some onions and one of my stockpiled jars of bar b que sauce. Makes yummy sandwiches. I’m enjoying shopping in my own pantry.

  20. Week one went well! I only shopped once at my local Kroger affiliate because $1.50 a bag Kraft cheese was too good to not stock up on after coupons. I am getting 8 more bags tomorrow before the sale ends with the last of my coupons. I grabbed a few freebies in H&B for donations. We are still ordering our produce basket each week. I only had to buy milk otherwise. I used the $$ I would usually spend to take advantage of sales to stock up on trash bags, toilet paper and ink!

  21. So far, so good. I am taking it slowly, so my husband doesn’t complain about my creativity. But, I am planning on taking the challenge for two months to really clean out the pantry and freezers. I inventoried and re-arranged the pantry. The kitchen freezer is next. Thanks for the motivation.

  22. Doing okay here. I find that if I just avoid the stores as much as possible, things are doable. I know that may sound like a no brainer, but somehow, I can go to the store with only 5 things on my list and come home with 15. Maybe that’s the goal I need to work on next 🙂 My goal is to come in around $250 for the month, with is about half our monthly spending. But I’m getting pretty close to $200 already and I’ve got 3 weeks left! Gotta get creative…and learn to stick to that list.

  23. Leftovers out of the fridge and 3 meals from the freezer (which created more leftovers in the fridge) … doing well! Only groceries I purchased were some eggnog containers before they disappear for the year. Two went in the fridge, two went into the freezer. I’ll need more lettuce and milk soon, but am otherwise not even considering going to the store. I’m afraid to even look at the sale paper as I don’t want to get sucked in and I’m debating about whether I really need anything they might be offering, no matter how good the sale.

  24. Jen Fitzpatrick says:

    I can’t say that it has been a successful week for clearing out the pantry, but the freezer is doing well. My goals are to clear it out so that I can defrost it and start all over again with stocking it up. Since I’m not going to be buying too much for the freezer, I want to use that money to stock up on more pantry items, if the price is right, or I’m just out of it and it is a need! I need to go in and rotate stock in the pantry and closet as well.

  25. Corissa Davidson says:

    Well I didn’t really set defined goals, but I was trying to not eat out, eat those things hidden in the cupboard that I avoid, and see if its possible to cut our grocery budget at all *$50 a week for family of 6*. We didn’t eat out so yay for week 1. We did eat some of the things I’ve been avoiding, and I tackled some recipes I’ve been meaning to try. Yay. I was not able to cut our grocery budget however. Bummer but I’m kinda expecting that… I think this week I will define goals a little better and organize my recipes.

  26. Angela Shrader says:

    First week went great! Looking forward to week 2!

  27. Week one went great for me! I spent only $5.00 on bread and milk! This week might be harder and I will be shopping today for some fresh produce, but way under budget!

  28. Week 1-2 a success! Will be cleaning out the pantry this afternoon to see if weeks 3-4 can be just as successful!

  29. I am feeling great! I was going to stop by the grocery for hamburger buns TODAY, and then remembered i had some sourdough french-dip type rolls in my freezer that would work just as well, and probably be a fun way to eat burgers, too. My shopping trip earlier this week consisted of fresh fruits and veggies, and i stayed away from everything else. I am also having fun shopping my house for some creative lunch ideas for me, too. Nused a can of tuna and some romain and made a tuna wrap with spinach tortillas from the freezer.

  30. Pantry ate last week and it was wonderful. Even was able to incoperate a few newish meals. This week went well also. I was out of meat, most all dairy, fruits and snacks. So I stocked up with coupon deals! Got lots of snacky items at a steal! Some even free. I plan to make more items from scratch for snacks. I just got to make time. I was able to get bone in chicken breast on markdown, they ended up being 50%off. One is in the frezer and the other went into the slow cooker. Ground beef was cooked in the slow cooker when I came home from the store. Never did it before and it turned out great! Pantry challenge! LOVING IT!

  31. DH is out of town this week…and we have “fun” meals while he’s gone…

    Burgers/fries (pantry/freezer)
    mac and cheese
    eggs and bacon with caramel rolls
    orange chicken/stir fry rice (TJ’s and pantry)

    Made a trip to TJ’s and got more hamburger and tomorrow I’m stocking up on the pre-cooked sausage (preschooler’s favorite breakfast) so that will raise the bill but lower it over the course of the month. Just have to buy eggs, bread, and milk.

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