Pantry Challenge Week 2 Done (Share Your Progress)

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Shopping your kitchen entails a little more cooking and creativity than you would normally employ. But, a Pantry Challenge can save you money.

We’re reached an impasse in the Pantry Challenge. This weekend, my 14yo said, “It seems like there’s nothing to eat but fruit and stuff you have to cook.”

I knew he was right without even looking. Friday’s lunch to take to the park was challenging, but I pulled it off by throwing together a quick salad for myself. The kids devoured sunbutter crackers and apples before we left the house. Shopping the kitchen is a little less fun, but I know it will save us money.

By Saturday evening, we were out of all yogurt, bread, tortillas, and crackers. But, we saved the day with baked potatoes, chips and salsa, and tamales from the freezer for snacks that afternoon. I guess we are more of a snacking family than I thought!

Even though my grocery total is low so far this month, apparently the shopping I did at Trader Joe’s wasn’t enough to last us a full week. So, while the freezer still has a fair amount of stuff, it’s all “stuff you have to cook.” Almost. On the list this week is to plan out lunches using what we have as well as to buy more of the aforementioned yogurt, bread, tortillas, and crackers. I don’t want anyone to hate this experience, especially if it’s not something we are doing out of true necessity.

In other news, we ate most meals at home. Hubs and I had a date night, and on another night we had Costco pizza. I wanted a break from “stuff you have to cook.” Hehe. You can check out my daily log to see what we’ve been eating.

As for goals? Here they are again:

Goal 1. Lower my budget.

We are certainly doing okay with the cash flow. I’ve spent $160.20 so far this month. I’m sure we’ll be under out regular range ($600-800) but we’ve still got 2 weeks left in the month, so I’m not going to count my chickens and make a bet on this month’s spending.

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

I’ve included the boys more in food prep, though I did not do a great job of assigning KP duty. Going to try that again this week and actually write their names down on the meal plan. My two bigger boys did learn how to microwave potatoes. This could signify that I will perpetually be out of potatoes. Only time will tell.

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

Even though I organized the deep freeze, it’s not yet empty. After I pulled the roast and a few other items for this week, there were still several sauces and containers of vegetables. But, clearing out stuff in the kitchen freezer should leave room for the deep freezer tenants to move temporarily by the end of the month. I *think* we’re in good shape.

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.

How’s your challenge going?

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  1. My goals for this week include cleaning and reorganizing the pantry and spice cupboard. I’m also cooking a turkey and so a lot of our meals for the week revolve around turkey. All in all, I’m very happy with the progress we’ve made during this challenge. I hope we can stick to our budget – that will be the biggest challenge.

  2. Jen Fitzpatrick says:

    I’ve been stocking up on non freezer essentials that are on sale right now. The other week I focused more on facial care stuff and cereal. (My crew seems to LOVE their cereal!!)

    I was able to defrost my big freezer sooner than expected, only because when I woke up yesterday, it was -2 outside. Problem solved! Loaded laundry baskets with food, took outside to deck and defrosted the freezer. Once I could put everything back in, I made sure it was nice and organized and realized that I have a lot of room for stuff. NOW if only I could keep it that way…………………. another challenge for myself!

    I will be working on a list of what I have in the freezer so I can make my meal planning a little easier.

  3. Last week went great for us. We only had to buy bread, eggs, & milk and even better than that, m’honey is the one who stopped to buy them. 🙂

    This week we’ll be having:
    Italian Dressing Chicken Spaghetti
    Liver & Onions with spinach or brussels sprouts
    Chicken & Dumplings, Mexican style (use strips of flour tortillas instead of dough) & butternut squash
    Stuffed Peppers with mashed potatoes & broccoli
    And either chili, or mussel bisque with turkey sandwiches

    I wont have to buy anything for any of these meals.
    Im the only one who eats breakfast on a daily basis, so I’ll have scrambled eggs with salsa, oatmeal, or a egg sausage scramble during the week.
    Also, I’ll be taking leftovers for lunches so I wont be needing to stop & buy anything for them.

    I will need to stop & pick up some milk, possibly bread, and eggs before the end of the week but that can be kept down to less than $10.00 for the week.

    • @KimH, I accidentally hit enter..
      Was also going to say, I have soups that I have canned or frozen in individual serving size bowls and jars. I also have tamales in the freezer so if I do need something else to take for breakfast or lunch, a couple tamales or a jar of homemade soup is a perfect lunch for me.

    • @KimH, Liver & Onions with brussels sprouts

      This is probably in the top 5 “meals where I dislike everything served” so I’m happy you’re eating it so I don’t have to. 🙂 We grew up eating liver and onions and there was no amount of bacon my mother could add that made it decent. Every one of us hated it, and to this day, nobody besides my mother will eat that meal again! Dad endured the liver, but even he put his foot down regarding the sprouts. LOL.

      • @Sandi, ROFL.. that is hilarious.. We love it, but I make chicken liver with onions.. Im not a fan much of beef liver, though there probably isnt any difference to you. 😉 We love it but I only make it about 3 or 4 times a year.. Enough that we get to enjoy it but not so often that we get sick of it. 😉

        • @KimH, I am laughing at this too as the other day I took my son out and two ladies ordered chicken liver omelets. One lady ordered it without the eggs and they ate it with sauerkraut. It was the weirdest thing I ever heard of!

  4. With only two people living at home, we have been very successful at keeping the weekly food cost low. I am anxious to see how low the food bill is today; shopping day for week 3. Our son eats with us about once a week, and I most appreciate dear son’s attitude. He commented, “I am looking forward to the cooking creations at the end of the month. Sometimes the unusual or unexpected is very tasty.” You can read more about my adventure at my blog.

  5. Hubs got on board for our menu planning and we did buy a short list to round out our meal plan, but we are still whittling away at the pantry and freezer, which feels great!

  6. I think we’re doing well. We have unanimously decided that we hate the crockpot, so I have learned that I need to be better about prepping meats before I freeze, even if it’s as simple as butterflying and slicing into tenderloins and freezing with the baggie of cereal breading. My biggest goal was to rotate and reduce stock. I am doing that. Five partially-consumed boxes of cereal polished off this week. Also had three unopened bags of craisins for some reason, so I made your mix and match muffins with craisins and white choc chips. Using up and cleaning out is going great, but the lack of variety while doing so seems to be the biggest challenge. Making some trail mixes this week to use up more of those darn craisins, three bags of pretzels, and some other snack-y odds and ends. Have three more pieces of meat to work through, so making steak fajitas this week and freezing individual portions for daddy and I. Turning some non-preferred juice into frozen smoothie pops with leftover frozen fruit odds and ends. It’s going well. Thanks for inspiring us!

  7. I too experienced the dread of all food options needing to be cooked from scratch and was really tired but I found some energy to make homemade chili con tofu with beans in between our 2 sledding sessions – we got snow in western wa!!!

    Last weeks meals were:
    Sun: chili con tofu with beans (might be my new sunday meal!)
    Mon: leftover meatloaf
    Tue: chinese sweet n sour balls (tofu) with rice (not a hit with my family but my mom liked them!)
    Wed: mini chicken pot pies – the best!
    Thu: pasta pesto with salad
    Fri: mix of leftovers
    Sat: spaghetti with alfredo sauce

    My plan for this week, jan 15
    Sun: chili con tofu with beans
    Mon: beef n cabbage
    Tue: “fried chicken” with potatoes, make pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce
    Wed: leftovers
    Thu: tofu fried rice, buy tofu
    Fri: neighbor party- pizza
    Sat: spaghetti with red sauce

  8. Still plugging away. We bought some Cheerios and Fiber One bars when we stopped at Costco for milk, but otherwise still working on that freezer. I made Drunken Beef the other day (beef and onions cooked in beer) then used leftovers for hoagie sandwiches made with frozen baguettes, and used more leftovers for beef stew that we are about to eat for dinner tonight (also using some produce that was getting a bit edgy). Frozen shrimp scampi was lunch on Saturday and today, and I mixed in some frozen broccoli. I have some pork thawing that will be chucked into the crockpot in the morning. I also pulled out some cooked turkey and will be making turkey chili on Tuesday. Chip, chip, chip…

  9. Again, I used this week to stock up on freebies/donation items and stuff I was low on. Spent about $50 total at three stores. Took advantage of the P&G sale at Kroger affiliate to stock up on paper towels, the $4 Filippo Berio olive oil at Safeway, & the 99 cent only to stock up on the packs of sugar free drink powders/crystal light we were close to being out of. I tackled the canned goods rack, the fridge was completely emptied and scrubbed out cept the top freezer as I need to empty a bit more out first. Now I just have the main pantry and 2nd pantry rack to organize which is getting easier as it empties out. Since the grab and eat snacks are almost gone, I took advantage of a bunch of cookie/brownie mixes and have been making them for my kids to snack on. Also, was able to get $.25 cent marshmallows on one of my trips so made some rice krispie treats.

    I am really enjoying this and while I may not be saving much money off of my budget, I’m going to be better organized and have been able to take advantage of some great sales for things I might have had to pay more for later.

    Thank you!

  10. I recall the time my then-teenage son wandered around the kitchen, peering in a full fridge and pantry complaining there was nothing to eat. I had just been to the store and we were well-stocked. When I said this he replied, “But all we have are ingredients.” Ha!

    We are doing well with our challenge but I’ve spent a lot more time in the kitchen. For instance, I made homemade hot dog buns this afternoon. Delicious and worth the time.

    You mention being out of yogurt. Have you considered making your own? I’ve been making it for several years and I’m sure it’s saved lots of money since I eat it most mornings.

    • I haven’t. I know folks love making their own yogurt. I just feel like my plate is already pretty full with other stuff. Someday….

      • When you have a little money to invest in kitchen equipment, I highly recommend a yogurt maker. I know it’s possible to make yogurt without but the process is practically fool-proof with one of these. I made a batch last night. I use ultra-pasteurized organic milk for yogurt which means I don’t even need to scald it first. Pour 4 cups in glass measuring cup, add one packet yogurt starter, stir and pour into the cute little jars that come with the maker. Plug it in and when I got up this morning…voila!…yogurt. Actual time spent making yogurt = less than 2 minutes.

  11. Corissa Davidson says:

    My goals were to 1 cut our grocery budget FAIL My hubby is a butcher and brought home meat that was marked down, he spent our usual monthly budget just on meat, that being said, when else am I going to get marinated tri tips for .99 a pound. So I’m not too heartbroken.
    2. Use the hidden ingredients in the back of the cupboard. Had to clean out the cupboards to find them, and pay my stupid tax, not enjoyable. While I was at it I took a suggestion from you and labeled everything which has made it so much easier for my 7 and 9 yr old to help with the cooking. I still have a few to use up but I think I’m doing well, and hubby says we should do this all the time, I’ve made some new keeper recipes.
    3 Organize my recipes. Yeah well I still have 2 weeks. They really shouldn’t take too long, but I’m procrastinating this one.

    Overall I’d say we are doing so so.

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