Organize for a Pantry Challenge (Week 1 Report)

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ย Organizing your food storage, taking an inventory, and making a plan for how to use what you have is key to a pantry challenge.

We’re a week into the pantry challenge. So far, so good. Nothing earth-shattering on the face of it — except for a very tasty Taco Cheeseburger. More on that later.

Instead, I’m working behind the scenes.ย I’m thinking outside the box this month, analyzing my weaknesses in kitchen storage and trouble shoot them. As I think through those things, I realize I can make some positive organizational shifts.

Here are some things I started doing last week and am continuing into this week to help me with the challenge:

1. Inventory

I took an inventory of what we have in the freezer and actually checked things off as I used them. My inventory has some very random things like 1/2 bag of peas. So, I’m going to need to get creative to use these things. I haven’t really made a dent in my list.

2. Fridge freezer = holding zone

I cleaned out the fridge freezer. I left it “empty” except for the smoothie drawer, the dessert shelf, and the ice pack drawer. Then, I moved into it the things for this week that will eventually need to be thawed.

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!

It seems like such a haul to go to the garage every couple days. But, if the fridge freezer is a temporary holding zone, that’s the perfect place for this kind of stuff. It will be so much easier to thaw different items if they are “right next door”.

3. 3×7 meal plan

I used to plan all three meals for every day for the entire week. I’m not sure why I quit. Laziness?

Moving back to this practice has really helped me be more intentional. It got a little shaky at the end of the week where I started moving things around. Life was busy!

Overall, it’s been a great habit to get back into. I’ve got this week’s meal plan set — watch for it tomorrow — and those frozen items moved to the fridge freezer.

4. Meal prep list

Last week I mapped out the different things I would need to do in order to follow through with my meal plan. Since I’d already created the meal plan, I knew that on Sunday I’d need to soak the beans for Monday’s chili. This was a great way to do advance planning. Throughout the week, I just looked at my list to see what tasks would need some effort on my part.

My cooking this past week wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but I had a plan and mostly stuck to it. This helped me to shop most effectively and to troubleshoot my biggest problem: laziness. Since I knew what needed to be done in advance — and didn’t need to figure it out in the moment — I was more apt to follow through with my plans.

How has the first week of the pantry challenge gone for you?

This month we’re eating down the pantry. Check out our family’s goals for the “Pantry Challenge” and see what we’re really eating every day here.

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  1. Lunchtime temptation to eat out is a huge problem in our house (for me, anyway – hubby doesn’t think it’s an issue at all!! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) So that’s one area we’ll be especially working on this week.

  2. Jessica S says:

    Frozen green peas- I love to defrost a pile for a last minute addition to garden salad. Make veggie risotto and add them at the end. Pot pie-like filling is a great way to use lots of frozen veggies!

  3. Week 1 was a success, I think. I cleared out two dozen bananas and a lot of buttermilk to make banana bread for the funeral home visitors. Also unloaded a ziti, half of my sweet potato stash, all of my spanish rice and tacos, and some garlic bread to stock my cousin’s freezer. While i was there, i sifted through their THREE freezers to consolidate and inventory for he and his son what all they had to eat. So, Jessica, you helped me help them as they try to move forward without mommy.

    I did a HUGE freezer and dry pantry inventory and sort before I left. Did my meal plan for the week on the way home, and I, like you, made a list of to-dos to make it happen. This week, I hope to clean out random odds and ends of baked goods from the freezer, use up a ridiculous amount of wild rice and dry cereal and crackers and granola bars, and prep ahead a LOT of baking mixes.

    During the school year, I always plan snack and supper each day. But, for some reason, I stopped doing it over the summer. So, this week, I am going to plan out lunch, tea/snack, and supper, including three brown bag suppers to eat poolside.

    • Jessica says:

      @Hollie, I’m just smiling from ear to ear that you were able to help them soooo much. It’s such a hard situation and yet you’re giving so graciously. Praise God.

  4. Jen Fitzpatrick says:

    OK, I am now giving myself a “whack” on the head as to why I didn’t think of a couple of these things!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh well, to move on and keep going! I think that when I get back from visiting my grandma this week, I will be starting to implement a couple of these things! We’ll see how that goes and how long I can keep at it……………….At least I know that YOU will succeed at it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. The longer I’m subscribed to your blogs, the more I learn from them and like them. So thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚
    We’re not in a pantry challenge right now, or a no-spend month, but our cooking lives have changed a lot lately. My husband’s work schedule changed immensely, so for the first time in 7+ years, I’m completely responsible for all the cooking. It’s intimidating! So I’m starting slowly – yesterday I made two big batches of food, and today I’ll make pizza, and those will last us most of the week. Then we’ll eat some freezer food and maybe some (gasp) store-bought hummus and yogurt. Yes, I could make them, but I’d get overwhelmed, and a happy wife and store-bought food is better than the opposite.
    But yes, thank you for what you do.

  6. I cleaned out my freezers this week too and made a nice list of what was in there. I am slowly moving through the list…although several things like soup will have to wait for cooler weather…my husband just doesn’t want to eat soup when it’s over 100 outside!

  7. I just found your site via a link and this idea has definetly come at a good time. My husband hunts so at some point every fall we get a LOT of meat, so i usually start eating up freezer food in September but after a few big camping trips & spending more than i wanted i think i’ll start earlier this year and join even if its a little late ๐Ÿ™‚ we can always go till mid-August. time to get creative. Thanks will be following you now. Great blog

  8. I took inventory of our pantry and about half of the freezer and began planning meals for the week with it. I’m going to try a crockpot lasagna tonight (another good way to use up some partial bags of frozen veggies). I made a trip to the farmer’s market 4 days ago for produce, and other than that, we haven’t gone to the grocery store in over a week! (It’s about time to go for a few staples, though.)

    So far, I’m just planning dinners around here, but we have a smaller family that you do. And we often eat the same (or similar) things for breakfast and lunches each weekday. (Weekends are usually leftovers.)

    I did create a fruit and veggies chart for my preschooler so that he can have a visual aid of what he eats and I can stay intentional about making sure he eats at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day! So far, we love it!

    Anyone have any ideas of health(ier) meals I can use cream of mushroom soup with? Or pineapple chunks? (Preferably not together in the same recipe. Ew.)

    Thanks for this challenge, Jessica!

    • Jessica says:

      @Caroline, love the idea of the visual chart. I would probably make cheesy potatoes with the canned soup. You can even do it in the slow cooker. And pineapple is great in smoothies, but my kids would probably just like to eat it plain.

      • @Jessica, I ended up making a potato soup in the slow cooker with one of those cans of cream of mushroom soup. It was delicious! Thanks for spurring on the idea.

        I used another can and diluted it with water to substitute it for broth in a veggie potpie recipe in the slow cooker. I was pleased with the results!

  9. Harriet says:

    Your fridge-freezer holding zone is a WONDERFUL idea!

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