Summer 2013 Pantry Challenge: Prologue

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Get ready to save money on groceries with a pantry challenge. Eating down the contents of your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards is a great way to save on food costs.

freezer prior to challenge

Even though it doesn’t “officially” start until tomorrow, I’ve been gearing up for the Pantry Challenge all week. I’ve curbed spending so as not to invalidate whatever I save during the two week challenge, cleaned out the pantry and cupboards, talked to the kids about prioritizing and communicating their requests, and today I inventoried the freezers.

freezer inventory july 2013

It wasn’t pretty. I haven’t had a lot of time for freezer cooking in the last few months, so there really isn’t much there. Just a jumble of disorganization. FishBoy12 and I took an inventory and rearranged things so they are easier to find. I was surprised that there was some pretty good stuff in there.

I think it will last us the two weeks of the challenge, but that might be it.

refrigerator before challenge

The refrigerator freezer has been the catch-all for all kinds of randomness: bread crusts to be made into crumbs someday and juicing pulp that I might bake with. A lot was a little too old and crystallized for my comfort, so we chucked it.

It’s good to know what’s in there. It helps me meal plan better.

Here’s a peek into the pantry. There’s not much there, really.

pantry beginning challenge

And since, we’ll be doing more baking in the next couple weeks, I took a snap of the baking cupboards. Earlier in the week I organized them. I have no idea what happened to them since.

baking cupboard before challenge

I’ve got a reasonable list that I hope will come in under budget for the week. I have a produce box coming this week, so I don’t have the full $100 to work with this week.

pantry challenge sum 13 This post is a part of the Summertime Pantry Challenge¬†where we’re trying to save money on food by using up what we have. You can read more about it here.

I’ll be posting daily updates on how the challenge is going. You can read through the PC archives here.

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  1. I cleaned out our pantry this week as well – I love the feeling of looking into the newly-organized space! (My hubby still can’t find anything in there, he says…. LOL)

  2. Vanessa B says:

    Your inventory is in better shape than mine is. There is one lonely chicken in my deep freezer. I guess it will be easy to clean out. We may be eating some “interesting” meals.

  3. Heather M says:

    I look at your pantry pictures and am ashamed… our cupboards that serve as our pantry are jammed full. It may be a blessing though. So many expenses this summer, that after doing a pantry challenge in July and traveling all of August(both families who live on opposite coasts, and we live away from both; last summer we have that kind of freedom with both of our kids since the oldest will start college next year). I may end up doing a sort of pantry challenge in September, too, just to help replace what we will have spent with travels, broken car, etc. I need to inventory what we have the cupboards, and use up the older stuff. The freezer is pretty easy to “read”, since we only have the one attached to our fridge. I also need to meal plan for the next few weeks. Guess I know what I’ll be up to tonight, when I have a little time! Looking forward to the daily updates!

    • Patricia says:

      I’m with you Heather – I am on a tight budget until mid-September, a Block Island mini-vacation (granddaughter and family will be there for a week in a house – I’m going to stay two night at an old Victorian Hotel. Then there is the back and forth on AMTRAK and food at restaurants out there) – there goes my savings and August food extras. Then September I’m going on a Senior Trip to Cape Cod for and additional $389 for everything except lunches. Then I’m in the clear – LOL – until Christmas present buying. So I will eat out of my overstocked pantry and freezer. I’d be ashamed to show a picture of my freezer – over packed and rarely touched. I’ve stopped buying meat – none at all – if I can’t find what I need in my freezer, then it doesn’t get made.
      I moved a few items on my pantry shelves and found a bag of freshly ground buckwheat pancake mix – from a mill. I forgot I had it and mix was on my grocery list this week. So far, all I need are milk and sliced sharp cheddar cheese for sandwiches (I’ve been eating cucumber, roasted red pepper pitas because I ran out of cheese). I tried to do a meal plan but haven’t had the “gumption and get-up-and-go” on these incredibly hot and humid days to stick to it – PB&J and cucumber & tuna sandwiches win out. Hope to see how you’re doing in your challenge as we go along – even after this one ends.

  4. I had a productive day with the challenge, made muffins using up bananas and oatmeal which I seem to have way too much of at the moment. Used up some aging coconut by making macrons because I had egg whites left over from dinner. Funny thing happened when I was in the garage looking for my muffin pans ( kitchen is too small for a family of 7 so I have to store that stuff somewhere). A box from a dehydrator that we had bought recently was in the way so I went to move it and noticed it was not empty so I opened it up to find a bunch of missing costco purchases that I had been missing. That would be my 14 year old’s idea of tidying up. I was however glad to find it because there was a lot of things that will make the challenge a little easier this month. My husband who initiated the challenge at our house, is having a hard time making some of the meals. Two nights ago I prepared taco meat and left it for him to make tacos. I told him there was masa if he wanted to make the shells from scratch. He tried, it did not turn out so he used the dough to make some sort of a crust that he then put the taco meat, cheese and veggies on top. Lets just say it was not a hit with the family, and half of it ended up in the garbage. I do not like to waste food especially meat because it is so expensive, but when I went to try save the what was left and repurpose it, the top was covered in brown lettuce so it had to go to the garbage. He also made apple cider in our cast iron pot and it turned out black. The children of course would not eat black cider and I was disappointed because I had earmarked the apples for apple crumble. Oh welll at least he is trying. Love reading your daily updates on this blog. Hope you have a successful week.


  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is a brilliant idea. My son and I took indoor/outdoor freezer inventory and a pantry inventory today. Some of the items in the freezer looked a bit unrecognizable, what a cleansing experience! I found enough proteins to make a real dent in my grocery bill this week. I’m looking forward to reading more posts. Game on!

  6. Oh my goodness–I LOVE the inventory list of the freezer! I NEED to do that!! As for the crystalized veggies–I take them, along with my ziplock of frozen carrot & potato peels, bell pepper & tomato tops, etc. and when I get enough to fill my crock pot, and then toss them in & add water. Strain later & viola~~veggie broth out of trash!

  7. Heather says:

    Not doing a challenge this month. I’m out, truly my deep freezer only has a turkey in it, my fridge freezer has some burger and roasts still though not many. My home canned goods shelves should have enough jars empty for me have enough to fill with this years lacking harvest.

    I’m out of bulk food, so I need to take my broke self down to our local bulk food store and stock up, 30# of oatmeal (I’d get 50# but I don’t have a container large enough to put it all), 50# of sugar, 5-8lbs of brown sugar, corn starch, dried milk, bulk pudding powders. The boys here are complaining we are out of cereal, and I’m out of almonds so I can’t make my favorite granola. Needless to say, I’ll be spending more this month than normal.

    We did use part of this past month to completely EMPTY the fridge. But spent it on eating out, the local CSA has a pizza night using organic foods and cooked in a stone fire pit, pizzas are $20. They were lacking the tomatoes, but otherwise OK. I do not like to do that because for us that one meal is 4 days of meals.

    Our strawberry season is just winding down and our raspberry season is just starting, so I picked some of each the other day and used up all my sugar making vinaigrette out of some of the fruit ( My garden has been doing HORRIBLE this year, first we’ve had too much rain than we had hail. I was given 15 more tomato plants and bought 20 more pepper plants in order get have enough plants to harvest enough salsa, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and whole tomatoes to last another year or 2. I’ve also tilled under 1/3 of the garden for lack of production. Normally by now we would have lettuce coming out our ears, this year I have NOT gotten any out of the garden.

    We also have 5 chickens which usually lay 4-5 eggs a day and they eat the bugs and ticks in the yard, we will keep them until about October than give them away (they are old laying hens) or wring their necks and can them.

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