Pantry Challenge Update, Week 2

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Two weeks done, two weeks to go. Here’s my update on the Pantry Challenge for week two:

week 2 update

Whew! Week two came and went in a flash, didn’t it? I am stunned that today is Day 16. I’m also rather relieved. I am not sure how much more I can take. Ha!

It’s hard to be self-controlled and not buy what you want whenever you want to. Granted, there was a time in our life, when I didn’t really have a choice; there just wasn’t money to do it! But, since we started living debt-free, we’ve had more money to play with. Isn’t that crazy?

A pantry challenge, when I spend some time focusing on using up what we have, is good for me. Keeps my frugal muscles in good shape.

So far, we’ve eaten pretty well this month, even if every day didn’t go according to plan. Here’s a summary of what we were able to make last week, mostly from what we’d already had on hand.

Week Two Meals

Going into week three, I’m feeling a little weary. We are running low on lots of things: sugar, pasta, broth, and vegetables. I will need to infuse the pantry with some new supplies as well as some creativity, but I am confident that we may be able to cut our regular budget ($1000) in half this month.

That is if illness and dental work don’t derail me! We’ve been sick since before Christmas. And a couple kids have some dental work ahead of them. Both these situations call for special groceries. We shall see, I guess.

pizza pantry challenge

Here’s the meal plan for the week:

Week Three Meals

As you can tell, I have a lot of baking in my future. I’m not really looking forward to it. But, I do have some sourdough starter ready to go, so maybe that will help.

Here’s how my grocery shopping went in week two.

Groceries So Far


costco pantry 2

I had a list of things that I really needed to get at Costco. I took back that Skipjack Tuna I took a risk on last month, so buying new Albacore tuna didn’t count into my spending allowance. In addition to what’s pictured, tuna, olive oil, cheddar cheese, tortillas, and eggs, I also got a jar of peanut-free almond butter.

Total spent $50


sprouts pantry 2

I headed to Sprouts as well for produce, milk (that we didn’t need earlier in the week when I was at Costco), safe eggs, half and half, and yogurt. The lettuce and bananas are already gone, so I’ll need to go back again soon.

Total spent $54

Weekly total $104, when added to last week’s total of $225, equals $329 to date for the month.

MTD spending: $329

I’m actually very pleasantly surprised that our total is so low. No wonder I’m so tired! We’re using up what we have. Unfortunately, we’re already out of much of the dairy, eggs, and produce I bought this past week, so I will need to hit the store again soon. But, we will be pretty low this month which is exciting!

How’s the Pantry Challenge going for YOU?

What challenges do you anticipate in the coming week? Meet you in the comments!

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  1. I’ve been participating to a limited degree because our college girl has been home this month. She leaves tomorrow so I guess that means I can start in earnest! I do have plans to clean out a few items in the freezer that are small in quantity but we can make it work for just me and hubby (white chili and cornbread, pancakes). Although, I will say that we have made a dent in the pantry and freezer even with the girl at home. And, apparently no one was the wiser until I shared that I was doing this.

    I did go to the grocery store yesterday. We were out of *fresh* and I couldn’t (didn’t want to!) go without into week 3. Our grocery bill was $79 where as it typically would have been anywhere from $170-$200, so a significant savings! And hubby was with me so there are about 3 items* here that I wouldn’t have bought had I been on my own (think snacky foods).
    I bought:
    half & half
    deli turkey
    spring mix lettuce
    whole wheat brea
    peanut butter
    grape tomatoes
    cheez-it crackers*
    granola bars*
    keebler sandwich crackers*
    denta stix (for the dog)

    **Just realized as I was going through my receipt hubby picked up the most expensive apples in the produce section! I told him to get 4 Gala apples, on sale for $0.99/lb. but instead he picked up the Honeycrisp at $2.99/lb…$6.07 for apples. *choke*

  2. Not counting some clearance Christmas candy bought at the beginning of the month, we’ve only spent $50 on groceries. I will probably get some milk but I’m trying really hard not to buy things not urgently needed. Some of that $50 wasn’t necessity but I got anyway. It’s still a lot lower than average monthly groceries, so I’m okay with it.

  3. You list broth as a needed item. Do you have any bone in meat on hand in the freezer? Bone broth is awesome! Also, you can make a vegetable stock from peels/trimmings-use the crock pot to keep this a low energy use endeavor. Super cheap from items you would toss in the compost pile (if you ahve one). Start a freezer bag of scraps you acquire and you should quickly have plenty on hand.You mention also that you are out of salad greens-do you ever turn to cabbage as a cheap alternative? Here in New England, produce is ridiculously expensive, so since I eat seasonally, we turn to frozen, canned versions more and more. Do you only use fresh produce?

    • I have not found a good deal on quality bone-in meat or chicken in a long time. Foster Farms creeps me out. But, yes, when I do, I make my own stock. Fresh produce is actually very cheap in southern California. And yes! Cabbage is a great alternative to lettuce.

  4. Well, I am relieved that week two is over…
    I left for an out-of-town trip on Tuesday, and my guys were on their own. Initially, I had prepared myself for the fact that they would probably eat out while I was gone, because that’s what they usually do…. but Hubs informed me that he DIDN’T want to eat out, and could I please have XXX ready for them at home… and I was shocked but happy to oblige.
    I prepped veggie-beef soup, taco meat, and Swiss beans (a family variation on green bean casserole) with ham and/or roast. They ate all the beans and ham and roast. They ate half of the taco meat, and none of the soup… and went out to dinner 3 nights. Sigh. It was better than I had *originally* planned, so I guess I’ll take what I can get.
    I took breakfast items with me (Clif Bars, fruit) and snacks (bottled water, trail mix, chocolate covered walnuts) and ate lunch & dinner out, averaging about $10 per meal. Not terrible when you consider that I was there for a conference and everyone jacks up their prices for everything because they have a ‘captive’ audience.
    So now I’m home, taking stock and re-working the menu for this week.

  5. Reorganized my freezer and noticed that we’ll be eating a lot of sausage in the next two weeks. Four packages of the stuff-hot&spicy, chorizo, itallian and link.
    Today making cheesy corn chowder, subbing many ingredients but I think It’ll be fine. I mean it does have cheese and corn so it should be good. Also have cinnamon roll dough in the bread machine.
    We are watching the Seahawks. Daughter is coming over with snacks and beer. Yeah!

  6. I didn’t technically start the challenge until last week, I think, but since the beginning of the month I’ve spent 149 dollars on groceries. My husband ran out yesterday to get some things for dinner since he was cooking, so that was almost 25 that I included in the 149. I’ve been focusing on baking more, so that has helped. I just got finished with my pita bread, yay!

  7. Omgosh ~ you all are doing so good! I went to Earthfare yesterday if you spend $80 you get $10 off, I couldn’t resist, plus last week they had grass fed ground beef for $4.98 per pound so I had to stock up! Even though I’m spending more than I wanted $529 so far Ihave been creative with frozen veggies I froze from my weekly box last summer yum! Buuuut I still need some things from the grocery store for this week??? We rarely eat out i should get some points for that lol!

  8. Slowly but surely, things have been used up! I think I have spent $150 this month (instead of the budgeted $200) but we have 2 extra adults living with us right now(started beginning of January- 2 of my husbands college age siblings are staying with us- free babysitting!), so I call that a win! I am glad I have been able to use up a lot and not have our grocery budget go completely crazy feeding 2 extra big people!
    B- oatmeal with fruit from the freezer
    L- cheese and crackers, leftovers, tamales
    D- crepes with lots of toppings(so many open jars in our fridge and pantry- nutella, peanut butter, caramel sauce, marshmallow fluff, jams- at least we are using them!) and the last of the broccoli, brussel sprouts, and some carrots.

  9. We really are doing pretty well.
    I am blogging about it Sunday here:
    We ordered Chinese one day this week. I gave in…
    But it’s all good.

    Back in the saddle.
    Have a blessed week!

  10. Heather M says:

    Week two was way better than week one for us (college daughter is back at college), but the weekend has been a total bust. We’ve spent well under $200 so far on food, not counting food out. But we have lots of food in the cupboards and freezer so will keep up with our version of the pantry challenge as long as I can remain disciplined in only buying what we need. And hopefully we will cut our eating out habit we fall into every so often. We are in a bad one right now! But we sure have enjoyed our weekends! The second half of the challenge I hope to plan better so food is prepped and ready to go so we don’t eat out as often. I think we’ll be more successful because the hubs is ready to eat healthier again, which for him means no eating out. Since I generally cook pretty healthily. Wish us luck!

    • Eating healthier at my house means I spend more money on groceries. Since I’m going to try the Whole 30 again next month, what I save this month will probably go there.

      • Stephanie P says:

        That’s the issue I’m finding as well. I will not buy boxed meals/convenience foods typically and do buy a ton of frozen veggies/fruit and fresh veggies/fruit, and it adds up! Add on milk and yogurt that we go through weekly and I’m starting to see why we spend so much.

  11. I’ve spent $69 even thus far this month. I’ve been surprised (bordering on shocked 🙂 ) that it has been so easy. This is likely due less to my meal planning skills than how much over-buying I did for the holidays.

  12. I haven’t gotten rid of as much stuff as I would’ve liked to. Not my people’s favorite items or weird stuff people left here. Here are some things I need to use; couscous, arborio rice, onion soup mix, corn syrup, pureed pumpkin, kalamata olives, and canned spinach are the must go items. Any ideas?
    I’ve been buying milk, eggs, a little meat and produce throughout the challenge to keep things fresh. I’ve spent $76 since January 1st and used a gift card for $30. We are running out of staples like eggs, butter, lunchmeat and ranch dressing (I have little kids that eat this daily).
    Lessons learned so far; we eat a lot more eggs during a pantry challenge and also bake with more eggs. Stock up next time! Stop buying all boxed items that come with their own seasoning packet; they’re not healthy and we don’t even like them. From scratch tastes best!
    Meat left to use; bacon, kielbasa, ribs, arm roast, turkey patties, breaded fish filets, chicken breast, ham on the bone, pork butt and a whole turkey. If I commit to cooking a whole turkey we can cruise through the rest of the month. Hmmmm.

    • Have you tried making your own ranch dressing? I love it homemade. Yum!

    • A few ideas for now. Have you tried using the Arborio rice in rice pudding if you don’t make risotto. It is a short grain rice, so not as fluffy as long grain, but will stay tender in chilled pudding. If you don’t make pumpkin pie, then try using the pumpkin in pumpkin bread, cookies or cake. Corn syrup is mostly used in making candy, but keeps a long time. If you don’t want to just keep it for candy, it could be added to homemade pancake syrup.
      That assumes you eat pancakes and make your own syrup. It is also used in pecan pies, but mine mostly stays in the pantry waiting for the occasional candy recipe. The spinach is harder, but you could open the can, drain the juice, and use the drained spinach in a creamed spinach or soufflé type dish or a stuffed pasta dish. I would just keep the onion soup mix and use it as part of a batch of soup. Mixed with water it is just a salty broth with onion added, really. If added to a large pot of soup, it just blends in. There are lots of things that olives can be added to such as pizza and pasta dishes, but in my experience folks either like olives or they don’t and if they don’t they won’t want the dishes that contain them. If it was me, I’d consider giving them to someone who does like them. Or add them to a relish tray and take it to a potluck dinner somewhere. In fact, that is what I’ve done in the past when I wound up buying more than one of something that didn’t work. Just donated the others to a food pantry.
      Good luck to all with the challenge, I’m not participating, really, but have been trying to use up some stuff from the freezer and pantry. I like to keep them full, but it is important every so often to make sure you are getting the older stuff used up.

  13. Hang in there – you’re doing great! The end is in sight. It’s amazing how fast the fresh produce is gone through, isn’t it? I’ll come home with 2 bunches of bananas and then spread them all over the kitchen and dining room in an effort to make them last longer (keeping them bunched together encourages them to ripen faster, according to what I have read), and the next thing I know, there is no yellow to be found. And I only have 2 kids!

    Soon, the month will be over, your kitchen will be restocked and you’ll be so proud of yourself. I love that just because you can now spend what you want on groceries, you still CHOOSE to be thoughtful and intentional with your money. What a great example!

    I’m sick right now so that makes this type of challenge more challenging, but so far, I have had enough energy to keep the family fed, though I am lacking in terms of being able to bake, make bread, etc. so we’ll see how this week turns out.

  14. Stephanie P says:

    I feel like we are doing pretty well on the challenge, but I realized this weekend that I’m not sure I’m doing as well as we should. I am realizing I’m not willing to not have some things in the house. Like fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt. I also came to the realization that the majority of our grocery money is spend on those things! So I’m not saving quite as much as I would like. We’ve done fine not buying a lot of “extras” I guess. But I was hoping to do better on the budget than we have.

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