So the Pantry is Challenging Me….

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Looking to save money on groceries this month? Consider doing a pantry challenge and using up what you’ve already paid for.

Pantry Challenge June 2015 | Good Cheap Eats - Looking to save money on groceries this month? Consider doing a pantry challenge and using up what you've already paid for.

It’s been a crazy month: birthdays, knee surgery, houseguests, a homeschool conference that entailed leaving some kids home without us. This means that there’s been a lot of fun and excitement.

With fun and excitement comes a big hit to the grocery budget. After a little math this morning, I realized that we’ve got $108 out of our regular grocery budget to last the next nine days.

You know what that means, don’t you?

Time for a Pantry Challenge!

Normally, I do a pantry challenge in January and July, but I’m bumping it up on the calendar because it’s needed. Now.

Now is a great time for us to eat down the pantry and eek through the month. I’m honestly, not sure if we can swing it, but it seems like the ideal time to try.

FishPapa and I have been discussing the big hairy dream of buying a home in the next year or two. This means we need to build up our savings major big time. Such a gnarly goalย provides added motivation to getting intense about tightening theย budget. Since we have no debt to pay each month, we’ve got wiggle room to play with. These extra funds need to wiggle their way into savings, not fun food.

Pantry Challenge June 2015 | Good Cheap Eat

So, are you ready for a pantry challenge?

If you’re needing to squeak through the rest of the month, know you are not alone. Whether there’s no money at all or a determination to stick to budget, you’re in good company. Check out these past posts to help you make the most of what you already have:

I’ll be posting daily over the next week and a half, sharing what I’m making from what we already have and what little I’ve bought at the store. How far can $108 go these days? It should get interesting! My husband has already asked, “How many days are left in the month?”

The funny thing is that he has no idea how full the freezer is. Cracks me up that this makes him nervous! I’ll be sharing my inventory tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Will you be doing a pantry challenge?

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  1. Vanessa B says:

    Challenge excepted! The heat presents an additional challenge for me; soup ain’t gonna fly! But I can work around that. Salad every night! LOL!

  2. Question, are you doing the challenge just till the end of June or for the whole month of July also?
    I think I’ll try the Pantry Challenge!

  3. We are in the same boat. We had to replace the water heater last month and this month we had a trip to the emergency room. We spent the last $45 in our June grocery budget yesterday afternoon. The protein for the last 9 days of June will consist primarily of eggs, cheese, beans and peanut butter.

  4. Yes, the fun food is killing MY budget … eek. I’m looking at July for a Pantry/Freezer Challenge … with MRI, Hubby’s back issues, hazard/flood/wind storm insurances this past 2 months, the accounts are looking a little slim right now … but yet the pantry and freezers are happy ๐Ÿ˜‰ … I’ve got a stop at Costco on Monday after the Princess has her MRI, sticking to my list and then that’s IT for any major food purchase til August 1st … we’ll be fine, I know we will but I still need to lay down my ground rules for the challenge … more for myself than others!

  5. Stephanie M. says:

    I’m in. I’m always in. I’ve been waiting for this and I’m on board. Too much in the freezer once again and buying too much stuff that I don’t really need. I made a meal plan for the next 20 days and intend on sticking to it.

  6. tastycook says:

    Count me in too!!!

    A lot of the food in my freezers was there in January too. Since then we had our annual, late winter month away from home and since then, we’ve also had nearly another month away because of a family emergency. Been home a week so far and, although I did buy basics like milk, cheese and veggies, we have basically been doing a pantry chalkenge since we got home.

    Looking forward to it!

  7. Maureen says:

    I’m in. I’m excited it’s only 9 days. I could certainly go much longer, but lack discipline. So, for 9 days I’m going to commit and buckle down. I’ve been throwing away too much food the last few weeksโ€ฆso busy that little things get overlooked and pushed to the back of the fridge. No more! Taking inventory and making a meal plan in the morning. Thanks!!

  8. Alice E says:

    My pantry and Freezer are pretty full, and I’ve been trying to use more of them up and just buy the basics and a few bargains, mostly in fresh produce. I will enjoy reading about others experiences.

    I have an easier time of it, since there are just two older adults to fix for, I have a very full pantry and freezers, and my husband will still eat soups, stews and casseroles in the summer. Today I fixed a big batch of chicken and noodles, which will last us through tomorrow. I also fixed a brownie mix and baked it this evening, one of my indulgences lately has been buying the baked ones at the store. I did wait and bake them in the evening, not the heat of the day. I’m not sure whether I’m up to start baking our bread again in the summer, that might still come from the store for now.

    • We’ve had an unusually warmer year this year. It’s like it really has been summer all year long. I just can’t bear to turn on the oven, but I need to to make this week. I see some late night baking in my future. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Funny you should mention it because the idea has been roaming around my head too. We were just down in your neck of the woods 3 weeks ago and have to attend a wedding in September that will require a three day road trip each way so I feel the pull to be resourceful now to make it easier later. Plus our fridge freezer is a drawer and I suspect stuff is lurking at the bottom.

    And with both our CSA and our dairy delivered to our door I would LOVE to not go to any store for the rest of the month.

  10. I’m in. We are in the process of getting our home on the market and have some trips throughout the rest of the summer. When we end up moving I don’t want to add more stress and work with lots of food to manage. Plus, a pantry that isn’t stuffed to the gills shows a lot better.

  11. This has been my month, too. My freezers were jam-packed – I make freezer meals all the time as part of a freezer meal prep group, but wasn’t using them because my husband was away with work a lot more this year than we’d counted on. With just me and two mostly-uninterested little kids, I really didn’t want to have to eat the same thing three-four nights in a row for each freezer meal. Now that we have him home for three weeks, it’s all we’re eating! Kills me when I can smell grilling in the neighbourhood and we’re eating yet another stew/casserole ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Michaelene says:

    We’re trying to buy a house too. We started a couple weeks ago and will continue until fingers crossed our mortgage is approved and we move next month. The less to pack and move the better and I need to defrost the chest freezer anyway.

  13. You go girl! Helps to have a goal in mind. I’ve spent an unbelievable amount on food and takeout/eating out the last couple of weeks through the kids exams and the start of summer. That has to stop LOL – this is our first full week of summer so I’ll be planning meals and inventorying for sure. It’s almost a relief isn’t it?

  14. We’re traveling for the next week, and my husband has a few days off (he’s in medical residency, so those days off are PRECIOUS), so it’s the opposite of a pantry challenge for us right now, but we did one before we left so we didn’t leave food to waste in the house.
    Good luck!

  15. I’ve already been working on mine, so I’m in. 102F was the perfect weather for the hot bean soup we ate the other night… I was making progress, until I just bought a bunch of pork this weekend. Some of that is YOUR fault, LOL When I had those pork chops, I made the dijon chops, and they were a huge hit. And then I made some cheesy chops, and they were also a huge hit. So when Costco had pork loin on sale this weekend – presumably for Father’s Day – I bought more and sliced them up into a whole bunch of chops so I can make those recipes again. There’s a bunch of pork in the freezer now, with a couple in the fridge for me to make soon. I don’t think I’ll get all of that used up before the end of June (better not!) but that’s okay.

    I want to see what you do with that tuna that I never considered grouping under beans and legumes :). I seem to have a bit of it accumulating and multiplying in the dark here. We aren’t big fans of tuna casserole, and there’s only so many tuna sandwiches one wants to eat. I was thinking of trying some tuna cakes – it works with crab and salmon, why not try tuna – but not sure what else to do with it. That has been cluttering up the shelf for much too long.

    • We had so much tuna piled up in January, I had to get creative because no one (except me) eats tuna casserole. I did make Tuna Cakes (they were great – everyone ate them) with roasted veggies and a homemade remoulade sauce (which was basically just doctored up mayo). But the biggest hit was Tuscan Tuna and Beans – no cook recipe (there are lots online) which uses pantry staples and since we had only 1 can of cannelini beans and lots of black and garbanzo, I just mixed it all up and no one complained. I added some veggies that there were only a few left of in the fridge (carrots, celery sticks) just to get rid of them – you can make a big batch and creatively toss things in and it will stay fresh for 4-5 days. That’s what everyone pretty much ate for lunch almost everyday that week – my daughter made quinoa and added it to hers midway through the week. We also made a Tuna Scampi (good, but the tuna definitely falls apart and just seems like part of the sauce) and Tuna Fried Rice which actually was a hit (don’t add the tuna until the very end, otherwise it falls apart).

      • Vanessa B says:

        I have a lot of tuna also, thanks for the great ideas Katie! I will definitely have to try the no-cook tuscan bean salad. Sounds yummy!

      • A quick google search made me think this is mostly how I make pasta salad, only it is using beans instead of pasta. The kid isn’t a big fan of vinaigrette even though I love the stuff, so I’ll maybe start with a smaller version and see how it goes. Even if it only uses some, that is still better than none, and I will enjoy it. He can always make himself a PBJ if he doesn’t want to eat it. I do have some frozen yakisoba noodles and veggies that I’ve made with salmon filets before, so I don’t see why the tuna wouldn’t work there as well, similar to your fried rice. I just never thought of it before. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Sandi, Tuna cakes are yummy. I make a zucchini relish each summer, and use a bit of that plus lemon juice, s/p and mayo to serve with the tuna cakes. (works with any type of fish).

      Also, I stir drained tuna in my pasta salad and serve with garlic bread for an easy, “cool” summer meal. When tomatoes are fresh and ripe, hollow them out and spoon in some tuna salad or the tuna pasta salad. Just a couple more ways to use up tuna!


    • Haha! I will gladly share the blame if something yummy is involved. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. My pantry and freezers are packed. I will definitely go through July. I’m shooting for only buying fresh fruit and dairy. But we do have 2 camping weekends coming up in July so I will make exceptions for campfire treats!

  17. Heather says:

    I am in! We started dave ramseys financial peace university at the beginning of this month. We really want to pay off past debt!!! We are trying to stick to a 400 per month budget for our family of 4. The next few days are going to be tough. Any recipies to stretch is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • Stephanie M. says:

      Hi Heather:

      Nice to see you are here. You mentioned that you are looking for recipes that will stretch the budget. What are you looking for in particular. I have loads of recipes.

      • Heather says:

        Thanks for the encouragement! I have a lot of rice and chick peas! Trying to find more vegetarian dinners that are good and filling. With meat being so expensive we have been doing a breakfast for dinner night once a week but would like to do a vegetarian night as well. Thanks everyone and keep up the good work!

        • Stephanie M. says:

          Hi Heather:

          You said you have a lot of rice and chick peas. With the warm summer days, I like to keep it simple in the kitchen and a great way to do that is by sometimes putting a cold supper on the table such as a dinner salad. Sometimes, I’ll make a rice salad and it’s different all the time. Whatever veggies you have in the house will work including chick peas. Just mix up some cooked rice with veggies and whatever dressing you like. I prefer a vinaigrette of some kind so the rice doesn’t get lost in a creamy dressing. It’s vegetarian and a great way to use up some of that rice and chick peas. Or you can make rice bowls. Sometimes, if I have leftover rice, I’ll fry that in a little butter and add some frozen peas and grated cheddar. Other times, I’ll add some fresh veggies and sautee them till they are crisp/tender. And Chick peas will work in rice bowls too.

    • You can do it! Let us know how we can help!

  18. I’m in! Just got home yesterday from a perfect week in Ocean City so picked up the essentials and ready to use up the goodies in the freezer. Will probably need alittle more than 9 days but will go until it’s empty enough to defrost. Love the Pantry Challange!

  19. Jessica S says:

    On it myself! Trying to use whats on hand and open freezer space to freeze some gallons of water for husband camping trip!
    This morning I pulled a frozen roast and tossed into the crock pot for kids dinner with grandma this evening. Pulled a chicken to defrost in fridge for Wednesday. Moved some butter into the fridge, grabbed a loaf of bread for the counter, bag of mini bagels and the last bag of cookies!

    ( I also need to make room before the ice cream deal ends at the grocery store.. with B1G1 and my double coupons I will be stocking 1/2 gallons at .99 each! lolol

  20. I just got back from 3 weeks taking care of ailing parents, leaving hubs and kids home (with detailed instructions for meals that they could just pull from the freezer the night before and eat the next day)…needless to say, they ate out almost every night which BLEW my food budget, as well as pretty much the whole budget, for June and part of July. Which is ironic since in 3 weeks away, I was able to spend less than $60 on eating 3 meals a day for myself (only whole foods). So, we too, are having a freezer challenge. Today is picking up vegetables at the market, since there is nada in the fridge, then until we leave for in-laws for 4th of July, it’s a smorgasborg of whatever we can pull out of the pantry and freezer. Should be quite interesting…the final few days may be ice cream and gelato, based on how much of that is stashed in the freezer right now!

  21. Attempting to pantry challenge it while in South Beach Phase Two…lots of carbs to round out the meals is not going to work for me! (On the up side, I’m finally getting rid of some fat around my waistline!)

    But our pocketbook does not always match my ideal meal plan so I’m going to get creative this week and next!

  22. Crystal says:

    After two weeks of being away for a family reunion(celebrating my parent’s 50th!) and just visiting family, I will begrudgingly join you! I am still very much in vacation mode and dont want to put in the extra thought to get a pantry challenge done, but my freezer is very full and my cupboards have an abundance in them. I like it that way, but it is to the point that I feel like I am playing tetris every time I go shopping or get something out of the freezer. Time to put my brain cells to work…

  23. I’m in! we have been going over board with the food bill. Dh was doing me a favour and spent about $150 of his money on groceries. There are only 2 of us and with 30$ for a steak you can tell this didn’t go far. However he did get a lot of things he loves, and I BBQ those delicious steaks and we only had homemade fries with them. Now except for milk we will cut back severely and eat out of the freezer and cupboard. I made pancakes for lunch yesterday ( out of bread and not buying any as it is too warm and it will go bad before we eat it all). Today later I will make some biscuits in the BBQ and keep the house cool.
    I didn’t mention we are pensioners, and on a small monthly pension, so we need to watch what we spend!
    My mini garden will give me a small serving of spinach this week and green onions, also a small serving of lettuce.
    So that will help the green foods. I have mush in the fridge and lots of meat in the freezer. Turkey was 98 cents a pound here last week, so I got one and had the butcher cut it length wise in half. So we will have turkey dinner ( mashed potatoes, frozen peas and carrots, and stuffing , cranberry sauce in cupboard, and the turkey cooked on the BBQ! That will leave lots for sandwiches, Chinese food ( fried rice, chow Mein) salads and on.

  24. I’m in too. We have a lot in the freezers of the two refrigerators we need to use up. I eat low carb so I will have to buy more veggies but I think we have enough protein to go till mid July. I made up a batch of homemade stock and pinto beans this past week so that will help stretch things too. I eat some type of bean or lentil at 2 or 3 meals a day. It kills me to watch dh slice up some yummy French bread while I eat beans but it seems to be the only success I’ve had at losing weight and not being hungry. I live for Saturdays when I can eat anything I want.,

  25. Tiffany R says:

    I started our pantry challenge last week without anyone knowing. I am planning on continuing until Julu 3rd when we go out of town. If there is still plenty in there, I will continue when we get back. I lost my big freezer last week but luckily my son noticed the ice cream was soft and let me know. I was able to move everything out before we lost anything but that means that my two fridge freezers are stuffed full. Also, the garden is starting to produce some so we will have those vegs to add to the meals. I think the key to a pantry challenge is to keep it simple and be open to substitutions and odd combinations. And word of advice…what you family doesn’t know, won’t hurt them!

    • Glad you caught the freezer before it was a disaster. That would have been so fun! And yes, for long pantry challenges, I don’t tell them. I didn’t tell them in January. But, they can suck it up for 7 1/2 more days. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Good plan! I spent our last bit last week too ๐Ÿ™‚ We could steal some from July because we had some unexpected bulk buys come through this month, but I’m going to try not to do that. I’ll need to buy some lunch stuff, but this is good motivation to see just how far it might go! ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Barbara N says:

    This is a great idea! My family did your Freezer Challenge and it worked – didn’t have to buy anything for the freezer for a month. My 2 sons were impressed that we used the food from the freezer instead of running to the store to buy extra.

    Our pantry is over stocked – and now the challenge is on for us. We will definitely try to continue thru July – let’s see how far the pantry will take us. Plus we have frozen food items in the freezers (2) to use up with the pantry –

    Wish us luck!! Good luck to all who are in the challenge.

  28. This is funny because I’ve also moved up my pantry challenge for similar reasons. On June 16 we had a quasi-emergency vet trip for Jackson for an ear infection. Almost $200 later and we had about $24 left in our grocery budget for the month. So that day we sat down and planned how to eat out of the pantry until the 1st. So far we have spent $10.79 on flour, oil, sugar, eggs, and butter. Only because on June 1st I promised to make a cake for a friend on June 28th. Other than that it’s looking like just buying a bag of cheese will get us through the month.

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