Day 1, Pantry Challenge 2020

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This month’s Grocery Savings Challenge is to “eat down the pantry”. By eating up what’s on hand before buying more, I’m stewarding my resources well and saving money. At the same time, I learn how to be a better shopper and exercise my creativity in the kitchen. This is our Pantry Challenge.

basket of blueberry corn muffins with plate and glass of milk

Today was our first “official” day of the challenge, at least of my daily updates. I’ll be reporting all my January grocery spending, so it doesn’t really matter, I suppose.

Saturdays are always weird at our house since those are technically my blogging days. I did most of my meal prep all at one time so I didn’t have to keep stopping work to feed people.

Meal prep is super helpful during a Pantry Challenge. Having food prepped and ready makes it easier to go the distance and not give in on day 2 when you go get burgers or buy more convenience foods at the store.

Fun fact: tomorrow, I’ll be meal prepping breakfasts and lunches for the week for that very reason.


We are often a house divided at breakfast. My husband makes oatmeal for himself on work days. Today being Saturday and we having a batch of fresh sourdough, he had a couple thick slabs of bread and jam with his coffee.

I baked Lemon Blueberry Corn Muffins for the kids. You can find the recipe in the Good Cheap Eats cookbook. A few kids cooked eggs for themselves as well. They must have also had sourdough bread as most of one loaf was gone by lunchtime.

bowl of yogurt and muesli and berries with a mug of green tea

As for me, my regular breakfast is 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 cup of blueberries, and a serving of this Muesli. This has been a regular breakfast of mine for months and part of my “losing 20+” pounds. I’m not gonna sacrifice this during a Pantry Challenge! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I usually mix up several days’ worth of the muesli at one time and store them in small containers. I’ve tried measuring out the berries and yogurt as a meal prep as well, but space is often limited in my fridge.

Grocery shopping

My son stopped by ALDI today and grabbed more of the berries on sale for me as well as more eggs to get us into the week. We go through 5 dozen a week, but they have a limit of 3. He spent a bit less than $7. In addition to the $41.05 I spent on the 2nd, we’re up to $48 for the month.


For lunch, I sliced up the remaining three loaves of sourdough (1 to eat, 2 for the freezer) as well as a large turkey breast from Costco. 

Everyone made himself a sandwich while I had a large Go-To Salad with turkey added.

pork roast prepped near cookbook on counter


Dinner was the Ale-Braised Pork Roast, also from the Good Cheap Eats cookbook. I used an ale that my husband bought a few months ago but didn’t like to drink.

I made instant pot mashed potatoes and green beans from the freezer.

(Sorry, no after pictures. With the sun setting so early, dinner images are tough during a pantry challenge.)

How I’m feeling: 

So far, so good. We haven’t made a dent in what we have on hand, and my meal plan for the month looks pretty decent for dinners. 

How is the challenge going for you?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Julie Smith says

    We started today, too. I havenโ€™t done much prep, and we need to make a produce run-trying to hold off until Monday or Tuesday. Today was a DIY day, though.

    Breakfast: oatmeal or toast
    Lunch: ramen for kids, grilled chicken salad for adults
    Dinner: tacos

  2. Pat says

    We started today too. I’ve spent $67 already for the month but hit some killer sales on chicken breasts at $1.49b in the family packs and I bought the limit of 4, They are all prepped and in the freezer. I’ve also done 3 bunches of broccoli, 3 heads of cauliflower and 2 packs of celery. I’m dehydrating the celery for something different. I also got onions, apples, oranges and banana. All of it was on sale so it will last the month and some will last into February. I wanted green beans but they were out so I will go get some before the sale ends.
    I only plan dinners. Myself, husband & 20 year old son are all on different breakfast and lunch schedules.
    Breakfast– was peanut butter toast and a banana for me and my husband had toast and yogurt Son was gone.
    Lunch–husband has the last of the creamy veggie soup. I skipped.
    Dinner–was an egg bake and homemade biscuits and orange slices.

  3. Elise says

    We’re on Day 4! We did have to buy mayonnaise and eggs today, but otherwise, everything has been from our home.

    Breakfast: Toast w. Butter for me, Toast w. Peanut Butter for my 11-month-old
    Lunch: Toast, Puffs, and Cheerios for my 11-month-old (very carb heavy, thanks Dad!) and ham sandwich for Dad.
    Dinner: Greek Mac n Cheese, from freezer – for all three of us
    Dessert: For 11m, berries. After she was in bed, leftover birthday cake for Mom and Dad!
    Snack: Chips and Salsa for me (while on mat leave, my snacking has been out of control!)

  4. Jennifer C says

    I started our challenge Jan 1. First I told all the kids & hubby (4 kids, 22, 19, 18 & 18) that I was participating in the pantry challenge. I grocery shopped on the 31st, after making a plan for the week and only shopping the super deals. I had chicken & beef in the freezer plus our produce delivery box to work with. I spent $80. Today we had leftover scrambled eggs, leftover ham and potato hash for breakfast, plus the boys had cereal. Lunch was leftover deviled eggs on a bagel or leftover bbq chicken & salad. Dinner was leftover Philly cheesesteak or grilled cheese sandwich and chicken noodle soup. The kids begin their next term at community college on Monday and I go back to work at an elementary library. They will need to think through Ideas for lunch. I love leftovers for my lunches! I also made blueberry muffins and chocolate coconut flour cakes for quick eats. Iโ€™m excited to participate in these challenges this year, I have high hopes for the money weโ€™ll save!

  5. Kristin says

    I’ve been planning on doing a pantry challenge, but I kind of cheat. I get food from a food rescue (also called gleaners sometimes), so I get produce and other things from that. I bought tortilla chips and olive oil, but I’m not planning on buying anything else this month except milk.
    Breakfast: Cinnamon toast, coffee
    Lunch: Chicken Caesar Salad
    Dinner: French dip, Brussel sprouts, salad, melon

  6. Pam says

    I started today, too. I spent Thursday inventorying the pantry, freezer and fridge. Friday I looked up recipes I could use with what I had.

    Saturday morning: we all got up late. I made applesauce mini muffins from the last of my homemade applesauce, and they were gobbled up as a kind of brunch.

    Saturday lunch was a mix of leftovers for me and my son, pb&j sandwich for my youngest grandgirls, and a can of chicken noodle soup for my oldest grandgirl.

    Saturday dinner was sliced baked ham, rice, and broccoli. The bone-in ham was one I’d bought on sale at Thanksgiving. It was incredibly cheap — $0.49 a pound! It was 10.2 lbs., so I have a bunch leftover. I’ll use some of it for the grandgirls’ lunches this week. The hambone went into the freezer — I’m planning on a ham and bean soup in a couple of weeks (or sooner).

    I’ll need to go to the store to buy more broccoli and milk — those items go quickly when the grandgirls are here every other week. Plus I need a few other things, like yogurt and sour cream. I’m going to see if I can wait until Tuesday (that’s double fuel points at Ingles).


  7. Linda says

    I havenโ€™t shopped since last week, so I guess we started about a week ago. Today I had yogurt and leftover fruit salad for breakfast. My husband had fruit salad and a stale donut from last week. ?????
    For lunch I made taquitos from the freezer with guacamole, sour cream, and the last of the salsa. I also found out I have a LOT of sour cream to use up. I bought more last week not realizing I already had a lot.
    Dinner was leftovers from NYE. I packaged and froze extra sauce and mushrooms.
    Dessert was ice cream and getting stale Christmas cookies for my husband.

  8. Christy Zimms says

    Right now my daughter is with us while her and her hubby are between duty stations. She had some specific requests for her fave meals. My college daughter also asked for a couple of her favorites. I spent $200 on the 1st. But once they leave in 2 weeks we should have plenty to hold us over. We are feeding 8 at the moment.

  9. Erin says

    This is my first time doing a pantry challenge; although I have been a follower of the blog for years. I began with a fridge clean out and I inventoried my fridge, freezer and pantry. My kitchen in small and I donโ€™t stockpile much. Still, I was able to save a little less than half of my normal grocery budget so it was a win! Iโ€™m excited to learn during these challenges this year.

  10. Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

    B: peanut butter sandwich
    L: Out to lunch (one of our new family goals is to go out to eat weekly for lunch or dinner)
    D: Leftover shepherd’s pie made from leftover roast, veggies and leftover mashed potatoes; LO collards from New Year’s day, pineapple slices from pantry
    Snack: Hubby ate sandwich with deli meat, cheese and apple slices

    No spending so far.

    • Tasty says

      I started the PC straight after Christmas. I had had to go visit Mum just before Christmas as she was very ill and hubby shopped while I was gone to make sure we had lots of variety for when I came home. While the challenge is on, I will buy fresh fruits and veggies (important to us) and dairy.. Really good sales I will also pick up but I do plan on using a lot of what is already here.

      Saturday 4th
      B – fruit(grapefruit and pineapple) and yogurt with a muffin for hubby, I had a banana and some granola
      L – lots of odds and ends of cheese in the fridge so we made toasted cheese sandwiches
      S – taco salads, using some cooked chicken from the freezer

      • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

        Hi Tasty! Good to “see” you again. Hope your mum is better.

        • Tasty says

          Hi, Lynn, it’s so nice to see some familiar names again, trying to empty our freezers yet again!!! Guess we don’t quite learn the lesson ?.

          Mum has recovered for the moment and seems to be doing quite well. Thanks for asking.

  11. Laura C says

    My big win yesterday was roasting a bunch of broccoli for dinner that had been in the fridge since Christmas! I feel like we are officially starting today since I grocery shopped yesterday and made my meal plan.

  12. Stephanie M. says

    Before this challenge, I bought a cute planner and went through my freezer and made a list of what’s in there and meal plans to go with it. I don’t keep as much in my freezer as I did in previous years so I don’t have that much to use up but I do have some things in there like appetizers leftover from the holidays and a few bags of cooked baked ziti from a previous meal. My freezer used to be so full, I never knew what was in there and then one day, I decided not to do that anymore because there were times, I found things in there with freezer burn on them and the things I bought on sale ended up in the garbage. Now, I buy what I need for the week and there are always a couple of extra things in there but that’s it. But for me, it’s still fun to participate in the challenge because it keeps me accountable not to buy anything more than I need.

    Saturday, January , 2020

    B – My husband had a whole wheat bagel, two fried eggs, and turkey sausage; I had bran flakes cereal with strawberries and I also had some peanuts

    L – My husband had two sloppy joes made from the one package of ground beef and the last red bell pepper that I had; I had a turkey meat loaf sandwich on whole wheat from the turkey meat loaf that I made just for sandwiches

    D – My husband had some pizza bagels from the freezer; I had a chicken salad sandwich

    • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

      Hi Stephanie! Good to see you’re back!

      • Tasty says

        Likewise Stephanie!

        • Stephanie M. says

          Hi Lynn and Tasty. It’s so nice to hear from you. I hope you and your families are both doing well. It’s awesome to be able to talk to you again. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You continue to be one of the Pantry Challenge’s biggest success stories, Stephanie! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Stephanie M. says

        Thank you so much Jessica!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ That means so much coming from you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nancy says

      I’m so glad you are on here again, Stephanie, was your daughters baby a boy or girl?

      • Stephanie M. says

        Hi Nancy! Thank you so much!! Our daughter had another baby boy. His name is Dominick. ๐Ÿ™‚ He is now 15 months old.

  13. Maureen says

    We just got back from vacation, so I had to run to the store for milk. I got fruit and veg, a little meat (for variety), yogurt (for healthy snacks), and a few of the kids’ favorite snacks that were on sale (they are stashed away for me to dole out in a week or two after we’ve hit some pantry challenge goals). My kids are much more agreeable and helpful eating up things I’m trying to get rid of with small bribes. I peeked into the freezer enough to find a few things that I want gone, so those are on the meal plan for the week. I also did a little meal prep. I plan to prep things every few days. I’m going through my fridge freezer this week for a full inventory, then I’ll work those items into our snacks and sides. I’d like that freezer to be mostly empty for the rest of the challenge, so that I can use it to stage my meal plan each week and have snacks readily available.

  14. Jenn in Seattle says

    I started the challenge on the 1st.

    Using Jessica’s email link, I just looked up our family’s USDA Thrifty proposed grocery budget. I think that budget would be a challenge for us to maintain long term – as we live in an expensive area with high food costs. But I was intrigued that the amount was $200 higher than what I’m aiming for this month. I really want to make this work!

    And I just had an “a-ha” moment looking over this weeks menu plan – I had salsa on my shopping list and then thought “I bet Jessica has a salsa recipe in her book!” (which I have a copy of) And sure enough I was not disappointed – there were several, and I’m going to make my own salsa instead of buying premade.

    Tonight I’ll make lunches for the kids to take to school and we’ll have a pasta soup for dinner that uses many items from my pantry.

    Thanks Jessica!

    • Good planning, Jenn! Lots of recipes in the books and here on the site. Let me know if you need help finding something.

  15. Angela says

    We just finished a 3-day fast in my house, so this was the first day for any sort of actual ‘food’.
    (Side note: amazing how much trash is eliminated when you’re not eating!! HA!)
    Our food goal moving forward is also veggies first, along with a minimal spend- no out-to-eat for January.
    I made a big pot of brown rice as ds#3’s request, so there’s just a little left to use from the pantry. I also made a pot of lentils.
    B: smoothie for hubs w/frozen fruit from freezer, salad for me, none for ds#3 as he dashed off to work
    L: big garden salad for hubs and me, followed with half an orange for me, melon for hubs; chicken breast, brown rice, broccoli for ds#3 when he got home from work
    D: smoothie + citrus salad for hubs, big apple for me, ds#3 went out with friends who are home on break (they are all in college).

    We’re concentrating on fruits & veg for the bulk of our eating, and taking it very slowly as we reintroduce ”solid” foods!

  16. Heather Lawless says

    I did my first inventory of the fridge, freezers and pantry on Friday. Followed the pantry challenge meal prep brainstorm on Saturday. All the while I used the Turkey Carcass to make broth, and used the ham bone to make pea soup, also made chicken noodle soup. I had to make a brief aldi and walmart run to pick up a few veggies and some shredded cheese for the spicy taco lasagnas I will make with the ground turkey in the freezer (defrosting in fridge now). I had a huge package of ribs from Costco, its defrosting, and a had to buy veggies to supplement the stir fry meal that I will use the small pork tenderloin as a bonus. This makes me feel like I’m making progress. Can’t wait to use my currently reorganized freezer and pantry.

  17. Melodee F Rodriguez says

    After cleaning out (and cleaning) the fridge, taking inventory of my freezer, kitchen pantry and basement storage closet (my preserves and canned goods stay a cool 60 degrees there), tonight’s meal is going Greek – roast lamb, lemon potatoes, greek giant beans, tzakiki and zucchini. (zero grocery shopping for this meal). Not only will this more than feed my small family of three, but it will provide a delicious leftover meal for lunch or dinner of lamb gyros. Only grocery needs are lettuce and naan.

    I have bags of frozen veg to make a quick soup, along with frozen jars of homemade broth and stock, bags of beans, and the frozen Thanksgiving turkey legs/wings. Will whip up a hearty soup and split the pot, freezing some filling soup for those days when I don’t feel like cooking.

    I think there is enough food in the house to make meals all this week, without grocery shopping for anything other than fresh veg and fruit.

    Just doing an inventory is a great start to 2020

  18. Alice E says

    I’m just getting the best of a sinus cold, but planning to use up some of the older pantry stuff and do more baking in the month ahead. So glad to be in a challenge this year.

    B – Oats, eggs, clementines and hot tea; hubby had a bagel as well
    L – Turkey veg soup and crackers, hot tea
    D – Turkey burgers, fruit for me, chips for hubby

    Jessica, don’t worry too much about those pictures. I’m just glad you are providing the daily challenge postings.

  19. Kathy in Denmark says

    January 4th

    The weekends are always a little tricky to report for me, because we don’t really eat at set times, but usually start with brunch, have a few snacks during the day and then have an early dinner. On Saturday, we actually ended up eating all kinds of different things during the day, but everyone was fed and happy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Brunch: Oats and milk for DD2 and DH, cornflakes and milk for DD1, rolls for me, coffee for the adults
    L/S: Fruit, Christmas cookies
    D: Samosas, hummus, pita chips, sausage rolls, veggie platter

    The samosas were from the freezer and had been in there for a while so I was happy to use them up. The pita chips were just flour tortillas which I cut up and baked in the oven. My kids love these! The sausage rolls/pigs in blankets were made from leftover hot dogs and some ready made dough.

  20. Kathy from Ohio says

    So happy to be doing the challenge again my food spending has been so bad. I am late starting I am making a inventory of my pantry and freezers today. So good to hear from Lynn and Tasty again.

    Sunday 1/5
    B we both had poached eggs he had a whole wheat muffin I had wheat toast
    L I had cottage cheese and leftover fresh pineapple and leftover coleslaw he had chips and dip.
    D we took our Son and and daughter in law and 2 granddaughters out for. dinner. Our 1 granddaughter is home from college and wanted to have a dinner out before she went back to North Carolina.

  21. Mona says

    So glad to be doing the challenge again. It has been a crazy few months but hopefully things are calming down and life can start getting back to normal. Really glad to see how many are doing the challenge.

    Breakfast – Pancakes and sausage
    Lunch – Pizza
    Dinner – Roast beef, mashed potatoes and carrots

  22. lisa s says

    So excited for this challenge. We kinda started today; it was a snacky day. Ate cereal or toast for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and for dinner we had appetizer plates (potstickers, crab cake bites, bacon wrapped shrimp, cowboy caviar, etc.) We had tons of them we hadn’t used during the holidays which were taking up lots of space in my just inventoried freezer, and I wanted them gone. Have not bought any food this month yet so that is good. We will need a bag of navy beans, salad, a few fruits and veggies, and milk boxes for lunches, but honestly, I might be able to go thru the whole month at half budget if I play my cards right.

  23. Kara says

    Today is our official day one. I meal planned and did a small shop (under $30 at Aldi) on Saturday for produce, eggs, milk. Today was my first day back to work from the holidays and recommitting to fasting. My son (10) is a creature of habit and a pretty adventurous eater. Dinner, snacks, weekends are our challenge areas. Grabbed a protein bar we got free and a banana in case I get hungry at work to avoid vending machines.

  24. Molly says

    I need to use up some almond flour and coconut flour. Jessica, do you have any great muffin recipes that use either of those? Thanks!

    • I don’t have much experience with either, unfortunately. I use almond flour in Almond Toasts and my daughter uses it for macarons. I’ve never used coconut flour.

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