Can You Save Money with a Pantry Challenge?

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Can you save money with a Pantry Challenge? Absolutely! And not just on your grocery savings this month. A Pantry Challenge can help you save money for months to come.

open refrigerator

If you’ve spent anytime on budget websites or scrolled through money-saving feeds on instagram, you’ve likely heard about the Pantry Challenge concept. It’s nothing too new or earth-shattering. Our grandmothers practiced this concept all the time.

Shop your pantry and use up what you have.

It’s pretty simple, really. The main benefit is obvious: You don’t have to grocery shop very much when you do a pantry challenge.

Less time at the grocery store means you have more time for other things. But, let’s get down to dollars and cents, do you really save any money?

Can You Save Money with a Pantry Challenge?

I’ve been doing an extended pantry challenge (from 1 to 4 weeks) at least once a year for about a decade now. I’ve learned a lot about my kitchen, my family’s tastes, and what constitutes a total-train-wreck-lets-get-burgers kind of experiment.

But, one thing I have learned is that you can, indeed, save money with a pantry challenge.

Here’s how:

girl with little shopping cart in grocery store

1. You save money grocery shopping during the challenge.

The object of a pantry challenge is to use up what you have. Since you obviously had extra — one rarely starts a pantry challenge with an empty cupboard — you use up your surplus instead of buying more.

I regularly save several hundred dollars in a monthlong pantry challenge, sometimes up to half our regular grocery budget.

You’d be surprised how much extra you have on hand when you really dive deep.

bowl of jambalaya with sausage and shrimp

Pictured: Easy Jambalaya for a Crowd

2. You reduce waste.

Since you use up the extra ingredients on hand, you keep that perfectly good food from going bad.

Those leftovers you stashed in the freezer and forgot? That extra bag of shrimp you bought on sale? That boar sausage your buddy gave you as a Christmas present?

You end up eating those bits up during a focused pantry challenge instead of forgetting about those items until they’ve gone bad.

jar of cactus on pantry shelf

3. You learn how to build a better pantry.

Maybe cactus, sauerkraut, and sliced beets are regulars in your meal plans. Or maybe not. Ahem.

When you force yourself to use up what you have in your pantry, you come to terms with your shopping habits. You learn what not to buy as well as what works really well for your meal planning and meal prep.

Doing a regular pantry challenge allows you to refine your shopping habits and build a better, frugal pantry which in turn makes it really easy to do a pantry challenge! You save money with a Pantry Challenge and its long-term effects.

homemade hamburger buns on board

Pictured: Everything Hamburger Buns

4. You get creative and learn to adapt.

During a Pantry Challenge, you’re working to stay out of the grocery store, lest you be tempted to buy things you don’t have. To do so, you have to get creative sometimes and adapt.

Those adaptations may turn out to be blessings in disguise, habits you chose to continue long after your pantry challenge ends. Save money with a pantry challenge as you gain more flexibility in the kitchen.

With repeated effort, a pantry challenge can be a great discipline to help you keep your money-saving muscles strong.

How do YOU save money with a Pantry Challenge?

Can You Save Money with a Pantry Challenge?

About Jessica Fisher

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

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  1. cherie says

    We also have learned another very important lesson from a pantry challenge.

    It may not be ANYONE’S favorite meal, but it will keep you going till the next one, and it’s alright to do that sometimes. I think that’s one of the reasons I wound up with overstocks on some things – we all always wanted to remake favorites.

    It’s been a great lesson to just eat what’s there and be glad you had it. Not that any of it is awful – but it’s not the ‘ultimate’, so we avoided it for a while.

    Feels great to start clearing it all out!

    • Janet says

      Cherie, that is so true. I have been inventorying my kitchen to start a January pantry challenge tomorrow. I realize we have just a few pounds of beef (my favorite meat). On the other hand, we have lots of pork products, which I do not like as much. I need to just get on with it and use it up. I have pork tenderloin, brats, hotdogs, bacon, an 8-lb ham, and pork chops.

      • Another take-away maybe for the next few months, Janet, is to limit how much pork you buy. I find that the PC often reveals how our tastes are changing.

  2. shari says

    Feels amazing to clean out the pantry! I’m so glad I pushed myself and did it. Now we can “make it” to pay day and oh my goodness, I didn’t even know all that I had. I feel so much better doing this. It’s seriously the little things that make a big difference sometimes!

  3. Jenny says

    I was able to pull together a freezer cooking session for less than $10 using what was in my freezer and pantry. Without the push of the pantry challenge I never would have thought to plan from what I already had, not what I wanted to put in the freezer. I tried some new recipes and ideas and it turned out great.

  4. Jessica says

    So glad to hear such success stories!

  5. Janet says

    Sometimes you just need to admit that you are never going to use some items and donate it to the food pantry so it does not go to waste. This January I found items that were in the cupboard last January. Luckily most were still 12 months from their expiration date. Some were items from a gift basket, a few were free samples, and some were simply the result of poor shopping on my part. As they say, live and learn.

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