Pantry Challenge 2019: Week 5 Update

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

There, we did it. We survived a monthlong pantry challenge. Here’s how the final stretch went down.

Woo-ee! It has been A WEEK. 

As you know, I started getting sick last week and it got bad. It’s still not better. At this writing, all eight of us have gotten the Plague of 2019. 

  • 1 – recovered
  • 2 – in recovery
  • 3 – on the tail end (1 with a double ear infection)
  • 2 – in the throes of it

I spent most of the week in the same pajama pants and hoodie, venturing out for more kleenex and juice as necessary. Oh and honey. For some reason, we went through a lot of honey.

Oh I know why.

We had Homemade Medicine Balls on repeat. Like multiple times per day. Seriously, this persistent cough has been so bad, the only way to stave it off has been to drink. Nonstop.

As a result of opening my tea cupboard so often, I treated myself to a tea stand. I’d been wanting one for a long time, and I love this one.

Anyway, this illness definitely put a damper on the end of our Pantry Challenge, but we saw it through. Mostly.

I did stop tracking on Thursday night. I was more than ready to kiss January goodbye.

My Pantry Challenge Plans

As I mentioned earlier, my general plan was to spend only half of our monthly budget (currently set for $1000/month for the new year) by shopping my pantry and freezers before I went to the store. I  focused on making more things from scratch and making good use of leftovers.

I ended up going over my pre-alloted $500 but that is to be expected, especially since the $1000 was already less than our monthly average last year. We closed out our January Grocery Spending at $634 which isn’t too bad.

I think that as I continue through the year with a tighter-than-normal budget, I will do a weekly pantry challenge to keep me from going overboard.

Pantry Challenge 2019: Week 5 Update

In case you missed it, here’s our Week 1 Update. And Week 2. And Week 3. And Week 4.

You’ll forgive the dearth of photos this week. I just didn’t have it in me. Here’s what we ate this last week:

Day 29

Brunch: Breakfast Burrito Bar

Dinner: White Chicken Chili, Sourdough Bread and Butter

Day 30

Breakfast: Breakfast Bar of Mix and Match Muffins, Quinoa Bites, and Banana Bread

Lunch: Soup and Bread

Dinner: take-out, I felt that sick, but since Bryan chose a homemade meal for his birthday, I figured it was a wash.

Day 31

Breakfast: Breakfast Bar of Mix and Match Muffins, Quinoa Bites, and Banana Bread

Lunch: Sandwiches

Dinner: Grilled Pizza

Day 32

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Toast

Lunch: Fend for yourself

Dinner: Nachos// Beans and Rice

Day 33

Breakfast: Pancakes

Lunch: Vegetable Fried Rice and Chow Mein

Dinner: Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Sherried Mushroom Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

I did excel myself with the birthday pizzas, even had all the toppings prepped and ready early in the day. But, no pictures. Sorry!

Final thoughts on this year’s Pantry Challenge:

I’m tired.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been sick for almost a week. And keeping track of everything we eat gets a little old after awhile. I’m ready for a change of pace.

Next time I need to plan for illness.

Some years I plan ahead and make sure that we have what we need in case someone gets sick. I had the ginger ale and soda crackers on hand, but we got a different kind of sick during this year’s pantry challenge.

Next year, I’ll try to stock the pantry for flu and cold season in the early weeks of the challenge. Hard to do when you’re trying to spend as little as possible, but it’s probably something I should treat like I do our emergency food storage.

I don’t regret the Ralphs close-out spending.

As I mentioned in my grocery report, our local Ralphs is closing down and marking down all the dry goods. I’ve always said that you get to make your own rules for a Pantry Challenge, including when and how you take advantage of manager specials. Most sale prices will roll back around every six weeks or so, so I usually put blinders on and don’t sweat it.

In our case, with the store completely closing, these were sales that weren’t likely to come around again. Pasta for 39-cents a pound? Not something for me to skip.

I don’t regret it, even though this contributed to our going over my pre-budgeted $500. In the long run, it will help us save money throughout the year.

So, there you have it. Signed, sealed, and delivered. 

How did the Pantry Challenge go for you?

About Jessica Fisher

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

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. Roberta says

    This year’s PC was our most successful to date. We came in a smidge under our $100 goal, the pantry is under control and pretty well organized, and one freezer was inventoried and cleaned (and there’s even some white space in it!). The chest freezer in the garage still needs attention, but we’re continuing on into February so I’m hoping to make progress there as well.

    Thanks for hosting again this year.

  2. Stephanie M. says

    I am satisfied with my pantry challenge. We ate quite a bit from the freezer and pantry. My freezer is not overloaded and there is quite a bit of white space in there but I still have plenty of proteins to go through. Our youngest still lives with us but many times is out to dinner with friends or grabs something on the way home if she doesn’t want what we’re having. So it’s up to Paul and I to eat everything and most times, it takes a few days to get through leftovers. Sometimes, though, we are able to cook what we decide to cook and there are no leftovers. But when it comes to a pot of soup or a roast, it takes a little more time. Last week, I made a turkey with all the fixings. The next day, I turned the leftover turkey into turkey noodle soup and some of the turkey I sliced for sandwiches. We ate the soup for three days till it was gone. (It was so cold outside that the soup was welcoming and I didn’t want to freeze it). So we had the turkey on the first day, then three meals of soup, then 3 turkey sandwiches for me for lunch during the week so that one turkey breast turned into 7 meals. And it’s times like that when it’s slow moving with the freezer. But it got eaten and nothing went to waste. In the meantime, over the whole month, we were able to eliminate a lot from the freezer and that makes me happy. 🙂 I also curbed my grocery shopping and only went when I absolutely needed something to prepare one of the meals I was making or if we ran out of a staple so my spending was definitely cut down; I’m anticipating less spending for February as well because we still have plenty of things to eat around here.

    Thank you once again for hosting the pantry challenge. Always a fun time and always enjoy looking at your delicious pictures. Hope you’re feeling better each day. 🙂

  3. Laura in NH says

    Ugh, being sick in January is terrible enough, but trying to eek out the last days of a PC…well, good job!!

    We started right at New Years and finished on 1/30. We spent just over $300 which is about half our usual. I did a regular shopping on 1/31 and a small Vitacost order to replenish some go-to items. This PC helped me to see what we really just DON’T eat in our house. Dried beans just live on the shelf in jars or bags waiting for the apocalypse…I do like the insurance if an emergency food stash but it’s hard to cycle through it to keep it out-dated reasonably. I also learned that my people really will survive without salty convenience foods, although they may disagree. I’m going to reserve those items for special occasions and otherwise stick with simple whole foods and a few baked items now and then. I’m trying to shift my eating to lower carb and higher fat which means some of those pantry grains, rice and yup, the dried beans might just find their way to the local food pantry rather than weighing on my conscience.

    Anyways, my plan for the rest of this year is to keep our spending at $500-600/month for our family of 4. I think a regular shopping early in the month followed by as-needed small filler shopping trips will help me stick to this. I guess we’ll see…

  4. Pat says

    Here is what I posted about my month of January–Happy February1st!! The first month of my pantry challenge went well overall. We only spent $89.95 for milk, fresh produce, fruit and some bread products.
    My challenge to use up the proteins and veggies from the freezer will continue. I have found that the longer I stay active in the pantry challenge the better I do with the budget and the meal planning as well.
    We ate all meals at home except for my husband’s birthday dinner on the 20th and the 50th anniversary pot luck on the 26th.
    I do plan on continuing the pantry challenge to get my chest freezer emptied–that’s the plan for this month!

  5. Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

    Hello all. Well, my pantry challenge was an absolute debacle! Some of you may have noticed that I posted only once, in the very beginning. I’m not really sure where I went off the rails, but do know a couple of problems. Mistake #1 I didn’t properly inventory before I started, so I thought I had more proteins than I actually had, so I wound up needing to buy a few things for variety in the beginning and that just seemed to doom me. There were some of the “too good to miss” items. Not a store closing like in Jessica’s case, but some items that haven’t recently appeared in the usual repeat every 6 weeks grocery rotation here (.99/# chicken breasts, .99/# pork roast, plus some coupon savings that were pretty amazing ($5 specialty cheeses for .99). None of this helped. I identified with Pat and Stephanie also. With just the two of us, that big, delicious pot of soup stretches on FOR DAYS, even when I shared with neighbors and put some excess–BACK in the freezer 🙁 But this was the same as last year’s challenge so I’m not sure why my outcome was and felt so different. I’ did cook many of the items I purchased so the freezers aren’t as full as they have been in the past, so that was one good thing. And I’ve been preparing more items from the freezer that need to be eaten, so that was a small victory too. But I think I went over my REGULAR monthly budget, or came close to it, which was NOT at all the plan. So, I’m going to continue on like Pat with an extended challenge into February. I’m hoping that I can continue to empty the chest freezer. We’re visiting our son soon and I think I see some mom prepared meals in his future. And, perhaps I can get this spending back in check in February! I enjoyed everyone else’s comments re: their challenges and successes and thank you Jessica for hosting us and sharing all your meals and pictures. I know that requires a lot of time, especially when you are sick. Hope everyone will soon be better. I know about that cough..I’ve had one for quite some time myself!

  6. tastycook says

    Altho I took part in the PC again this year with some success, I was very disappointed in the lack of access to the camaraderie that I have found in previous years. I do not do, and am not interested in facebook, twitter and instagram etc so missed so much. I have always enjoyed how others cope with the challenge.

    Would you consider going back to the old way?

    • Joa In Iowa says

      I totally agree Tastycook. I also took part in the Challenge but I’m not on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram either and felt very left out. I really missed reading about all the usual ladies that are on here with how they are doing everyday.

      We have 4 vehicles and in December they all needed something for repair. Plus with the Holidays and we travel out of state to see family. There was a lot of extra expense and I couldn’t justify paying to be able to participate in the Challenge.

      Miss everyone and hope the Challenge went well for all. Between bad weather and a bad back I only spent $138.56 on groceries. That was for 2 teen boys (19, 18) and for my husband and myself. That has been our absolute lowest ever spent .

  7. Terry calkins says

    I kept our grocery purchases to 100.57 in January. However, what I did spend was bulky items. 50# sacks of onions, potatoes and 40# of sweet potatoes plus 50# of flour. Those are still taking up lots of room. I’ve mostly used up apples and winter squash from the garage. Seems like not much came out of the freezer yet… there are some spaces on shelves in the pantry, and oh my, we ate good. Lots of soups and stews last month. I’ll continue my pantry challenge all year in hopes of keeping my grocery purchases around 100 a month..
    Our hens are not laying so my feed expenses for them isn’t showing any return…drat!
    My husband and I are hoping to make numerous trips to the coast this year so anything I can save on household expenses will help towards that plan…..lots more fun to spend time crabbing than peeling potatoes in my kitchen.
    I have already started a few seeds in starter pots for my garden.
    I cut slips from some basil plants I bought early last month. I already have two that are rooted and ready to plant.
    There is a cash and carry near us. I check there frequently for discounted items. This week I got 10# of mushrooms and 5# of jalapenos for 2$ each. Most is already in the dehydrator. I’ll make poppers today out of some jalapenos and some cream cheese I bought on sale in december

Share Your Thoughts