Pantry Challenge Finale – How Much We Saved in January

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This year’s Pantry Challenge is over. Wondering what to do next? Answer these questions to identify your lessons learned and how to shop going forward.

fridge at the end of pantry challengeSo, here we are, winding up the 2020 Pantry Challenge. Things dragged a bit during week 3, but the end came up quickly, didn’t it?

If you’re new around here, a Pantry Challenge is when you focus on eating the food you already have before going too to eat or buying more groceries.

It doesn’t mean you can’t buy more, just that you’re working on rotating your food storage to eliminate or reduce waste as well as offset expenses.

You’ve already purchased food, so why not use it and keep some money in your pocket?

Now that we’re ending this year’s challenge, what next?

I know a lot of you are continuing on with the practice in February, but many of us are ready to switch gears.

But before you do that, take a minute to assess what you’ve learned as well as how much you saved by eating the food you already had at home.

What to do at the end of a Pantry Challenge?

Like any kind of fast, it’s important to go slowly on reentry. Don’t rush out to Costco and fill two carts, undoing all the savings you achieved over the past month and packing things in the pantry so fast you don’t know what’s what.

Instead, take a few minutes to reflect:

  • What was easy about this experience?
  • What was hard?
  • Did you discover ingredients on hand that were difficult to use up?
  • Did you notice impulse buys in the cupboard that you later regretted?
  • Did you find yourself wishing you hadn’t bought so much of XY or Z?
  • Did you learn that your family really doesn’t like [fill in the blank]?

bottom freezer and fridge at end of pantry challenge

After 10+ years of doing Pantry Challenges, I’ve learned that they have a money-saving impact long after the challenge ends. Especially when we take the time to think about how the challenge went.

Even if you didn’t save all that much money, I’d bet there are lessons to be learned.

Every year during a Pantry Challenge, I learn what not to buy. I learn what our family really likes. I learn that I really don’t have to buy so much of.

Over the years my shopping habits have been refined. A PC isn’t usually hard because I’ve learned how to shop better!

I’m also reminded what a blessing it is to have a surplus or even space to store a surplus of food. Generations before us and countries far from us don’t have these luxuries.

A Pantry Challenge is a great opportunity to learn about yourself and to count your blessings.

How we ended our Pantry Challenge

Here’s my final report for this year’s Pantry Challenge:

shrimp bowl with tomatoes peas and cauliflower rice

Day 28, Pantry Challenge 2020

Here on Day 28, we’ve done pretty well. Thanks to meal prep earlier in the week and month, we had plenty of food on hand today.

Breakfast

We enjoyed Egg Bakes, Cranberry Bread, and Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

Lunch

I made two meals at lunch: IP Pasta for the kids and a Shrimp/Cauliflower Rice Bowl for myself.

Dinner

Dinner tonight is Grilled Sourdough Pizza.

printed tracker for grocery savings goals

How much we saved

I’ll admit my own pantry challenge turned out better than I ever imagined. Earlier this month, I calculated the food stamp allowance for a family of our size. This is the equivalent of the thrifty plan on the USDA Food Cost Reports.

This figure turned out to be $1191.10 to feed my people: 57yo male, 46yo female, 19yo male, 17yo male, 15yo male, 13yo female, 11yo female.

Since we do eat some meals out and I’m a Grocery Geek, I decided to shoot for $1000/month as my grocery budget for 2020. This may be subject to change as it did last year. We ended up at $1100 in 2019.

I had hoped to spend about half that during the Pantry Challenge. We saved even a little more!

My final spending on groceries in January was $361, saving over $600! I’m transferring that money this weekend into our travel account. Woot!

I think some of this may be thanks to an ALDI opening in my neighborhood. While we did a lot of shopping there previously, it was still a fair drive. Now, it’s close enough to go just for a gallon of milk.

Also a significant factor was that I had found some great clearance meats a few months back so the freezer was fairly well stocked. I didn’t have to buy meat all month long!

assembling raspberry salads

What I learned from our Pantry Challenge:

Here are some of the lessons I learned over the last month:

  • We don’t eat as much grains as we used to. When the kids were little, we went through a lot of pasta and rice. Now that I’m pushing veggies most, we eat fewer of these items. Prompts me to stock fewer items going forward.
  • We go through a lot of fresh vegetables. As you scroll through my grocery photos from this month, you’ll see that the cart was usually full of fresh vegetables and a bit of dairy and eggs. These really are staples at our house. I’m pretty pleased about that.
  • I love meal prep. Doing two meal preps a week really helps me out. I feel like it’s working really well to help me feed my family and to stick to my food goal of us all eating more vegetables.
  • I don’t need to buy as much sausage and bacon. These are the proteins that I still have in abundance even though we ate them quite a bit throughout the month. I think I’ve seen such good sales, I just kept buying more. Since they are low on the nutrition scale, I think I can ramp down on how often I buy them.
  • I can also lay off on the chips, too. Either the holidays or the Super Bowl made Ralphs do it, but they’ve had a plethora of chip sales and I didn’t resist them. We now have a stockpile of chips. Since these also rank zero in nutrition, I think it’s time to stop buying them, no matter how cheap they are!
  • I still have randomness. When one of my Ralphs went out of business a year ago, they marked down things like crazy. I bought things that I might not otherwise have bought due to price. I still have some odd Asian ingredients that I’m not entirely sure what to do with as well as two tubes of almond paste. We’ll be working on using these things next month.

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Ready for the next Grocery Savings Challenge?!

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About Jessica Fisher

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

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Comments

  1. Christine says

    You did well! That’s amazing. We came in at about $600 for the four of us, which is under the thrifty amount. I have printed my February plans and am ready to save more money in February.

    • Christine says

      I just want to add that you do a pantry challenge without having tons on hand. I still used what we had and bought what we needed. It was still so worth it.

  2. Ronnie says

    Just a quick thank you for doing the grocery challenges this year. We’re all in and eagerly awaiting the next challenge. Your effort are appreciated.

  3. Ashley says

    I never comment but love reading the pantry challenge posts. Great job on the savings Jessica, that’s amazing!

    I spent about half of my usual amount on groceries this month so I was very pleased. My biggest take aways: we need to eat a lot more fish, there’s still a ton in the freezer from hubby’s fishing adventures; there are so many random candy purchases hidden away in the pantry that haven’t even been opened, I need to stop buying junk lol; and I can *definitely* decrease my monthly grocery bills if I start paying more attention and really focus on a goal/budget. I wasn’t super strict this month and still saved a great deal.

    Thanks for the year of challenges, I’m looking forward to the next one!

  4. Pat says

    Thanks again for doing the pantry challenge. It was great seeing all the comments of people from the past years and also meeting the new people as well.
    You did a fabulous job during the challenge feeding your people with very little spending. I’m impressed with your savings. I ended up at $80 for the month down from my budgeted amount of $200 for 3 adults. If I subtract my bulk chicken buy I end up at $44 which shows I too had a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezers. There is alot of white space in there.
    My take aways are
    1 My budget could probably be lowered-but I like the cushion
    2 Meal planning for the whole month and shopping for all the nonperishables at the first of the month saves me time and money.
    3 Meal prep makes putting dinner on the table faster and easier. For the three of us breakfast and lunch are on your own.
    I’m ready for the next challenge!!

  5. Laurie Gaither says

    Wow Jessica, very impressive! Realizing the changes in family consumption is very valuable information. We don’t eat a lot of pasta (even though we both love it). At our age we just don’t need the carb overload! I gave a lot of my pasta stash to my daughter. I don’t need to keep a bunch of cake mixes on hand anymore. I need to just concentrate on stocking up only on items we usually use a lot and then buying only when on sale. My final total came in at $166. I found one more receipt yesterday which bumped the total up $5. I budgeted $350 so I came in under half of that. Of the budget amount. I also had a purposely low spend month in other areas too. I need to keep that up!

    B – hubs had cereal and a banana. I had a early appointment so I grabbed a protein bar
    L – since we had two thirds of our eating out budget left in January and our budget resets on the last day of the month, we ate lunch at our favorite Mexican food place. Yum. It was a fun celebration of good results with the January low spend month
    D – hubs had a grilled cheese sandwich, I had half a pbj sandwich with a few chips left in a bag, cheese stick and orange.

  6. Stephanie M. says

    The choices of proteins in my freezer right now are down to just a few. I did not have an overabundance of proteins in there to begin with but I did have a little extra and we’ve gone through most of it which I am very happy about. I started a healthy eating lifestyle back in 2017 which I remain very strict with except for one cheat meal a month and that would be tonight – so excited. When I started to buy healthier options, I noticed my bill going up and during these last three years, I have spent more than I did overall than before I started. That said, my grocery bill does not just include food; it also includes household items so that’s also incorporated in my total spent each month so the total amount that I spent does not include just food, it also includes paper goods, cat litter, cleaning supplies, etc. So my total spent for the month of January was $736.15. I know that sounds like an awful lot compared to everyone else’s total but for us, eating healthy means constantly replacing produce, yogurt, whole grains, eggs, and lean proteins like fish, chicken, turkey, and healthy lunch options. These are things I replace in my freezer the minute they’re gone. So while my total spent is quite high, it does also include household consumables.

  7. Stephanie M. says

    Friday, January 31, 2020

    B – Paul had cereal; I had a yogurt parfait

    L – Paul had a business luncheon; I had turkey, lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat

    D – Scrambled eggs with chives, leftover rice pilaf from the other night, and salad

  8. Susan says

    I did great this month on my spending until two days ago when I restocked the freezer with some of the Super Bowl sale items such as frozen pizzas and chicken strips. We usually have a stash for those nights when no one wants to cook. Our supply had dwindled to nothing and I have been waiting for this sale so I consider it a win with all the white space i had created this month with the pantry challenge. Perfect timing! And even with the restocking, I think i came in just over the thrifty amount for the month. That said, we will be continuing into February to use up more of the randomness in the pantry.

  9. Janet says

    We saved over $500. We also had an unexpected out-patient surgery so all the savings went to hospital bills. However, it was $500 we did not have to take out of emergency savings. So still a win.

    My takeaways:
    1. We go through a lot of fresh fruit and eggs
    2. We need to buy smaller containers of milk, we don’t use up a gallon before it turns
    3. It was time to purge and donate most of the items with gluten. Many were getting close to their expiration date.
    4. I need to keep more shelf stable proteins (beans, canned tuna/chicken, etc.) for quick last minute meals when life gets in the way and the meal plan won’t work.

  10. tasty says

    Congratulations on your savings this month Jessica! That”s incredible.

    Did I save much this month? Probably not. Did much get wasted or thrown out – definitely not. The only thing that was wasted, and I couldn’t do much about it, is the premixed bags of salad and they just do not last at this time of year. 2 of us in our 70s can only eat so much! I ALWAYS shop the sales, stock up when meat, coffee, cheese and butter are on sale and I did this month. Doesn’t mean that I used any of it this month but why pay $6.99 for lean ground beef next month when I could buy it this month for $2.99 – that just doesn’t make sense.

    I know that cooking from scratch makes sense as does making my own bread and muffins. I make jam when the fruit is in season, chutneys too. We grow some of our own produce and fruit. We eat a low sodium diet, don’t eat chips and junk (never have, even when we were younger). I “control” as much as I can what we eat – luckily I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Never buy tinned soups. About the only canned goods I buy are beans, tomatoes, tuna and salmon – low sodium versions.

    There is a little bit of space in the freezers and I am seeing some space appear in the pantry too. We have done a good job this month of keeping the leftovers used up and there is not too much in the fridge, other than the veggie drawers – and that’s only because we had run out of everything and I restocked a few days ago.

    I do need to curtail buying stuff for the pantry – that is probably the most overstocked and I’m working on that. We did use a few things from there this last month and will keep working on it. The Pantry Challenge is good for us as it makes me refocus on using what we have. The PC is really a way of life for us and I know it is better for us and saves us $$$$. So I will continue with the pantry challenge but look forward too, to what you have in store for us the rest of the year.

    Thanks!

  11. Carol says

    What I learned: we still have a lot of food in the freezer and in my pantry. In our seventies , we don’t eat as much as we used to. I have to cut recipes way down. ( hubby likes a sandwich for lunch and I can’t eat all of our left overs myself). I need to shop my supplies first!

  12. Karen J says

    I was happy to meet the money goal I’d set for myself and probably even more happy to just stay out of stores this month. I used up quite a bit. I have two refrigerators, the house one and the “beer fridge” in my husband’s shop, so use the top freezers in both of those. I have plenty left, but not the overflow that was there the first of the year. I can actually see space.

    What I want to learn from this PC is to NOT overbuy. Like Tasty, we are two mostly retired people (I happily am, he works just a bit) and I don’t need to buy for a big family. I do love finding special deals and need to tell myself that just because it’s a deal doesn’t mean I need it. Meal planning really helps me see that I have plenty of food to use right here at home. I will continue the challenge as I have plenty of protein, pasta, and more to use up. I will be buying more fresh fruit and vegetables this month, as weight loss is my February goal.

    The money saved this month from not buying food allowed it to flow to other goals we have, such as financing our summer travel. One of the best things about this month was being part of this group. i feel like I’ve made many virtual friends!

  13. Alice E says

    I would like to add another question: what do I wish I had more of in the pantry? Is there something I ran out of or low on that I wish I had kept in the pantry?

    I am probably an anomaly in that I grew up out in the country 20+ miles from a store and it was important to keep what you needed on hand.

    My goal was not to cut spending, but to use up more of what I was overstocked on. I didn’t do as well as I would like, but I did make some progress and will continue on. In truth, I mostly eat from the pantry and freezer all year round and usually limit grocery spending to fresh dairy, produce, bread and sales of things I know we will use. But the pantry had some things that were overstocked before I started being as careful, or that we no longer use as much due to dietary restraints and changes. I donated a bunch of stuff from the freezer to my son’s family after I had to start watching my fats closely and cooked up the rest for hubby while I ate something else.

    B – oats, eggs, mandarins, hot tea
    L- he took pb sandwich and cookies, I had leftovers
    D – turkey thighs baked over stuffing, California blend veg, hot tea and cake for dessert.

    Thanks again for hosting this, Jessica, it has been great once again touching base with everyone. You all inspire me!

    • Tasty says

      I didn’t post our Friday meals so here goes.

      B – hubby had his usual. Monthly breakfast out with friends for me.

      L – yogurt and a muffin for hubby.

      S – fish, chips and peas

  14. Terry says

    Can’t believe its a new month. Idaho weather has been so mild, it certainly doesn’t feel like mid winter here. In fact, I strolled out to the or hard yesterday. As I feared, all the fruit trees are budding out. If we have below freezing weather going forward, we will lose our fruit crop this year. I see even my rhubarb is pushing shoots through the ground. My swiss chard and green onions are both a foot tall. Some of those are being incorporated into meals today.
    I ended the month spending 129.00. Most of the overage was due to a stock up price on tillamook cheese near the end of the month. Some pantry items have been used and some refrigerated items as well. My freezers? Packed to overflowing! I will be continuing on…likely forever. I did buy groceries today, but only fresh veggies, milk, dog food, bleach and 5# of butter at a great stock up price.. No sense in letting those stock up prices go by on items I have to buy weekly.

  15. Lisa says

    Hi Jessica, I was wondering if you could do a post or some comments about the dishes you use. I’ve noticed them in the pictures you take. Could you give suggestions for good options on cookware, utensils, small appliances, storage containers, and even tableware? Maybe pros and cons of different things like sizing or freezer-safe. I enjoy your blog and recipes!

  16. Maureen says

    My pantry challenge will continue on, but I learned/re-learned a few things…
    Prepping fruit/veggies means my family eats more of them (and less chips/crackers/etc from the pantry).
    When the pantry/fridge/freezer get FULL, everything is more difficult and we waste more.
    Making due with what we have saves time by not shopping.
    When we are really in the mood for sweets we tend to bake from scratch, so I don’t need many mixes, etc.

    The challenge went well for us in January. My main focus was on eliminating waste and rotating stock. We did a great job reducing waste, a good job rotating stock (although we have so much, there is more work to do), and saved a fair bit on money (I didn’t track it though, since that wasn’t my focus). I look forward to building on our successes throughout the coming months to refine many of our kitchen systems.

  17. Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

    1/31
    B: egg, toast, coffee
    L: ate the last of the minestrone, DH went out to lunch
    D: DH had a sandwich, I had a serving of LO jambalaya and rice, both from the freezer, tossed salad

    I really enjoyed the PC this year. I’m glad I decided to see if I actually could curtail my spending significantly and was pleased when I could. My total remained at 38.39. If I compared this to the USDA thrifty plan it would be a savings of $295-$328, depending on if I went with 2 individuals or the family calculation. I am thrilled that I finally have a bit of space in my freezer and have definitely eaten down some of the surplus in the pantry. I found it easier to stick with it than I expected.

    It was hard to stay out of the stores! In addition to trying not to overbuy, I may downsize the amount of food I’m fixing. Like others, it has been an adjustment to cook for 2, and also in our 60s, it takes a while to finish off leftovers. Today I made a small quantity of chili. We ate it for dinner and there is a small amount left to finish. I’m going to see if this prevents overloading the freezer a bit. The other thing I found a bit challenging was insuring that we had a variety of proteins. I don’t tend to have set meals and enjoy making lots of different dishes, so I felt a little constrained by what was available. I didn’t inventory my freezer before the PC (ahem)-it was too full! I started eating from the top. Now that there is some space, I was able to see what was in there. I found local shrimp and a beef roast I didn’t know we had, which would have increased our variety this month, but it all turned out fine. I had to think about mixing it up a bit more, which was the point of the PC!

    We also have excess pasta from overbuying and not eating it as much as before. This is an item the food bank always requests, so I can share with them. Like Jessica, I found that I had a lot of bacon and do not need to buy any more of it.

    To answer Alice’s question if there was something else that was needed? I realized that I didn’t have as many frozen vegetables as I had thought and the vegetables (frozen, fresh and canned) went faster than I expected. Many of my purchases were for produce as well.

    All in all, it was a fun and fast month. So good to hear from old friends and new. Thank you again Jessica. Looking forward to the next challenges, while I continue along with my PC.

  18. Heather M says

    So January 2020 was very different than anticipated and though I’d hoped to spend the entire month really into the Challenge, it wasn’t to be. My brother’s sudden passing Dec 29 rocked our/my world and still continues to. Working on that, but after a really good week on the Challenge, Kobe Bryant’s sudden passing exactly 4 weeks after my brother really messed with me. So this past week wasn’t great and I didn’t even read the posts until today, Feb 1.

    But, I’m happy to report my grocery spending was way down, which is one goal(so much $$ out the door, supporting 2 kids in college out of state). Through Jan 30 I was at $96.66. Which is crazy low for us. Then I stopped at Target yesterday for a few things and saw they had spend $50 on groceries and get a free $10, so i decided to buy more. So with that included, even though everything except the ww hamburger buns will be eaten in February, the total is: $150.50. I’m thrilled. I do have to go to Costco this week, as we are about out of TP, and salmon i like is on coupon this coming month, so I’ll likely restock a few things. But I don’t intend to really restock until I’ve gotten through a lot more stuff in the freezer and cupboards. I’m not really sure how much we spend each month, but I can guarantee it’s WAY more than $150.

    Lessons learned this month:
    -grief does a number on a person(especially a complicated situation)
    -I have many good friends. meals brought in. tons of contact checking in with me. some lunches out. etc. They helped make my birthday bearable, 9 days after my brother’s passing
    -why do i buy things sometimes? (I see you, preserved lemons I’ve never used yet)
    -i do like to keep a decent stock on hand in the cupboards and freezer, just because. we have good friends who live in Beijing and are basically stuck at home for the foreseeable future. They do run out to shop, but that’s about all that’s happening. If we were to have some sort of emergency that way, we’d be ok to stay in for a while. We’d probably miss our fresh veg and druit once it was gone, but we’d still be good for a while with frozen and pantry items.
    -that said, I like to use up what we have to rotate it out instead of having to toss things that have been sitting for years. I learned that lesson after my first pantry challenge here and had things that were WAY past their expirations. Like, too old.
    -I love to be creative in the kitchen. I just need my head to work properly to do so.

    last Saturday (day 23?) was a great Challenge day for me. I baked whole wheat pear bread, made raspberry lemonade bars. And then made a fabulous slow cooker dinner(sweet and sour chicken w/vegetables, side of rice) I took over to our best friends’ for all of us to enjoy while having a great evening together. We spend a lot of time at our friends and they feed us often. It was definitely our turn. We took them a loaf of the pear bread. we brought the bars for dessert. And we had leftovers of all of it for us for this past week. Probably my favorite day of the challenge, because i made delicious food and only needed to buy 2 bell peppers and green onions for all of that.(also, it never got reported, since I went AWOL all week).

    Looking forward to continuing to mostly Challenge to rotate out all the food that has accumulated before slowly restocking more carefully.

    Thank you, Jessica, for hosting this. it really is wonderful. Love this community. And I look forward to this entire year of plans you’ve made! I’m definitely going to be here for it! 🙂

    • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

      Heather, I’ve found that grief sneaks up on me when I least expect it-sometimes even in joyful times when memories are triggered. For me it’s been (and continues to be) a process. It’s been a hard week for me as well. Wishing you peace and comfort. .

      • Heather M says

        Thanks so much, Lynn. I appreciate learning from all of you and your experiences. It really helps.

  19. Sarah says

    Well – In terms of the kitchen – I did great! I pretty much cleared out the freezer and the fridge – still have pantry items that carried over into the next month, but I planned my meals around what I still have left.

    My “fun” budget was wayyy out of control this month, so my goal going into February is to cut all of my food-related fun spending. My BFF has a birthday dinner and my birthday is this month as well, but outside of that, it has to go! Living in a big city is expensive and it catches up to me.

    I noticed that we had some things in the freezer that I had forgotten about as well as some random bits in the pantry that I must’ve bought as an impulse and never used. The reality is that we generally eat the same meals over and over so it’s time to embrace that more. If we’re happy, why do we need to get creative?

    I did go shopping today and I’m hoping that besides fresh milk and produce, I can get away with a once a month shop going forward.

  20. Sandi says

    Chiming in to also thank Jessica for doing this. I was hoping to keep the Jan spending to less than half usual but it ended up being closer to 3/4 usual. However, the majority of the purchases were fresh produce items to keep the meals nutritious so I’m trying not to be upset about it.
    We are slowly using up what we already had along with eating the fresh foods. The big freezer got cleaned out and inventoried. The fridge has a variety of items ready to pull out when hungry. I have plenty of salad supplies and plan to prep some for easy grab-and-go this week. I think Round 1 was a success. Now on to Feb/Round 2!

  21. Kristin says

    I realized that my family prefers jasmine rice to basmati . . . so I think we’ll eat the last of the basmati in Feb and then rely on jasmine for all our rice needs (except when we use brown rice). We also go through a TON of cheese in a month – Mexican cheese, Mozzarella cheese, Tillamook cheddar, etc. As I ran out of cheese, I started to shift meals more toward veggie/meat heavier things. We also eat a lot of Mexicanish foods throughout the month. I realized that I’m really not comfortable cooking pheasant breasts yet – and my husband has brought a ton of the home from business-sponsored hunting trips. It’s free meat to us – but I’m still not sure how to prepare it best. So, I tried some new methods this month. I still have a lot of it left in the freezer – – – so I’m going to challenge myself in February to find more recipes and experiment more with this unfamiliar meat.

    There was some tension this month between me and my husband over meals. He’s accustomed to eating out at a restaurant every day for lunch with his family company (his parents own it). So, if they want Mexican, they go for Mexican; if they want burgers, they go for burgers if they want fish, they go for fish. When he’s home, I prepare simple dinners and our lunches on the weekends are leftovers. He’s always looking forlorn like, “Is this what we’re eating?” He doesn’t understand that I feed 13 of us lunch and breakfast every day for under the price of one of his lunches out for just himself. So, that’s frustrating to me. . . He wants to just eat on a whim of what sounds good to him – and he doesn’t think about the cost. Sometimes he’ll request a meal that won’t work because I don’t have the ingredients or the ingredients are all in the deep freeze. He doesn’t understand that I make meal plans and stick to them to keep our budget in check. Anyway. . . . it’s something we need to work through. But, he’s not really a partner in food budgeting and meal planning; he’s often working against me, and that can make for a tense dinnertime sometimes.

    • Angela says

      My husband used to be the same way. Then I went through all our spending over a three-month period and showed him exactly how much went to groceries, to eating out, etc. He was shocked. Angry at first, but then decided to come alongside me to get out of debt.

  22. We spent $50 instead of $500 saving $450. Only ate out 3 times instead of 6 so saved another $90. Total savings $540 . Still have tons of food….

    What we learned… We don’t eat enough fruit or veggies or whole grains. Beans got added in (I have Crohn’s) and I can now eat them with my biologic. Feb will be FRESH veggies added (and March will be fresh fruit) Fingers crossed that I can go back to a regular diet.

    We prefer one pot meals for quick so doing more Asian foods (which means more veggies which stopped the eating out except when we were at doctor appts during our regular meal times. Trying to avoid that this year.

    Ready for being efficient in the kitchen challenge.

    I ran out of several Asian/Hispanic condiments, spices and such.

  23. Angela says

    I consider our challenge a win.
    Hubs was all in, which is huge because he LOVES to go out to eat. It’s his stress reliever.
    We did not go out to eat until Jan. 29, and that really was planned. All other dinners were cooked at home.
    And all of us felt so much better. It actually got to be kind of a game with my guys – what can we make from what we have that everyone will like? Jambalaya was the big win (I don’t eat rice so I haven’t made it in a while, but my guys LOVE it.).
    I had two shelves in the pantry that were almost BARE, which is a big deal.
    My deep freeze is still plenty full of grass-fed beef and produce from the summer garden, so we will be working on that during February. We always go through ground beef first!
    Looking forward to efficiency this month. 🙂

  24. Molly says

    We didn’t fully participate this year, due to dietary changes (again – I think my eating habits have changed 3-4 times in the past 5 years due to allergies and medical reasons), so I’ve been concentrating on that instead.
    Something I’ve learned is that I spend less when I grocery shop online and pickup in store. It means I don’t get clearance deals, yes, but it also means I think about what I need and do a better job sticking to the list – much fewer random additions!
    I also learned that I need to schedule a weekly leftovers night!

  25. What a month!

    Our grocery bill was $150 below the USDA thrifty plan for our family! And we didn’t eat out at all! Meal prep and planning to use up leftovers and what we had on hand meant that we didn’t eat out even when I worked late!

    Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement all month long. Can’t wait for the rest of the year.

  26. Karen says

    You did awesome!!!

    I’m calling a do-over for February. The first couple weeks of the month were great, but then I lost sight of my goal and there is no noticeable difference in my fridge or pantry (and my freezers are even more full than when we started). So I’m starting over.

  27. Jenn in Seattle says

    I did it! I made my goal! : D
    It took a lot of thought, a lot of time in the kitchen, and a lot of dish washing…but it was so worth it.
    When I got to that last week and still had $70 to spend I was very happy.
    I was able to make a large payment on a bill we have and I can see, as you mentioned above Jessica, that the benefits will last into the coming month.

    I plan on keeping some of the habits I’ve had over the last 31 days: not buying pre-made lunches from the grocery store, making things for a fraction of the cost of buying already made, using up what we’ve got, and keeping a log of my spending.

    A tremendous success! Many thanks for your inspiration!

  28. lisa s says

    We also saved over $600 this month; hope to do it again in Feb. Thank you for motivating me! We will be putting it toward paying off the CC. I will be continuing the challenge thru the next month also since I too have some ‘weird’ ingredients to use up. Mine came from recipes I intended to make but never did. Easier to make things I don’t need to look at a recipe for anymore. My Kroger had the same sale on chips, so I have tons to use up (they may end up in the turkey meatloaf in place of breadcrumbs). On that almond paste, if you don’t find anything else for it, you can always roll it out thin like a pie crust and lay it atop the bottom crust of a peach pie. Takes it over the top!

  29. Roberta says

    Late commenting, but here goes.

    We came in at $121.69 for the month, which was over last year’s PC total but right at 50% of our average monthly grocery spending for our family of three. I’m happy with that.

    My freezers are still a mystery, so I will continue on. However, I need to restock some proteins and other staples, so my spending will definitely increase. (I think I’ve already surpassed January’s total; I just haven’t totaled up my receipts.) My pantry and fridge are in pretty good shape (other than the plethora of oranges and tangerines taking up my entire fruit drawer and bottom shelf; I think I need to juice them up and freeze it).

    Looking forward to the February challenge!

  30. Laurie Gaither says

    Jessica, do we have a place to post comments for those still working on the January challenge?

    • Feel free to add them to this post, Laurie!

    • Alice E says

      how is your challenge going? I posted my days results. I am still slowing using up some of the pantry.

  31. Alice E says

    B – Oats, eggs, mandarins and hot tea, toast for hubby
    L – he took pb sandwich and cookies, I had leftovers
    D – lentil & rice soup and leftovers

    I was a cold day with a few snow showers, so I decided I wanted to cook a big pot of soup and tried out a new recipe, it needed some additions but we now have lots of soup to eat during this cold spell. I also baked a cake using up another of those cake mixes in the pantry. The soup used some of the lentils, some brown rice and I added a can of tomatoes and a small can of smoked ham. so a few wins for the day.

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