Save Money When You Shop Your Pantry

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Do you know what’s lurking in your pantry? Shop your pantry to use up what you have, get creative in the kitchen, and save money in the process.

Save Money by Doing A Pantry Challenge - Do you know what's lurking in your pantry? Try doing a "pantry challenge" to use up what you have, get creative in the kitchen, and save money in the process.

I’ve learned over time that I am more careful with my spending when there’s not a lot of money to go around. The same holds true for food.

If my cupboards and freezer are bursting at the seams, I tend to be more wasteful. I don’t measure. I don’t budget. I just do what I want. However, when I let the pantry supplies dwindle, I’m a little more careful with how I cook. I economize more. I waste less. One wastes money, the other saves it.

That’s one of the beauties of having a pantry challenge, a dedicated time to shop my pantry. By setting aside time in the month to use up what we have, I not only use up what we have, but I’m more careful with it, which stretches the investment even farther.

If you don’t already let your cupboards go bare every once in awhile, consider it as a great means to save some money.

Save Money by Doing A Pantry Challenge - Do you know what's lurking in your pantry? Try doing a "pantry challenge" to use up what you have, get creative in the kitchen, and save money in the process.

Ideas and Advice to Shop Your Pantry

A couple times a year I spend several weeks “eating down the pantry” so that I can make myself be more careful and intentional with what we have. It’s a good personal discipline and it helps our bank account, too. Since I’m not buying more food, I save money.

If you’re ready to take the pantry challenge, read through these posts to get a good start at saving some grocery money:

Do you regularly do a “pantry challenge”?

Save Money by Doing A Pantry Challenge - Do you know what's lurking in your pantry? Try doing a "pantry challenge" to use up what you have, get creative in the kitchen, and save money in the process.

Save Money on Groceries

This is part of the How to Save Money on Groceries series. Scroll through the archives to get tips and tricks for reducing your grocery total at the checkout stand.

About Jessica Fisher

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

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  1. Stephanie M. says

    I’m doing one right now that I started a couple of weeks ago. It’s amazing how quickly the pantry and freezer empty out when you are being diligent. I love when you do the pantry/freezer challenges and look forward to doing the next one in January but sometimes, I just have to do my own because it’s just time. I’ve been doing one now for the last two weeks and have really made great strides. My freezer is clearing out fast. Last Sunday, I finally cooked a boneless leg of lamb which I purchased at Easter time. (They are hard to find during the year). During the week last week, I found a freezer bag with 2 small pork chops, another one with 3 turkey sausages, one with one chicken leg and a bag with one frozen stuffed clam. My husband cooked all the meat on the grill and between him, our daughter, and I, it all went. Usually, I would just buy more of each item and add more stuff to the freezer. This was a good way to get rid of the odds and ends. Frankly, there are two many freezer bags in my freezer. We recently finished up all but one of the freezer meals. I will serve the last one by next week, for sure. I see a whole lot of white space in my freezer. Not too much longer before it’s empty. My pantry is losing some weight too. Cans of beans and broth for soup are thinning out. Bags of pasta and cans of tomato sauce are going. My canisters with flour/sugar/bread flour/brown sugar/bread crumbs, etc. are emptying out one by one and I am refilling them with waiting bags so I am gaining a lot of room in there.

    I love to challenge myself now and then and in the process, save some money, and make room for fresh supplies.

  2. Amy says

    This is such an awesome idea, especially at this time of year when we are producing lots to FILL the freezer: right now I’ve got an absolutely packed chest freezer and still have some processing (apple cider, apple slices, applesauce, celery to freeze for soup, and so on) to do before I can call it done. I’m going to start this idea TODAY. Clean out the freezer! I tend to gravitate toward hoarding–especially when goodies from the garden are abundant, or things at the store are on sale–but then I forget that I have them. I have a question, though: do you replace “staples” like butter, flour, sugar, etc., when you run out of them?

    • Janel Piersma says

      I think restocking really depends on what personal goals you set for your pantry challenge. Some people really do it to use up what they have and rotate food. Some want to really save some $ that can go toward something else. If you really want to stick to a certain $ amount on groceries and have used up your allotment, then you may not want to replace staples during the pantry challenge. But, if you’re going to pass up great deals on staples just to stick to an arbitrary amount, that won’t save you money in the long run.

  3. Kimberly says

    I am trying to do Pantry Challenge Mondays to clean out the back of the closet and bottom of the freezer. It seems to be working well; I created an awesome Gnocchi with meatballs last night by using a couple of packages of whole wheat gnocchi I stocked up on at Aldi, a can of no salt added diced tomatoes (a pantry staple), a jar of light Alfred sauce and frozen turkey meatballs (another fab Aldi find) and spinach added to sautéed onions and garlic (with a little white wine for deglazing). I cooked and combined all, put in an oven proof pan and topped with a little 2% mozzarella cheese. It was a healthy, low fat comfort food meal that my family raved about. My daughter in law asked for the recipe. This was an awesome keeper recipe that came out of my Monday pantry challenge. I wish I had taken a photo, I’d post this one on Pinterest.

    • Janel Piersma says

      Don’t you love it when that happens?

  4. I do a pantry challenge at least twice a year but try to do one with the changes of the seasons. Clears out the old just as the new in the gardens start coming in

  5. I haven’t purchased a single item from the store in 27 days! Shopping just isn’t in the budget right now so I am using what I have on hand. We aren’t eating a lot of fresh fruits or veggies (other than applies, potatoes, squash, and a few random veggies), but we are eating frozen veggies and smoothies. Our meals are very simple, but we are being fed. Our next shopping trip will be scary, but for now it’s nice to know that we have a lot of food on hand to eat while we can’t shop. Your Pantry Challenges have been a huge inspiration to me. Thank you!

  6. cherie says

    Yesterday I tried to sort through my overflowing pantry and decided it was time for a pantry challenge. I’m going through Thanksgiving, to help myself be thankful for my generous grocery budget and use up some of the cluttering mess and expand my usual meals – I always donate from my stash but will be more thoughtful about what I put together for that too during the challenge, since those who go there are always in this state!

    I’ll be buying produce and dairy, hopefully not too much meat [the freezer is pleasantly full but not overly so, and it’s certainly not all meat LOL] but for non-perishables? Forget it!

  7. Danielle says

    I haven’t been able to stick to a pantry challenge yet, but this week I did manage to make dinner every night for the last 7 nights from food I had in the house and no meal plan. Our dishwasher is broken and we can’t get the repair people out until next week. It seems like the kids had activities every night and I started homeschooling my oldest daughter this week. We considered take out almost nightly, but I’m proud to say we resisted and I some how managed to feed everyone dinner. I was quite proud of myself. I realized that the healthier and cleaner we eat makes take-out a lot less tempting! I even came up with a few meals that my husband and I really enjoyed and would eat again.

    • Betty819 says

      It must be the month of broken down dishwashers as mine gave up the ghost back in late November or the first week of December. I ordered a new dishwasher and as of Monday, it hadn’t come and I’d thought the delay might have been the holidays but wasn’t pushing anxiety because I figured I wouldn’t have to fork out those big bucks till it was delivered and installed. Over the weekend, my washer machine breaks down..That was repaired on Monday afternoon. I found out on Wednesday that where I ordered the dishwasher from had no record of my dishwasher order. Dept. head apologized and he is meeting me personally and taking the order again and offered a nice discount for my inconvenience and their error. We shall see if he keeps his quoted price. I do need and had planned to replace both washer and dryer in a few months, so he’s looking for repeat sales I’m sure.

  8. Betty819 says

    Danielle, what kind of meals did you come up with “Eating from the pantry?” I plan to take inventory and start going on product websites for recipes where I can use up some of what’s in my pantry. One will be Campbell’s creamed soups, the other Pastas. Have several Jiffy cornbread mixes in there, but I know how I will use them up..make chili and we love those corn muffins with chili. There’s a Red Lobster garlic biscuit mix that I’ve been wanting to make..Maybe that would be good for spaghetti night instead of garlic bread which I don’t have in freezer. I had plan to make a pineapple upside down cake all week and tomorrow is free from Dr. appts or other committments, but I realized I’m out of brown sugar, so I need to go to store and buy that and a few other items. Have ham hocks in freezer and some french fried onion rings in pantry and cream of mushroom soup that I could use to make the old standby dish of green bean casserole. Better check to see if I have green beans in freezer. I know I used last canned beans today. Pistachio pudding can be made into a dessert with minature marshmallows and cool whip. Have the cool whip but need the mini marshmallows. Have an unopened box of Bisquick that I purchased a few weeks ago. Can make an impossible pie from that or a quiche.. I’m sure there is more that I can use up..but need to take inventory again and think about what I can make or research for recipes.

    Have lots of overripe bananas in freezer and I have the flour, sugar, nuts and yogurt to use to make those.

    How do you use the pantry/freezer challenge?

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