My favorite grocery budget is having no grocery budget, because I know that means I have $100-200 extra to work with for the month. Every couple of months I like to do a pantry challenge to save money and use up some of the food that is collecting dust in my pantry, or at risk of expiring soon. I also consider this to be a freezer challenge, too, you’ll hear all about how I hoard frozen broccoli when I talk about our meal plan in the video below!
Pantry Challenge Meal Planning
What is a pantry challenge?
Okay, so you might be wondering, what is a pantry challenge? A pantry challenge is where you skip grocery shopping for a week, or sometimes a month, and make it a goal to eat as much food as possible from what you have on hand. You can go all out, and plan breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks based around what you have, or you can keep it simple and just focus on dinners, which is what I did for this week. Depending on your household, you might have more food in your pantry or freezer, enough even to do this for an entire month. I didn’t have quite that much, and you more commonly hear about week long pantry challenges that are easy to do and still save quite a bit of money.
How Do You Do a Pantry Challenge?
To get ready for your pantry challenge, you’ll start by taking an inventory of what you have to work with. If you are planning breakfast, lunch, and dinner, start with dinners, and then move on to breakfasts and lunches, next. I like to start by thinking about my main dishes- my proteins. Pull meat from your freezer, and write that down on your paper. You can just use a piece of notebook paper or you can use meal planning printables, like these. Either way is fine.
Next, once I know what proteins I’m working with, I switch over to thinking about sides. This is where I go through my pantry and freezer to pull any side dishes that I can use to pair with the meat I’ve found. I think potatoes, rice, pasta, etc… Get creative and really get into your pantry and see what is available. If you need to, you can empty out the pantry, and put things back in as you are looking through them in order to get things a bit more organized. This might take a little time, but you’d spend that time shopping the grocery store, normally anyway.
Once I’ve got side dishes to go with my proteins, I switch my focus to vegetables. I look to use up any canned vegetables I have, and more likely, any frozen vegetables that have gotten tossed to the back of the freezer and forgotten.
You can do the same concept with your freezer as your pantry, pull everything out, and then put things back one at a time, determining if they can be used for your pantry challenge or if they need to go back into the freezer, then organize as you go. This is a fast and easy way to bring a little control back to your food storage.
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What if I’m still missing ingredients?
I try to get really creative here and put together meals with what I have, but don’t feel bad if you are missing an ingredient or two and you need to grab those to make your challenge work. For example, if you’ve got pasta sauce and ground beef, but no noodles, make a list and add noodles there so you can get that missing ingredient and still use up some of the extras from your pantry. You can be as strict or as flexible as you want to be for this challenge, but your savings will reflect that, so just keep that in mind.
Can you show me how to do the pantry challenge?
Yes! I recently filmed a weekly meal plan with me, where I skipped the grocery store and instead shopped my pantry and freezer for all of my dinners for the week. You can watch that video, below. While some of our meals on a pantry challenge week can be boring, and while we may eat a whole lot of frozen broccoli, ha, this really is a great way to save some money and keep some cash in your bank account for other things. So, I challenge you to go through your food storage areas and see what you have that needs to be used up!
Pantry meal planning is a great way to save some money on your grocery budget and use up food items you already have in your home. I hope you got some great ideas from this post. Happy meal planning!