Eat For Free For One Month - September's Pantry Challenge: What It Is and How To Join In!

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My husband and I struggled a bit financially a couple of times in our married life.  Once was after our move to NY and I took a position that paid very little.  We ended up incurring some debt during this time as well.  The second time was when I left employment about 6 years ago because of ethical issues at the top.  I didn't have anything lined up so we decided I would take the next year and start the business I'd only dreamed of up until that point.  Because we were funding a start-up business and living on only my husband's part-time income, things were tight.  Very tight.

What I discovered, however, was that I could save quite a bit of money by adjusting our grocery budget.  We actually fought our way out of debt with meal planning and budgeting our spending on food!

One of the tactics in meal planning that I use to this day is keeping a small amount of money in our weekly grocery budget earmarked for purchasing in bulk.  If we find a good deal on something that we like to eat, and it can be stored for later, then we'll buy it in bulk.  The key is making sure you use up all of your bulk purchases before they reach an expiration date.

Enter the pantry challenge.....

What Is It?
A pantry challenge is eating, for a set period of time. from the items in your home (and garden) in an effort to 1. save money, and 2. eat up anything that may be getting close to going bad.

I'll be honest, my husband is in a little panic over this challenge.  He's not much of a fan of change.  So you can see from my meal plan this week, I stocked up on ground beef.  He is fearful of running out of meat (we are NOT going to run out of meat - we have quite a stockpile) because the only vegetarian meal he likes is either enchiladas or fajitas made with refried beans.  That's it.

He's going to make it through this challenge - I just know it!

Why Do It?
A pantry challenge can benefit you in a number of ways:
  • Save time by not grocery shopping.
  • Use up items that may be close to their expiration date and/or that you've forgotten about.
  • Save money to put toward other things (holiday gift fund, an extra payment toward a debt, money to set aside for stocking up on sale groceries over the next few months, save up money to donate to a worthy cause, etc.) .
  • You may even learn a thing or two about your family and food including what you don't want to stock up with again and/or that you don't need as much (or maybe need more) stockpiled going forward..
And the even better news?  You get to set your own rules!  Each of our challenges may look a bit different.  You can choose to try and go the entire month without spending any money on groceries.  Or maybe, you choose instead to consult your pantry and freezer first when meal planning to use as much as possible from it, but still plan to grocery shop.  Or maybe you only want to buy fresh produce and dairy each week.

Here is what I'm hoping to achieve for myself:
  • We do still have our CSA membership for another 3 weeks, so we will get fresh veggies from that for 2 weeks of this challenge.  That being said, my hope is that we will only buy a very small amount of fresh fruits and veggies as well as milk and half & half (to keep my husband happy) for the pantry challenge month.  And that's it.  Our garden is still producing bits but other than that, we'll turn to our 2 freezers, refrigerator, and pantry cabinets.
  • Because we are also eating locally at the same time, if we need to stock up on any locally grown fruits or veg to freeze or can for use later in the year, we would purchase that.  There is nothing that I'm anticipating, but just in case....
  • Get the freezers and cupboards down by at least half.  Eat the things I've been skipping in favor of items I'm used to cooking (i.e. oxtail in the freezer)
  • We've been averaging about $110.00/week with eating locally grown/raised items.  I'll be trying to keep our weekly spending (milk, half & half, fruit and veg -if needed) below $25.00/week.
  • Get back to making more things homemade.  I don't always make our tortilla shells, or flat bread, or regular bread from scratch these days.  That will change!
  • Learn to better utilize my pantry stock in my weekly meal plans.  Remembering to shop my pantry & freezer first!

How To Participate:
  1. I would love it if you would comment here or on our facebook page and let us know you're participating.  Please also give us updates (I'm going to try to post updates a couple of times a week) as well as any tips or tricks you've learned.
  2. Set your goals.  Decide for yourself and your family what you would like to achieve and what your "rules" are.
  3. If you don't already have one, take an inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  You're going to use this to plan out your meals (use things close to expiring first).
  4. Get ready for September 1st!

    What do you think?  Are you up for a pantry challenge?


      Unknown said...

      I am up for the pantry challenge!

      Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

      Hooray!! Thanks for joining Deborah! And please share with us any tips or things you learned along the way.