If your pantry is anything like mine, it is a virtual still life. Nothing seems to move but I keep buying more stuff. Do you have this same problem? I have a solution. Let’s clear out the pantry and freezer and save money in the process!
Some people call this a “pantry challenge.” The idea is to shop your pantry, fridge and freezer before shopping the store. Put meals together using up the ingredients you have in your cabinets and freezer to clear the way for a winter stock up. Generally, coupons are better and meat prices are lower as we move into colder weather. So get ready now!
How will I save money with a pantry challenge?
Eating down your freezer and pantry can save you money because you will be using up items you have already bought for the bulk of your meals and you won’t be hitting the store. Cooking the ingredients you have can also help you to determine what not to buy in the future, thereby saving you even more money!
How do I start?
The most important component of eating down your pantry and freezer is taking inventory. List every item in your pantry, freezer and refrigerator and be sure to note the quantity of each item. For example, ground beef – 3 1-lb packages. This way you know the amount you have to use separately or together.
Decide on the length of your challenge. Take into consideration how much food you want to use up and how much money you want to save. Then budget something much smaller than usual for fresh produce, eggs, and milk. You also might need an ingredient here or there, but the idea is to try to use what is in the pantry and save, save, save!
Once you know what you have on hand, you can begin to plan out meals on paper. Planning at least a week in advance gives you enough time to thaw meat or fish safely in the refrigerator. It also enables you to write a comprehensive grocery list and only hit the store one time. But remember, the idea is to fill in with fresh fruits and veggies, not to purchase the bulk of the ingredients for a meal. Staying out of the store is key to saving money. The more frequently you go, the more money you spend.
Experiment with different combinations of food. Try some meatless dinners where you might throw in frozen veggies, beans for protein, and maybe some brown rice. Make a big pot of soup with frozen veggies you might find in the back of the freezer or fresh veggies that have been sitting in the fridge. Add some onions, celery, and carrots from the fridge and canned tomatoes, kidney beans, lentils, or barley from the pantry.
Check out websites where you can type in a few ingredients you have and recipes pop up. Try recipematcher.com, recipe.com, bhg.com (better homes and gardens) or search “recipe locater.”
Jessica Fisher feeds 6 hungry kids as she documents her pantry challenges in her blog complete with easy recipes. Check it out if you get a chance.
What recipes did you make that you would make again? How much money did you save?