Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.
One very simple way to save money is to skip shopping for a week or two and use what you already have on hand. We call this Eating From the Pantry at our house and it’s something we try to do at least once a quarter.
Here’s how it works for us:
Make It a Game
Instead of approaching eating from the pantry as a difficult thing, we make it a game on occasion to see how long we can survive without going to the store. When you view it as a fun challenge, it makes it exciting and interesting. And it can help bolster your spirits when you find yourself eating some rather interesting meals.
Set a Goal
Set a goal not only for how long you’re going to try to go without stepping foot into a store, but also set a goal for what you’re going to do with the money saved. Maybe you’ll put it toward paying off some debt, or use it to pay cash for an item you’ve been saving for, or even put it toward your Vacation Savings fund.
You could also consider donating the money to charity — which can give a lot of extra purpose to this challenge!
Inventory Your Supplies
Look through your cupboard, refrigerator, and freezer to see what you already have on hand. Dig really deep and make sure you’re pulling out all the possibilities.
Once you’ve inventoried what you have on hand, use the ingredient search feature on AllRecipes.com to get some recipe ideas for using up what you have in your pantry. I love that you can type in what you have on hand and what you don’t have on hand and it will generate a list of recipe ideas for you!
Go For It!
Once you’ve set a goal and inventoried your supplies, it’s time to dive right in and start using up what you have on hand and staying away from the grocery store.
And remember: even if you end up breaking down and going to the store before you your goal date, you’ve still saved money and used up a lot of what you already had on hand. Also, you probably learned some valuable lessons in the process — or at least were challenged and stretched in your creativity a little.
My Friend Kelly wrote a guest post on her family’s one-month experiment with Eating from the Pantry and the lessons they learned back in 2010. Here’s part of the post:
At the end of November, I embarked on my own challenge to clean out my pantry and freezer. I am proof it can be done even if you’re not a master baker or planner. If this pantry month seems too difficult let’s start with a new perspective.
This is not a challenge, it’s an adventure! Adventures are fun and exciting, full of surprises and exploration. Here’s just a taste of what you might learn on this adventure:
Remember the days when an empty plastic container and cardboard from the paper towels could entertain you for hours? Or times in college when you made pasta in the coffee pot and grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron?
It’s time to get creative again! Whether it’s breakfast for dinner to finish up some pancake mix, using stale bread for croutons, or finding substitutes, cooking is about enjoying the process and breaking out of the mundane.
Creativity comes when you have seventeen cans of tuna and need a new recipe. Creativity is testing new sauces on pasta and trying new recipes, ingredients, and styles of cooking.
As we settle into our routines, grocery shopping can become a tedious chore. Take this month to focus not on what you don’t have in the pantry but what you do. Instead of focusing on the deals you might miss, enjoy the ones you found already! It’s simple to grab chili on sale and celebrate a great deal but it’s a little harder to make chili and cornbread or chili on a baked potato three times a week to use it up.
Look at all the opportunities we have to buy food and utilize discounts, coupons, and rewards. It’s easy to take that for granted. When was the last time your family gave thanks for having a local grocery store, fresh produce, and the funds to pick up a treat or two?
Once you embark on the Eat From the Pantry “Adventure”, try a little trick I call ‘spelunking.’ Simply dig through your stock and find something you can use in place of going to the store. Crunchy salad toppers can be used in soup. Top macaroni and cheese with the last tablespoons of bread crumbs. Turn mushy apples into applesauce and juice into popsicles.
I know my great grandmothers would be ashamed to see the amount of food I let spoil each week. They didn’t waste; the mantra was to “use it up!” In that spirit during my Pantry Month I rescued a ham from the work potluck that was to be thrown away. Ham omelets, sandwiches, added to beans and soup helped stretch many meals. If you’re thinking your stock can’t possibly last 31 days give it a shot and find out how long it WILL last. The worst that can happen is you’ll find your answer.