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Eat From the Pantry Challenge: My Goals and Plans (and come link up yours, too!)


It’s so easy to think we have to go to the store every single week (or maybe even more often!), but I’ve found that when I challenge myself to make do with what I already have on hand, we can usually eat pretty well. Plus, we can save a lot of money in the process!

In recent weeks, I’ve been feeling like we have all sorts of odds and ends in our pantry, refrigerator, and freezers which need to be used up. But with the busyness of the Christmas season, I didn’t have much creative juices or energy to come up with ways to use this random assortment of items. Thus, the Eat From the Pantry Challenge idea was born.

I’d been contemplating how I wanted to pull it off, when FishMama wrote and asked if I’d be interested in doing an Eat From the Pantry Challenge in January since she was also feeling like her cupboards were bulging. I guess great minds think alike, huh?!

So we brainstormed for a few days and decided we’d co-host an Eat From the Pantry Challenge on our blogs January 1-31, 2010. We’re attempting to avoid grocery shopping as much as possible and will be blogging what we’re feeding our families, creative recipes we’re concocting, and how we’re pulling this whole thing off.

To be perfectly honest, I’m still not exactly sure at this point how I am pulling this off because I’ve never done something like it before. Let’s just hope it doesn’t royally flop seeing as there’s no such thing as backing out now!

The good news is that I have all of you and FishMama so if I get in a bind or run out of ideas, I’ll know just where to turn. Whatever happens, I know it will be an adventure!

Now, let me say right upfront that I am not going to completely avoid buying any groceries for a month. We like to have fresh eggs, milk, and produce, so I plan to buy those at least three times during the month.

So here are our family’s goals for the Eat From The Pantry Challenge:

1) Stop at the store a maximum of three times in January.

2) Only buy dairy (milk, eggs, cheese, etc.) and produce (fruits/vegetables).

3) Spend a total of $75 or less on groceries during the month of January.

4) Donate the extra $85 leftover (or more) that we would usually spend on groceries to Gleaning the Harvest.

Now for some caveats: we usually have dinner out once a week as a family (this comes out of our “Dates and Eating Out” envelope and is separate from our grocery money) so we plan to continue that. We also often eat a meal at our extended family’s house at least once per week and we plan to continue that, as well. Plus, we’ll actually be in California for the first few days in January visiting FishMama and her family so we aren’t going to officially start our Eat From The Pantry Challenge until we get home.

You can see FishMama’s goals and plan for her family here.

Would you like to join us in this Eat from the Pantry Challenge? We’d love to have you along! However, I want to encourage you to make your own rules according to what works best for your own family’s needs. Don’t feel obligated to do things the way we’ve decided to do it; do what works for you!

You can join in the entire month, or for two weeks, or just a week–it’s up to you! It’s not a competition, we just hope to encourage you to get creative and save money by wisely using things in your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry.

So, set goals for your own family for the Eat From The Pantry Challenge. And, if possible, consider setting aside the money you save by participating in this Challenge and either applying it towards debt, putting it into savings, or donating it to a worthy cause.

This is a simple way that you can squeeze a little extra out of a tight budget to help meet a financial goal or give to someone in need. It’s not required that you do this to participate, it’s just something I’d encourage you to consider.

At the end of each week in January, we’ll have a post with a Mr. Linky for you to share about what you ate from your pantry the past week and how the Challenge is going for you. You can also interact with others participating in this challenge on Facebook or follow along here on Twitter with the hashtag #pantry.

If you’re participating in the Eat From The Pantry Challenge, post about your goals and plan and then come back here and leave a direct link to your post below so others can read about it and be inspired. If you don’t have a blog, you can tell us about your plan and goals in the comments section of this post.

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  • Angela says:

    Okay, so I am in too! I just bought a box of chicken at the chicken plant so my family will be having lots and lots of chicken this month. I know there are lots of variety I can do with chicken just need to be creative. Thanks for the idea and I will definitely be checking back for ideas on recipes and encouragement. My biggest struggle will be taking something to work for breakfast and lunch instead of drive thru!

  • Katharine says:

    I’m excited to dig into my excess as I begin the new year!

  • Leah says:

    We are excited about participating in this challenge! Thank you for hosting it and providing the inspiration we needed to clean out the freezers and pantry before stuff goes bad 🙂

  • Michelle H. says:

    This is so timely! We are about to sell our home and I need to declutter. Part of that is whittling down my stockpile so my pantry appears more spacious to potential buyers. (And clean out the laundry room cabinets that hold the overflow.) Last week I bought only milk and bread and we still ate like kings. Of course, my husband has taken it upon himself to eat the ice cream stockpile. : )

  • Laurie says:

    I’m hoping this will help us stay more focuesd this month – thanks for the encouragement!

  • I am so excited about this. Game on! Fun challenge that dh and I were just discussing today. Great to read this post! Can’t wait to read updates from everyone!

  • Kim Reilly says:

    I just saw this challenge 10 minutes ago… I am SO in! The way my pantry is bulging it may turn into a 60 day challenge for me.
    My goal is to cook from the pantry every night (except for weekly dinners at the grandparents’). No fast food for the sake of convenience. I’m starting this off with 50 lbs of prime rib steaks and roasts in the freezer, thanks to a GREAT sale the week before Christmas.
    The money we save on groceries and eating out will be used to pay down our debt.
    I’ll need to organize the pantry tomorrow, I’m pretty sure there are some dry goods in there that are older than my children.. ick.

  • I have decided to take the challenge of 30 days without buying anything except gas and groceries. As I was making my “ground rules” for the month, I came upon your post about the pantry. I had already decided to keep my groceries to $110/week (I have a baby on very expensive formula and diapers which eats up around $60/week) and wanted to do more.

    Thanks for the post. Can’t wait to see your recipes!

  • Blakely says:

    I think it will be fun to participate in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge. I have tried to do this on my own, but know that there are others will be helpful. I added a link to my blog.

  • Jean says:

    On board! What a great idea!!

  • Michelle Cox says:

    I took my inventory two nights ago, did my “supplemental” grocery shopping yesterday and we had our first “Eat from the Pantry” meal last night. I came up with 10 meals, so I’m hoping to make the “pantry/freezer” plus those supplemental groceries last until Jan. 9. If I do, I will have saved about $150 in just one week off my usual grocery costs. I’m so excited to have found Money Saving Mom! I put my post up on

  • KellyH says:

    Lasagne noodles- my mom brought out a dish for lunch one day last year. She had made chicken salad (or maybe tuna) and rolled it up in cooked lasagne noodles, then we used some salad dressing (Italian maybe) on it if we liked. It was pretty good.

    I am planning on the challenge starting next week. DH is on vacation this week, and my folks are coming for Christmas next week. I have LOTS of ground venison, canned green beans and canned pears/ applesauce to eat.


  • Patti says:

    I am joining you, too! Started today (Dec. 31st) by deciding on tomorrow’s menu from food I have on hand. For the traditional Southern January 1st meal of pork, greens, and hopping john, we are having: country ribs with Sticky Fingers BBQ sauce, canned black-eye peas, white rice, and succatash of tomatoes, okra, and corn.
    No greens exactly but that’s ok. I also decided to use something from my pantry for a New Year’s Eve dish: made cheddar cheese cookies (the kind with hot sauce and Rice Krispies). While these were baking, I did my pantry inventory and found loads of ideas for party foods: popcorn in the Whirley Pop, four jars of salsa (and I know I have black beans if I wanted a dip with these), and a Tastefully Simple Savory Cheese Dip Mix. Can’t believe I was planning to go to the store to buy something for the party we are attending. Thanks, Crystal, for encouraging us to use our stockpiles!!

  • Lindy says:

    Great Idea! My family acctually did this for this month December! The month of Dec brings alot so I really wanted to focus on my family this year and not be couponing. I didnt have to get any groceries at all. It was great. I have a fully stocked pantry and freezer. I didnt even make a dent. I was nice to get a break from the stores especially with them being so crazy this time of year. You should all be able to do it!

  • I decided to participate for the whole month of January and here are the rules I came up with.

    1. To limit spending at grocery stores to no more than $20 a week and mostly on items such as milk and eggs. While trying to use giftcards from RX transfers when possible to buy some of these items.

    2. To create meals using items from our stockpile and post the recipes.

    3. To continue eating at home every night – we just do not go out to eat much around here.

    4. To use the money saved to go do something fun as a family (i.e. movies, dinner out)

    5. And lastly, to update my inventory and post updates on the Challenge status weekly.

  • Darrell says:

    I’m going to try this! We have a few chickens, chicken legs, ground turkey, and some fish in the freezer and a pile of beans in the pantry. I think I could make dinners with that and I’ll let myself pick up a great deal on meat if I see it:) I hope doing the challenge along with everyone else will provide the motivation to put that grocery money into savings!

  • Shannon says:

    I’m in! I started doing this back in the fall but have fallen off the wagon. No better time than the present to start again!

  • I did something like this when I planned my December menu and had already put my menu and grocery lists together for January with this in mind. I’m excited to have found this online community of folks all working on the same project! I also love the challenge of “odd ingredients” so feel free to post on my blog if you’ve got some odds and ends that you need ideas for 🙂

    In skimming the ingredients folks are looking for uses for:
    -Gravy can be used in a soup or stew base
    -consider rolling cheese and veggies in the lasagna noodles
    -make “lasagna” with finely chopped veggies & cheese and cream sauce instead of the traditional red meat sauce and rich cheeses.

    just a few ideas 🙂

  • Joyagg says:

    I’m in and sharing the word. Did a freezer inventory today and plan to do the pantry as soon as the new shelves go into the laundry. Thanks for the challenge.

  • Kris says:

    I’m in. I’ll be trying to organize my stockpile, rotate stock in my pantry and freezers, and stick to a budget of $200. I’ll also post more recipes (I have a bad habit of seasonings things until they look and taste right, without actually measuring them).

  • Kati C. says:

    What an exciting challenge!! I have to admit, it’s pretty scary at the same time for me, but I’m definitely looking forward to it! I posted my goals up on my blog at and am anxious to see how this goes! Hopefully I’ll learn more about the value of stockpiling and work on that a bit more!

  • Stardust says:

    I’m excited for this challenge! I hope to end this month with at least an extra $350 in my pocket!

  • La Yen says:

    Genius. So excited to do this.

  • Cyn says:

    Finally got my post up about the eat from the pantry challenge. Almost decided to give up and not do it since I realized that in reality I don’t have that much in my pantries or freezer but then I started seeing the benefits of participating anyway!

  • Mary H. says:

    Thanks for this great idea! I am anxious to get started…and since it’s almost time to get dinner started, I guess now is a good time!

  • Adrienne says:

    My husband is laid-off, so we NEED to eat from our pantry now. I’m glad it’s well-stocked. Today, I took $50, some scrounged pop cans, and some pocket change to the grocery stores to shop. My goal is to spend $50 per week. I think it can be done.

  • Erin says:

    I sort of did this in December because we always tend to spend more to make those special holiday recipes (and we generally eat more too). I think I will keep it going because our pantry is still fully stocked.

  • Amy says:

    I am very excited to be joining in. I love challenges! Between my pantry and my two freezers, we really shouldn’t have much problem. We are just going to have to be very creative and that is part of the run. I will be like most of you with grocery store runs only for milk, eggs, fruit and veggies. My hubby thinks this is a great idea.

  • Wendy says:

    I actually started this tonight without seeing your post till late this evening.

    We had steaks, brocolli and pears and garlic bread…My husband is so burned out on potatoes I decided to skip the starch.

    I am blessed to work for a food brokerage company where I receive most of my food free. We actually had to purchase a freezer to store everything. I was laid off earlier this year and this was one of the enticing factors for them to get me in there. However my husband was laid off several months later and 4 months later, he is still without a job. Thank goodness we have not had to touch our savings except a bit to get our 8 year old Christmas gifts, but I’ve found that with clipping coupons and receiving the free food by the grace of God, we have more “extra” money and I am so thankful.

    I will definately be participating in the January adventure and will be sure NOT to tell my husband about it either. He, too gets antsy as well. 🙂 Good luck to everyone!

  • Wendy says:

    Menu tonight from the freezer and pantry – Day 2

    Pulled BBQ
    Home Made French Fries
    Fruit Cocktail

  • Stacy says:

    sounds like fun. will be doing this!!!
    i spent $85 this past week but it included stuff for ds’s slumber birthday party this past weekend (about $25 worth of extra groceries) so we are well on our way to this end as well.

  • Stacey says:

    Kudos to you guys with full pantries. My cupboard is barer than bare at the moment. I’d like to get in on the challenge once I’ve restocked though.

  • I’m joining in – better late than never! 🙂 After having an energy audit done recently, we’ve decided that the cost of running our older model chest freezer negates the savings from stock-piling food when its on sale. So I guess we’ll be eating our way through the freezer this month!

  • Justine says:

    I, too, am in for a modified “eat from the pantry/freezer” challenge… at least for this week! If it goes well, I might go for week 2, but since kitchen creativity drains me (and I started back to work today after 2 weeks off) I’m not sure how this will go. Definitely hoping to glean some ideas from others! I already like the unconventional lasagna uses… I’ve got 1/2 box from a while ago and hate making lasagna!

  • Steph in Canada says:

    Count me in!

    We’ve got a very well-stocked kitchen pantry, basement pantry, chest-freezer and cellar…. so we could probably do this for 3 months, but let’s see how the first month goes. Part of being well-stocked is taking advantage of the sales when they happen – so everything in my freezer, pantry, etc. was bought on sale (except for those things I canned/preserved myself).

    This week’s menu:
    Mon – Broccoli soup (bone broth from freezer, already had broccoli, cheese, onion, carrot)
    Tues – Bangers n Mash (sausage in freezer/potatoes in cellar)
    Wed – Ribs, Salad and Rice (already have everything – ribs were in freezer)
    Thurs – Eggs and Toast (quickie dinner before heading out to class)
    Fri – leftovers or something quick from the freezer, such as chicken strips, fries, pizza, etc.

    This weekend will be shopping trip 1 of 3 and I will plan next week’s menu then.

  • DJ (Deb) says:

    I am so glad to read about the “Eat From The Pantry Challenge” because there is plenty of room for my family to improve on cutting/saving dollars with coupons and in our creativity with weekly menu planning. About this time last year, I started our own little pantry because of wanting to budget our food money better. Then, last summer we found out my one daughter needs to restrict spicy, acidic, high fat foods which helped with cooking more from scratch. Now, I want to see what else we can do with our pantry by cooking more with what is on hand in this new month/new year. My dollar figure will probably be different because we go to the store for fresh dairy and I plan to purchase bargains/on sale items for re-stocking our “pantry” because of continuing this after January. I’m not sure how much I can participate with comments but I look forward to reading and getting lots of great ideas to help us with our own pantry challenge. I’m particularly interested in seeing if there are any others with food restrictions and how their pantry and meal planning works.

    I plan to post on my own blog and will add to the above list. Thank you so much for doing this!

  • Ursula says:

    This a great challenge and was ready to do it anyways to rotate my foodstorage….I have to say, going to some of the blogs and seeing the pantries …oh,my what dream pantries there are ….are there any of you, who also are limited on space and how do you deal with it, not having a semi big pantry or storage room ..?

  • jodie says:

    Well, I officially decided to join up with you all after checking out my stash of stuff. It’s insane. Besides… I’m always up for an adventure!! 🙂 My goal is to spend less than $40 a week on ONLY fresh stuff (fruit, milk, juice, veggies) and to use up most of what we have in our stockpile.
    Fun fun fun!

  • Ami says:

    I planning on a bit of a laid-back participation in this challenge. Money saved will be used toward our transition to healthy eating. Specifically, I’ll be stocking up at the Amish bulk foods store and saving more money for 1/4 a steer and perhaps some chickens my friends are willing to raise for meat.

  • Just linked up. A great challenge ladies!

    Our goal is to save at least $200 on groceries so we can add it to our kids’ college funds (daughter and triplet boys). We try to put $50 per month per child away for college, so an extra $200 is a whole extra month’s worth of savings. Maybe we’ll even manage more than that.

    My boys are 1, so I will have to go to the store. Can you say MILK? I’m going to buy only essentials, some fresh produce and the occasional ingredient to complete a dish.

    I’ll be sharing recipes along the way!


  • Jenn says:

    I’m excited! What a great way for me to use what I always freeze and forget! And since January is the slowest month for our business its perfect timing.

  • Shiree says:

    I love this challenge. I would go to several stores a week to get all the great deals around town. One the goals I posted was to shop once a week at only one store. I had a very successful first shopping trip with stock up items as well. You can read about the adventure at Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Sorry it took me a week to post, but I’ve been on board for the get go! Thanks for the “peer pressure” to make this a success!

  • Anne says:

    This is a great project! I posted a similar challenge on my website last November and posted today about my own results. You will learn so much and be amazed at how much you have to eat in your own fridge and pantry.

  • This is a great idea even though I’m slow to respond! My goal is simply to offset some of the unforseen expenses our family had this month and clean out our freezer! Simple I know, but there is little point in buying meat on sale or shopping seasonally if you’re not using it.

  • Felicia says:

    Joining in! What a great idea.

  • KellyH says:

    Hello! So far so good. My folks were here from out of town last week, so a few extra things were bought then. But, as far as the regular family stuff, only a loaf of garlic bread.

    I even have a menu planned for the week, which is a first. And I think we are down to around 57 quarts of green beans. I didn’t really realize how much canned stuff I still had down in the basement.


  • Inumidun says:

    I plan to begin the challenge in March after we return from vacation. I envision trying new recipes to get out of making the same, unexciting dishes day after day. Hopefully, this will inspire my toddler to try something new; anything new is a bonus. This will hopefully save my family at least $100 a month, which can be deposited into a savings account!

  • Joyce says:

    I always love a good challenge! At age 62, it’s an empty nest for me and my hubby, but we can always learn new ways of saving and budgeting. We allow ourselves $300.00 for everything down to the T.P. and dog food. I keep a spreadsheet on the kitchen counter and update our balance after each shopping trip. So far this month, (February) we’ve spent $139.00. At the end of the month, any overage will be given to our local food bank. Seeing the declining balance every day, makes me aware of the need to be wise stewards with all God has given us.

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