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Menu Plan Monday: Eating From The Pantry Challenge


I ended up not going grocery shopping at all last week and while we're getting low on some basic supplies, I decided it would be fun to challenge myself to see if we could go another five days without going to the grocery store. So welcome to the Eating From The Pantry Challenge!

My personal rules for this challenge are that I cannot dig into the After-the-Baby Freezer Stash and I also must try to use up as many odds and ends as possible. In addition, I'm going to try to come up with fairly balanced and nutritious meals, though they might be a little different and less-varied than our normal fare.

I'll be blogging what we eat each day, along with pictures and maybe even some recipes. My hope is that we not only make it until Friday of this week without hitting the grocery store, but also that this challenge to myself might inspire you to stretch what you already have a little farther or be more creative with what you have on hand.

Sometimes it's so easy to become accustomed to going to the store every week (or multiple times per week!) that we aren't as good of stewards with what we already have in our cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. This can not only lead to waste, but unnecessary expenditures.

To aid me in coming up with meals for this week, I made up a list of meal ideas to work from based upon things we have in our cupboards, freezer, and refrigerator which need to be used up. We may or may not use all of these this week, but they will certainly serve as a springboard for ideas.

Here's the potential ideas list:

Breakfast Ideas:
Baked Oatmeal
Cream of Wheat
Pumpkin Waffles
Organic toaster pastries
Biscuits and gravy
French Toast

Lunch Ideas:
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Baked potatoes
Beans and rice
Egg salad sandwiches
PB & J sandwiches

BBQ Beef sandwiches
Spinach rice and cheese casserole
Cheese and veggie pizza

Stay tuned for the daily scoop on what I concoct using what we have on hand! For more menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie.

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  • We have been living almost exclusively on our pantry and garden for the LAST TWO YEARS.

    My website shows what we are eating, what we have in our pantry (pictures and a list), what we are growing in our garden–and I have lots of recipes.

    My husband works in Real Estate, and his income has been literally cut in half for the last two years. This does not allow us to go shopping for food most months. When we get to go, it is small amounts here and there, and we restock basics like oil and flour.

    Come check it out!

  • Trixie says:

    Hi Crystal,

    This is a great idea. We routinely have weeks like this. It’s a great way to save grocery money, plus it ensure’s we don’t waste any of those great bargains!

    We had a week where I spent less than $20 for fresh produce and diary items, but everything else came out of our freezer and pantry.

    Take Care,


  • Cee says:

    Could you share your baked oatmeal recipe? Thanks!

  • Ashley says:

    Great list! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  • Jenelle says:

    I notice you eat shrimp alot, but I don’t recall seeing you purchase it? Where do you buy it? Do you stock up or know somewhere where you get a good deal?


    Money Saving Mom here: Well, I bought some when it was on some ridiculous sale for $3.99 for a big bag, but I’m the only one who eats it here, so it’s taken me forever to get through the bag!

  • Jenelle says:

    Prudenthomemaker…I’d love to check our your blog…what is it??

  • Stephanie says:

    I have done this before, but the only thing is our next grocery trip tends to be huge because we are out of everything! I can’t wait to see what you do with your pantry this week!

  • Jenelle,

    My website is

    Moneysavingmom–thanks for answering the question about shrimp. I’ve been wondering that myself!

  • Kristine says:

    My son got sick last week so we missed our normal shopping trip. I had been planning on using what is in our pantry, so, I thought this is as good of time as any. With my husband being deployed we are trying to save money. So far we have been eating what is at home. This is day # 8. Although, as I am sure you will too; we have to go to the store this week to pick up milk. (that is unless you have some frozen)

  • Were you at our home last night? I just mentioned to our family that we are going to go crazy on the special Triple Coupon week this week at Harris Teeter and then we won’t go to the grocery store for the next two weeks. We could easily go a few months, but we need produce….
    love the challenge. And love it even more that it completely lines up with something I already committed to. 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    Great idea! I’ll join you!! I’m shopped out this week,having gone to so many different stores. My freezer is full and ready to go (I’ll re-stock once more right before the baby comes – due mid-May). I’ve gone over-budget the past two weeks on grocery and non-grocery items, so it’s time to use up what we have. Plus, I’m getting so tired that shopping is getting to be a real hassle. Great challenge- I’ll join you this week1

  • Ashley says:

    I think your meal plan actually sounds pretty delicious. We go through this same process every now and again. We have to or we’d be over flowing into other areas of the house.

  • Rachael says:

    How often do you buy milk, and how much do you spend? Hubby and I were talking about how most of our grocery money tends to go to dairy products.

  • Crystal says:

    I didn’t go shopping this week either…but my husband wasn’t as enthusiastic about my pantry challenge and bought a pack of Oreos last night on his way home. LOL.

  • Ang says:

    Hello I would like the recipe please for your Spinach rice and cheese casserole. Thanks!

  • Jennifer says:

    We’re sort of doing this challenge this week. I have everything that I need to make it through half of this week, and then I need some odds and ends for the remainder of the week. Plus, Kroger is having a good cheese sale — $1 for 8 oz. packs. I’m planning to use what I don’t spend on regular groceries to stock up on dairy products (which I agree are very expensive!). I also have Glucerna coupons left, so I’m hoping to use the overage from those to get the cheese even cheaper.

    We have found it amazing to see how long we can go without going to the store except for produce and milk. It’s humbling to realize how much we really do have. We may not consider ourselves wealthy, but we truly are.

  • Rebecca says:

    Great idea. Yesterday I got home from a short out of town weekend trip and was so exhausted I didn’t want to go to the store. I also didn’t think I had anything to eat. Somehow I pulled together a great curry and rice and feel good that I didn’t have to shop yet – leftovers tonight! 🙂

  • Swap Savers says:

    I have done this a lot especially when my twins were babies and it was too hard to get to the store. One idea is to have breakfast for dinner (eggs, pancakes, etc.)–my kids LOVE it and it is an easy inexpensive way to have a fun dinner.

  • Courtney says:

    LOVE this! I usually grocery shop on Mondays, but I was gone all weekend and didn’t plan out my week. I briefly checked our ads today and was less-than-impressed and threw my grocery list to the side, feeling like I don’t just want to make of list of things to get if I don’t really need them. Now I’m totally inspired to get creative with what I have! thanks! 🙂

  • tina b says:

    I agree! Pantry Challenge is one of my favorite things!! I am going to be doing the same thing, since March is a bit of a long month, and for us it means stretching the paycheck (especially after short February!!). I really liked your menu ideas! It got me thinking about what I could make this week 🙂

    Chili tonight! YUM!


  • Julie says:

    I actually try to specifically do this before Christmas. I only go shopping every two weeks because that is how often we get paid. If I stock up enough and scrimp and save for those two weeks, I don’t go shopping and that is what I use to buy the majority of our Christmas presents!

  • Jenna says:

    I like the challenge – I think I’m going to give it a try. I was supposed to go shopping today, and just never made it out. I think I’ll spend some time tonight digging through the pantry and coming up with plan B!

  • One of the things that helps me go further is having powdered milk in my pantry.

    Another thing I used to do is go shopping every two weeks. I would buy fresh produce for the first week, and eat canned, frozen and dried (ie. raisins, dried apricots,etc) produce the second week. I also liked to buy things like apples that I could keep fresh in the crisper for 2 weeks or more.

    Now my chances to shop are much further apart than two weeks. My garden is the fresh produce, and we eat fruit salad from home canned items several times a week.

  • Cara says:

    I spent way too much at the store this week – I made the mistake of not adding as I went and spent a whopping $96 at Kroger, only saving 21%. My weekly budget is $75, so, that means that next week we’ll be eating from the pantry!

    Off topic: don’t get me wrong, I LOVE coupons and have gotten amazing deals from them. After this last “bad” trip, it had me thinking that I might not focus as much on couponing and focus more on frugal menu items (which tend to not have coupons – think beans, rice etc…). I was so frustrated because I spent so much time matching deals and spent so much money!

  • Deni says:

    I recently had to live from my stockpile due to moving! It was so nice to spend a few weeks without grocery shopping while I packed, moved, and then unpacked! I’m just getting back into the swing of shopping and refilling my stockpile and I moved a month ago today!!

  • Kristin Gjertsen says:

    Great idea. My family was sick last week and I have tried to stretch the food we have in the house for 10 days. It is day 8 now, and the only meat left in the house is 4 strips of bacon, 1/2 pack of Aldi’s frozen salmon and leftover chicken salad. Since my husband is a “meat and potatoes” guy, I need to go to the store tomorrow or make my spouse very unhappy. You have inspired me to see if I can limit my grocery purchase to dinner-related food. The kids and I can continue eating out of the pantry for breakfast, lunch, and snacks for a few more days and stretch the family dollar for a few more days. Miss Kris

  • Megan says:

    We’re in the middle of trying to sell our house & we could move at any time so we’ve been doing this for the past couple of months to use stuff up. We had a big deep freezer that’s almost now empty and our pantry is very depleted. I’m glad you’re doing this as I hope it sparks some new ideas of combinations I can come up with. I’m very thankful that none of this food has gone to waste and we’ve been able to eat it down so much.

  • Leah says:

    Great idea! I’ll join you. I have 6 children and the youngest is just 5 weeks old, so getting to the grocery right now is a challenge anyway. It will be fun and useful to stick with what is in the pantry and freezer (2 big freezers full of food).

  • BusyMom says:

    Does your no shopping challenge include milk? I think i could do it. i picked up some fruit the other day and will pick up milk later this week, otherwise eating from our stockpile/freezer stash. I just couldn’t do it without shopping for milk.

    Money Saving Mom here: Yes, I’m not planning to step foot into a store until Friday. 🙂

  • Angela says:

    Too funny!! I’m doing the same thing while my husband is on a mission trip for the next two weeks. The kids and I are currently on day 5 of our 15-day no spend challenge. Good to know I’m in good company!
    I’m tracking my progress and outlining my meals on my blog:
    I’ll be sure to watch yours as well this week! It’s sure made for easier time balancing the checkbook!!

  • Beth says:

    BTW for those of you who don’t buy organic raw milk, Kroger has their milk for $2.38/gallon and Aldi’s is 1.99/gallon. There is a “milk war” going on with the grocery store. I sometimes buy eggs from friends that have chickens, but also Aldi’s eggs went from $1.29 to 1.09 to this last week, .99. We keep our $$ down by using ground turkey ($1/1lb)instead of ground beef. When Kroger had it on sale recently, I was able to get some plus got a rain check. I bought a TON! Also with Easter coming up, be sure your readers know pretty soon it will be a GREAT time to stock up on Turkey’s and Ham. We usually buy 3-4 at Christmas and Easter and it will last us majority of the year until Thanksgiving or so.

  • zsera says:

    We had stir fry tonight 🙂 All I had to buy last week at the store for it was peanuts and a seasoning packet. So I spent about $3? Already had the rice in the cupboard and chicken in the freezer. I love meals like that!

  • Tasha Via says:

    This is a common “game” around our house=) Excited to see how it goes for your family!

  • Grace from Mansfield OH says:

    I just read about your meal plan from the pantry, and it gave me many ideas. Thanks for encouraging me to save $100 this week!

  • Sami Arends says:

    I love this idea. Normally I feed a family of 4 for $100 every 2 weeks(yes, without coupons and i buy mostly name brand). But over the past few months my pantry has begun to ‘overflow’ with side dishes. Maybe i’ll feed my family for $50 instead of $100 for the next 2 weeks 🙂

    I love all your tips by the way. You have taught me the ways of saving money in other areas of the shopping realm.

  • Beth says:

    I was told about a website the other day where you enter in all the ingredients you currently have in your house, and it brings up all the recipes you can make with what you have on hand. Might be helpful for those accepting this challenge.
    Have fun everyone!

  • S. Mullinax says:

    I have a piece of paper hanging on my refrigerator titled “I have ingredients to make the following” and went through my pantry and ended up with 18 meals!!!! I was excited but I also felt a little guilty because if I had not taken the time to sort things out I would have gone to the store and spent $$$ for no reason! Thank you for challenging me!

  • I do this every once in a while because finances get tight. I love the challenge of having to be an intuitive cook based on what I have on hand.

    It’s fun!

  • We did this while in the process of moving! It sure saved us some cash.

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