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Have you ever taken the pantry challenge before? If not, you’re in for a treat. If you have, it’s about time you do it again.
So, what is the pantry challenge?
The best part is that it’s totally free and easy to do. You just need to set aside a little up front time for planning and then you are good to go.
But really, what is the pantry challenge?
The pantry challenge is when you take a set amount of days where you and your family ONLY eat food that is already in your pantry. For the purpose of this challenge we can expand the definition of pantry to also include cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer.
The main goal is to find many different ways on how to use everything in your pantry.
Why should I do this?
If you are only using food that you have already have, the obvious reason is that nothing will go to waste. If nothing is going to waste you will overall save money on your food budget.
You can also make good use of your coupon stockpile.
Another good reason is that it will ultimately save you time. And who couldn’t use more of that?
Alright, I’m in. How do I do this?
First step is to sit down and decide what your challenge goals will be. How many days will the challenge last?
Will you shop at all? If you eat a lot of fresh foods like fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, etc you may need to make a few trips. If so, set a strict food budget and stick to it.
If you’re already in the super frugal department you may know you can preserve perishables by freezing milk, freezing eggs, freezing broccoli, and freezing vegetables and fruits. You can skip shopping altogether during the challenge if you’ve planned far enough ahead.
For the next step you will want to do a pretty thorough pantry inventory. This is really how you assess what you already have on hand and will also help you clear out anything that you won’t use or may have already expired. You should already know a lot of your pantry staples that you typically keep and those should be items you use regularly in meals anyway.
Now that you have your pantry inventory, you will need to use that information to make a meal plan. But first you need to do a little bit of math.
You need to know exactly how many meals you are going to need. SO make a list of EVERY.SINGLE.MEAL. you and your family will eat during this challenge. Meals include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, brunches, midnight food raids, etc.
For this example we will assume a family of 4 people eating 3 meals and 1 snack everyday. The example challenge will last for 30 days.
3 meals per person + 1 snack = 4 meals per day
4 meals per day x 4 people = 16 meals per day
16 meals per day x 30 days = 480 meals
Those numbers may seem a little intimidating but there is no need to be scared. You are most likely already eating this number of meals anyway, this plan just means you will know what you are eating ahead of time.
That means you won’t have to stare aimlessly into the fridge when it’s after dinner time and you don’t feel like cooking. You will already have something prepared.
You can also factor that for some meals, like dinner, you will have a whole meal prepared that the family will eat together.
Once you have your inventory together and your meal count, it’s time to start your pantry challenge meal plans. A great website to help with your planning is Supercook.
You can take your pantry inventory, put each item into their database and it will give you a whole list of different recipes you can make with what you ALREADY have (like this 4 ingredient hash brown casserole)!
This next pantry challenge tip is completely optional, but we highly recommend it. Once you have your meal plan, take a day or so, meal prep, and freeze as many of those meals as you can.
Meal prep and freezing will ensure that your ingredients won’t expire before your challenge is over. It also will save you a ton of time because you will only need to reheat each meal instead of cooking every time you want to eat.
Meal prepping will also help you stay on track because you’ve already made the meals. If you plan a wide enough variety of meals you will also never get bored of eating the same thing.
Remember, the secret to a successful pantry challenge is not being afraid to try new recipes, substitute ingredients, and be creative. Most importantly, have fun!
For more frugal living tips