Jumpstart January the Pantry Challenge

Happy New Year! Can you smell that fresh start? New Year's resolutions get a bad rap, but the few I have started with intention and realistic goals, have been the ones I have kept. In fact, 12 years ago, I made the lamest New Year's Resolution {I say lame because everyone makes this one!} and I've kept it all these years later! My hope with these monthly money-saving challenges is that you will find practical ways to make small changes because small changes add up to big changes in the long run. Want to get started with our first Jumpstart January challenge? Come check it out!

pantry challenge money saving

Jumpstart January the Pantry Challenge

pantry challenge money saving

At book club in late 2019, a few friends started talking about taking on a no-spend challenge. They explained this was something they did at the start of every new year to reset their spending. I thought it was genius. 

Don't know what a no-spend challenge is? Start here.

Many of you joined me as I took on the no-spend challenge month last year. One of my goals with the no spend challenge was to use up items in the pantry and freezer. I often forget what I have on hand and then buy more, or stock up on a good deal, but then forget to use up what I have. 

This spurred on, you guessed it, a pantry challenge.

{side note: I can't believe how many times I typed out pantry as panty and honestly, I do my best to catch it every.single.time. but if I'm honest, there are probably some typos out there!}

what is a pantry challenge

What is a pantry challenge?

A pantry challenge is a focused amount of time that you set aside to limit your food spending and eat food that you have on hand already in your pantry or freezer. The goal is to waste less food and to save money by using what you have.

What are the rules for a pantry challenge?

There really are no hard and fast rules. Every family has different needs and will be setting up their own rules. But you do need to be honest with yourself about a few things. Take a look at those non-essential items that have snuck into your weekly spending {LaCroix habit anyone?}.

For me, I wanted to reduce my grocery spending and encourage using what we had in our pantry and freezer so I set a cash budget of $100. I almost never use cash, but by putting cash in an envelope that was set aside for grocery store and food purchases only, I was able to track my spending and visually see the money going out. 

This is a MUCH tighter budget than our family is usually on. However, I did find that by tightening the belt, I was able to still purchase the essential items we will run out of {milk, eggs, produce} while supplementing ingredients for meals as part of meal planning. 

I'll be joining you during this Jumpstart January with a pantry challenge of my own! I'll have a cash budget of $100 to spend and will do my best to plan meals using what we have in our pantry and freezer. Follow along with me here and in my Instagram stories {@msrachelteodoro} to see how I do this month. 

How to succeed with a pantry challenge

pantry challenge tips

Meal Planning

Meal planning is key. I won't say that this has ever been a strength of mine, but in the past few months, I have started to meal plan on the regular. I write out the meals we are planning on a daily basis taking into account our schedules. 

Some things to consider when meal planning

  • how many people will you be cooking for
  • how long do you have
  • what do you already have in the fridge or freezer
  • can you combine meal prep on one night with dinner the next {for example making shredded chicken for tacos one night and having enchiladas or taco soup another}

Don't miss this! Meal planning mistakes that are costing you money!

Get creative

I am literally the only person in my family that will eat leftovers. I have to get creative! Steak one night can become vegetable beef soup the next night, a rotisserie chicken can become chicken pot pie, you get the idea. Get creative so you aren't wasting leftovers.

In an effort to not waste food, you can also get creative with your meals. Produce will eventually go bad or get a little rough looking. Add it to a soup or make a homemade pizza with some toppings. 

For me, I knew I had a stocked pantry and freezer that rarely get used up. I knew taking the pantry challenge would help me focus on using what I already had. 

save money on groceries

Go back to basics

It's easier to buy pre-packaged pizza dough or crust, but it's not that hard to whip up your own. You can buy a loaf of bread, or you can make it. A bag of flour can go a long way to help you get back to basics. 

Try something new

We eat the majority of our meals at home and I'll be the first to admit that I get into a rut in my cooking. We rotate out the same handful of meals over and over again and I typically make sure I have most of the ingredients for those meals on hand, so they are easy to make. The pantry challenge gives you a reason to try some new recipes using what you have already. You might be surprised at how much more diverse your meal planning gets when you are doing a pantry challenge.

Can you spend money on groceries during a pantry challenge?

Yes! I did set a budget for our family for the month, mostly for limited ingredients for recipes, fresh produce, milk, and eggs. I wanted to use up items in my freezer and pantry that had been getting pushed back to the back, but you can spend money on your pantry challenge. Remember, there are no rules!  You make the rules! The goal is to use up what you have. If spending a few dollars on an ingredient for a meal helps you do that, then go for it!

How do I save money on a pantry challenge?

Food is a necessity. We all need to eat, so it is an expense that we budget or plan for. However, we fall into the trap of stocking up when we see a good deal {guilty}, picking up food or drinks that aren't necessary {guilty}, and grabbing pre-packaged food to make life easier {guilty}

If you are using up what you have already, you are saving money by not walking down those grocery store aisles loading up a cart with things you don't need because you already have a pantry full of food you can eat. 

By examining your normal food spending, you are also looking at items that have snuck onto your list that have become necessary but are really more of a splurge item you should be saving for special occasions. 

You're also looking at items that you have purchased that aren't getting eaten by your family because they just don't like them. You can start taking stock of what your family really eats and cut out the unnecessary spending on things they don't. 

Using items in your pantry, freezer, and fridge help to use up items that otherwise might be forgotten and then go to waste. You might also learn a few new recipes in an effort to cook with those items that you wouldn't have made otherwise.

Creating a pantry challenge and sticking with it also helps you form disciple if your food spending has gotten out of control. A set cash budget has helped me see the actual dollar amount I have set aside for the month and has kept me sticking to my grocery list when I walk into the store. 

I do like a good challenge!

Pin This

jumpstart january challenge pantry challenge

By taking the pantry challenge as part of Jumpstart January, you can develop some new habits that will stretch beyond one month. It will give you a chance to reexamine unnecessary spending and create a realistic food budget your family can live on. 

Share your cash envelope, your shopping trips and your grocery hauls using #pantrychallenge and tagging me (msrachelteodoro). I'd love to see your successes and your failures! We are in this together!

disclaimer: this post may have affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing through them, I may receive a small commission. These small purchases help me to continue to keep writing content and creating at Rachel Teodoro. Thank you!

No comments

Powered by Blogger.