Pantry Challenge: Finale

The end of the month is upon us and all good things must come to an end.  This includes the Pantry Challenge and, I hate to say it, the family is quite happy about this ending.  My littlest had began counting it down when we had 3 days left. I’m sure many felt the same way when the end of the challenge was in sight.  I did have to go to the store on 8 separate occasions, each visit the amount steadily increased as we ran out of essentials. Aside from a bottle of greek vinaigrette and a partial bag of self-rising flour, the pantry was emptied.  I say the challenge was a success and that we were able to recoup some of the money spent on Christmas presents and festivities.

As previously state in New Year’s RESET: Pantry Challenge, we spent approximately $500 on Christmas expenditures for  family and friends. This included food, presents, and miscellaneous accessories which arose throughout the season. It’s also important to note, that as a household of five with three growing boys, two of which are in their final growth spurts, we spend anywhere from $150 to $200 a week in groceries.  This adds up to about $700 a month if we take an average. According to the USDA, in 2013 the average cost of groceries for feeding a family of four was $146 to $289, this allows a better perspective of the amount a family spends on food, excluding the occasional eating out. The lower end is also the amount that is used for SNAP benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, just for information’s sake and for later use in future posts.  

So, how much did we recoup from the pantry challenge?

The receipts steadily grew in cost as the weeks progressed.  The first receipt was $10.31 and the final receipt was $77.15.  The final purchases occurred with 2 days left in the challenge and are the final grocery visit until February.  The Grand Total spent to replenish our food came in at: $257.37. This worked out to a total savings of $242.63. We didn’t save all the money we spent in December but we did save almost half.  We also were able to clear out any additional items close to going out of date and expiring, we created new and inventive dishes, and we were able clear out the more unhealthy food items, leaving room to incorporate more nutritionally dense foods and re-evaluate our family eating habits. All in all, I would say it was a success and something I look forward to incorporating into our yearly routine or maybe even bi-annually.  It was fun to see all the interesting dishes I could come up with. I made rice pudding for the first time, created new varieties of smoothies, and quick dishes that were delicious. I look forward to seeing how others did on the challenge and remember, this can be done at any time of the year and for any length of time. It was quite liberating to try combinations of foods which I would not ordinarily put together and see the results and the surprise when it was quite delicious.

One of my dishes which turned out quite well:

  • 1 bag of boil in a bag brown rice
  • 1lb 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 can of sweet corn
  • 1 frozen bag of English peas
  • 2 packets of Taco Bell Fire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tbsp. Smart Balance Margarine

Add ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to skillet. Next cook the brown rice according to instructions. In another skillet add peas corn, margarine, and a little pepper. Combine all ingredients once cooked into a container and mix all ingredients together. Add any additional salt or pepper for taste. Add Fire sauce to taste.

This was surprising good and easy to make. Other spices can be added to enhance the flavor of the dish.