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  We also were able to clear out any additional items close to going out of date and expiring, we created new and inventive dishes, and we were able clear out the more unhealthy food items, leaving room to incorporate more nutritionally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.



New Year’s RESET: The Pantry Challenge

At the beginning of the New Year resolutions are made to create a better year than the previous year, to quit old habits, develop new habits, and make improvements.  There is also the burden of paying down the credit card debt, rebuilding a savings account, or a checking account used for Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or any number of holidays during the winter.  According to Investopedia, 55% of Americans were expected to spend between $500 and at least $1,000, 32% expected to spend at least $100 to $499 on Christmas. Sometimes the recovery from such spending can be quite daunting. Another aspect that must be handled is all the food left in the refrigerator or pantry, not to mention all the food stores you’ve accumulated throughout the year, languishing in disuse.

Since we’re dirt poor and can’t afford to be extravagant during the holiday season, I will try to recoup the $499 through a Pantry Challenge.  The concept is quite easy and it also helps with decluttering the kitchen and removing any products which may be close to expiring or have expired and I didn’t notice. The challenge forces me to look at the items in my refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry. I then have to come up with creative ways to use the food.  The Pantry Challenge is a sort of spring cleaning, but with food. An added bonus of the challenge is that it allows me to reset for the year.

The Pantry Challenge is where I use all of the food and beverage product in my freezer, refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry before purchasing new food.  This can be really fun, especially after the first week when the food starts to dwindle down, because now you can get really inventive and create or discover new recipes which can be used later.  The downside is that you can also create a recipe which can be stored in your memory as something to never try again, except in an end of the world scenario because it is so horrible and why would you subject yourself to that form of torture again.

There are exceptions to the no purchasing of more food rule.  There are items which will need to be purchased because they are a necessity.  Vegetables, milk, and other such items would be examples of necessities. We need variety in eating to stay healthy so, don’t live the last week of the challenge on macaroni noodles and hot sauce, it isn’t healthy and will make the last week quite difficult.  I have children and this requires me to have milk and other foods so they remain healthy and strong. What I do in those instances is wait until I run out of alternatives to what they eat then purchase the food. Each household is different and the necessities will be different depending on each household’s particular needs.   I recommend not being completely rigid in the challenge. Keep the challenge fun and creative, make it a family event or have days when friends will come over and participate in trying something new. The goal is to force ourselves to evaluate the quality of food we have, the amount of food which we waste, and to explore new recipes and ideas on how to create wholesome meals for ourselves, our families, and our friends, with the added of bonus of saving money.   

When the challenge ends I will post how much I spent for the month and areas where I felt I could have improved, lessons learned, and some of the new recipes I created. So have fun as you dive into the adventure and let’s all see what we can do.

Disclaimer: If anyone has a medical condition, children in the home, elderly, or any other condition which would make this challenge harmful to your health or those within the household then do not participate. For all others do the best you can but stay healthy.  Participate as best you can with your household needs and never risk your health for the challenge.


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