How to save money on groceries with a pantry challenge.
I just finished a month long pantry challenge!! It was such a great way to learn more about my spending habits and how to cook frugally. I’m excited to share some of those pantry challenge tips with you!
A pantry challenge is a challenge you can take yourself (or as a group) that is meant to encourage you to eat food items you already have at home (pantry, fridge, freezer, shelves, etc.), instead of spending money at the store on groceries.
For my pantry challenge I decided to cut my regular grocery budget of $400 a month in half. This would mean I could only spend $200 for our family of five. Honestly, this was no easy task and I was incredibly intimidated from the beginning, but I was determined to make it work.
The pantry challenge is now officially over (thank goodness) and I am proud of how the challenge went. I would LOVE to say that I met goal….but I didn’t quite accomplish that…..I went over budget by $1.98. My grand total spent was $201.98 on groceries for our family of five….and you know what I am so PROUD of MYSELF!!!
I wanted to share all about how I was able to make it work and what I learned during the process.
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Make a Plan
One of the most important pantry challenge tips is to plan ahead. A detailed meal plan is vital to being able to see success with a pantry challenge. I learned quickly that if I planned every meal and snack with great detail I wasn’t as tempted to go buy something at the store.
At the beginning of each week look through your pantry and cupboard and make an inventory of the food you already have in your home. I was always shocked at how much food I could find…when I kept thinking, “We don’t have any food at home.” We did, we had food at home, I just needed to look harder!
I was able to eat out of the pantry exclusively about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the meals I tried to only plan really frugal meals with only a few cheap ingredients I would need to buy.
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Successful Meal Plans
I listed out a few of the meals and snacks I found to be the most helpful in keeping the grocery costs low.
Eggs and Toast
Breakfast Potato Casserole
Slow Cooker Oatmeal
Muffin Tin Lunch
Salad from Garden
Taco Tortilla Soup
Baked Island Chicken
When it comes to a pantry challenge, grocery shopping can get stressful.
But, fortunately Walmart Grocery Pickup makes it all so much easier (hello, shopping in my PJs and groceries loaded in the car FOR ME! Sign me up!).
With my $200 monthly grocery budget, I was only allowed $50 a week. One of my favorite things about Walmart Grocery Pickup is the ability to watch my cart total while I’m shopping. (I know I COULD use a calculator at the store, but I’m just not great at it….) Being able to see how much I’m spending WHILE I’m shopping was crucial for me during this challenge.
If my cart ever went over the $50 amount I knew I needed to go back through the cart and delete a few items. This was MUCH harder to do than I had anticipated! My family all had to sacrifice a few items we were use to having regularly in order to make the month work (I totally had to give up my daily Premier Protein Shake! ;( ).
How to Get Family Support During a Pantry Challenge
It’s really helpful to have your family support during a pantry challenge. I mean, they are going to be eating the food too! But, sometimes this is easier said than done.
I would LOVE to tell you that my family was totally on board and excited about my little July Pantry Challenge Experiment……but, they actually hated the whole thing. They couldn’t believe the lack of food I was bringing home from each grocery pickup trip.
My daughters enjoy baking in the kitchen, so I tried to get them excited about helping me make a lot of our homemade snacks. They enjoyed this….for a while.
As the month went on my family became more and more tired of our pantry challenge. The biggest problem was the snacks.
Unfortunately, my family is use to having snacks available in the pantry, and snacks just couldn’t fit in my budget this month.
Something that worked well for us was making a list of snacks that we had available. This sign was hung on the fridge for everyone to see.
So, whenever anyone complained about there being “No snacks”, I pointed them to the list.
I think they had gotten so use to those convenience snacks (not awesome parenting, I know) that they had forgotten about all the other great options we had.
Even though my family didn’t necessarily ENJOY the pantry challenge, I am really glad they were able to go through it with me. It was such a good life lesson for my kids to learn about stretching dollars and how much food really costs.
What I learned
My biggest takeaway from the July Pantry Challenge is that I CAN live on less than I usually do. Yes, it took A LOT more effort, (preparing a lot more food from scratch and a lot of time planning), but I CAN do it! We survived.
Moving forward I have a new sense of motivation to stay in budget, shop my pantry, and really spend with a purpose. I’ve always told myself the lie that I HAVE to spend money on this food because we NEED it……but, we don’t! We were just fine having less food around. I am excited to take this new knowledge and adjust my grocery shopping from here on out.
My pantry challenge is over! Does this mean I get to spend a lot of money next month restocking my shelves????? Absolutely NOT!
I will be going back to my regular grocery budget of $400 a month. Of course, I will slowly try to restock my pantry, but I will always stay within that $400 budget.
I honestly was terrified for this challenge, I really didn’t know if I would be able to meet my goal, $400 a month is usually a little bit of a challenge. But I did it, and I’m so glad I was willing to try! If you are wanting to find a way to save a little extra cash, try having your own personal Pantry Challenge. Be sure to come back and let me know if you did it and how it went!!