Let’s Live Off Our Pantry
Join me in a pantry spending freeze. Not the full-on spending freeze like the six months one we did here.
Just a short two-week commitment, maybe even less to use what we have, and show our kids what it really looks like to have “nothing to eat.”
Give yourself an extra boost in the budget this week by not having to buy a ton of groceries.
Why Use What You Have in Your Pantry?
I like to compare eating up what’s in your pantry to a spending freeze. For example, we went on an extreme spending freeze for six months. Using what you already have and pantry staples was a key part of a successful spending freeze.
Why do a spending freeze when you’ve reached adulthood and can buy/spend your money on whatever you want?
Well, because somewhere down the road, something happened, and money may be tight.
Or you may be feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff you have.
Less stuff, happier life?
It’s been almost three years since we did our major spending freeze. I’m talking about a six-month spending freeze, friend. It was brutal.
It was life-changing, and I would NEVER give up that experience.
Our spending freeze jumpstarted the idea we could pay off our mortgage and continue to live debt-free. Our spending freeze reminded us we could live below our means and save the rest. That spending freeze was the starting point three years later; we paid cash for an SUV, something I’m still in awe over.
Our Spending Freeze post is still the number one viewed post on the site. I wrote it as we were going through it and updated it after it was over.
THE MOMENT I KNEW I HAD TO STOP
It hit me one day. I opened up the pantry to meal plan, and I was overwhelmed with the stuff. So I was baffled when my kids looked into the cupboard; the snacks stuffed into Ziploc baggies came falling out at them, and they asked, ” I’m hungry we don’t have anything to eat.”
What have I done?
Now that I’ve been a prime shopper at BJ’s Wholesale Club, I have many snacks for the kids all at one time. Sure I will still scan the Tops coupon matchups list weekly because some items you can’t get at BJs. And although I am a huge lover of shopping at BJs, they do have some items you shouldn’t buy there.
Bulk snacks require storage. In our first home, we didn’t have a pantry. We used a door hanger and our only closet that also had towels for the bathroom. If you have kids, you know as they grow, so make the requests for food.
If I was feeling overwhelmed, my kids were too. I realized they had too many options. And they needed to stop seeing the same snacks over and over.
Let’s be honest, how many times do we as adults look in our cupboards and fridge and say, “I just went grocery shopping and have nothing for dinner?”
We all have.
I declared a Pantry Spending Freeze.
Although it is not a full-on spending freeze, my goal for the next two weeks is not to buy any food until we use up what we have.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Food can easily be something we keep buying and shoving away, whether it spoils in the fridge before we get to use it or we just bought it because it was free or too cheap to pass up. Food is the one thing we probably take for granted in our country and the one thing we have endless options for.
I’ve always said since day one if you need to save money or increase your weekly income, start with your groceries.
It’s the one variable. Do you really have to have steak, chicken, and sausage this week? Do you really have to eat out two nights a week because of your schedule?
The answer is no. There are ways to feed your family for less in every family and situation.
Tell yourself that right now. Then, any excuses that are starting to form push those aside.
Say out loud right now, I can feed my family for less.
Remember, you don’t have to feed your family for less for the rest of your life. However, there will come a time when the budget will be a little bigger, and you can splurge a few nights a week.
Just focus on the now and remember there is a bright future in place. Every step you are taking now is getting you to financial freedom.
I wish someone reminded me of this when we were completely broke. It was actually our spending freeze that was a game-changer for us. Realizing how we could live with little and discipline in our finances brings many blessings.
HOW TO GET IT ORGANIZED
The first thing you need to do is take an inventory of your pantry items. You could include items from your fridge and freezer if you want to. I’m focusing on my dry goods and freezer items.
My favorite meal planning app now has a pantry recipe option. This way, you can input what you already have, and it will come up with recipes for you! YES, get it here. It may be the best thing you do in 2021!
Throw out anything that is expired. Just do it. I hold onto it and say I’ll use it, I will, but years go by. I had other cans from 2015 I cleaned out last winter and kept this one, thinking I would use it.
List every item you have and how many if there are multiples. For example, in our pantry, since I’m a bulk shopper, I have a number of the same items. This is typical of any couponers pantry because you stock up on items when they are at their lowest price.
I categorized my items.
After taking an inventory, you will want to put your goods back in an organized way. I pulled everything out and then put items in by category. I chose six categories.
- Prepared Side Dishes
- Canned Goods
You can choose whatever ones work for you. However, it will make it easier when you are meal planning if there is some reason for your pantry.
Put any of the half-opened items near the front of your pantry. You could do a separate category of items to use first within the week.
Since I have an opened Jiffy corn mix and rice, I will add corn muffins to a chicken Mexican dish this week. Using what you have in your pantry before you go shopping is the easiest smartest way to save your grocery bill.
Remember when you are organizing your pantry, the FIFO system. First in, First Out! I have to bring in my Target Food Safety courses.
HOW TO USE YOUR PANTRY ITEMS
If you don’t make a plan to use your pantry items, you’ll have a pretty-looking cupboard. But what is the point of that?
It would help if you came up with meals to eat from what is in your pantry.
As you are organizing your pantry, visualize meals you could make with items. When I put canned beans away, I tell myself this is an easy side dish for a busier night.
Since you already have your pantry items written down, you can utilize the website MyFridgeFood where you type in all your items, and recipes using those ingredients will show up!
Or use the app I mentioned above, Real Plans for recipes and shopping lists, right on your phone.
If you are at a loss with items in your pantry, look to your fridge and freezer. It is always better to try to use up what you have before you shop.
WHY THIS WILL SAVE YOU MONEY
Being able to organize your pantry and use what you have will save you money on your groceries. You may come up with a week’s worth of meals, decreasing your grocery bill immediately.
To really maximize your savings, only buy the filler items on sale.
If you choose to shop at one store because it’s your favorite, but the other store down the street has a better deal, choose the other store. Let your mindset be challenged and changed.
THE OVERWHELM IS GONE
I now only keep three of each item for the kids in the pantry. Each Sunday, when I am meal planning, I’ll prep the snacks and add more. Keeping my extra boxes from BJs hidden helps to keep snacks fresh. Don’t put all the snacks you bought out to keep some for variety.
If your child has a favorite, go for it, but otherwise, keep things simple.
AVOID CERTAIN THINGS
As I plan out my two weeks of meals, there are a few personal things I know I need to do to avoid buying pantry items. One of these for me is to not look at coupons or deal sites. I’ve come a long way from buying items that are such a good deal that I don’t really need, but it’s still a weakness, and I know that.
While I am saving money and using what I have, I won’t go scrolling through coupons.com or the matchup lists. I use the search tool to make my meal menu using the items I already have, so only that item comes up. Items I know I will be buying are fruits.
Right now, I will continue to use up the vegetables from our own garden.
Related: How to Avoid Garden Burnout
If I really need bread and don’t want to make my own- ( usually I choose this route when I am dedicated to cutting back on expenses because it’s so much cheaper), I will use the search tool here and type in bread. This way, I’m focused on the one item and not being led astray by all the other Grocery items on sale for the week.
Below is the meal menu I created using the items in my pantry and what I have in my Fridge/Freezer. Of course, everyone’s menu will be different, and I have more than the usual amount of meat right now in the freezer.
Hunting season has begun, which means we need to clear out the freezer and get ready for the new! During our really cheap times, I didn’t even buy any other meat except for venison.
Here are the meals I came up with. Although, I won’t make them in this order. I’ll change it up, so we don’t eat chicken soup three times a week!
MEAL IDEAS FROM MY PANTRY
( Or use the app Real Plans and input what you already have!)
- Sausage and Beans
- Chicken Tex Mex with Cornbread Muffins
- Chicken Noodle Soup x 3
- Meatloaf with Rice Pilaf ( using venison- just add an egg little breadcrumbs they won’t know its venison)
- Chilli x 3
- Tuna Melts With Frozen Peas x 3
- Tuna Cakes with Brocolli x 2
- Chicken Salad with Chickpeas
- Spaghetti and Meatballs x 2
- Pasta Alfredo x 3
- BBQ Cheese Chips ( Not a meal but have so much BBQ I cut strips of cheese add BBQ and put in the oven for 10 minutes or so)
- Bean & Beef Casserole
- Pork and Beans wwithHomemade Applesauce
- Homemade pizza x 2
- Cheese Ravioli
- Roasted Venison with Tater Tots and Veggie from Garden
- Butternut Squash with Venison Roast
- Chicken and Brown Rice Quinoa ( My last Microwave pouch -0 this is such a cheap healthy side see how I get it here)
- Spinach Mac & Cheese x 3
- Eggplant Parm
- Harvest Hamburger one of our favorites see the recipe here
- Rice and Beans x 2
- Egg and Cheese Quesadillas
- Chicken BBQ Quesadillas
- BLTs x 2 use up garden tomatoes
- Fish Fillets and Fries
Coming up with all these meals excites me! I don’t have to go grocery shopping this week. I’m slowly getting out of the habit of thinking I need to grocery shop every week. This will last us longer than a few weeks, and I can probably get away with this for almost a month!
As you can see from the picture, I still have a fair amount of snacks, and the rest of the big boxes from BJs are hidden away in another cupboard. I hope to bake more now that the weather is cooling down.
Are you willing to take the Pantry Spending Freeze with me?