Regular readers may remember the article from last winter where we took part in a Pantry Challenge. We chose to do a thirty-day challenge and, at the end, agreed we would definitely do it again.
Now that January is here again, it is time for the Pantry Challenge to begin. Since we received numerous comments last year, we are sharing useful information so you can do the Pantry Challenge too.
The idea is to not buy groceries for a set period of time and to make meals from what you have in your pantry. This could be for a week, two weeks, a month or longer. You choose.
What are the benefits?
- Save money. This is particularly valuable in the hardest month of the year, just after Christmas. You can avoid having to buy groceries and just use what you have.
- Clear clutter. Use up the things you’ve stockpiled, like all those soups that were on sale or that half-used bag of lentils.
- Avoid food waste. Did you know that around 70 billion pounds of food are wasted every year in America alone? Instead of throwing food out, figure out ways to incorporate it into meals.
- Save time. No need to run to the store every time you need an ingredient; use what you have.
- Improve your skills in cooking, meal planning and managing resources. Maybe you will learn how to make your own bread, plan meals for the week or substitute ingredients.
- Make yourself aware and/or grateful of what you do have.
- Know where your food comes from: your own kitchen!
- Eat a healthier diet. Eating whole foods made from scratch instead of pre-made and packaged foods is a much healthier way to eat.
- Have fun with food! Trying to make a meal out of limited ingredients is like solving a puzzle. It forces you to be creative, and once you figure it out, you will feel a sense of accomplishment.
Try something new, get creative, think outside the box. It may seem like you can’t make a meal from what is left in the pantry. Choose ingredients you wouldn’t normally use and concoct a meal you can make with that ingredient. This will help you go through food items you would normally put to the side.
Don’t get discouraged! If you feel like you really can’t make any more meals from what you have, at least you put forth the effort, gave it a go and used up some food in your pantry. Also, make your own rules, such as allow yourself to buy fresh foods, but still use a pantry item per meal to use them up.
Use one ‘old’ item per meal. In the beginning it might seem like you have so many choices, but this will change nearing the end. So even in the beginning try and use one old item per meal or one dry good even while you still have fresh produce and fruit.
The biggest tip. You can make soup out of almost anything and you will likely have to eat meatless meals.
First decide your Time Period. If you’ve never done a Pantry Challenge before, maybe start with only a week or two instead of a month.
Limits. Next, decide what foods you’re limited to. We allow the use of any food in our household (in our pantry, freezer or cold room). If we really need an item, we will trade with a neighbour but only for other food to avoiding buying food.
Then decide, will you avoid buying anything at all or are there necessities that you will allow? We allow ourselves to purchase milk, but nothing else.
Inventory. Go through your cupboards and see what you have.
Meal planning. You don’t have to plan every meal, but try to get an idea of the items you want to make sure you use up, like that half-bag of lentils. Try to spread out your protein/meat so that during the last four days of the challenge you’re not stuck with microwave popcorn and eight bottles of sauces. Look for recipes ahead of time so during the busy week you’re not stressing about getting a meal on the table. Use perishable things first, use up your salad ingredients, fresh produce, things that won’t keep, etc.
Let the challenge begin!
If you are trying the Pantry Challenge, we would love to hear from you. Send us your comments about your experience, so that next month we can follow up with feedback on how the Challenge went. What were your struggles? What excess foods did you manage to use up? What new recipes did you try? What strange things did you find? What were some fun moments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.