Groceries are expensive, especially if you’re trying to eat healthy or feed a large family. And as prices continue to rise, it’s becoming more critical than ever to stretch your grocery budget.
If you already clip coupons and have become an expert at finding the best bargains, you’re well on the way to stretching your grocery budget. But if you’re looking to stretch it even further, you might consider a pantry challenge.
The goal? To use the food you have in the pantry, freezer and refrigerator to make a week’s worth of meals—skipping the grocery store entirely. In addition to not dropping any money on food for the week, the pantry challenge can help you avoid wasting food while at the same time clearing out your cluttered pantry.
If you’re ready to commit to the pantry challenge, here’s a quick primer:
Open every cupboard where you store food and write down what you have. Don’t overlook the refrigerator and freezer, and be sure to include any and everything that’s edible.
Once you’ve taken inventory, use the list you’ve created to determine what you’re going to make throughout the week with the abundance of food you already have on hand. If you don’t take the time to plan out your meals ahead of time, you may find yourself with limited options by the end of the week.
To make this part of the process easier, use websites that allow you to enter the name of an ingredient and look for recipes that use it.
Common meals you’re likely to cook throughout the pantry challenge include soups, baked goods and even meatless meals. You’ll also learn how to turn leftovers into new dishes that may well become part of your regular cooking rotation.
It’s Okay to Toss
If you happen upon unused ingredients that have been relegated to the depths of your refrigerator for a specific reason, don’t feel as though you need to use them. If you come across something you don’t like, give it to a friend or neighbor, donate it to a food bank, or put it in the compost bin.
Remember Your Grocer
Don’t drive yourself crazy if you can’t come up with a week’s worth of meals from your pantry. If you have a garden, supplement your stockpile with vegetables you’ve grown. And, if you must make a trip to the grocery store for fresh milk, yogurt or something else you need, don’t feel guilty about it.