Inside: The pantry challenge is a popular way to save money. But how much do they really save? Learn why you can save so much more by skipping it.
Have you ever done a pantry challenge? If so, then you know the fun of creating a meal from a can of tuna, a bottle of mustard, and a wayward jar of jalapenos.
A pantry challenge is when you choose not to buy groceries for a set time. (Often a month or so.) Instead, you use up the food in your house until there isn’t much left to eat.
It’s a chance to dig out those foods in the back of the pantry. The stuff lost in the pit of your deep freezer. The leftovers that have lingered in the back of the fridge for far longer than they should have.
Pantry challenges can be a great way to encourage your family to appreciate food and discourage wasteful habits. And many times, a pantry challenge can save you a decent chunk of money.
Yes, pantry challenges can be great. Many frugal bloggers enjoy them.
But not me. My pantry challenge days are over.
Should You Try the Pantry Challenge?
Most frugal people are especially proud of their grocery budget. They do things such as shopping from a list, keeping a price book, and using Ibotta for cash back (always), and more.
You might serve frugal foods like beans or meals that feature meat as a side rather than the main dish. Maybe you use up leftovers before you create a new meal from the pantry or freezer. (For instance, that leftover chicken becomes a casserole or soup.)
Do you need to have a pantry challenge to do these things? Not if it’s a regular part of life!
We all know that diets don’t work, but lifestyle changes do. So instead of having a no spend grocery month, use those money saving ideas all the time!
Mandatory Grocery Shopping Trip
Do you grocery shop regularly? It’s not a fun chore, and most people put it off as long as possible. But maybe you shouldn’t.
If you go on a regular basis, you’ll find that it actually saves you more money. For instance, I try to shop every two weeks. Once I decided to use up leftovers and cook from scratch as often as possible, I began to notice something. We’d hit the end of the two weeks, but there was still food in the house!
After doing this for a while, I had plenty of food. But I continued to shop every 2 weeks.
- Who likes to shop when you’re out of everything? This usually puts you in a rush, which causes you to overbuy food.
- You can time things like milk, which means you’ll run out less often. (Because how often do you really only get milk?).
- No more missing out on the best sales cycles! If you have a routine, you’ll notice how often chicken goes on sale (for instance).
- If you line up your shopping trips with the frequency of your paychecks, you can budget better than ever.
Once you get in the habit of shopping on a routine rather than waiting until you’re out of food, you’ll start to find some wiggle room in the budget. Use the extra money you’ll find to stock up on a couple extra packs of that food you eat often that just hit its rock bottom price!
For instance, when noodles go on sale for just 49 cents per box, get 20 boxes of them. Just be sure to ration them out so they last until the next sale.
Snowball Method of Grocery Shopping
Have you heard of the snowball method of paying off debt? The idea is that as you pay off a small bill, you roll that payment into the next bill. Your money gains steam like a snowball rolling downhill. You are able to pay off the other debts faster and faster because there’s more money available to use.
Grocery shopping on a routine works the same way. On your next trip, take the “stock up money” that you used on pasta last time. This time, use it on the chicken that’s just 99 per pound. But wait, there’s more! You can also take the money you usually spend each week on pasta and buy more chicken. Because, remember, you stocked up on pasta last time. (Whoop!)
Where the Pantry Challenge Gets You
If you were doing a pantry challenge, you’d use up that wonderful stockpile that took you so long to build. And while you’d pocket the money you would have spent at the grocery store, imagine what your grocery bill will look like when you go back. Because now you have to restock everything!
Even worse, imagine draining your pantry only to find yourself too sick to shop, stormed in without food, or with some other emergency.
No, thank you.
Get the Benefits Without the Drain
Hey, pantry challenges aren’t all bad. But you can get the good parts of a pantry challenge without emptying your pantry!
Do a mini-pantry challenge every week. Use up leftovers throughout the week before they go bad. You can find more ideas on that topic here.Thinking about doing the pantry challenge? Skip it. Here's why.Click To Tweet
Keep up with those bits of food that tend to get lost in the back of the pantry and the bottom of the freezer. Make it a point to clean those places out once a month. If you find 5 cans of olives that expire next month, check Pinterest for ways to use them up.
If you find bags of half empty produce in your freezer, make a soup or smoothies.
And if you find things that you know no one will eat, get rid of them!
Even if you don’t do the pantry challenge anymore, your grocery budget can be stronger than ever.
P.S. Your family never liked that tuna, mustard, jalapeno casserole, anyway.
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What’s your opinion of the pantry challenge? Has it saved you some big money, or do you prefer to keep a stocked pantry?