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 tried 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.
(For a little while, anyway…)
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.
Ah, a chance to skip grocery shopping. Right??
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.
If you struggle to find the time to go grocery shopping regularly, this Kroger Clicklist review might help solve that problem!
Where the Pantry Challenge Gets You
If you choose to skip grocery shopping for, say, a month (that’s the most common time frame people use), let’s be honest.
You’re gonna use up some of those foods that have been sitting around for a while, sure.
But you’re also going to use every last bit of food you had a nice stash of, too.
The pile of pasta you found for 49 cents is a goner.
So is the extra pack of chicken you found for less than $1.99 a pound.
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.
Want To Save On Groceries? Find A New Way to Shop (Every Time)
If you’re considering doing a pantry challenge, I’ll bet what you really want is to save more money more often.
If you could just find a way to lower your grocery budget month after month, that would be amazing.
There are 8 people in our family, and to me, finding a way to spend less on groceries and have food in the house is a must. (For emergencies… or just because I’m not willing to go to the store every other day for an ingredient or two.)
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.
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?