Money Matters

Save on Groceries With a Pantry Challenge

It’s been said there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but a pantry challenge might come close!

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What is a pantry challenge?

A pantry challenge is a way to use up items that you purchased in past grocery shops but have been sitting unused in your cupboard.

pantry staples

Why do a pantry challenge?

There are a few good reasons to do a pantry challenge, but probably uppermost in many of our minds right now is the current cost of groceries. Though the items sitting in our cupboards likely weren’t free, you don’t have to buy them again! As such, using these items up can reduce the amount you need to spend on groceries now.

Nations are currently gathered at COP27 to discuss the state of the climate, and a significant sector contributing to CO2 emissions is transportation. In a pantry challenge fewer groceries means fewer trips to the grocery store and using food that was already purchased means not buying more items that have been imported!

Additionally any shelf-stable items such as beans, chickpeas, oats, and flour are often purchased in large portions and have minimal packaging, which makes them a great low waste food option.

Cork Yoga Mat

How to do a pantry challenge?

There are a few things to consider when setting up for your pantry challenge:

  1. The rules: Consider how much you might want to spend on groceries for the duration of the challenge (perhaps based on how much you’d like to save on groceries), how often you’ll go to the grocery store (once during the challenge, for example), limit the items you’ll purchase (maybe only fresh produce, perishables).
  2. Length of time: The amount of food in your pantry/freezer will have some bearing on how long you can do this challenge – the more food on hand, the longer it will take to use up!
  3. When to do it: considering that this challenge will require more work than an average week of meal planning and shopping, consider the timing and length in light of other commitments.
  4. How will you measure success: Consider what you are hoping to get out of these weeks – maybe you have a savings goal, number of clear shelves in your pantry, or an empty freezer. Set a goal that will most help you and go for it!
pantry challenge
Source: Pixabay

Foods in your pantry that you may be ignoring

I read that a good first step is to take an inventory so that you know what you have and can plan meals accordingly. Being a bit of a spreadsheet nerd, this step seems very exciting to me! I can already tell you a few items that are lurking in my cupboards and freezer, and maybe in yours too:

  • Pulses and beans
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tomato paste
  • Various flours
  • Sauce leftovers from my favourite Indian restaurant that I couldn’t bear to toss, even though there was nothing left in it, and so froze

Tried and tested recipes for delicious meals with pantry basics

Alison and I love low waste meals! We’ve posted some of our favourite recipes on the blog in the past:

Easy and low waste meals with pantry staples

4 ways to shrink your grocery bill by going low waste

A delicious new recipe I recently tried would make a great addition to any pantry challenge list:

Curried Red Lentil-Chickpea Stew with Tomatoes and Spinach (from: Weight Watchers)

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups dry red lentils
  • 15 oz canned drained chickpeas
  • 15 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp cilantro

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, cook until softened then add garlic, ginger, salt, coriander, cumin, curry, and mustard seeds, cook three minutes.

Stir in broth, water, and lentils; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lentils are tender, 10-20 minutes. Stir in chickpeas, tomatoes, spinach, and lime juice. Garnish with cilantro.

Pantry challenge and you!

Have you ever taken a challenge like this? We’d love to hear about your experience!

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