We are all looking to save more money, but life gets in the way. We buy too much, fail to plan and end up with cupboards full of stuff that we don’t know what to do with. This is especially true in our kitchen.
I often throw out food that has gone bad, because I forget I had it in my fridge or in my pantry. Here is an exercise that will help you save money and stop wasting food. It’s called the pantry challenge, and by doing this two or three times a year, it can save you hundreds of dollars. I know, I tried it, it works. Here’s how to get started.
What is the pantry challenge?
This exercise challenges you to use up all the odds and ends you have in your pantry. If you’re like us, a busy household that loves to cook new and exciting recipes, you probably find you often have a pantry full of ingredients you don’t know what to do with and a freezer of items that never seem to make sense. Like for example, frozen steam buns from an Asian tapas night, falafel balls and maraschino cherries were in my kitchen when I started my challenge. The test is to eat through all those odds and ends one meal at a time.
The first step is to take everything from your pantry and fridge and do a quick inventory. Start to build meals based on the food you already have. The pantry challenge is about being mindful with your purchases to compliment what’s already in your kitchen. For example, if you have half a box of pancake mix but nothing else, go out and buy a small syrup and berries and finished that box off for Saturday morning. If you dig out frozen perogies buy a small tub of sour cream and have them for dinner that night.
Staying on track
The pantry challenge takes a while. Getting through all the extra things you have is not going to happen in one week. For me, it took around 3 weeks. Also, in the beginning, it will be easy to work through some items, a bag of corn tortillas shells for tacos and orzo pasta, easy dishes to work with. But there will come a point where the pantry challenge gets, well challenging. Like trying to fit miso seasoning and tahini sauce into a meal.
The hardest part of the pantry challenge is only buying small amounts of food each time. It can be hard to resist a sale on the value size box of the cereal your family uses. While doing the challenge buy nothing extra. This is the key point when shopping only buy what you need for that meal or dish. Don’t have any leftovers. The best way to make this happen is to shop for one day of meals at a time. This can be harder if you live far from a grocery store, but as best as you can buy only food for the next few days that will help finish items in your pantry.
In the latest number available from Statistic Canada a family of four spends more than $8600 on food every single year. This includes grocery store shopping and restaurant visits. Another report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, says Canadians household waste about $1450 in food each year. When we take the pantry challenge we’re not only freeing up some much-needed storage space, but also saving money, by consciously trying to eat the food that’s on their shelves right now.
Easy go to meals
- Stir fries, you can put any frozen vegetable in a pan, add rice and noodles to make a great stir-fry
- Casseroles, all is forgiven with its baked and saucy out of the oven
- Curries, with an onion garlic ginger tomato base to start, you can add anything and make it taste good
- Bottom of the box dry cereals are great as a coating for any protein