Monday, August 29, 2011

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

Photo credit
As I mentioned on Facebook last night, we cleaned out the fridge last night and were shocked by the amount of food that we waste when things are shoved to the back, or ingredients have gone bad because we didn't plan the meal.  I'm determined to make changes in these habits, and I know that one of the best ways to  make the most of what you have is to make a meal plan.

I've never been terribly motivated to plan our meals out each and every week, but I do notice a change in the mood of our home between 4:30 and 5:30 when I do. I also notice a marked decrease in eating out, unplanned grocery purchases and the general lack of the feeling of "what's for dinner?"  Plus, you spend less if you use what you have on hand!  That's one of the reasons why I stock up when I can get chicken for $0.50/lb, and pasta for $0.20.

This month, a week at a time I will plan meals in advance, using primarily items already on hand from my pantry and freezer.  The reason I only am planning a week at a time is because I like to incorporate sale items when possible, and I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, since baby #2 is on the way soon!

Breakfasts: Cereal, Oatmeal or Toast, Fruit and Cheese or Yogurt
Lunches: Leftovers, Sandwiches, Wraps, etc
Snacks: Fruits, Veggies, Yogurt, Applesauce (see below)
Dinner with friends
Pasta with red sauce (add fresh sauteed zucchini, tomatoes and basil), salad
Steak on the grill with skillet potatoes (pick up a handful of red potatoes at the farmers market)
Breakfast for dinner: eggs, toast, fruit, hash browns, sausage
One night will be left open for leftovers

Also, I've got apple fever here. We've been gifted LOTS of apples, so I'll be making 2-4 pies or crisps to eat and share with others and hopefully 2 more to freeze. And, we've been eating them as snacks every time we're hungry! Thanks, Amanda!

I shouldn't need to buy much, since I bought milk and fruit over the weekend.  I plan to purchase only the best deals this week using a limited budget.

Meal Planning Tips:
  • I keep a list of meals we like, and recipes stashed all in one place
  • When going to choose meals for a meal plan, I look first in the freezer and pantry.  Based on the meat and pantry items, I'll choose meals to make for that week.  Often, the items on sale that week can be incorporated as well!
  • If you have ingredients to use and aren't sure how, do a search by ingredient at
  • Look at your family calendar to allow for nights you won't be eating at home so that you don't plan extra meals.  Plus, I love this tip from the FM Cheapskate Facebook page: if you won't be home in time to prepare a meal, use your crock pot!  Thanks, Adrianna!
  • Use a printable meal planning page, like the one here from Money Saving Mom.  Or, do an internet search to find one that works for you.  Someday, I'd love to make this this magnetic menu planning board.  It's so functional and cute!
I think the easiest thing to do is over-complicate it.  I'm really good at that.  A sheet of paper with your 5-6 dinners written on it is all you need.  Or, if you're a smart phone person, maybe there's an app for that.  Who knows.  Just give it a whirl and let us know how it goes!  

If you have tips for the rest of us, please share them!  I enjoy meal-planning but am no expert.  Anyone up for the challenge?


  1. I use my google calendar. You can create different color coded categories, and choose which people you want to share each category.
    My menu planning is green, and is shared with my husband. That way he knows what to look forward to (and can make suggestions if I haven't made favorites in awhile).

  2. OH MY WORD!! I love the menu board. Think we need a girls night and make these.

  3. Alicia - great idea!

    Jenelle - aren't they adorable? and functional! I think with buying the paint supplies and clear calendars, it would be smart to do with others!

  4. Great challenge, and thanks Alicia for the suggestion about using Google calendar. Thats great because its accessible from my phone while I'm at the store!

    I use the meal planning calendar and checklists from "The Old Schoolhouse" don't let the header of homeschool scare you off on this, its extremely good for anyone. Lots of other home organization lists, forms, and ideas too.

    Here's the URL-