Wednesday, January 4, 2012
It's that time of year again, time for another Pantry Challenge! I'm joining with Jessica over at Good Cheap Eats for a month long Pantry Challenge. Intentionally eating from your pantry or freezer for a period of time is a great way to use up what you have in the pantry or freezer, try new recipes, save money in your grocery budget and make the most of the grocery money you've already spent. Convinced? Maybe, but how does go about starting a Pantry Challenge?
Decide the length of time
A week, a month, even one meal per week from your pantry will help you use up odds and ends items and save money in the process.
Inventory the Pantry (or Freezer)
What ingredients do you have on hand to use up? What is laying on the bottom of your chest freezer that you completely forgot about? I keep a small whiteboard on the side of my fridge with a list of the items in the basement chest freezer. I try to write things on it before I take them down to the freezer and erase them when I bring them up to use. This helps me immensely when it comes to pantry cooking, because the list is already made.
Check the Sale Ads and Coupon Match ups
What fresh items are on sale? If you know that you're one ingredient shy of a batch of chili, is that ingredient on sale this week? Eating from the pantry doesn't mean I stop buying altogether during that time period. Not only will I still buy milk and fresh produce, I'll still stock up on items that are at their lowest prices. I still manage to spend less overall than other times because I'm planning meals around items I already have on hand.
Make Your Meal Plan
When I do this step, I'm often surprised by how many meals I can plan without much effort based on what I already have! I try to plan meals around ingredients I already have on hand, thus using it up and saving money on my grocery list. I'll then buy only the fresh items I need or that one or two last ingredients to make the meal I have chosen. I have found Allrecipe's Ingredient Search to be particularly helpful with this. You can type in several search terms of ingredients you have on hand and it will give you lists of recipes with those items!
Add meals to the Calendar
Assigning meals to calendar days is the last step of the planning process. On a day that you'll be out, choose a meal that can go in the crockpot. If you have a short dinner time on a certain day of the week, don't plan an elaborate meal. Don't plan a meal on birthday or days you plan to eat out. The calendar can be a guide, but with room for last minute switches if needed!
Here are links to some more resources on Pantry Challenges, Meal Planning and more:
Good Cheap Eats explains more on what a Pantry Challenge is and why it can be worthwhile
Good Cheap Eats also has information on month long meal planning and links to lots of recipes
No Ordinary Moments has an editable month long meal planning calendar for your personal use (Thanks, Stacy!)
Plus, just for fun check out this sweet Magnetic Menu Planning Board that I pinned on Pinterest! I'd love to make one of these one day!