January 30, 2011

February Eat from the Pantry Challenge

DSC_1341 I’ve been thinking a lot about this challenge since I proposed the idea to you all a few weeks ago.  My poor husband jokes that he doesn’t know what we’ll eat in February because I’ve already begun the process of cleaning out the refrigerator, freezer and pantry.  Maybe he’s right, maybe I’ll find near the middle of the month that we don’t have as much food stored as I think.  I won’t know until I try, so here we go!

A few notes on the reason behind the challenge--

Saving money.  February, as you know, is the shortest month.  A long time ago, I read from another blogger that it is the easiest month to have an eat from the pantry challenge because you have a few less days to account for.  It is a good time of the year to have a challenge because many people have higher heating bills and budgets are stretched.  By slashing your grocery budget to bare bones, you’ll be able to use that money for savings or to pay down any debt that you have.  For our family, the extra savings will go into our Disney account.

Why am I having this challenge?  For us it isn’t just about saving a little money.  In December, I threw away packet after packet of yeast that I had let die.  I knew they were in the pantry and kept telling myself that I needed to use them.  They weren’t lost, they just weren’t convenient.  I do not like wasting--I don’t think that it is being a good steward of the resources that God provides for us.  I don’t like knowing that someone in need could have used that yeast before it was thrown away.  What about you?  How often do you throw away something from the refrigerator that had mold growing on it?  From the freezer that was freezer burned?  From the pantry that was beyond its expiration date? This challenge is a good time to motivate yourself to use up those leftovers and products that you’ve been meaning to cook but haven’t. 

Getting creative.  I have always enjoyed cooking.  I like the chemistry and science behind it.  I like the sensuality of cooking and baking—the smells, the textures, the tastes.  I like the smiles on my loved one’s faces when I make something that they enjoy.  Yet lately I’ve been a little less than inspired in the kitchen.  I’m hoping that this challenge stirs my creative juices a bit and gets me motivated to try some new recipes, or at the very least some new flavor combinations.

Homemade versus packaged.  This time of the year I find that more packaged foods enter our diet.  In the summer months I have the garden going in full swing and trips to the farmers markets are frequent.  In the winter months, though, I have a hard time buying produce that I know was grown thousands of miles away, organic or otherwise.  Yet the alternative—buying foods that come in bags or boxes or cans—isn’t that much better.  Many times it is worse.  I hope that this challenge will help me to clean out some of the packaged foods from the pantry while forcing me to cook more from scratch. 

Losing weight.  Eating at home more often is a good thing for my waistline.  Health problems late last year contributed to me packing on some pounds.  My body chemistry still isn’t in balance, though my doctor is working to help me with that.  I’m hoping that eating more home-cooked meals, more meals that I’ve thought about and planned, will help me to cut some calories. I’m not saying we won’t be eating sweets, but there is a big difference in a muffin that is made at home and one that is made at a fast food restaurant or coffee shop.  I’m also not saying that we won’t be eating out on occasion, after all, Chick-fil-a is giving away a free chicken biscuit on Groundhog Day.  The times that we do go to restaurants will be either super cheap, free, or when we have a super-duper coupon.

The challenge--

Our family will cut our grocery budget more than half.  Normally, it is $350/month for a family of three with frequent family and friends over for meals.  This includes all food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper products, some dog food, and medicinal items (herbals, OTCs, meds).  In February we want to stay at or under $100 for the entire month.  I feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to make that mark.

I’ll try to post updates, photos of what we are eating, any new recipes that I try, the usual meal plans, and any tips that I learn along the way.  I’ll give an update at the end of the month on how we did and what we learned from the experience. 

The giveaways--

I want you to join me in this challenge!  To bribe motivate you to do so, I’ll have a few giveaways that I’ll post more about later.  I don’t want to put strict guidelines on any of you so as to limit your participation.  I try to repeat over and over again on this blog that anything you learn here must be adjusted to fit your family needs and situation.  This challenge is the same.  Each time I post a giveaway, I’ll have something new that you must do to enter the giveaway.  Other than that, I hope that you will sit down with your family and decide how you will make it work for you.  Here are some questions for you to ponder:

How long do we want our challenge to last?  All month?  Half of the month?  Only 1 week?

How much are we willing to cut our grocery budget if at all? 

What will be the purpose of our family participating in this challenge—saving money? Reducing waste? To build better food storage? To be eligible for Gabrielle’s giveaway?

Let’s get started!  Are you with me?  I hope so.  At the very least, I hope you’ll read along and leave comments about your experiences past or present with eating from storage.  I’ll start regular posts about the challenge starting February 1—stay tuned!


  1. OH! I'm in and ready... I thought about your questions and have the following comments:
    1) I'd love for it to be all month.
    2) On average, I spend I can spend anywhere from $140-$300 a WEEK.. Yes.. a week for a family of three. The higher end bill always entails higher priced meats though. Thus, I'd like to slash my bills in half!
    3) My purpose of the challenge would be to save money and to make room in my cluttered cabinets.

    I'm eager to start!

  2. Fantastic! I'm so glad you'll be joining in the challenge, Leslie! I'm looking forward to Tuesday when we start. I've already scheduled a post for the first giveaway later in the week, too. Stay tuned!

  3. Sharon - KnoxvilleJanuary 30, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Count me in! Since you suggested this in an early post, I've worked on compiling a list of menu ideas to allow us to go the entire month of February using what we have on hand. We’re excited about doing this for a number of reasons:
    1) Make us mindful of those who can’t afford what we take for granted…a stocked refrigerator and pantry
    2) Help reduce waste
    3) Help us rotate our pantry/stockpile
    Oh, and I love a good challenge! We currently budget $300 a month. I’m committed to saving $275 to help offset higher priced utility bills and gasoline.
    Thanks for an excellent challenge!

  4. I am so happy you'll be accepting the challenge, Sharon!

  5. Darn! Only $300 a month? I must be doing something wrong.. or.. maybe it's all the candy? lol... I am so ready for this challenge!

  6. Everyone is different. Different areas of the country have higher groceries, too. I have a feeling we'll all learn from each other during the month of February, and I know it will help me to save even more money in the future.

  7. I'm in too! Though I always try to make a point to pull from what we have instead of buying more, I don't always succeed. You advise to take stock of what you have on a monthly basis, and I haven't taken your advice. I'm going to seriously take an inventory and start finding creative ways to use it all. My goal is to stick to "perimeter shopping"--produce, bread, milk and eggs only. If it's truly a freebie, I'll make an exception. I'm hoping to trim my typical grocery & pharmacy bill of $500 a month to $200. We'll see!

  8. Gabe, your timing is perfect! My DH just said to me, "I think it's time for a eat from the pantry challenge." Ha! We'll be participating! I also find ourselves buying more packaged products during the winter months. I miss the farmers market!! I'm ready to get started, thanks for the motivation!

  9. I read you everyday and love your ideas. You help me stay in line!!!!!!!It will be great to see how we all do in February. Thanks Gabrielle
    Michelle P.

  10. I have such wonderful readers and friends! Thanks for how much each of you bless me each and every day!