Another Successful Pantry Challenge


It’s March.  Do you know what that means?  Aside from the arrival of spring, it means March Madness and St. Patty’s day!  If you asked my kids this question they would answer it this way:  “It means we’re off our month long Pantry Challenge! “  While our boys understand and value the savings we gain during the months we do our Pantry Challenges, they tend to cringe when mom and dad are digging deep in the freezer because they never know what we are going to find for dinner in there!  Their snack drawer in the kitchen also tends to be pretty sparse by the end of the month.  Things like Nutrigrain bars and goldfish crackers are not “necessary” items when we do a Pantry Challenge so they are always relieved when March rolls around.

Honestly though, this year’s Pantry Challenge really didn’t feel very difficult for us.  I attribute that to successfully reaching our yearly goals of reducing our overall grocery budget by eating food which we have on our shelves and in our freezer, making items homemade vs. buying them and meal planning so we avoid eating out on a whim.  Since we’ve been attentive to these goals and have been actively pursuing them then doing a month long pantry challenge didn’t feel like such a sacrifice or a chore.  Even my kids will admit this was easier than past years.

We did hit the grocery store 3 times for necessary items like milk, cheese, cold medicine, orange juice and bananas.  (Can you tell the nasty cold germs hit our house this last month!)  We also did eat out a few times. One occasion we used gift cards to a nicer restaurant we had been given so that was a treat in the middle of Pantry Challenge Month!  But the other times, we were intentional about it…if it wasn’t necessary and time allowed then we’d eat at home. Being intentional about your spending habits is half the battle.  How many times do you eat out without even thinking about it?  But if you think it through and weigh the situation usually you end up making a good financial choice.


What’s that…extra space in the pantry?!

Four great things came out of this month’s Pantry Challenge.  Obviously, the first one is the simple fact that we saved a ton of money. The second bonus was that our shelves really got emptied–to the point that I told Jon just this morning that we need to make more homemade, canned beef and chicken broth.  And our home-canned veggies are getting low as well.  These were our basic goals and the results were a success.

Taco TuesdayThe first benefit came the first week of the challenge when I was doing my meal planning.  It was right after the Super Bowl and I was noting that I had some sour cream, cilantro and salsa left from the party we attended.  Because I was planning a casserole using those items, my oldest son suggested we have a Taco Tuesday night.  Brilliant!  My other two kiddos were so excited about Taco Tuesday (they just love saying it, I think!) they suggested we just have tacos every Tuesday.  I think I just stared at them dumbfounded for many minutes.  I asked, “That’s okay with you guys?  You won’t get bored with it?”  Now it was their turn to look at ME dumbfounded!  In unison, they responded, “No way!  We’d love it!”  For some reason, I try not to assign a day to a certain meal.  I don’t know why, bnut I’ve always been afraid that my family would get bored with the same meal every week.  Crazy huh?

The discovery of Taco Tuesday has been extraordinarily freeing for me!  A) I love knowing that Tuesdays’ dinner is planned and taken care of and B) it is a super easy meal without much prep.  The other very exciting aspect of Taco Tuesday is that I can use up any leftover meat in the refrigerator!  Last weekend we cooked a beef roast followed by a pork roast.  So, on Tuesday I combined both in a pan with some water and taco seasoning, heated it up and then shredded it.  We had “pulled pork/beef” tacos that night and it was lovely!  Now having Taco Tuesday implemented into our weekly menu plan has inspired me to start making my own tortillas!  I’ll share about that in a future post!

The final benefit of this challenge was the discovery of the perfect afterschool snack for my kids.  As I mentioned earlier, their snack drawer was mighty bare for a good portion of this month.  When the kids come home they are starving and since we don’t eat until 6pm, they need something to snack on.  One Monday when my husband was at home, he made a big batch of homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with the carcass of the chicken we had roasted the night before.  When the boys arrived home, their eyes popped with delight at the sight and smell of their favorite soup.  Each of them had a bowl…maybe two and were satisfied until dinner! Forget the cheese and crackers, the granola bars, the popcorn…give these boys Chicken soup!!  What a frugal, healthy and satisfying treat for three growing boys!  Now, we try to have a pot on the stove consistently.  And whatever is leftover, goes in their lunches the next day!

Logan Turner

Mom’s Homemade Chicken Soup – it’s mmmm…Good!

Even though this year’s pantry challenge wasn’t as challenging as our first year, I would have to say it was probably one of my favorite challenges because we experienced a deeper awareness level with this challenge.  We knew we could go the whole month without much grocery shopping, but what we didn’t know was we could discover ways of utilizing what we have in new and exciting ways.  This forces us to continue to strive for frugality even when we think we’ve achieved it.   I also love the idea that the boys are contributing to the development of the challenge instead of just voicing their complaints about an empty snack drawer!

If you joined me for the February Pantry Challenge I hope that you had a good month and learned a lot AND saved a lot!  Share your experiences in the comments!!


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.  Read more of Erin’s blogs about homesteading, farming, homemaking and other fun things at

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