I love the holidays. I am a huge fan of Christmas, it may just be my favorite holiday of them all. I love the holiday music, beautiful lights, colder weather, cheesy movies, holiday parties, and extra time with family and friends. But, as much as I love Christmas, I sometimes dread it and the inevitable extra costs that come this time of year. The extra grocery bills due to the numerous events and parties, the gifts for family members, the gifts for coworkers, etc can be a huge drain on the budget. In comparison to the average American household, we spend much less than the norm, but we spend way more than I feel comfortable with.

With the beginning of a new year, I wanted to nurse the hangover of holiday spending with some new frugal best practices. I took a hard look at our spending and the results were terrifying. Next to our mortgage and student loan payments (which are now paid off), we spent more on food than anything else in 2014. Say what!? Time to get this spending in check.

My first step is to buy fewer groceries. We often buy groceries with the best intentions of cooking healthy, well-balanced meals with leftovers for lunches (to save additional money and waist expansion from eating out). However, more often than I would like to admit, we seem to end up throwing out large sums of food that have gone bad. We never get around to making that salad we bought all the vegetables for, it rains so we don’t grill the steak, or we simply don’t feel like cooking so we eat chips for dinner. This is definitely not good for our figures (financial or body).

So what is a frugal family to do? I was casually scrolling on Pinterest and saw a post for a pantry challenge and thought this was just what we needed! Mr. Bug and I do NOT like to cook but every time we go to the grocery store we buy supplies with the best intentions of cooking. Our pantry is always jammed full with all sorts of goodies. I decided that rather than go grocery shopping (and probably buy more of the same stuff we already have in the pantry or fridge that would eventually just be thrown away), we would devote a day on the weekend to cooking and using what we already have in the house.

Oh my goodness what a wakeup call this was! With the items that we had on hand (the majority of which were about to expire and would be thrown away) we were able to make the following:

  • Breakfast burritos- we had so many tortilla shells, eggs, and salsa that were able to expire that we made enough for the whole next work week in addition to our breakfast the morning we cooked it
  • Spaetzle- this is a German meal that’s made with egg noodles- one of my favorite meals that Mr. Bug makes and would have been wasted because we had onions and cheese about to spoil- we had so much we have enough for at least two additional meals
  • Baked chicken we used to make chicken schnitzel – thawed and would have gone bad if not cooked- we had enough leftovers for lunches the next day
  • Fried potatoes- again, another German favorite that would have never been because the potatoes were due for the trash any day now- we had enough leftovers for lunches the next two day
Results of our pantry challenge

Results of our pantry challenge

This is just a small sample of the items we were able to make in one day using items that would have otherwise been thrown away. How wasteful we are! We were basically throwing dollar bills in the trashcan!

This pantry challenge was a huge wakeup call for us. We plan to continue on for an entire week using only items that we already have in the house for our breakfasts (already covered with the yummy burritos we made), lunches (should be covered leftovers from our massive cooking on the weekend) and dinners (only using items that will go bad within the next week).

I know this is a “no brainer” and it seems very basic but I also know there are others out there just like us who have the best intentions when grocery shopping, but ultimately end up wasting much of the food that is purchased. This is just a baby step to make us stop and think and be conscience of what we are spending our money on. This will do wonders for our budget and ultimately help us to save more towards financial independence.

Have you tried a pantry challenge or something similar? I would love to hear about it and any recommendations of other ways we can cut back on our monthly food bill.

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