It’s barely a few days into 2019 and what a time to start afresh and create a new beginning. Here in the Frugasaurus household, we celebrate new beginnings by diving head first into a January pantry challenge. It is a great way to clean out those cupboards and greet spring with money saved and less clutter. What more could you ask?
A pantry challenge is also a great thing to combine with other challenges like, say Veganuary. Why? Because beans and lentils store incredibly well, and it’s easy to accumulate a few different kinds. Plant food also keeps well, on average. I’d trust my oat milk much farther than a regular carton of milk. But back to the pantry challenge.
In short, a pantry challenge means that you pledge yourself to only eat what you already have in the house. Duration can be anything you choose, from a week, ten days, two weeks, a month or even longer. Mr. Frugasaurus and I are opting to go for a month long pantry challenge, because we really need to clean out. We both like to stock up on food, but you do need to eat it for it to be worth stocking up on!
Obviously, how long you pledge for depends on how large your kitchen or pantry is, and how you choose to approach the challenge.
For instance, Mr. Frugasaurus and I have decided that we will allow certain, basic fruit and veg. For us, this includes potatoes, carrots, swede, some fruit (apples, pears, clementines/oranges), garlic and ginger. This is because we are continually trying to eat more fresh fruit and veg, so refusing even the basics would go counter to that intention. Garlic is because I love hummus and tahini sauce. Both of which are made into amazingly happy foods through the addition of garlic. Ginger is something we add to our tea pretty much daily, especially during winter and flu season.
We are, however, putting a stop to more expensive produce, such as mango, avocado, sweet potatoes and similar. The produce we allow is meant only to supplement our pantry, not replace it.
With our personal exceptions accounted for, let’s get real!
Above you see a snapshot of the biggest food cupboard in our kitchen. I will update this with a new post and a new picture after the challenge ends. We have more cupboards than this, but this is the main one. We have a whole top shelf just for crackers, cookies and other items we categorize as “snacks”. In the second shelf we have nothing but flour and a few bags of sugar.
Even if shops physically closed for the duration of the challenge, we would have no problem keeping ourselves fed with bread, porridge, pancakes and the likes.
Next are a few general (and messy!) shelves for anything from seeds and muesli to canned olives, corn and crisp breads. We also have a freezer full of frozen veg, so we shall not be suffer under the challenge.
A pantry challenge is a great chance to get to grips with what you actually have stashed away and behind all the other items you use on a daily basis. Even foods that are dry or canned do have a “best use by” date, and especially dried foods loose nutritional value over time. That is why it is advised to use up things like dried beans within a year.
It is also a great chance to use up that thing you bought on a whim, but didn’t really fancy. And if you really don’t see yourself eating it anytime soon, you can give it to someone who will or throw it away. The extra real estate you reclaim will be great for the things you actually do use and eat.
A pantry challenge is also a fantastic way to get to know what food your particular family prefers, and what food you run out of the fastest. It also forces you to get creative, so you might discover some new recipes you didn’t realize you and your family would like.
For us, basic fried rice came out of a similar challenge. It really is just boiled rice fried with oil, soy sauce to taste and cheap frozen veg (the cheapest in Norway is called American mix and contains peas, corn and cubed carrots, which is perfect for this “recipe”). It really doesn’t sound like much, but it fills you up and keeps you going. Excellent both as lunch and dinner. If we want to reduce our food budget any particular month, fried rice is a go-to as it is ridiculously cheap to make.
Last, but not least, a pantry challenge saves you money. It might not seem like it because you’ll have to replenish your pantry after, but how many of us fill our pantry only with foods we use regularly? The Frugasaurus household certainly don’t. We are curious critters, especially when it comes to food. And there are plenty of foods we were curious about, but didn’t have a clue as to how to use. Dried aubergines, anyone?
Much like a no-spend month, a pantry challenge can be made to suit your lifestyle. It goes without saying that restocking on necessary medication is certainly a given exception to the challenge. Other exceptions might include other fruits than we allowed or certain items if you are responsible for children who will only eat certain things.
As with everything, it is the spirit of the pantry challenge which is the most important. The intention of eating down the pantry and practicing bringing home what will actually get used.
So join us as we welcome the new year with a cleaning out of old things that no longer serves us!