On Memorial Day weekend this year, I initiated the Pantry Challenge (which I now refer to as the GREAT Pantry Challenge).
I took an inventory of everything in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, and used what I had on hand to plan as many meals as I could. I was able to easily plan out 21 meals (that’s 3 weeks of dinners), and added another 10 within a few hours of deeper thought. I set out to show readers how to look at what they have and how they manage food purchases and usage, and I think I learned more than my readers!
Lesson #1: I am different from other people.
I’m the only person on the planet who thinks a Pantry Challenge is a great idea on a holiday weekend! Especially in Hawaii! People were out hiking, snorkeling, having cookouts, and generally spending time outdoors with family and friends. I enjoy those activities, too, but there are times when I’m focused on my home and family – finding ways to ease the chaos of daily life.
The benefit I got from doing the pantry challenge has been (like most meal planning efforts)
- effortless grocery lists,
- quick, cheap shopping trips, and
- easy weeknight meals for that last 4 weeks.
I’m planning a July Pantry Challenge now, and I hope I get great participation from my readers!
Lesson #2: I have way too much food!
The amount of time it took to inventory the food, reorganize the food, and plan for using the food was about 5 hours. That’s so much food! I was able to quickly get 21 meals planned with items on hand. I added about 10 other meals after that initial set, and I honestly used about 2/3 of the food on hand – if that.
We still have tons of ribs. A few months ago, hubby happened upon a sale on frozen ribs, and he really stocked up. Monty loves ribs SO much! He makes them so delicious – I love them. too. I think we still have three or four meals worth of frozen racks of ribs in the freezer, and that take up LOTS of space.
Here’s where we didn’t have enough food: Hawaii is one of the most isolated places on Earth, and we are instructed to keep 2 weeks worth of food and water on hand in case of a natural disaster. With the inventory I took, I realized I need to be emptying my chest freezer, and focusing purchases on canned goods for emergency purposes. We truly fell short in disaster supplies!
Lesson #3: I eat differently than when I bought this stuff.
My eating habits have changed dramatically in the last six months. So, it is difficult to use up certain foods after choosing to eat low-carb. I have pasta and rice in the pantry and butternut squash in the freezer, but I’m not eating those foods these days. The solution: I will have to take a keto “break” and use up those foods over a weekend. I’ll just go hiking that weekend to burn off the extra carbs (and reduce fat intake for that process).
Summary: Using lessons learned
As I prepare for the July Pantry Challenge, I have a good weekend chosen. After 4th of July should be a time when everyone has extras left over from the holiday. They may need a restful, quiet project at home after big activities on the holiday.
After the 4th, they will probably have extra buns not used at the cookout, extra condiments to get rid of, and other groceries they don’t normally keep in the house. This is a GREAT time to plan for using those items, rather than throwing them away.