January 2020 Eat From the Pantry Meal Plans and Grocery Budget
This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.
Every year after Christmas and through January (and sometimes into February), I do a “Pantry Challenge”. The idea is to eat up as much as you can that is not currently getting eaten from your pantry and freezer so that you can rotate stock, have room for fresh summer produce when it comes in, and save a bunch of money on your grocery bill. I’ve written about it extensively here on my Pantry Challenge blog post. I thought this year it might be fun to share what actual meals look like when we do this.
January 2020 Eat From the Pantry Meal Plans and Grocery Budget
Each week I will add to this post until we decide to end our challenge. I will also keep a running total of our grocery $$ that we spend during this time.
A few things before you read this……
Remember…I’m blogging a little differently now. You can read about it here. I’ve told my husband that I’ve retired from blogging and now only consider myself to be a wife, mom, and missionary. This isn’t going to be a fancy special blog post but just exactly what I said above…a list of what we are eating and a running total of our groceries. I’m hoping you will find it inspiring enough to do your own pantry challenge!
- We still grocery shop on a Pantry Challenge month but ONLY for fresh produce and essentials (like eggs and meat). The key here is to clean out and make room in the pantry and freezer so I will not buy anything that goes in either of those places.
- This challenge started on a Friday for us so you may want to note that Day 3 is actually Sunday. Sunday’s meals are always very quick and easy because we are at church for a large portion of the day.
- This list does not include our snacks and typically doesn’t include the extra fruits and veggies I serve with meals unless I’m actually doing something to them (ie: roasting the carrots).
- Our typical grocery budget is $600 a month.
- Our family has gluten and dairy allergies. (Except for my husband who still eats a small amount.)
- I realize this might not be what you would eat or your family would eat but I’m simply sharing this post because this is what OUR family ate and what works for us. Different diets and different people have different challenges. I actually stopped sharing meal plans years ago because I found that the comments were extremely rude and judgemental. I’m very happy if you comment but please keep it kind. 🙂
Pantry Challenge Week One
Breakfast – Baked Oatmeal (recipe from my book) with raisins (all from the pantry)
Lunch – Leftovers
Supper – Homemade Chicken Nuggets (with leftover meat and rice crispies from the pantry instead of bread crumbs for the coating), Cucumbers, Roasted Ranch Carrots, Spanish Rice (salsa from pantry + leftover rice)
Breakfast – Leftover Baked Oatmeal
Lunch – Chicken Tacos (leftover chicken and hard shell tacos from the pantry)
Supper – Pepperoni Pizza (Used up a Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix from the pantry and some canned tomato paste) and Homemade Mixed Berry Cobbler (I used baked apple chips for the crumble on top, I do this all the time! Also used frozen berries.)
Breakfast – Doughnuts (were frozen, leftover from Christmas)
Lunch – Hard Boiled Eggs, Summer Sausage (from the freezer), Spinach Salad, Olives (Pantry)
Supper – Leftovers
Breakfast – Pancakes (leftover mix from the pantry, recipe in my book), Oranges, and Sausage (freezer)
Lunch – Sardines (from the pantry, and yes my kids like these!), Spinach Salad, Grapes, Olives (from the pantry)
Supper – Chicken Noodle Soup (noodles from the pantry, chicken from the freezer cooked into broth in the Instant Pot), Cornbread (cornmeal from the pantry), and Pear Crisp (using the apple chips for the crumble again from the pantry)
Breakfast – Scrambled Eggs, Raisin Bread (from the freezer with jelly from the pantry)
Lunch – Leftovers from the previous days
Supper – Salsbury Steak (meat from the freezer, made with homemade chicken broth gravy from meat/broth from the freezer), Green Beans with fried onions (all from the pantry), Pasta (from the pantry), Sauteed Chard (from my winter garden)
Breakfast – Blueberry Muffins (ingredients from pantry, blueberries from freezer)
Lunch – Leftovers
Supper – Orange Chicken (chicken from freezer), Steamed Broccoli (freezer), Rice (pantry)
Breakfast – Scrambled Eggs, Sausage (from the freezer), Leftover Muffins from yesterday
Lunch – Leftovers
Supper – Roasted Rainbow Carrots (from the freezer), and Baked Chicken (I was sick this day so I’m having plain chicken soup and hubby cooked meals)
Grocery Budget Spent for Week One:
Total Spent: $15.88
Items Purchased: Eggs (4 dozen), Yogurt, Spinach, Grapes (about 5lbs)
Week One Pantry Challenge Re-Cap
Week one is always incredibly easy which is good because I think then it gives me the confidence boost I need to get through the rest of the month! We are still eating up a lot of specialty things leftover from Christmas and we already have a bunch of produce in the fridge thanks to a Costco run the week before Christmas. Next week I will actually have to buy more fresh grocery items but that’s ok. I typically spend an average of $100-$125 a week for food so I saved our family almost $110 this week on groceries!
Pantry Challenge Week Two
Days 8 -11
I’ve been sick with a fever for several days and can only keep down clear liquids at the moment. Hubby has been feeding the kids but I’m not sure what. Hopefully, I will be able to get back to the challenge again soon.
Breakfast – Eggs, Rice-Os Cereal (pantry)
Lunch – Salad, Smoked Turkey Breast (from the freezer), lots of fresh fruit/veggies, leftover chicken soup from the freezer
Supper – Roast (from the freezer), Roasted Cauliflower (from the freezer), Baked Beans (pantry), Green Beans (pantry)
Breakfast – Banana Muffins
Lunch – Leftovers
Supper – Bacon and Cauliflower Salad with Chard (from the freezer and winter garden), Balsalmic Steak Bites (meat from the freezer), Fried Zucchini, Noodles (from the pantry)
Breakfast – Leftover Banana Muffins
Lunch – Leftovers, Canned Corn (from the pantry), Olives (from the pantry)
Supper – Fried Honey Chicken Drumsticks (chicken from the freezer) with Homemade Sweet Potato Fries
Grocery Budget Spending for Week Two
I gave in and used Instacart via Aldi this week to deliver some groceries. We still aren’t well enough to go out and were running so low on anything fresh in the house I had to do something! My total below includes the delivery fees. I just feel lucky we had that option right now. I also put in an order for Walmart pick up towards the end of this week as well, something else I’ve never done but it came very much in handy so we didn’t have to go in the store sick.
Total Spent (this week): $85.85
Items Purchased – Bananas, Peas, Carrots, Cucumbers, Raspberries, Apples, Pears, Pineapple, Tomatoes, Spinach, Mushrooms, Green Onions, Ketchup, Yellow Squash, Celery, mixed veggies, etc.
Week Two Pantry Challenge Re-cap
I will admit, this was a rough week. It’s not that I wasn’t motivated to make food from the pantry but I finally went to the doctor after just not feeling like I was getting back to normal and I ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia so much of my week has been spent resting. You can see in our meal plans were I finally picked back up again and am back to the challenge. I did a little more grocery shopping this week, spending closer to our normal amount but since I just did the shopping the other day, it should get us through most of next week as well.
I will continue to add Week 3 as we eat and make food!
I am doing an eat from the pantry/freezer challenge too! I’m always amazed at the food lurking in every little space. Tonight I made tuna casserole with tuna we’ve had so long it’s nearing its best by date with some whole wheat fettuccine that I keep overlooking for more desired shapes. I just broke it up into bite sized pieces before boiling them. All 4 of my kids and my husband had a second serving. If I wasn’t challenging myself I might have ended up having to throw the tuna and I hate waste!
Sounds great! And yes, it’s amazing where we find food hiding and how easy it is to forget about what we’ve already bought. That’s another thing I like about the eat from the pantry challenge is that it shows me what we really eat and what we don’t enjoy as much.
I’m sorry you’ve been sick! It’s so hard on the household when mama is out!
We are still going strong on our Pantry challenge. I did spend 20 dollars at our local Ruby’s Pantry ( currently only in MN and WI but hopefully it will expand) which yielded 4 boxes of granola bars , overnight oats, milk, buttermilk, smoked sausages, hard boiled eggs, 3 loaves of bread and 8 pints of halo top s’mores ice cream, along with a few other odds and ends!
We’ve run out of fresh fruit so we’ve moved on to frozen. The only fresh veggies we have are carrots and celery.
I have a Walmart pick up scheduled for Thursday and I’m so excited for fresh apples! Lol!
Two major things I’ve noticed during this challenge, I look at all my resources in a different light (I’ve been less wasteful) and I am more grateful for what we do have. 🙂
I hope you’re feeling better and have a great weekend!
I agree, April, I’m also looking at my resources in a different light and at least for us we’ve been WAY better at eating up leftovers during this month so far. I was so excited for the fresh foods we picked up this week, we really rely on them so much!
I only started to read your blog and emails and am very appreciative of your creativity and heartfelt respectful sharing.
I am also saddened you have sometimes received rude responses. There is simply no room anymore for that kind of attitude in our society any more.
This is great, I need to do this! Thanks for sharing 🙂
You are welcome!
Love the content and meal ideas! We are hoping to spend less than $50 this month on our grocery bill, using it for fresh fruit/veggies only. So far we have enjoyed cabbage and sausage (a great, cheap meal!), jambalaya and black-eyed peas with a leftover frozen ham bone. I crock potted a chicken and then made bone broth. From that I made chicken Marsala, chicken tacos, zucchini stuffed buffalo chicken boats and chicken soup (about 2-3 dinners each). I am hoping to fill my freezer with 30 meals before I start homeschooling on the 6th!
Side Note: I LOVE the real pictures of your blueberry muffins, that is real life and what mine look like!
Your book is my favorite go-to for all made-from-scratch items. I recommend it to everyone.
Wow, $50 is a great goal! I’m not sure if we can get ours that low. And haha, I’m glad you liked the pictures! Is this your first time homeschooling?
I am so sorry you’ve been so ill! I’ll be praying for a quick recovery.
We’ve been homeschooling for 6 1/2 years with a (now) 10 yr old and 7yr old.
I found your blog in 2012 and have been an avid fan ever since. I told my husband, when finding your blog, that I felt I had found a kindred spirit! Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who share your goals is very helpful when staying the course. It is hard to find friends who enjoy budgeting, making homemade and homeschooling but blogs like yours make me feel less like an island. I recommend your book and site to everyone!
Thank you for the prayers and for being such a long time follower! 🙂 I agree…it does seem to be hard to find friends that enjoying budgeting (and talking about it!).
You are amazing! Thank you for the inspiration! I love your posts, blogs, n emails ! You are wonderful , keep up the great work thank you
You are welcome!
I like the idea of putting all the items that need using up in an easy to get to place. That would help me in my planning, as we are going to do a pantry challenge this month as well.
Yes! I’ve not done this in previous years but I’m LOVING it this year! So much easier to pull from one bin and use up what actually needs used up.
Merissa, I’ve been following your page on FB for several years, but have not commented until today. Just wanted to say that we also have a $600 monthy grocery budget and have to refrain from gluten. I appreciate this post that has encouraged me to take the time to read through your webpage more thoroughly. Thank you for posting!
We are working hard to “eat down the freezer”. Supper tonight is a turkey and rice soup using a small turkey carcass and small rotisserie chicken carcass from the freezer. It smells divine! So easy and quick and good for us after all the rich eating we’ve been doing.
We became empty nesters last year and our freezers and cupboards are full of stuff we should be using up. We are doing the pantry challenge too, and I love seeing your menus because it is giving me ideas. I appreciate how you are keeping it real. Your blueberry muffins look very appealing and I am reminded that I have blueberries lurking in my freezer too 🙂
Wow. Just the inspiration I needed for this month! I wanted to do a pantry challenge and now I have all the motivation I need. We spent close to $60 this weekend stocking up (since we hadn’t shopped since before Christmas), and now will only shop for what is needed to replenish fresh foods or items for the kids’ lunches (my daughter has food sensitivities and can’t always eat the school lunch).
Also, I just want to say that I read both your New Year email AND the follow up, and can’t thank you enough for being a ‘real’ blogger. I’ve been following you for almost as long as LHL has been around (I think 2010 or 2011?) and you are one of my favorites.
Feel better soon, and keep being you! THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!!
I started LHL is 2009, isn’t it crazy? That you for being such a long time follower 🙂
I love reading the pantry challenge ideas! Some years I actually try it.
This is why I like your blog. What a great idea! This is real life and I appreciate it. I want to try the pantry challenge now.
I did this just before the holidays. Great to use up food rather than throw it away because it is outdated. Wondered about the recipe for the roasted ranch carrots. I didn’t see it in the recipe section. When you have time, could you post it? Thanks, Merissa. Hope you are feeling better.
I don’t really have a recipe for it but we do make them all the time! I dice up carrots into thinner sticks (you could use baby carrots if you have them), then put them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Then I sprinkle in some salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and dried dill weed and mix those spices over the carrots until they are coated. Then I put them on a roasting pan in the oven at 400 and cook until they are soft and the outsides start to become a little crispy.
I thought I was being so smart by also deciding to buy no groceries, (except perishables) this month. My freezer is bulging from left-overs from Christmas. I started my eat-down on New Year’s day with some bean soup from the freezer and some french bread. Thanks for the inspiration and please keep up the good work. I enjoy your articles and am not interested in whether or not they are
pretty. Bless you and your family in your missionary work.
My last grocery shopping date was Dec. 7. My husband was suppose to pick up some items on payday which was Dec. 31. Our bank is 100 miles away. He came home with three candles and a birthday card.
Right now I am looking at Jan 18 to take some ducks up to some friends. Afterwards I will visit my daughter and then drive down to see my parents who are in their 80’s. Before returning home I will get to do grocery shopping.
Eggs are no problem for me. I have chickens. I buy raw milk when I am at my parents, then bring it home and freeze it. I have enough to get me through the next several weeks. I buy grains, oats, etc. from a gristmill in Waco. I try and have enough for 6 months to a year on hand. I try and buy a whole calf for butchering. That holds my husband and I for at least two years.
I live rural. The nearest grocery store is almost 100 miles away. The nearest convenience store is 25 miles away. I am slowly getting my garden ready. I already have garlic, leeks and onions planted. This year I am growing Saffron. I planted those in October.
For me, the pantry challenge is my daily living. I do have chickens, ducks and turkeys. I gave up my dairy goats due to my husbands health. He could no longer attend to them when I was not here. My nearest town has four people living in it. The next town about 25 miles away has about 600 people and no grocery store.
Wow. And I thought I was rural. Sounds like you are pretty organized. guess you have to be. Keep up the good work
You are such an inspiration and a blessing to so many families. Thank you for your knowledge and creativity!!! It is truly uplifting! I am so sorry that some individuals have been rude and unkind to you. Unwarranted and unfair! Your ideas and attitude have been the catalyst that has helped so many families including mine through some challenging times and for that I am enterally grateful..Blessings to you and your family !
This is great! Have decided to start the pantry challenge too. Will be great to clean things out and use them up before stocking up prior to hurricane season. Thanks Merissa! Really enjoyed the follow-up post. Hope you are feeling better very soon.
Thanks Cheryl, I’m trying my best to get better asap!
Love your blog posts. I appreciate you sharing who you are and all the suggestions for meals. I plan to start cooking from my freezer as well, so many meals I have forgotten I had already purchased.
It’s so true. It’s easy to lose sight of things in the depths of the freezer!
Thank you for all the wonderful information, ideas, recipes ect you have shared over the years. Please dont change because someone thinks you should. We all love you just the way you are.
Keep up the great work
Aww thank you!
I am going to try this challenge this year and hopefully use up that box of couscous I keep forgetting. To add to this goal I am going to try to have some kind of running list of what I’ve stored in the freezer (we have a deep freezer so I forget what is at the bottom of it!).
I love the ” real-life” picture of the blueberry muffins (instead of the photoshop ones). Keep up the great website!
Good idea on the list! My freezer is so empty since we lost all our meat that it’s easy for me to see the bottom right now. At least I can get other things used up!
One of my favorites “hacks” is to buy a dry erase board, add magnets, and stick it on the deep freezer itself. Reusuable and always current! Dollar Tree has mini ones that already have magnets on the back!!
This may sound off the wall, but take a class of water with 1/4 t. of baking soda. Do this three times a day. It helps alkaline the body. Believe it or not, this was the treatment for the Spanish Flu back in the early 1900. Virus do not like alkaline. I hope you start to feel better.
Interesting. Thanks for the tip!
I sure enjoy your blog and the Facebook group!
Oh my gravy! All the meals, you made looked so yummy!
I want to try the chicken nuggets with rice crispy coating!
I have a 10 yr. old, who love Rice Crispies! I know she would love the chicken nuggets!
We are on a Spending Freeze for the month of January. Living out of pantry & freeze is challenging, but I love it!
I made a Black Bean Salad, last night we ate it with crackers, and tonight we ate it with tortilla chips.
I pray you are feeling better each day. Just no fun being under the weather for so long.
Thank you for all you do!
I.have no idea how long I have been following you, but it’s bee awhile at least 5- 6 years.
Take care of you!
Thank you for the prayers! We are improving each day but it seems to be a long healing process. I hope you like the chicken nugget recipe!
I am doing a pantry/freezer challenge as well. Like another commenter, we became empty nesters recently and have a lot of ‘stuff’ that needs used. I am only spending for fresh dairy/produce (except for ‘deals’ like the 5 cans of coffee I got for $20 this past weekend). Hope you feel better soon!
I have started a journey last year to make more homemade mixes and your book has been my go too on so many things .. Keep it real and real life in pictures and everything, your readers are not perfect and i for one would rather see real food pictures not magazine perfect . Haters gonna hate , they have a miserable life and want to make everyone miserable too . Keep it Real and know we love you
I am not able to go shopping for awhile. For a treat last night I made the Truffles with dark chocolate chips. This was my first attempt. I did not have the small scoop, so they did not turn out as nice as those on your pictures. I like the easy recipes you have on your site.
I bet they still tasted good! 🙂
Hi Merissa! It’s people like you sharing your life and story that encourage the rest of us to take steps to live our best lives.
This pantry challenge is so helpful when times get tough financially, or save towards and important goal, or just to be efficient with what we have and make do instead of waste!
And in here in rural California we lost a lot in wildfires and planned power outages, so I’ve decided that each year we’ll eat down what we’ve stored so we don’t lose so much in the future.
I’ve really learned that time and life is precious. In a few months I’ll be making a big life change as well, and really look forward to following in your footsteps of heading towards what feels and is right. God bless!
Love your book. I dont like mixes I like to dehydrate and do bath canning. I like to make candles, soap and into crafts. It saves me on money. And homemade gifts seem to be popular again. Your book shows how to do all that. It’s simply the best. I work with special needs children and that take a special person like yourself to adopt and much energy . Best wishes on all your dreams
Hi Merissa, I have been with your blog for a very long time, 2008, I think? I appreciate everything. Right now I want to use your use it up advice. We also tend toward low dairy and low gluten diets. We like to be frugal and DIY. I do not need fancy photographs of food. It can be good to see how you are storing things.
I can’t remember when I discovered your site, but I am very glad I did. I love your food pictures, I’m not a picture perfect cook but it always taste great. I love the. pantry challenge, I waste so much food by not having a plan . You have inspired me thank you so much.
Picture perfect food isn’t necessary. Healthy, filling food is more important! 🙂
Merissa, I admire what you are all about and love all your articles. Being Canadian our food prices are much higher which makes me envious. I am doing an eat from your pantry/freezer for as long as we can, hopefully 2 months. I will be setting the weekly budget at 35.00 per week for fresh. Hope you are on the mend. Blessings.
The prices here in Ohio are MUCH cheaper for groceries than we ever had in South Dakota so I can understand price fluctuations! I’m thankful there is an Aldi here, such a budget-saver!
Melissa, I hope you are on the road to recovery. Please, take care of yourself. I love your blog, recipes and hints. As for the rude comments, well, these are things people would never say these things to your face. You say it is the way you eat and live, perhaps those who criticize are “fast-food-eaters”, or just projecting. It makes one wonder what is going on in their lives, you think? I know it is difficult, but don’t take it to heart. Thinking of you always and pray God gives you the strength to recover (pneumonia is a tough one) . You have a supportive community.
Thank you for the prayers! I am feeling better although somewhat annoyed that it takes so long to get back to health again! 🙂
I still have not gone shopping. I have several bell pepper plants in pots in my greenhouse. I still have not picked my three grapefruits off my tree which is also in a pot. I cover them at night when its cold. However, has anyone notice a change in food prices? My mother went shopping and told me the grocery prices greatly increased this month. We both live in Texas. Shortages would not surprise me with the bad weather, fires and droughts that occurring not only in America, but all over the world.
Oh another note, my mother currently fixes my dad once a week the banana pancake from this sites recipe. My dad is 86 years old. My nephew who is 12 makes his own.
I haven’t noticed the price increases yet but I haven’t done much shopping this month (or just in general) recently either. It’s always possible!
Happy to hear you’re feeling better, Merissa! (And your comment about your husband feeding the kids and you had no idea what they were eating brought back some, mostly, funny memories!) I’ve got the freezer at the top of the refrigerator as well as a small upright one and it’s freaking-out amazing how things can get lost in them. No matter the size. Thanks to your Pantry Challenge, I’m making progress on both and I especially love your tip on using a basket to stash the pantry items you want to use in the coming week. Definitely using that one! Prayers for all of you as you continue on the path God has set for you. You are so cherished!
I enjoy reading your blog. This make my day. I am also starting the pantry challenge. This month I have only purchased $10.00 worth of things like bread, eggs, and milk.
Hope you are feeling better.
Hi Merissa, greetings from the UK. Just wanted to say I hope you feel better and please don’t feel sad about people who criticise you.
Keep smiling xxx
boy it was like old- home week reading this post. When I was tounger, I had 2 small children to feed on $50.00 a month. And my boy had special dietary needs due to surgeries. I was out of my depth. I gathered 14 recipes for main meals, 5 for veggies and 5 for breakfasts. Took note of how much single protein (chicken ) I’d need as I couldn’t afford any other cept tuna. How many potatoes, how much flour, butter, eggs and cheese. How many bags of frozen green beans, broccoli and mixed veggies. I made all my own ketchup, mayo & relish as my boy couldn’t tolerate any additives. I baked my own bread, muffins and rolls- cooked tons of waffles, pancakes and stored those by 2 in the freezer. I’d spend all day Saturday cooking casseroles, pot pies, soups & stews. Package each up. For the month. Making a list of how many of each I had. Bread I’d slice & freeze in 2s, each pot pie was portioned & stored separately. Hand fruit pies, cookie dough rolled and sliced in zippies. Cakes sliced & stored in between parchment in the freezer. Homemade ice cream. Frozen, sliced, stored separately. When I was done. Everything, was a meal or dessert, was made either pretty cooked, or prepared to be. My slow cooker, pressure cooker were my best friends, food saver too. I was the only only I knew who stored chess in 2 slices. All fruit was flash frozen. The only thing in the refrigerator were tuna salad, chichen salad, salad and milk. You made me feel better. I survived it. And I’ll be more aware when I look in the fridge tonight. God bless & keep you in good health
I love reading the comments and tips from you and your followers. My dad was in the Air Force when I was growing up. We had very little money to feed all 7 of us. Mom made monthly trips to the base for groceries. Dad built her a pantry and she had 5 – 6 weeks of canned food and dry pantry staples stored neatly. It was a pantry/freezer challenge every month for her. She grew up during the depression with 13 brothers and sisters. She said they would peel a ten pound bag of potatoes to feed all of them for one meal. By watching her I learned how to cook from scratch. Your children will benefit so much from what you have taught them by simply watching you. I think you are amazing and I’m so glad you are willing to share your knowledge.