A Challenge Straight from the Kitchen

Kalissa and I were talking and both of us agree that we really need to use up what is in our kitchens.  Too often we buy groceries,  then put them away putting everything in front of the stuff that was already there.

We don’t have a great handle on what’s in the kitchen.  We don’t have a great idea of how many items of what is in the kitchen.  Our freezers are full.

Check out my freezers.  This is freezer #1.

This is freezer #2.  Both are filled to the BRIM!!


Have you been where we are now?

Have you figured out how to solve the problem?

We aren’t sure if this will work but…
we are both ready to give it a try.  Starting on April 15th…and going until May 15th, we are both limiting our grocery spending and making a BIG effort to use up what we have.

We have heard of people doing things like budgeting for groceries…tracking their grocery spending.  Neither of us wants to be super into that long term, we just really want to clean out what we have so we aren’t using outdated food and so we are more conscious of what we are buying…and mostly so we are USING what we are buying.

We’ve heard of people not spending any money on groceries.  We both know with kids in our homes, we need to buy milk and have fresh veggies available.  We also know we need some of that for us but we both know neither of us needs to buy any meat so this is what we came up with…

From April 15th to May 15th:
We won’t buy any meat.
We will limit grocery spending to $100 for that period of time.  That $100 will focus on milk, bread, and perishables like fruits and veggies.

Most importantly, neither of us is allowed to go to the grocery store and buy hog wild before the 15th.  If we need milk or a few perishables, that’s fine but not meat…and no canned goods!!

See??  Proof I don’t need more groceries…

Do you want to join us?

You can make your own limits and set your own goals…just have your goal somehow focus on getting some of the cabinets cleaned out.

I think I could do this for about three months.  I really keep a stocked pantry but it’s time for me to not stock it quite so fully, especially being Karl isn’t living here anymore.  I somehow need to learn to cook for one…but more importantly, buy for one.

We are going to make Tuesday’s out check-in day.  I’ll probably do mine in the evening blog post.  I’ll mix it up maybe showing you some of the food I cooked…maybe showing you what I bought for the week.  I’ll for sure let you know what I spent.

I could probably put up a linky party if any of you are interested in that…let me know.  I am so happy that I’m headed in the right direction simply by having a plan.  We’d love to hear if you want to join us or what your plans to make this challenge your own will be.

Check out Kalissa’s blog HERE as she will be sharing her progress on the challenge there.

32 thoughts on “A Challenge Straight from the Kitchen”

  1. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Great idea!! I know I am still buying as though all the kids, their spouses and grandkids live with me!! That would be 25 people, and right now there is just me!! You would think I lived through the Great Depression or something!! I need to make a list of everything I have in my frig, freezer and pantry so I can get it eaten!!

    1. I have done this before and it’s fantastic. My commitment was to only buy fresh veggies and other fresh items OR an ingredient that I needed to make a meal using what I had. What I planned to last 1 month, lasted far longer. Not only did it help my budget but it helped me have enough room in the freezer to actually see what was there!

    2. It’s hard to get out of the habit of buying for a family. I have been reducing my pantry for about a year. I try to plan meals around what I have on hand.

  2. Since there are just 2 of us at home, I buy on a budget and make a list each time I go grocery shopping. I tend not to buy a lot of meat ahead even if it’s on sale. During the pandemic’s early days, we purchased more than usual. Tracking my groceries on a budget makes me conscious of what I spend. It’s amazing how it adds up. We are blessed to live in a country that has such access to food.

  3. We have moved a lot in our lives. Most of the time we can’t take perishable food (fridge/freezer). Over a few years our pantry/fridge/freezer builds up. When it is time to clean that all out I plan each week very carefully. Each meal must use something from the fridge/freezer/pantry. Sometimes it is using up a bottle of a random marinade, or dressing and most days it is using a chunk of meat from the freezer. Once I have the plan and incorporate a leftover day (or plan on those for lunches) I go to the store and purchase the items needed to complete the menu plan…ONLY those items which tend to be fresh fruits and veggies. You will be surprised at how long it takes to empty those freezers!

  4. Me too, buying and cooking for one now,but I still need to clean out my pantry. I will gladly work on getting rid of the excess with you. When I had a chest freezer I organized it by using colored milk crates. Red for meat, green for vegetables yellow for other. That way if I needed to look for something specific, I could lift a crate out to get to the bottom.

  5. I do the same thing a couple of times a year. The only items purchased from the store are bread, milk and fresh fruits and vegetables. I get pretty creative with what I make, at times googling a few ingredients and taking it from there. I think in a way we all get a little like this. We go to the store and purchase the same thing every couple of weeks not knowing if we really need it. You’re always so creative with your meals, I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  6. How about put out a request for easy recipes using pantry ingredients. Here is one we have all the time.
    Shepherd’s Pie
    1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
    5-6 potatoes cooked and mashed
    1/2 onion chopped and browned with meat.
    1 can corn drained
    1 packet brown gravy mix.

    Cook beef and onion together and drain. Prepare gravy mix as prescribed on package. One packet is usually enough. Mix gravy with beef and oinion. Put drained corn in bottom of round casserole dish. Place beef mixture on top. Top with mashed potatoes. Dot with butter or add grated cheese if desired. Cook at 350 for about 20 min to meld it all together. Yummy!

  7. It is really hard to find the happy medium of buying just what is needed and buying in bulk, especially for you because you need to be prepared to fix a meal for the family on short notice. I try to have certain items for specific recipes, like soups. In the past I would go through my food items and pull out and then donate those items to the mission. They even took things like ham that I mainly fixed to have a good ham bone for soup. Good luck in this endeavor.

  8. It’s tough cutting back and getting accustomed to not having 6 people, but it’s been 14 years…….but you never know who may come for supper! Hahahaha! I’ve gotten better over the years and then field work hits and I get the cooking bug again! I’m joining your group! I’m going to rearrange my canned goods to see what’s in there and throw out the old! Happy cooking

  9. Donating to the local food pantry is a good idea. Go through the cupboard and look for things that about to expire and donate. Good Luck.

  10. I have ALWAYS had a list of menus for the week. I know exactly what I am cooking for dinner every day so that I then have always just purchased what I need for the week. I often make that menu list on the day the local grocery ad comes out so can take advantage of bargains. Even though we have been staying home for the pandemic I still make a list of my menus for the week and post them on the refrigerator. I include what night we will have leftovers from a previous meal, etc. I have found during the pandemic I have eliminated a lot of waste. I freeze reusable portions in zip lock bags and often can fix dinner just from those leftovers. I will buy extra if they are having a BOGO sale of something we use all the time or a great deal on meats we use frequently, but knowing exactly what you will be cooking each night goes a long way in helping us save money and not waste food.

  11. I did the cabinet version by pulling out everything in the cabinets I wanted used up and setting it one the counter. It was maybe 20 items. For the freezers, i did a similar thing to what you’re doing – not buying any meat. My last effort is to clean out the small deep freeze and get rid of it. We want to move to an upright freezer and get rid of our two chest freezers. This is quite the effort!

  12. It seems like it might be worth checking with Karl to see if he needs/wants anything since he just moved into a new and empty home.

  13. I’ve only been successful at this once, four years ago right before we moved! But I’m in the same boat, as my pantry and freezers are FULL!!!! Can’t wait to see what great ideas you two share!

  14. Just the opposite here. Partly due to how hard it was to find certain items during the crazy part off the pandemic, I am keeping a reasonable supply of things I use a lot. Such as bottled lemon juice (I put it in my drinking water.), mayonnaise, pasta, etc. During the Big Freeze in Texas, when we didn’t have power for three days, having a full freezer with three tubs of frozen water (we put those in our ice chest when we go fishing.) is the only thing that kept me from losing all of our meat. I did have to throw away everything in the refrigerator, so clean slate there. I do write the date I open a bottle now, because I’m really bad about remembering how long it’s been on the refrigerator opened already. Canned goods – new go in on the left, older ones come out on the right. Or new go in back, old come from front. Depends on the space.

  15. You are brave to show all your food stash to everyone! Did you notice that your description of the pantry problem sounds so much like our problems with our quilting stash? lol
    Maybe Karl could “shop at Mom’s” for a while like my daughter does when she started quilting. Good luck with your plan of action.

  16. I allow myself 1 large basket in my outside freezer and 1 drawer of my indoor freezer for meat proteins. I don’t buy any until that type is gone (chicken, fish, ground beef) and then I fully stock up to full again. I realize you get farm beef and this is not an option for you.

    1 thing I do is a weekend cook every 3 months. I cook up a pot of ground beef and do taco spice. Then once cooled, into gallon ziptop bags. I can break off what I need for tacos, taco salad, burritos, or a taco bake. I cook another pot of ground beef/Italian sausage. Same cool/ziptop bag process. Again, break off what I need for a meal of pasta whatever. This could be helpful for childcare lunches and quick evening dinners when you’re tired. I’ll also roast several beef roasts and shred, cool/ziptop/freeze. When I grill chicken, I grill enough for 2 meals. So many uses for all of this :-)

    Doing this might help you with cooking for solo meals. Still make for 2 and have the leftover 2night later. then you cook half as often.

    I don’t go to the store for fresh fruit/veg until the fridge and fruit bowl are completely empty that way I use it all rather than push to the back.

    It’s definitely a learned behavior! Great job working together on this challenge to hold each other accountable.

  17. Margaret in North Texas

    I call your “plan” eating out of the cupboard. Need to take inventory of what we have and plan to use it up. It is a good feeling to see the cupboards a little less stuffed. Good luck everybody –it is an interesting and worthwhile project. I’m in!!

  18. I find a white board on my freezer with a list of what’s inside is really helpful. I keep track of amounts with tally marks. When I take something out I erase a mark. I also plan 7-9 meals before shopping. I have become more aware of food waste since the pandemic started. Some weeks we have no food waste. It’s become a game of how can we remake these leftovers so we want to eat them.

  19. Ironic you posted this today! Yesterday was my “freezer meal prep” day. Made goulash, mac and cheese, shredded chicken in salsa and cream cheese and rice, chicken and broccoli cheese casseroles. Had my instant pots on overtime! Today I’ll make tuna casseroles and Spanish rice. I call these my “stash”! When I’m quilting, cleaning, or just don’t want to cook, I check my “stash” and dinner is all ready for the oven. One or two days of cooking yields many meals! Hubby is happy and so am I.

  20. Might want to check expiration dates quickly. We just moved, and oh my, some items were a tad too old.
    They were in both pantry and frig. Some things just hide.

  21. I find that planning a menu and knowing how many meals we need for the week really helps cut down waste. Also, we ONLY buy what’s on our list. If we haven’t planned for it, we don’t buy it. We also do an inventory to see how many servings of fresh veggies we do have on hand and then only buy as much as we need to last til the next shopping trip, which only happens once a week. When I last cleaned out our cabinets, I took a marker and circled the expiration dates on things to help me be more aware of them, and those things that should be consumed asap stayed out on the counter until gone. Good luck with your mission!

  22. I have already been doing this for a few months now. You will be going for months too. I have been making meals for my husband and me, my mom, my son and his wife and my brother. The husband is the only one that lives here. I have those meal prep containers that are black bottoms with clear tops. I have some with 3 compartments, some with two compartments and some with only one compartment. I double recipes and divide that stuff up and give it to the others. I will prepare 5 meals doubled in one day and divide it all up and then deliver it to two other houses or have my son and DIL take it with them for them and my mom and my brother. The kids are living with my mom so that’s 3 people in one house and brother is single. I got my containers from Walmart. They all return my containers cleaned! I even get groceries from my mom’s and brothers house for stuff to go with stuff I have. It saves everyone in our group. You could do that with your kids. I have been known to triple a recipe too..just depends if need be. The canned goods go real well in these meals too. I just open up a can or two or three of veggies and put servings in the containers. They might not all have the same veggies too. Just depends on what I have and what goes with what.

  23. I have noticed that expiration dates aren’t as far off as they used to be. Since it’s just the two of us, I have been buying only the canned goods and pasta that we need and can store in the kitchen. I was tired of going down to the basement storage space. LOL. Lots of good ideas from your readers.

    We bought a 1/4 beef and 1/2 a hog when COVID started, so have been trying to use the many pork cuts especially.

  24. Hi Jo
    I do something like this twice a year. In January and September. I eat in the freezer and the cupboard. No purchase for a month. Just fresh fruit and salad (with 20 dollars for 1 month) Everything else has to come from the reserves. It’s fun and I stop when the freezer is empty.
    Eve from France

  25. Budgeting became a habit when we had many children living at home and it’s carried on even though they are now in their own homes. I check the pantry and the freezer, then create a menu for the next week using as much as I can from my storage. Always shop from my freezer or pantry first. Using a list of needed items when I go to the grocery store and buy only what is on the list.

  26. We need to do some of that, too. Bob will say, “we have nothing to fix” and I observe the fridge/freezer is full and the pantry is full. Granted, it’s not very big, but there are only two of us. Even in the freezer above the fridge, I have no idea what all is in there. I’m willing to use up or get rid of many of those things!

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  28. What a great idea, we also are pretty well stocked with Covid and now I need to thin the cabinets and use what I have on hand. I will be joining you both on cleaning out the cabinets and freezer.

  29. Sandra Bogoniewski

    This sounds so much like the problem most of us have using our fabric stash!
    A while after my kids were all out, we moved and my freezer was unplugged for almost 10 months before we got into a new house. When I plugged the freezer back in, it’s so big now for just the two of us, I gradually put a layer of milk jugs filled with water in the bottom. That way I could more easily reach and see what I had, I had less room to carelessly fill, and the freezer works more efficiently when it’s full.
    I will also have room to buy part of a pig or a cow when I find someone to go with me!

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