January pantry challenge

I’m in the process of compiling a “Top Ten” post for you, but it’s taking a lot longer than I thought it would, so I’ll post that later today after it’s finished.

In the meantime, I just realized I should tell you about my plan to “eat down the pantry” during the month of January, in an effort to get organized, save money, and create some new meals. That way, you’ll have a couple of days to decide if you want to join in.

A lot of bloggers have done something similar over the past year, and it’s a good time for us to do it because of the season. In the winter, I’m much more inclined to eat soups and chilis and stews, and having the stove or oven on helps heat up the house. I also don’t mind eating less fresh fruits and vegetables, since there aren’t as many of my favorites in season.

So here’s the plan:

1. Shop only for fresh produce, dairy, and bread and tortillas.

2. Use up pasta, rice, and other staples in the pantry and refrigerator.

3. Cook beans, starting with black-eyed peas for New Year’s. Make black beans in the crockpot, and Katy’s black bean burgers with half the batch.

4. Waste no food. My husband is much better at this than I am. While I know in an abstract way that wasted food equals wasted money, it’s hard for me to choose something I’m not in the mood to eat. He, on the other hand, will eat whatever needs to be used up. For example, a couple of weeks ago I made homemade egg nog, which calls for 12 egg yolks, and I put the egg whites in a bowl in the refrigerator. He made us a delicious pasta dinner with those egg whites on two different occasions.

5.  The 3 C’s: chili, casseroles, and curry. I’ll be cooking a lot of things that will make more than one meal. Luckily we both love leftovers.

6.  Get creative. I’ll be investigating items in the pantry that never seem to get incorporated into meals. I’ll also be challenging my husband to create some meals from what’s in there.

7.  Soups. Making soup with fresh, seasonal vegetables  is one of the ways I’ll keep our diet healthy. Fresh fruit for snacks and greens for salads will round out the plan.

8.  Bake bread. I’m going to make another attempt at this, especially since freshly baked bread is so delicious with homemade soup.

My biggest challenge will be to keep the menu delicious and healthy. At least once a week during January, I’ll fill you in on what we’ve been eating. If you want to join in the challenge, let us know in the Comments section. And if you’ve done something similar, please share your tips and advice as well. I’ll be consulting Alea at Premeditated Leftovers, who did this with her family last year.

I’m kind of excited about this. Does that make me a geek?


    • Angela says

      Jana- So glad you’re joining in! Thanks for the recipe, it looks great. That will help to stretch things, and be delicious with soup or pasta.

  1. Laura says

    With a pantry full of rice, pasta, and beans, and a new Eating Well cookbook for Christmas, I’m definitely interested in a cook-down for January!

    • Angela says

      Laura- Great, glad you’re joining in. I was also partially inspired by a new cookbook, Love Soup, from my sister-in-law. I can’t wait to make some of the delicious-sounding recipes.

  2. says

    I will join you in the challenge. January is a great time for a pantry challenge!

    I think creating new meals out of what I have available makes me a more creative cook. Desperation has caused me to come up with some delicious combinations that I would not have come up with under other circumstances. :)

    Have you tried any of the recipes in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day? They are delicious and easy. You can use your pizza stone or a bread pan to cook the bread (you can also use the dough to make pizza crust). They have some of their recipes on their website: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/

    • Angela says

      Alea- I know you’ve done this before, and we welcome any and all tips you can give, as well as what you learned. I will definitely be checking out these 5 minute bread recipes- thanks!

      I think it will be fun to see what we all come up with out of our pantries. Thanks for joining in!

    • Angela says

      Hi Heather! Great to see you, and I’m so glad you’re joining in! Yes, pantry, frig, and freezer. I want to clear them all out.

  3. Saymoi says

    I was hoping I’d find something like this going on! I’m joining in. I keep all grocery expenses on Excel and I added it all up today and my husband and I spent approximately $10,000 for food and wine this year. I probably have 3 months’ worth of Trader Joe’s staples in the pantry.

    • Angela says

      Saymoi- Wow, that’s a lot of wine! :) It’s easy to spend a lot at Trader Joe’s, they have such tasty and convenient food. I’m trying to wean us off some of it and cook more from scratch, since it’s healthier and cheaper. But you can’t beat their stuff for when you don’t have the time or energy to cook.

      Glad you’ll be joining in.

  4. Marie-Josée says

    Great plan, Angela. My husband and adult university student son have agreed to follow me on a Sunday to Thursday vegetarian menu this coming year. We want to do this in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and out of compassion for all of our planet’s inhabitants. I will be foraging our pantry for whole grains and legumes. I plan on cooking up batches of Katy’s black bean burgers too, as well as sunflower seed patties for quick lunches, and chili and dahl soup for dinner. I want to bake yummy low-carb and gluten free muffins with almond flour for breakfast. I don’t like to cook, and am allergic to gluten which is an additional challenge, so I hope I will follow through with this plan for more than a week!

    • Angela says

      Marie-Josee- That sounds like a great plan. Even if you don’t do all of it, I agree that a mostly vegetarian diet is best for health and the planet. It also turns out to be good for the bank account, and the more I cook veggie meals, the better they get. The best cook I know is a vegetarian, his food is absolutely delicious. So you don’t need meat to have flavor! Thanks for commenting!

    • Angela says

      nrhatch- Yes, I try to plan that way as well, but it doesn’t always work out! Thanks for the link, we eat mostly meatless meals around here.

  5. says

    I’ve started doing this a bit because I have a lot of stuff in my pantry starting to age, so I should use before I have to throw it out! I bought few additional baking supplies this year for Christmas baking because I was using stuff on hand.

    My pantry extends to the shelves of home-canned goods. This summer I ended up getting additional jars (second-hand) because I still had too many filled jars on my shelves! This year I’m being more conscientious about eating down those stores, as well as the stored garden produce such as squash (I stored them in order of hardiness, so I’ll eat the Delicta before the Carnival and the eminently storage Hubbard will be the last to be used).

    I need to do this in January to free up cash for some needed car repairs as well! The challenge will really keep me on track.

    • Angela says

      Anne- Yum. I would love to have stored squash! Winter squash is a favorite of mine. And there are so many lovely soups to make from it.

      Thanks for joining the challenge, and yes, I am hoping it will free up a significant amount of cash. I’m assuming we’ll save at least $100.

    • Angela says

      Maryanne- So glad to hear it! And yes, I’m also looking forward to some creativity. I have a loaf of french bread from 3 days ago that I’m going to make into some bruschetta today, and I suddenly thought of a casserole my mom used to make with ham and cheese and bread. I might try baking bread and cheese and milk- how could that NOT be tasty?

      I’ll definitely get the bread recipe from you- thanks! I’ll send a note from my email address so you can reply. And then maybe I’ll write it up on the blog for everyone.

  6. says

    a perfect january project, i’m already in.

    angela i’m wondering if you know of sally fallon’s ‘nourishing traditions’ and/or ‘eat fat, lose fat’ books? they are based on traditional, nutrient-dense diets. part of the preparation plan in ‘eat fat, lose fat’ is cleaning out your cupboards: http://eatfatlosefatblog.com/#

    • Angela says

      Melissa- So glad you’re joining in! And thanks so much for that link, it sounds fabulous and perfect for this project. I can’t wait to check it out.

  7. Joan says

    I’m in! I just reorganized my freezer after Christmas so now I can see what’s there and what we need to use up. This would include 12 bags of grated zucchini from last year’s garden — sounds like a lot of soup and zucchini bread in our future!

    • Angela says

      Joan- Welcome! That is a lot of zucchini! I have a post from over a year ago where I asked for zucchini recipes and got tons of great ideas from readers- let me see if I can find it…

      here it is: http://angelabarton.com/2009/06/whats-your-favorite-recipe-for/

      I hope some of them are useful!

      I am going to inventory the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry tomorrow and make a plan. I think I’ll have to freeze some sweets before they go bad because I’m ready to throw them out, but I’ll probably be happy for them in late January or February.


      • Joan says

        Thanks for all the great ideas! You gotta love a vegetable that pairs so well with chocolate! Definitely freeze the sweets — now that the glut of holiday baking is over, I bet you really will be happy to have them on hand by next month.

        I’m mapping out my game plan for the month tonight. Time to get creative!

  8. Angela says

    I’m so excited and motivated that so many people are joining in this challenge. It really is a perfect time to do it, after the season of plenty. I actually have pumpkin pie filling in the refrigerator and can’t believe it since I have almost an entire pie as well. I think I’ll freeze the one that’s baked into individual slices for a snack or dessert, and bake another for a friend. What friend wouldn’t be in a diabetic coma by now, and would appreciate an entire pumpkin pie?

    Maybe I’ll put out an offer to my local friends…

  9. says

    I just went through my pantry and am even more horrified than I thought I would be by the ridiculousness of my holds. I could probably go 3 or more months without buying a single thing, yet I blew through (and past) my grocery budget every single month last year.

    Much of my pantry consists of base ingredients, so I think I’ll be trying to make a lot more from scratch – particularly bread products. I also have a ridiculous amount of pasta and beans. If my bread making turns out well I may get brave and try (again) to make homemade tortillas. Last time was a disaster. :) Wish me luck!

    • Angela says

      Sasa- That’s great that you have such a large stock! You shouldn’t have any trouble with the challenge. I have a lot as well and I don’t think it’s going to be too difficult to do the challenge. I think I’ll mostly be buying eggs, milk, greens, fresh fruit, and meat once a week (which is all I ever buy- that’s two meals usually and if we “need” more, there’s always canned tuna or salmon).

      Homemade tortillas sound amazing- good luck! Please let us know the recipe if you have success with it.

      Thanks for joining in, and for commenting!

  10. Lilypad says

    Hi Angela, just found the time to read this post—I’m always behind the times!—but I was coincidentally already working on a pantry purge because we are going to be moving again. It was kind of a last minute decision (my husband’s job is much too far from the home we’ve been renting for the last year) and we just can’t take much longer. I had stocked up quite a bit in the last few months on flour and sugar and yeast and various kinds of baking chips, not thinking we’d be moving soon. I’ve got to start baking! This challenge will be at odds with another personal challenge (losing some of the 27 pounds that came on after my 41st birthday 3 years ago!!) but I’ll have to make up for it by carrying more boxes up and down the stairs. Or something like that. 😉
    Best of luck, and I look forward to updates!

    • Angela says

      Good luck, Lilypad! With the pantry challenge, losing weight, and moving- you’ve got a lot going on! Hopefully you’ll be able to use some of the tips we all learn from each other this month.

      Thanks for commenting!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *