Pantry stockpiles are the best- especially when they’re filled with free and nearly-free food. Do you know how to use up a pantry stockpile and only spend $20 a month on groceries?
I have to admit I get a strange happiness out of being resourceful, and watching my grocery bill dwindle as I fill up the pantry makes me giddy.
However – this month I spent only $20 on groceries for an ENTIRE MONTH, which makes me even more ecstatic! Want to know how? Keep reading.
Like many frugal homemakers, I use coupons and combine them with items on sale to buy them for $0 or almost nothing. Sometimes, there are just too many good deals. Then the unthinkable happens – *gasp* – you run out of room to store your free food!
Of course, this doesn’t apply only to food. Stockpiles for household goods and other products can expand as well. Are you nodding your head? Example: I haven’t bought toothpaste since June 2008 (yes, that’s 9 months ago) and I STILL have unopened packages. I got so many toothpaste samples, then purchased tons for 20 cents a tube, that I thought I’d never need to buy toothpaste again. My storage area was overflowing – a little too overflowing.
At a certain point, you have to stop stockpiling, no matter how good the deals, and make a determined vow to use up the food in your pantry stockpile. This is exactly what I’m doing right now.
How to You Use Up a Pantry Stockpile
When my husband and I were hardcore into frugal grocery (we’ve been a bit more relaxed lately), I would make a game out of seeing how long I could go without going to the grocery store. The goal is to use up the food you have in your cupboards, freezer, pantry, cabinets, etc. as much as possible. (Not expired foods! Please, if they’re past their prime, just trash them and vow to do better at watching expiration dates in the future.)
- Take everything out of the cabinets. Foods get pushed to the back, hide behind bigger packages, and attempt to disguise themselves in the shadows to avoid being consumed. Don’t let the food pull one over on you! Pull out all items from cabinets, shelves, lazy Susans, and put them out on a table or countertop.
- Take inventory of your food. Make a list of what ingredients you have and the quantity of each, then put them away.
- Put the food away in reverse order. You know the drill, newest foods in the back, oldest foods in the front. The strategy is to use the oldest food up first, before it expires.
- Make a menu plan without looking at anything in the kitchen. You’ve already seen all the food, so you should have a pretty good idea of what’s in there. This is the point where you use your inventory papers and plan meals to use up those specific ingredients. Plan your menu, day by day, by writing down a meal then crossing off the ingredients it will use.
- Don’t buy any more food! Try to not purchase anything from the grocery store except for perishable items that you need for the week (milk, produce, baby supplies, etc.- you need those).
Keep in mind that while you are in the using-it-up phase, you’ll probably be using the same inventory sheet for more than one week’s worth of meal planning. Just keep crossing food off as you use it up. When planning your meals, don’t think about what sounds good for dinner. Instead, think of what meals can be made with the ingredients you are trying to use.
Use it Up phase around my house forces me to get more creative with the foods I’m cooking, and really challenges me to stick to the menu plan. The benefits are many:
- Older foods get eaten because they’re not being pushed to the back of the cabinet by new groceries.
- You’ll clear out little-used foods and know not to buy them again, even if there’s a really good sale.
- You’ll spend next to NOTHING on groceries during this time, since you’re using food you’ve already paid for (in some cases a long, long time ago!).
- You get a clean kitchen and pantry with lots of room so you can start bargain hunting again. What’s not to love?!
I have been using up my stockpile for close to 3 weeks now, and during that time have spent only $20 on milk, fruits and veggies. There are still about 3 weeks to go in my case, so I’ll be steadfast in my goal to use up the stockpile. You can do the challenge right along with me and cut down your spending as you Use It Up! In the meantime, are any of you using up your pantry contents? Do you periodically go on a grocery shopping fast? Let us know your methods in the comments.
We originally published How to Use up Food in a Pantry Stockpile on Home Ever After on March 2, 2009. Pantry photo by evelynishere.