This is a subject that I have been thinking and working out in my head for the last 24 hours or so. These are my thoughts and how I worked it all out.
A pantry challenge is a way to reduce your grocery spending, use up items that you have had for any length of time in your freezer and pantry. Another purpose or rationale would be to determine how much food do I really need to store? My one solid rule for this year’s pantry challenge was to only buy what we were completely out of. My thought was also that if I don’t go to the store, I am less likely to spend money as well. I don’t mind stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work to grab an item but usually what happens is I look at meat for markdowns and also take a look at the clearance section. Knowing in my head that I don’t/should not be doing that is actually very freeing and has given me a chance to avoid extra spending on groceries. Another benefit for me is being able to say to my family “We are doing a pantry challenge this month so if we don’t have it then we can’t make it.” Because of this I am currently keeping a list of meals that we enjoyed and have enough supplies for in February. I will again do the same for March. My goal is that we really eat out of the pantry and freezer until after our Disney trip. Which leads me to a random question and struggle. How much do I restock? For example, I used the last of the pork and beans in a recipe on Saturday. Since I am completely out, I could restock but do I buy 2 cans (what I used) or 6 cans which is what I would typically grab because that fills my can shelf. Currently my decision is to wait, we use those beans once a month maybe so they are something that I can wait to restock. This may be my overall decision about most foods except Diet Coke, and creamer. It also does depend on what we end up eating as well. I chose to continue my subscribe and save items at Amazon. I am very consistent in checking prices to make sure that they are still at a good deal. I also make sure we don’t have an abundance of the item. This month’s subscription is mainly lunch foods. We all take lunches at least 4 days a week. I will count this toward our grocery spending. I will admit that I have also been trying to limit the number of items we are ordering from Amazon as well. This month so far we have paid for toothpaste. The other items have been free with points and/or gift cards earned. I should be able to reduce the amount of Amazon spending for both February and March as my plan is to get our small tax refund on an Amazon gift card to help reduce cost. A pantry challenge in my mind does not affect our other spending such as going out to eat or purchasing non-food items.
A no-spend challenge means that you do not spend any money except on bills and gas for the month. This would include eating out, purchasing snacks at ballgames or other events and also any other purchase. This would be extremely difficult for us or even just me to do during this session of our lives. Since May of 2022, we have had at least one kid involved in an extracurricular activity. This means paying for admission for an event and usually these events happen around the dinner hour. Including our drive time, it is just impossible to eat at home some days. We also enjoy eating out with friends after church on most Sundays. I have in fact incorporated this into our budget. I have in the past tried a no spend month except for budgeted items but this is my goal for every month so that does not work either.
So now that I have gotten all my thoughts out on paper, Why does it matter? Currently we are in a pantry challenge and our washer completely died yesterday. Matt and I talked about it and decided to go ahead and order a new washer. So, my debate was doing this just ruin our pantry challenge? The answer is no and I don’t have an excuse to buy additional groceries or other items.