A Grocery-Shopping Hiatus: How Long Can You Eat from the Pantry?

By Staff

The following post is from contributing author Laurel Gray.

I have a confession to make. I am a food hoarder. I love to cook, and I try out new recipes almost every day. In the process, I accumulate a lot of food.

To give you an idea of what my pantry looks like, right now I have three kinds of tapioca pearls, six types of dried beans, four kinds of flour, and various partly used bags of barley, quinoa, red lentils, mung beans, dried shitakes, bulgur wheat, and so on. I have stockpiles of canned goods, and over 50 spices.

Taking Back the Pantry

I think it’s time for a shopping hiatus. I recently read an article about a couple trying to go one month without shopping—and I am inspired to give it a shot myself.

According to ConsumerReports.org, the average family of four spends $500 a month on groceries. I don’t know if I can last a whole month, but I intend to whittle down my stores significantly, and lower (or eliminate!) my monthly grocery bill in the process.

There are many good reasons to skip the grocery store run for a while:

  • To free up money in your monthly budget to pay down debt or to handle an unexpected expense such as a car repair.
  • To survive a period of unemployment or underemployment
  • To reduce pantry clutter and use up supplies before they expire
  • To combat food inflation

Take the Challenge

Starting today, I am going on my own shopping hiatus to see how long I can last without going to the supermarket. Frugal Dad has decided to take up the gauntlet starting March 1.

If you are considering and attack on your own pantry, here are some ground rules to follow:

  • Take Inventory—Take a moment to sort through your food stores, unearth buried items in cupboards, and identify the contents of those mystery packages in the freezer. Discard any items that are unusable or spoiled.
  • Research—Using a list of the items you have on hand, hit the internet or scan your cookbook indices for recipes that call for the items you have available.
  • Plan ahead—Make a list of dishes that you can prepare using ingredients on hand. Prepare food on weekends so you won’t be tempted to stop by the store after work when you lack motivation.
  • Improvise—Make creative substitutions in recipes to use up the supplies you have on hand.
  • Shun Dominos—Don’t succumb to expensive delivery or take-out meals in order to supplement your restricted diet. This will defeat your thrifty goals, and thwart your efforts at de-cluttering.
  • If All Else Fails—Make Soup! Soup is a great way to use of a hodgepodge of ingredients such as pasta, dried beans, canned vegetables, and dried legumes and grains.

I’ll be reporting back with details of my effort to use up my languishing pantry products. I hope you will be inspired to join me in the shopping hiatus challenge and share your stories. So…Tapioca Soup, anyone?