Pantry Challenge: Inventory

It’s time for a Pantry Challenge! I’ve been reading about these over the years, but had yet to get organized and do it myself. This is a perfect time in my new life to take control of my cupboards, stuffed freezers, manage my grocery budget, and plan ahead. I found the description on good(cheap)eats to align with my goals. Jessica writes, “A pantry challenge is a focused, but limited, time to eat from the pantry. Rather than buying groceries like I normally would, I focus on what we already have. I build my menus around the ingredients I’ve been avoiding using. Sometimes this is something that is cumbersome to prepare or something that I’ve been too lazy to be creative with. The pantry challenge helps me deal with those items… If you regularly stockpile good deals or if your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer are getting full, you may be a good candidate for the eat from the pantry challenge. Another fringe benefit to giving my pantry a good cleaning out/overhaul is that we save money, too.”

My goals for this challenge are to:

      1. Use it or lose it. I want to know what food I already have on hand, use it, or donate it to someone that would.
      2. Build dinner meal plans around what I have already and stick to it!
      3. Shop for vegetables, fruit, eggs, dairy (and perhaps a bit of meat or bread on occasion), that will accompany the pantry items I have to make rounded, pleasurable meals. Focus on local, fresh availability when shopping.
      4. Lower my food budget.
      5. Involve my daughter in more meal preparation and sit down to eat together every night.


Step one is to make an inventory of what you’ve got. Our pantry cupboards are deep and it took a while to pull everything out, organize it, take a tally, and put it back in an approachable way. This process also really made me grateful for the abundance we do have, instead of feeling like there was absolutely nothing to eat. Having a pantry is a privilege for many and being food secure should not be taken for granted.

June First Inventory:

Home-canned items:
2 applesauce
2 beets
1 pears
3 grape juice
8 hot peppers
14 blackberry peach jam
10 mincemeat
1 apple butter
12 apricots
1 tuna

Dry goods:
3 bbq sauce
2 boxes crackers
2 chopped tomatoes
1 hot sauce
3 peanut butter
2 yellow mustard
1 grainy mustard
2 worcestershire
1 peppercinis
2 apricot jam
1 pickled jalapenos
2 pineapple juice
3 curry paste
1 thai peanut sauce
1 olive oil mayo
1 extra virgin olive oil
1 balsamic vinegar
1 box tapioca
1 lemon juice
8 mandarin oranges
1 salsa
4 vegetarian chili
2 sweetened condensed milk
4 tomato paste
1 corn
1 kidney beans
2 black beans
6 refried beans
2 white northern beans
1 coconut milk
1 box cherrios
1 big bag oats
1 small bag steel cut oats
1 whole wheat lasagna pasta
3 whole wheat angel hair pasta
1 whole wheat spiral pasta
1 whole wheat macaroni pasta
1 gnocchi
2 bags walnuts
2 bags pecans
1 bag almonds
2 bags lentils
1 bag oat bran
1 bag sunflower seeds
1 big bag quinoa
2 bags pearl barley
1 box plain powdered gelatin
1 bag plain sheet gelatin
2 bags dry pinto beans
1 bag dry red beans
2 bags dry split peas
1 bag dry black beans
2 bags dry white beans
(plus the usual baking necessities)

6 racks of goat
2 pounds ground beef
3 pounds ground turkey
1 pound ground venison
1 pork sliced shank
1 beef serloin tip steak
2 pork steaks
1 goat liver
1 – 4 pound leg of goat
1 goat loin
1 goat shank
2 bags tilapia
4 quarts homemade chicken broth
1 bag salmon burgers
8 servings homemade goat chili
3 bags potatoes o’brian
1 big bag peas
1 bag peas and carrots
1 big bag stir fry vegetables
1 bag cheese ravioli
1 bag blueberries
1 big bag strawberries
4 bags blackberries
10 bags sliced bananas
3 bags peaches
1 bag mixed fruit
tons of whole tomatoes

Plus typical fridge pantry items, which for me, means too many half full jars of condiments along the lines of pesto, tapenade, mustards, capers, anchovies, apple cider vinegar, pickles, soy sauce, olives, mayo, ketchup, bbq, fish sauce, sesame oil, chile paste, sauerkraut. Also, typical baking items are on hand.

So …. Here we begin. This took an embarrassing amount of time. I threw out anything expired and donated two bags of non-perishables to the food bank of things I have either had too long, have too many of, or can’t talk myself into using in a reasonable amount of time. Everything is organized by type and lined up on shelves. The mason jars are arranged by size in their own space. And for the first time, maybe ever, I think I know everything I have to work with and can no longer justify the excuse that “there is nothing to eat.”

I do spend a greater percentage of my budget on food than other things in my life because I notice that our quality of living suffers more directly when we don’t eat well than, say, not going to the city this weekend or buying a new outfit. Each family’s budget has to work for them and make the ends meet and feed all bellies each month. Your budget, pantry, and meal plan will no doubt look different from mine, but I’m hoping that sharing my process helps start your own, specific to your needs and pleasures. If you keep a blog or want to share your plan, please share in the comments!


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