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It’s time for the pantry challenge where we eat through what we have in our pantry and freezer, shop less, and do our best to cut down on the food waste in our own homes.
From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, we eat a lot of rich foods and recipes that I don’t make regularly. It’s also the time of year when our grocery budget goes out the window because we enjoy splurging on fun foods, baking supplies, candies, and so forth.
My pantry is full of store-bought and home-canned items. The freezer is full with half a cow and a case of chicken, plus venison from friends. It’s time to start eating through what we have on hand so it doesn’t go to waste. Plus, this will give us a good idea as to what we need to grow more of in the coming year or what items my family just isn’t interested in.
I first heard of the Three Rivers Pantry Challenge last winter (2023) when Becky from Acre Homestead was discussing it on her channel. Without really meaning to, I joined the challenge and took inspiration to start using up what we had on hand instead of grocery shopping or ordering takeout.
Over the last year, I have started following Jessica at Three Rivers Homestead, and when she shared her video explaining the how and why of the Three Rivers Challenge, I knew I had to do this in January.
Rules for the #ThreeRiversChallenge
The best part of the Three Rivers Challenge is that Jessica encourages each family to make their own rules for how they will participate in the challenge. She knows that what works for her family won’t necessarily work for everyone else.
Jessica chooses to eat from her pantry & freezers for January and February. During this time, she doesn’t go to the grocery store at all except to purchase the items for the children’s birthday meals that she may need. She also has a bulk citrus order that will arrive and provide a year’s worth of citrus to her family. Other than that, she is very intentional about using up what she has preserved in her pantry and freezer during the growing season.
Our Shopping Habits
Our family and homestead structure is quite different from that at Three Rivers Homestead. We are a family of 5, but my inlaws live with us making us a family of 7. That said, we do not eat most meals together as the larger family so most of my cooking is for five people.
Our family lives in the suburbs and does not have livestock beyond a small flock of laying hens. We rely on a local dairy for our milk and a butcher for our meat and poultry. We still have quite a bit of our beef remaining from the half a cow we ordered last spring, and I picked up a case of chicken just after Christmas.
Normally, I do a large monthly shop in Lancaster hitting up all of my favorite discount grocery stores. Then, I shop Costco for our paper products and additional staples. There are usually weekly trips to Aldi and Tanner Bros Dairy for things like bread, milk, cheese, and produce.
All of these little trips add up quickly. On average, we spend about $900 a month on groceries, pet supplies, health & beauty items, and household products. Our average grocery spending has soared in the past few years because of inflation and scarcity at the markets, so taking some time to focus on what we have is particularly helpful and we can allocate the savings from this month towards other expenses, like setting up the garden or other home projects.
Rules for the Happily Homegrown Pantry Challenge
- No grocery shopping for January, except milk & fresh produce purchased at Tanner’s.
- Grocery shopping for our Scout camping trip is fine. All Scouts and adults attending chip in for the groceries for the weekend. I tend to shop for our adults.
- Eat 3 meals a day and snacks from our pantry and freezers. Focus on using up store-bought items that could expire before the home-canned items that have a longer shelf life.
- Maintain a grocery list of the items we run out of but need vs want.
- Reassess at the end of January to decide if we will continue into February.
- Share photos of our meals and cooking projects on Instagram using #threeriverschallenge & #happilyhomegrown
End of Pantry Challenge Week 1
By the time I am sharing this, I have already completed the first week of the pantry challenge. This week, we had several large meals and enjoyed them for several days. We are still in holiday mode around here, so I haven’t done much actual cooking.
We restocked the pantry with some homemade mixes for brownies, cornbread, and pancakes when we prepared the items during the week. Now we have an easy convenience item on the shelf ready to go.
Tonight, we are having a random buffet of leftovers to use up what is in the refrigerator. There’s baked ziti, pulled pork, chicken rice, pierogis, pickles, applesauce, salad greens, peppers, and carrots. After dinner tonight, I’m going to meal plan for the coming week because as of Monday we are back to school, scouts, and work all at once, and without a plan, we won’t make it to dinner time.
Join the Pantry Challenge
I would love to have you join us for the pantry challenge. Comment below with what your rules will be, and then share your photos on social media using the hashtags #threeriverschallenge #happilyhomegrown.