Here we are, halfway through the 2023 Pantry Challenge. You can read our early impressions at 2023 Pantry Challenge: His and Her Viewpoints or our post with reflections at the end of the pantry challenge.
Actually, our family is about seven weeks in, since we started before Christmas. We are also leaving town this month, during which time we will take a more relaxed approach to extra food purchases. (This mama wants Ethiopian food and maybe some all-you-can-eat sushi.)
So, in many ways, it feels like we are in the home stretch. We’re thankful for this. We are really beginning to reach the point where we are running out of some of our comfort staples—I only have about half a jar of peanut butter left and we just finished our potatoes.
Onward with the 2023 Pantry Challenge
To be honest, when we started the 2023 pantry challenge we weren’t fully committed to completing February as well as January. We decided to finish out a month and see how things were going.
So here we are now.
We never did even a small stock-up shop since we decided on the challenge, and jumped right in from that minute. As a consequence, we’re very low on salt (we have less than 1/2 cup left). We have reduced our use of it slightly, and also rely on crutches such as home-canned bone broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, and some crunchy chickpea snacks that Mr. M. had made with a very severe hand to the salt.
However, salt is a very important component of any kitchen—but especially one that specializes in home-cooked whole food.
If anyone knows a good place to order bulk food in Canada, please let me know in the comments. I’m interested in large amounts of storage items, particularly 50lbs or so of salt. I’d also buy lots of other clean, bulk ingredients. I think I’m looking for something like Azure Standard, but available in rural Canada.
I am taking a sourdough class this month, but in the meantime I’m also essentially out of yeast.
So we will probably have to make exceptions for these two ingredients.
Beware of temptation
I walked into the grocery store once in January in order to buy candles for a youth group activity. What a strange experience that was.
While I did glance at the reduced rack, there were no exceptional deals that were difficult to pass up. Otherwise, I walked quickly to the housewares, an aisle I usually don’t bother with, and then left.
I have also continued with reading the emails for my loyalty points—I generally save a lot of money using that program. However, I should just delete the emails when I’m not shopping. I always have to remind myself that I’m saving more money by not buying anything than I would by buying sale items.
The most pleasant outcome of this challenge has been the financial savings. This was the primary reason we decided to participate in the 2023 pantry challenge, but I really didn’t expect that it would have this much positive impact! We started the new year broke, but we have managed to meet our expenses as well as tuck away enough to bring us back to a more comfortable situation.
I think I didn’t realize how much “groceries” really add up, especially with the crazy inflation.
Extra trips means extra gas expenditure and more stuff to buy when I happen to be in town. It means stopping by the thrift store and buying pepperoni buns for hungry kids, and matcha lattes for myself (which I can make perfectly well at home). It has also meant I haven’t been stocking up online and topping up my cart with other stuff.
Success in other ways, too
The pantry challenge has also helped us to use up food items that we normally wouldn’t get to. I have old powdered milk that I’ve had for eons that I’ve been using in baking and oatmeal. We’ve eaten more squash, since we still have loads. I roast a whole oven full, and then make pumpkin muffins with the extra. (I use apple sauce in place of the oil, which is another healthy swap that uses my local organic preserving.)
We have made a significant dent in the freezers, with a intention to be able to unplug one over the summer.
Mr. M.’s new favorite snack is squash seeds. When I am cooking I save the good ones and he roasts them over the woodstove with a sprinkle of salt. It’s an incredibly nutritious discovery from a food-waste product—and we don’t even use any electricity to roast them!
However, I did just eat my last bit of good dark chocolate. And Mr. M. is on his last bottle of ketchup, so we’ll see how we go when the going gets tough. (Fully tongue-in-cheek. No one is hungry—not even close.)
An update on my 2023 Pantry Challenge goals:
- Baking bread from home-ground flour. Check!
- Making our mayonnaise from scratch. Not yet. We (surprisingly) haven’t run out.
- Making my nut milks from scratch. Check!
- Finding our groove with sprouting and microgreens. Half check. I have been doing sprouts regularly (so helpful!), but Mr. M. is the microgreen guy and hasn’t got them going yet.
- Making tempeh and/or tofu from scratch. Not yet
- Canning dried beans. Check!
- Made lots of pasta from home-ground flour. Check! (And we shared our whole-wheat pasta recipe. This was not on my list of goals, but I think it was Mr. M.’s only goal.)
.So there you have it. 2023 pantry challenge, one month in. Only the shortest month of the year yet to go.