2023 Pantry Challenge: His and Her Viewpoints

At the end of the year Mr. M. and I sat down to have a chat about our finances. Together we were looking to get off on a positive foot for the new year, and that is when I suggested the Pantry Challenge.

This is an annual challenge, and we have decided that our family will participate for the first time in 2023. The idea is that our household will not buy any food items throughout January and February. Instead we will eat from our three freezers, full pantry, root cellar, and bins of dry goods.

It doesn’t sound too difficult when I put it that way. And, indeed, we are deeply blessed with abundance from every corner of our lives. But we do have some thoughts—and we invite you to read them below.

We have also posted an update now that we are through the first month. You can read it at 2023 Pantry Challenge: A Month in Review.

I should note that the challenge can be adapted to fit each household. As Jessica says—who facilitates the pantry challenge each year—being miserable is not the goal. Here on our homestead we will continue to buy/barter eggs from our neighbors. (We are between flocks, and eggs are a big part of our diet.)

Kris’ Thoughts on the Pantry Challenge

When I proposed the pantry challenge to Mr. M., I was putting forward a possibility that I had been not-seriously entertaining for a while. I follow Three Rivers Homestead on Instagram—You can find me @growingwildroots—and thought the pantry challenge was intriguing at minimum.

I was not intimidated by the decision—I have a better idea than anyone of the food that we have on hand. As the “homemaker,” preserving, bulk buying, and gardening are my wheelhouse.

Trust me when I say this: No one will go hungry.

Cautious Excitement

Instead, my original reaction could be best described as cautious excitement. This challenge will have an out-sized impact on me, as I am the one who holds the food purse strings. The growing, preserving, and cooking of food is a big part of my lifestyle. I am not ignorant to the fact that participating in the pantry challenge will make things “harder” overall.

I’m excited to take on some of the projects I’ve been putting off. As I say in my About page, I just love really good food and I believe in nourishing my family with homemade whole meals.

I also know that this pantry challenge will contribute in a positive way towards sustainability and security in our household budget. It will reduce our food waste, which is already low. Our diets will also improve with more whole foods on our plates.

However, I also depend on fancy ingredients and convenience foods. It’s made more difficult by my more-specialized diet after my last pregnancy. Realistically, I am going to miss picking up armloads of day-olds at the bakery, or enjoying my cup of tea with a splash of cream.

The pain points haven’t set in yet, although both Mr. M. and I are already planning three moves ahead to make sure we can continue to enjoy some of our favorite foods that are, generally, just added to the shopping list. (Ketchup and pasta for him. Dark chocolate and almond flour for me.)

In closing, I’d like to include a short list of projects I’m both looking forward to—and also kind of dreading.

Goals for the Pantry Challenge

  • Baking bread from home-ground flour. (Until last month we had roommates who took care of this household task.)
  • Making our mayonnaise from scratch.
  • Making my nut milks from scratch (I used to do this and can start again.)
  • Finding our groove with sprouting and microgreens.
  • Making tempeh and/or tofu from scratch.
  • Canning dried beans.
Our grain grinder patiently awaiting her debut.

Mr. M.’s Thoughts on the Pantry Challenge

When my wife started tossing around the idea of a “pantry challenge” my first thought was… “that might not be such a bad idea. We can eat through our 3 freezers, overstocked pantry and canning room. No problem.”

We unofficially started after Christmas without warning to stock up on what we consider “essentials.” 

Wait. What are my essentials? Can I do without? Or do I ration? Is there a way I can make them myself?

Hmm—this is a beneficial thought process, and I can see why this might be a good idea. I feel like this is going to be like coming off an addiction and will roll out in stages—we may find we are more addicted to some foods than we think. 

Regardless, I don’t think we will starve, and we will save some money in the process. 

We started early, and are about one week in.

Thought Stream (Also, Noodles)

  • We are going to rock this.
  • Think of the money we will save!
  • I am going to run out of noodles. Play it cool. I’ll be fine. 
  • I have a much different “essentials” list than my wife. This isn’t too surprising because she has different dietary stuff. 
  • She’s stocked up better than I am on “essentials.” 
  • Would my kids hate me if I hid and rationed the noodles?
  • We must not let anything fresh go bad! We need those micro nutrients. 
  • Gotta start sprouts and microgreens.
  • Can’t ration the noodles… I would hate myself. 
  • I can make my own noodles!  Look at me!
  • Oh… the one bag of all purpose flour won’t last us.  And my wife says we need it to mix with other recipes… no more noodles. 
  • Gotta get my kids to eat every lick off their plate.  Every bit is a penny. Eat your noodles!  
  • Umm… ok. I just ate all the noodles left on my baby’s tray without shame… for three days in a row.  
  • Let’s see what we have in our canning room.  Nope, it’s too overwhelming.
  • Wait, we have how many sacks of wheat berries? And Kris bought a grain grinder? Hmmm.
  • I don’t think my wife thinks it’s funny when I ask if she wants to grind with me. But I did get a smile.  
  • With this flour in hand I will be the master of all future noodly foods.  
  • Ok I think I’ll be fine. I will get noodles…. Yup, I have a problem.  

(Edit to add: Mr. M. did in fact finesse a whole-wheat pasta recipe with home-ground wheat. We are happy to share it with you our readers.)

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