Reflections on Our 2023 Family Pantry Challenge

Friends, it is the end of February and the end of our family pantry challenge—or very close. This initiative has meant we have not bought groceries or other food items since the beginning of the year. I am generally excited for this month to come to and end, but this year I’m literally counting the days.

Reflections on our family pantry challenge as we draw towards the end of two months without buying groceries.

“Really? That bad?” You ask.

Well, I have filled my online cart and I’m ready to push the order button. And I do have a running grocery list of things that I’m excited to bring back into my life—on March first. Hello peanut butter. Hey there cream for my tea, you saucy little thing.

But

Let’s also be a little positive here.

This family pantry challenge has brought us a sense of purpose through a dingy part of the year. It gave us goals, new experiences, and growth. It gave us, if you can believe it, better nutrition. And it gave us an extra mortgage payment, which we submitted last night.

Reflections on our family pantry challenge as we draw towards the end of two months without buying groceries.

I don’t know if I’ve given you a full appreciation for how the pantry challenge has helped our finances. We are a family on a moderate single income. We started the year pretty broke, and we have built ourselves a small cushion plus an entire extra payment in just two months.

When we stack it all up together, I am so grateful we came across this challenge, and jumped on with a full commitment.

Reflections on our family pantry challenge as we draw towards the end of two months without buying groceries.

Happy endings to the family pantry challenge

Mr. M. says he could happily carry on for the month of March. I am not on the same page.

It is really only the last few days where I have started to get an itch for moving back towards our old ways of shopping and eating. It could be, of course, that I know the end is in sight so I’m getting impatient. However, we started running out of some key items in the last weeks.

Reprieve and reflection point

As I mentioned in January’s post, we planned a trip to visit family in the city. We were gone for five days, during which time we relaxed our pantry challenge. Our family ate out a couple times, and also shopped for groceries (when we cooked). Our hosts graciously provided us fresh salads and grilled meals.

Reflections on our family pantry challenge as we draw towards the end of two months without buying groceries.

We deeply enjoy the diverse food scene when we leave our rural homestead. Certainly, the family we stayed with kept us well-fed. However, on this visit to the city I was particularly struck by the differences between our values and approaches to the simple and essential act of eating. Being immersed in something such as this challenge that impacts us daily brought these into sharper focus.

Would we do the family pantry challenge again? Absolutely yes.

However, I’m still excited that it’s ending. As we move into spring I’m excited to focus on other things. We’ll be establishing new garden space this year, bringing in a new flock of chickens, and living our full life with our children.

Two sourdough loaves fresh out of the oven are cooling on the counter.

Review of our goals for the family pantry challenge:

  • Baking bread from home-ground flour. Yes. And not only have we made all our bread from home-ground flour, I’ve bitten down on the bullet of sprouted sourdough. We are very sold.
  • Making our mayonnaise from scratch. Yes. We finally used up our bought jar, and I gave it a whirl (hehe). Friends, it is the easiest home-made ingredient ever! If you don’t yet make your own mayo just give it a try.
  • Making nut milks from scratch. Check! This was not new for me, but I needed to be much more consistent these past months.
  • Finding our groove with sprouting and microgreens. Yes. This also was not new to us, but the desire for fresh greens pushed us into making this part of our January/February routine.
  • Making tempeh and/or tofu from scratch. I’m working on a white-bean tofu as I write.
  • Canning dried beans. Check! This is also incredibly easy, if you’re already familiar with pressure canning.
  • Make lots of pasta from home-ground flour. Definitely! (And we shared our whole-wheat pasta recipe.)
Jars of food sit on the mantle.

We will take most of this into our future pantry. This list is all skills we wanted to master anyway, and having a family pantry challenge has been an impetus to just do it.

Now we’re better prepared for the 2024 pantry challenge, when it comes.

We are currently experiencing an unseasonal cold snap here. But as we pull close to the end of the month, we also are pulling into sunshine and thawing temperatures.

It seems like appropriate timing. And I am excited for it.

Mr. M. reflects on the family pantry challenge

Here is a Youtube video Mr. M. made of his impressions throughout the pantry challenge. You can find more of our videos on our Growing Wild Roots channel.

You can read our earlier impressions of the pantry challenge at Pantry Challenge: His and Her Viewpoints and 2023 Pantry Challenge: One Month in Review.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Our 2023 Family Pantry Challenge”

  1. Sounds like an awesome adventure in sustainable self-sufficiency eating. But I can definitely see why you’d be glad to be done.

    1. I just went grocery shopping (March 2). It was kinda cool to see how my shopping was different with new skills and habits. But, definitely not sad to have dark chocolate and peanut butter on hand again!

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