How We Saved $100 a Week Doing a "Pantry Fast"

You know the drill. You’re standing in your pantry, scanning the shelves of food, only to declare, “Ugh, there’s nothing to eat!” Sound familiar?

Trust me, you’re not alone. I’m the king of justifying a grocery trip or a fast food run because there’s nothing to eat at home. Then, when I get back from the store, I’m playing Tetris with the pantry and refrigerator trying to make it all fit!

In our case, we had plenty of food; I just didn’t know what to do with it. Something needed to change. I scoured the internet for a website that would find me recipes using ingredients that were already sitting on our shelves. The answer?

So I coined the phrase “Pantry Fast,” bookmarked Supercook, and decided to make use of the food we had. I never dreamed we’d end up saving as much as we did.

Step 1: Gather an Inventory

The first thing I had to do was look at what I was working with. Supercook allows you to enter all of the food items you have and then gives you a bunch of recipes you can make using only those ingredients. With my computer in hand, I started typing in everything we had on the shelves.

I figured meats and seasonings would be a priority, so those were the first things I entered. Then, starting at the top shelf and working my way down, I typed in each item one at a time. This may sound time consuming, but Supercook has a predictive text feature that helps you type everything in. The entire process took about 10-15 minutes.

Next was an analysis of the fridge and freezer. Once all of the items were entered, Supercook told me there were 1,129 recipes I could make using only those ingredients. Time to start cookin’.

Step 2: Fire up that Stove, Oven, Grill… Whatever!

The first couple of nights we stuck to some recipes we already knew. I had some ingredients to make turkey tacos and wanted to use the tortillas before they went bad. Toss in a night or two of Brinner (who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner) and I was already out of ideas. Time to let Supercook do its magic.

Supercook lets you narrow down your menu choice by cuisine and meal type. We had a bunch of frozen chicken breast, so I narrowed it down to “Poultry” and “Grilling & BBQ.” While the grilled chicken recipe wasn’t mind blowing, it was a decent meal that I would consider making again.

We even threw some butter and cheese on a few hot dog buns to make garlic cheese bread as a side. We weren’t lacking in creativity.

You can use Supercook to customize your meal type, too. There is a breakfast, lunch, and dinner filter to help focus in on that meal search. The best part is, you’ll finally make use of that can of black eyed peas that has probably been there longer than you have.

Step 3: Set your Time Frame

The duration of your pantry fast is really up to you. We are 2 weeks and counting into ours, and the only things we’ll need to buy are milk, coffee, and baby food. Everything else is left in the hands of our pantry.

On average, we spend about $100 a week on groceries. The past 2 weeks we’ve spent $0. That’s $200 in our pocket. While eventually the pantry fast must end, try to avoid those grocery store crowds for as long as you can. How long can you last without visiting the store?

Calculate how much you spend at the grocery store on average each week. Then, think about what else you can do with that cold hard cash.

Your Turn: How long do you think you can make the items in your pantry last?

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