Lowering Our Grocery Bill while Cleaning Out Our Pantry

Cleaning Our Pantry While Lowering Our Grocery BillHave you ever wondered how long you could go without going to the grocery store? Or how long you could stretch your pantry stockpile? Maybe you (like me) have dried beans in there that you moved from your last apartment, almost 2 years ago, and are wondering if they’re still good to eat? Maybe it’s time to answer these questions and lower your grocery bill while cleaning out your pantry.

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I found these during my pantry excavation

I have a bit of a spending hangover from December, primarily in the grocery shopping department. From the weekend before Christmas to the weekend after, I found myself stopping at the grocery store almost every day. All of a sudden, I needed flour. Then butter. Then milk. I was getting sick of going grocery shopping, but moreso I was tired of spending too much money there. I usually carefully plan my weekly grocery shopping trips and last year I saved 45% on my groceries. But these little trips were spur-of-the-moment, and didn’t always result in buying anything on sale. When you almost never pay retail, it feels terrible to pay full price for something. I felt as though I needed to do some penance.

As a result, we committed to eat out of our stockpile this month.

Remember all those coupons I ordered? Many of them expired on December 31st, so I went on a bit of an egg-buying binge right before the New Year. I had 6 dozen eggs in my fridge. That’s when I knew I was ready to see how much I could lower our grocery bill while cleaning out our pantry. The thing is, there are some items in our pantry that we won’t eat if we have another choice. By skipping the grocery shopping, or buying just the bare minimum, it forces us to make use of what we have. Speaking of what we have … here is what our stockpile and freezer looked like on New Years’ Day:

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Stockpile

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Freezer

There are stacks of meat stockpiled in the freezer when I got them on a good sale, cans upon cans of pineapple and pumpkin and coconut milk, and don’t forget the 12 bottles of barbecue sauce.

Starting January 1st, I only went to the grocery store for the perishable dairy and produce items that I can’t stockpile. That includes milk (we go through 2 gallons a week!), yogurt, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and red bell peppers. I also bought items if they were on a better sale than I could usually find during the sales cycle. At one point, that happened to include chicken breasts at $1.88/lb. and Perdue whole chickens at $0.99/lb. Since then, I have made two grocery runs, spending $50 and $70. It’s not as good as I hoped for, but it’s less than half of how much we would otherwise have spent on groceries by the middle of the month.

I was able to keep the purchases to a minimum by tallying an inventory of our stockpile staples, grouped by the three food categories that I try to get on our plates each night (1) protein, (2) grains, and (3) vegetables. It helped me keep track of what we had, and I crossed it off the list when we ate it. The list looks something like this now:

  1. Protein
    • Chicken — stir fry cut (freezer)
    • Pork tenderloin — stir fry cut (freezer)
    • Pork tenderloin — stir fry cut (freezer)
    • Pork tenderloin — seasoned for pulled pork (freezer)
    • Pork tenderloin — whole, in package (freezer)
    • Chicken Apple Sausages — 4 pkgs. 3 pkgs. 2 pkgs. (freezer)
    • Chicken breasts 6 ct (fridge)
    • Whole Chicken (fridge)
  2. Grains
    • Couscous
    • White rice
    • Quinoa
    • Lentils
    • Navy beans (dry) (freezer)
    • Pinto beans (dry) (freezer)
    • Chick peas (dry)
    • Lasagna noodles (stockpile)
    • Linguine — 2 pkgs. (stockpile)
    • Rice and beans — 1 pkg. (stockpile)
    • Tortillas — 2 pkgs. 
    • Taco shells — 2 pkgs.
    • Brown rice — 5 pkgs. (freezer)
    • Hamburger Helper — 3 pkgs (stockpile)
    • Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans — uncounted cans (stockpile)
  3. Vegetables
    • Broccoli — 2 pkgs (freezer)
    • Corn (freezer)
    • Spinach — 4 pkgs. (freezer)
    • Mixed vegetables (freezer)
    • Lettuce
    • Carrots
    • Red peppers
    • Avocado
    • Cucumbers
    • Grape tomatoes
    • Zucchini
    • Pineapple — uncounted! (stockpile)
    • Pumpkin puree — 2 cans (stockpile), 1 pkg (freezer)

Even if you don’t have a bona fide couponer’s stockpile, you probably have food stored up in you home. There is probably more in there than you realize. Take inventory and see what you can make with what you have. We have had some new and interesting meals since we started to lower our grocery bill while cleaning out our pantry. Notably, we enjoyed some ham soup, made from the hambone left over from our Christmas brunch and those beans that were sitting in my cupboard for years. Perfect for an evening in the polar vortex!

Cooking up Dried Beans

Cooking up Dried Beans

As our bread supply dwindled, I also dusted off the bread machine and got back into a bread-making routine.

Zucchini Bread in the Bread Machine

Bread Machine Zucchini Bread

Whole Grain Bread from the Bread Machine

Whole Grain Bread from the Bread Machine

Not only have we spent half of what we would usually spend on groceries, but we are evicting some tenants in our pantry that have long since stopped paying rent. I don’t think I’ll buy dried beans any time soon, since it took us 2 years to eat up our current supply. But I hope I can continue the bread-making. It’s such a nice addition to our soup dinners and I love knowing exactly what goes into my bread. Although, it would be nice if I could limit myself to two slices when it’s warm and fresh out of the oven!

Who’s up for the challenge? I could use some inspiration for some of the more difficult items in my cupboards. Like, what can I make with coconut milk and pumpkin puree? (there is a reason why it’s STILL in my cupboard!) 

PS: Wanna see how we did? Here are the before and after pics and our total monthly grocery spend: Total January Grocery Spending.

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12 thoughts on “Lowering Our Grocery Bill while Cleaning Out Our Pantry

  1. Pumpkin pie smoothies – milk, stevia, ice cubes, frozen banana, pumpkin pie spice, and pumpkin purée. If I have it on hand, I toss a little frozen carrot in there as well to hide some extra nutrients. It’s like drinking a pumpkin pie. =) so good!

    I make Brazilian corn chowder with coconut milk, frozen corn, a single chili pepper, scallions, bread crumbs and vegetable bullion. It’s amazing and super easy to make, too!

    Email if you want more specific recipes!

  2. That’s a good-sized stockpile! I bet you will save quite a bit of money by not shopping and just eating what you already have. I love that about stockpiles – at any time you can eat what you already have and not have to spend $ on food. My wife does most of the cooking and when I do I make the simplest things ever, so I won’t be much help for figuring out what you should do with your extra food, but best of luck!

    • Thanks! I don’t know what possessed me to get the coconut milk, I have like 10 meals that I know how to cook and none of them involve coconut milk. I must’ve been feeling wild that day at the store. ha!

  3. Throw that pumpkin and coconut milk in with some flour and sugar and make a cake. 🙂 We work hard too, to use what’s in the cupboard instead of making a grocery run, and it’s saved us huge cash too. Great job, Rebecca!

  4. Fiance and I did this too!! After the holidays we were feeling the same way- nickle and diming ourselves with no real plan! I just posted on my blog about a Fiscal Fast and part of it means “shopping at home” for your food and toiletries since we all seem to have nooks and crannies where treasures are hiding!

    When I first moved in with him, he had LONG since expired stuff. Couscous that was three years expired and unopened salad dressings that were way old and unusable. Since then, we vow to be more conscious of stocking our fridge and pantry… food waste makes me even madder than spending too much money at the store getting the food in the first place. We made some interesting dishes last week with frozen kale and some other previous impulse buys from Costco but it worked out. We’re planning a shopping trip for Monday and I hope by then to figure out a really solid meal plan!

    Great post!

  5. Good suggestion. Stumbled across this & just have to laugh at your explanation point after 2 gallons of milk a week & that you had 6dz eggs to use. We have 5 kids & go through 3dz eggs & 5 gallons of milk a wk. You’d think we would have any stockpile but we do. Need to find something to do with all these beans!

  6. I think you’re off to a great start.

    About a week into the spending freeze, I realized I had so much in the freezers that I put a halt to shopping except for produce and dairy. It’s been great, and we are still cooking out of the freezers and pantry. I am right there with you on this! So many things we don’t eat because we have other choices.

    I put pumpkin puree in my dogs’ food!

  7. Coconut milk you can use it in a chicken curry (a couple chicken breasts, some onion or not, curry, oil… When chicken is cooked, 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can diced/stewed tomatoes & about 3/4 can of coconut milk) & serve over rice

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