March 29, 2015

Pantry and Freezer Challenge March 2015 – spent $185.10 this month


I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of March already – which means the end of our Pantry & Freezer challenge.  I do these challenges a couple times a year – the purpose is to eat as much from my pantry and freezer as possible – and as little at the grocery store as I can.

The purpose of the challenge is:

  • Take a good inventory of what I have in the pantry and freezer
  • Use up close-dated items in stockpile and freezer
  • Eat out as LITTLE as possible, saving money by eating at home
  • Save major money on groceries for the month

It’s like a short-term diet for your grocery budget and a great way to thin out your freezer and pantry.

My goal for March was to spend no more than $200 at the grocery store, while STILL eating lots of fresh foods, meats and dairy products. On a typical month I spend closer to $400 on groceries for our family for 4.

My other goal was to clean out my pantry and freezer as much as possible. As I’ve mentioned before we plan to move this spring (see our downsizing journey here), so I’d like to get rid of our stockpile and sell our EMPTY freezer early this spring.

Now a pantry and freezer challenge is going to look different for each and everyone of us – it all depends on what you have in-stock when you start the challenge.

How much you spend during a grocery challenge will depend on:

  • How much you currently have in your stockpile and freezer
  • How many people you have in your family
  • How flexible you can be with meal planning
  • If you have any special dietary needs

FINAL NUMBERS!!! We spent $185.10 on groceries this month!!! I reached my goal for spending under $200 and as you can see from all the photos of our groceries – we ate a TON of fresh foods and meats. Most of my savings are thanks to manager markdowns – my favorite way to save.

$185.10 – that comes out to $5.97 a DAY to feed my family of FOUR. Granted we were eating a lot of food from the pantry and freezer – but I think we ate pretty good for that

We spent $122 on eating out – we ate out about once a week. I would have liked this number to be less – but it’s been a busy month, so I won’t try and beat myself up too much. About HALF of this was spent on a pizza night with 10+ people at our house – so that also adds to the cost. 🙂

You can see how we spent our $185.10 on groceries here. . . 


March 3, 2015 – QFC – spent $15.84
Nearly 4 pounds of mushrooms on markdown, hummus, two packages of salad mix, butter, garlic bread, Mission tortillas, a dozen Simple Truth eggs, eight marked-down yogurts.


March 6, 2015 – QFC – spent $28.43
Gallon of organic milk, large clamshell spinach, 1/2 gallon chocolate milk, clamshell organic arugula, Wholly guacamole, Jennie-O Ground turkey 20 oz, two packages of mushrooms, four packages of Insernio’s breakfast sausage (reg. $6.99 each!!), bunch of bananas and a box of Fisher’s baking mix (pancakes). 


March 12, 2015 – QFC – spent $38.57
There are some fantastic deals this week at QFC as part of the Buy 5, Save $5 promotion. Here are some highlights of my shopping trip:

LingLing Potsticker – $5.99 (Buy 5 promo) – $3/1 Ling Ling potsticker coupon (Facebook) –  $2.99
PopChips – $2.49 (Buy 5 promo) – $0.55/1 mailer coupon = $1.94
Daisy Sour Cream – $2.29 (Buy 5 promo) – $0.50/1 mailer coupon = $1.79
Pace salsa (large jar) – $1.99 (Buy 5 promo)
Go-Gurt – $1.49 (Buy 5 promo)
Kraft cheese – $2.29 (Buy 5 promo)
Mountain yogurt – $2.19 (Buy 5 promo)
DiGiorno pizza -$4.99 – $1.25 catalina coupon printed from prior purchase = $3.74
Florida Natural orange juice (marked down) – $1.89

3lb bag of onions – $2.49
– $0.99 each
Bananas (marked down) – $0.49/lb
Dole shredded lettuce (marked down) – $1.25
Mushrooms (marked down) – $1.99 – $0.50 Kroger mailer coupon = $1.49
Kroger vegetable tray (marked down) – $3.99 – $1 Kroger mailer coupon = $2.99
Simple Truth organic celery hearts – $0.99

Plus this awesome $5 off $15 produce coupon!

Plus I had a mailer coupon for $2 off $10 frozen food!


March 20, 2015 – Safeway – $1.73
Bananas, bananas, bananas. A must-have staple in our house. 


March 20, 2015 – Costco – $16.57
4 pounds of strawberries, six pounds gala apples, Earthbound Farm Organic power mix


March 22, 2015 – QFC – spent $16.78
Gallon of marked down organic milk (dated a week out) $2.69, large tub Yami yogurt marked down $1.79, Kroger sour cream $1.50, Juanita’s tortilla chips $3.49 (the best chips!), cabbage $3.35 and four avocados for $3.96. The chips, sour cream and avocados are for dinner tonight – we’re having leftover quinoa chili. Not sure what I’ll do with the cabbage yet – some type of salad. 


March 25, 2015 – QFC – spent $40.19
Wowza did I score big this shopping trip! I took advantage of the Buy 10, Save $5 sale and also found a ton of amazing markdowns! Lots of fresh foods like mushrooms $0.99, veggie tray $3.99, organic celery ($0.99), salad mixes $0.99 each, fresh mozzarella $1.99, fresh pica de gallo $1.49, fresh french bread $1.19 and more. I also stocked up on Challenge butter – as low as $1.25 after coupon and sale.


March 29, 2015 – QFC – $26.99
We were planning to have tacos tonight (already took meat out of freezer) so we stopped into QFC to get some shreds and hard shells – and scored big with manager markdowns again! Lettuce shreds $0.99 a bag, Wholly Guacamole $0.99, fresh jalapeños $0.99, fresh salsa $1.49 and Tillamook sour cream $1.09. We have some ground pork in the freezer – so I picked up some Gyoza wrappers for potstickers later this week. We needed eggs $2.50 (ouch) and bread $1.25 and bananas $0.69/lb. And I can’t pass up ground turkey at $2.49 each – those are already in the freezer for a future taco night. We splurged on ice cream to celebrate a great month of eating frugally – we’ll have root beer floats tonight!

Month to date spending to date$185.10 (budget $200)


Just so you don’t think we’re eating canned veggies and boxed dinners to save money, so far this month, we’ve had the following dinners:

  • French bread pizza – made with marked down bread, leftover spaghetti sauce, marked down mozzarella
  • Ginger Soy Slaw salad made with cabbage and dressing we had in pantry
  • Risotto using marked mushrooms, celery – plus corn from pantry and parmesan and bacon from fridge/freezer
  • Beef and Barley Crockpot soup
  • Crockpot Quinoa Chili (without chicken)
  • Breakfast for dinner – eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, waffles
  • Beef roast, with potatoes and gravy, vegetables
  • Rice, potstickers, frozen vegetables
  • Ground turkey taco salad
  • Turkey Tetrazzini Deluxe from
  • Homemade turkey noodle soup
  • Roasted turkey and vegetables (turkey from freezer)
  • Homemade spaghetti sauce and noodles with garlic bread
  • Grilled chicken salad with grilled asparagus and sautéed mushrooms
  • Grilled cheeseburgers with gouda cheese, spinach and sautéed onions
  • Nachos with leftover taco meat
  • Leftovers of above listed meals


Dining out
So far this month we’ve dined out on these occasions

  • March 9 – Took my daughter to Red Robin for lunch to celebrate her cast being removed. Included sharing a milkshake! Cost was $20 with tip.
  • March 13 – My husband and I had a DATE NIGHT at Gardner’s Italian restaurant in downtown Olympia – this place is DIVINE. But we had a $100 gift certificate that we were given as a Christmas present from my mother-in-law. Our total was $96, enough to be covered by our gift certificate – and we tipped out of pocket $25.
  • March 21 – We had grandparents and neighbors (with kids) over for a big gathering and we ordered Domino’s pizza – thanks to Domino’s 50% off sale we paid $47 for four specialty pizzas and breadsticks. I tipped the driver $10, so total was $57. Tip your pizza delivery people well, especially if they are speedy – they appreciate it so much!
  • March 28 – Little Caesar’s Pizza – $20 – After working in the yard literally ALL DAY we just didn’t feel like cooking or cleaning up dishes. So we picked up dinner at Little Caesar’s. Not my favorite place – but cheap and my kids (and husband) love it.

Total cost of eating out this month – $122

I’ve posted a few photos from our meals over on Instagram and that’s a great way to get a glimpse into our daily lives.

So what’s next? You’re probably wondering if I’m going to run to Costco on the first of April and spend $400 to make up for a month of shopping. But nope, I hope to continue this challenge, informally, the month of April and continue to use up food in the freezer and pantry, while still stocking up when it makes sense. Doing a FORMAL pantry and freezer challenge is so much more effective than telling yourself you’ll be “good” at the grocery store – because that often flies out the window mid-month. I challenge you to make a goal for limited spending in April and try to use up the items in your pantry and freezer that you purchased long ago. It’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you limit your spending for a limited time frame and make the most of the food you might already have at home.

Did you do a pantry challenge this month? I’d love to know how you did!?! 


    Leave your comments here...


  1. I should totally try this. Great idea!

  2. I’m just curious what you did with all those mushrooms. I love mushroom, but we never seem to use up a lb before they go bad, let alone 4lbs and then more a few days later. Can you freeze them?

    • Hi Carolyn – GREAT question!! I made a HUGE, I mean HUGE, pot of spaghetti sauce – using up the mushrooms and about 15 cans of tomatoes from my pantry. 🙂 I also added fresh basil I found on markdown. Most of it’s in the freezer now – I froze it in gallon-size bags for future meals. Another tip I like for mushrooms is to slice and sauté them up in a little butter and olive oil – they seem to last a few more days if cooked up and they are easier to add to meals on the fly if they are already cooked up! Hope this helps!

    • One thing I love to do with mushrooms is make a batch of homemade cream of mushroom soup…it’s so easy, if you pressure can at all! Just use chicken broth (I use a high quality chicken bouillon) and shred your mushrooms. Then can, and when you open add a can of milk to complete, then thicken if needed. It’s delicious, healthy, and so versatile!

  3. I love your blog! Quick question – maybe you have said before but what day of the week do you typically shop QFC
    To get these fabulous markdowns? I also shop QFC and do not seem nearly as successful finding markdowns like you do!
    I did get mushrooms for sauce on markdown last week however, totally inspired by your post on that,
    Thanks for all you do!

    • Great question Kendra. There really is no rhyme or reason for my shopping – I go when we are running low on groceries and/or when I’m already out and about. It’s usually middle of the day and it could be any day of the week. Markdowns are so random – it all depends on when items are dated, who is working that day and in what department, vacation schedules (if someone is going on vacation and they generally markdown deli- you might find later dated items being marked) and so much more. I always recommend ASKING your store employees when most markdowns occur – but they’ll probably tell you the same thing – happens all the time and pretty regularly. I hope this helps!!

  4. I’m in! I have a full outside freezer & its time to empty it in time for spring defrosting! Gonna be hard though, I have 2 turkeys in there!

  5. Catherine Bakken says

    I’m doing a pantry challenge this month, too… I’m TRYING to spend only $100 on actual food this month but it’s hard! I like to get the good deals every week! I’m $20 over budget for week 1 because I let my husband go to the store with me. Oh well… The chicken that had been in the freezer for 3 years actually tasted ok, thank goodness!

  6. $200/month for 4 people is quite good. I am just one person and I spend approx. $180-200/month on groceries and don’t shop at expensive stores (Whole Foods 🙂 ). I eat out approx. 4 lunches per month but everything else I cook myself. I think I should try cut down my grocery bill further!

    • I meant to say $400/month for 4 people is quite good. I am going to try to aim to spend no more than $120-150/month.

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