Motivation for pantry challenge cooking is two-fold: to save money and get organized!
It can be hard to keep everything straight in a pantry, especially if you’ve had some items hanging out for a while (beans, jams – guilty!) The end of the week when the fridge is looking a little bare is the perfect time to make “clean out” meals as a way to challenge your cooking creativity in the kitchen. If you’re cooking and shopping on a food budget, this is also extra motivation to not overspend 🙂 You’ll be surprised how much you can pull together from what you already have, and how just a few small additions can make an interesting meal.
Plus, it will feel good to make more space and organize the pantry once you’re done! 🙂 Obviously, this is my favorite part! The first step to cleaning something out is to reduce the number of items, so the week before you clean out your pantry, use up as many ingredients as you can.
Some easy go-to meals that I can usually make with things on hand include fish salads, pasta dishes and rice bowls. If you have salad greens left, you can jazz them up with pantry staples. Nuts, dried fruit, pesto, canned tuna or salmon, sardines, hearts of palm, artichokes, and jars of olives are my go-tos. Greens + grains + garnish!
Here are some tips for inspiring you to “shop at home.”
Use up condiments, boxed goods, and canned food.
Inspiration can come in the form of flavored oils, vinegars, canned foods (fish, beans, salsa, soups) and pasta and grains. Jars of salsa make great crock-pot marinade. Beans make a great salad for any season! Pasta can be revitalized as minestrone soup in fall or winter. Or, get creative with sauces – I always keep a jar of good tomato sauce on hand! You can also make your own with crushed tomatoes, herbs, seasoning, and garlic.
Add fresh herbs and citrus.
Herbs like basil, dill, cilantro, whether dried or fresh, can bring a whole new dimension to a pantry dish. Try adding your favorite herbs into canned sauces or soups for more flavor, or a squeeze of fresh lemon into dishes made with pantry ingredients for a bright, fresh taste.
Stir Fry it!
Rice (or other grains like wheatberries) + veggies + protein can make for the easiest one-pan meals, and work great with leftovers. A peanut sauce is an easy good go-to for an Asian-inspired meal that works with almost any combination of veggies. Borrow some veggies from the freezer!
Spice it up.
Inventory your spice cabinet to see if there’s something you haven’t used in a while and try that as the basis of a meal. Curry powder, steak seasoning, or other pre-made spice blends are great bases for dishes. Mixing spices into yogurt is also an easy way to make a sauce or dip for veggies, salads, or proteins.
Mix sweet and savory.
This is a unique challenge, but one that can turn out well! If you have a lot of leftover jams or dried fruits, try a sweet and savory crock-pot recipe with pork or chicken. I also love to use jam in salad dressing!
What are your favorite ways to shop in your pantry?
These are great ideas! I love to shop my pantry by placing items I know I’m not going to use in a tote bag to drop off to a local food pantry to donate! Other times, I’ll ask family members if they’d like what I have.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says
Stir frying always works wonders. You can basically put anything together that way! 🙂
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
So true! I’ve made some great dishes over the past couple of weeks by using up pantry items. I had some wheatberries I forgot about, dried red beans, the last of some jasmine rice, the last of some brown rice, the last of some boxed flavored rice, etc. Ended up with some great bowls by adding roasted vegs and a protein!
Nicole @ bento momentos says
Awesome post! I did this the other day but it was to throw out all the junk food my family tastes but never finishes. It’s important to rotate out canned food and it’s a great idea to punch up some flavor with fresh herbs.
Carrie this fit chick says
I definitely need to do this. I have a ton of spices that i never cook with because I always forget about them! Love the stir fry idea!
Andrea @ French Pressed Kitchen says
Pantry goals! I’m hoping to phase out to all beautiful jars over time 🙂
I’m so bad about using up our pantry items before hitting the grocery store. I should do a stir fry tonight! great post!
I love this post!! I have often made throw-together meals based on what we have on hand. I really am trying to use what we have before running to the store. My fav go-to is a “buddah”/”power” bowl with grains (90-second rice pouches can be a life saver), vegetables, tuna/sardines/beans, and a dressing to pull it together. Last week I combined all of our open bags of frozen vegetables, simmered them with chicken bone broth, and we had six servings of soup from it. 🙂
Linda @ the Fitty says
I told him you need to clean out my pantry! I have so much Frozen egg yolks things that I didn’t even know we’re hiding it back in the freezer to finish up.
I’m usually pretty good about not having too many pantry items on hand for too long, but I did open my pantry (and my freezer for that matter) the other day and felt like it was time to make sure I’m cleaning things out. I’m working on my meal plan for next week and I definitely think it’s going to revolve around the idea of cleaning out the pantry!
Hate to admit, but typing it publicly is probably the first step of the 8 step pantry clean out recovery….
My pantry is a mess. Lots and lots of stuff. Duplicates, old, new, flour, cans, pasta, sauces…OH MY!! You just may have given me motivation. (And I get it from my mother, proving that habits are genetically transmitted) 😉
Melissa | HerGreenLife says
What an amazing pantry! I love any efforts or encouragement to #reducefoodwaste 🙂 I recently dug out a jar of split peas and was reminded how delicious split pea soup can be.
Kath where do you get your pretty jars? My pantry is organized but the jars would help. Txs
I bought them all at a hardware store a while ago!
Thank you. I will keep my eye out for them. Btw congratulations on your wedding. You looked lovely.
Perfect timing! Shopping in my pantry (+ a serious clean) was already on my agenda for this weekend! This fall I am all about organization and saving money, just like you mentioned.
My wife and my 7-year-old daughter do it every other week and it is actually a healthy activity. The best part, the ladies happen to find something new every time they clean the pantry.
Great post with awesome ideas.
Whenever I do this, I tell my husband we’re “living off the land.” lol You never know what combination I’ll come up with when it’s time to clean out the pantry and freezer.