How To Shop Your Pantry In 5 Easy Steps When You’re Broke & Busy!

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I’m pushing myself and YOU to step up for a new Wifey Challenge – Shop Your Pantry Challenge!  If you read my recent post about my WifeLife Theme for the year, you know it’s about being intentional.  I shared specific ways I want to be intentional in my life this year, but one big way I also need to improve is in money management.  Not only that, some weeks, we have more days than paycheck left, amen?  I’ve learned that it’s not so hard to just shop the pantry!  What do I mean?  Here are the details of the challenge, should you choose to accept …..

Quick Tips for How To Shop Your Pantry & Make Meals When You're too broke to buy groceries this week and/or too busy to grocery shop!

We’ll stretch ourselves to cook more and buy less but have fun with it, y’all!  This is a community of Wives that are all on the same side of this life gig, you know.  Don’t stress!

Let’s talk about what benefits we’ll have by completing this mission, shall we?!

  • Waste less food
  • Eat a little healthier
  • Have more time to do other important things
  • Enjoy the  lost art of cooking again (get yo’ kitchen mojo back)
  • When improvising, we might create a new dish we love!

Shop your pantry challenge

Here are the simple rules:

  1. Cook meals (especially dinner) from a “shop” your pantry, fridge, or freezer mindset
  2. Only spend $20 a week to buy filler foods
  3. Everything doesn’t have to be cooked from scratch – just get food on the table, Sista!
  4. Only shop at the grocery store once a week – no matter what!
  5. If you don’t have an ingredient you need, improvise!

The days that you cook versus the days you eat out are completely up to you.  My goal is to only eat out one meal a week and cook all of the other dinners.  Of course, the more you cook at home and keep driving past the restaurants and drive-thru, the more money you will save.  Up to you!

Here’s a month’s worth of easy delicious meals to get you started, plus the easy peasy pork chops recipe that I cooked just last night.  See how far you can stretch $20 until a particular day of the week.  For me, I see how far I can stretch meals and leftovers until Sunday night.  Monday morning, I’ll start at $20 for a new week.

Here’s the key:  As you think about the week ahead, decide how many dinners you need to make.  First I search for the carbs I have since they are the cheapest and a wholesome filler (beans, rice, pasta, quinoa, etc).  Next, I decide which meat I already have to put with that carb (using up leftover meat into another dish whenever possible).  Next, simply mix in a vegetable into the dish or to the side and call it a meal.  Once you practice this method, you’ll get better and better at it.

Shop your pantry secrets

Not sure how to come up with meals with the carbs, meats, and veggies that you have in the house already?  My two secrets are #1)  to look back over meals I frequently make that the family enjoys, and #2) to use the ingredient search on the All Recipes website.  Simply put your ingredients into the search and it will suggest meals for you.  Easy Peasy!

Now go have fun making old favorite meals and coming up with new ones in that kitchen sister while you save tons of time and money.

Do YOU accept the Shop Your Pantry Challenge?

Quick Tips for How To Shop Your Pantry & Make Meals When You're too broke to buy groceries this week and/or too busy to grocery shop!

Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️



  1. Harmony, Momma To Go
    February 7, 2017 / 7:15 am

    This is such an interesting challenge! I’m in such a good rit

    • Shan
      February 7, 2017 / 9:34 am

      Thanks, Harmony. Love the name, btw. I think it will be good for all of us – and fun!

  2. Bonnie
    February 7, 2017 / 7:34 am

    I suggest a good binge session of Chopped…so you’ll have some ideas of what random ingredients can make. At least that’s what I tell my husband I’m “researching” when I watch it all day ?

    • Shan
      February 7, 2017 / 9:34 am

      That is a great idea! lol Brilliant. Thanks for your input.

  3. KJ
    February 7, 2017 / 8:59 am

    Oh I am TOTALLY doing this! It’ll be like Chopped. Not going to the grocery store every week will be like a vacation. The place gives me anxiety attacks lol

    • Shan
      February 7, 2017 / 9:36 am

      Yay, KY, I’m glad you are all in. Yes, like chopped. haha Yes, grocery shopping can be draining and scary when they tally the bill. Let me know how you are doing. I’ll have an update post on what I’ve been doing soon!

  4. Justine Y @ Little Dove
    February 7, 2017 / 10:05 am

    This is great! In theory, it’s what I try to do each month after my first, big, initial grocery run at the beginning of the month… or at least it’s supposed to be. I often slip up though. I’m going to give this a go, thanks!

    • Shan
      February 7, 2017 / 10:33 am

      I hear ya, Justine! My goal is to be “intentional” with clear goals – one week at a time (like this challenge) because if I don’t – I get lazy with saving money! It slips my mind and doesn’t get done! Thanks for your input. Jump in with us!

  5. Ayanna
    February 7, 2017 / 3:34 pm

    This is an awesome challenge! With the amount of fresh fruit and veggies my family eats, $20 a week would be tough. But I could definitely work on shopping my pantry more and limiting my grocery shopping to one day a week.

    • Shan
      February 7, 2017 / 5:14 pm

      Sounds great, Ayanna. Of course I had to make it a little tough on myself to get my own attention. 🙂 What it’s caused really is just a REAL awareness and intentional spirit I have now to use what we have instead of always wanting more (and other stuff we don’t have). Thanks for joining in!

  6. Stacy
    February 7, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    I have to say I am a pretty good at shopping my pantry! I love getting creative out of necessity! $20 is tight, but a fun challenge.

    • Shan
      February 7, 2017 / 5:13 pm

      Yes, when I picked $20, I got a little nauseous! lol Good for you, Stacy being so good at this. Let me know if you want some air time in my video coming up! 🙂

  7. Laura Lane of Harvest Lane Cottage
    February 8, 2017 / 3:37 pm

    I’m going to skip this time. I just went through something similar in January since we had a $450 car repair paid primarily from grocery money. We also had a paycheck come a week late. I pretty well depleted what was in the fridge and cupboards. Fortunately, I still have meat in the freezer. Good luck!

    • Shan
      February 8, 2017 / 10:49 pm

      Ouch! Those car repairs are the worst. Thank God for freezer meat – that’s a big lifesaver.

  8. kirstin morabito
    February 11, 2017 / 4:10 pm

    I like the part about you saying doesn’t have to be from scratch, just food on the table. I always beat myself up for using boxed sides, etc. But come on, I don’t have time for everything homemade!

    • Shan
      February 11, 2017 / 4:40 pm

      Thanks so much for saying that, Kirstin! Yes, the struggle is real. I used to beat myself up about it but 2017 is the year to give myself a break and I’m hoping my readers will do the same for themselves!

  9. Emily
    February 11, 2017 / 4:43 pm

    This is such a simple way to save money on groceries. Love this challenge!

    • Shan
      February 11, 2017 / 4:44 pm

      Awe, thanks so much, Emily! That makes my day and makes all this worth it. I’m having fun with it for sure!

  10. Brittany Ferrell
    February 11, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    I love this idea! It IS like Chopped! The other day, I thought I had “nothing” to cook for dinner and ended up making a great meal using pasta from my pantry and shrimp from my freezer. I think your challenge forces you to be creative while also being thrifty!

    • Shan
      February 12, 2017 / 8:53 am

      Welcome, Brittany! You don’t know how big your comment just made me smile. That’s it, creativity rather than complacency is what it’s all about. I’m learning I can do many more things when I’m actually “intentional.” Way to go and thanks for sharing with me.

  11. Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries
    February 12, 2017 / 12:45 am

    Challenge accepted – my pantry needs a good clean out!

    • Shan
      February 12, 2017 / 8:53 am

      Yay, Corey! It really is pretty fun to actually get it that pantry and see what’s REALLY in there. 😉 Glad to have you.

  12. Kate AL
    February 12, 2017 / 10:35 pm

    I love the rule that everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch! Thanks for cutting some busy mamas a little slack. My hubs does the meal planning and grocery shopping, so I’ll have to share this post with him.

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 5:24 am

      Thanks, Kate. Yes, we’ve got to start cutting ourselves more slack, that’s for sure! Just get that food on the table the best you can, knowing that some days will be healthier than others. You are certainly blessed with the help of your hubby – way to work as a team!

  13. Rachel
    February 12, 2017 / 11:18 pm

    I’ve been trying to “shop” our pantry more and more lately. That and our freezer! It’s taken some creativity, but it works!

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 5:25 am

      Yes, Rachel, it sure does. Thanks so much for your input on this. Much appreciated.

  14. Stephanie Lowry
    February 12, 2017 / 11:41 pm

    One of our favorite dinner meals came from a day we had to “shop our pantry”! Absolutely love this idea!

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 5:26 am

      Yay! Stephanie. That news makes my day. Keep up the great work.

  15. Rochelle
    February 13, 2017 / 9:48 am

    I really need to try this. I usually go to the store daily and I feel like I buy extra things I don’t even need.

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 11:19 am

      YES, yes, yes, Rochelle. You will be AMAZED at how much more time and less stress you have if you aren’t randomly grocery shopping all the time. (or at least that’s how I felt!) 😉

  16. Tabitha Shakespeare
    February 13, 2017 / 2:56 pm

    Haha this challenge sounds like my whole life! Well I was gonna make spaghetti but we don’t have ground beef… guess its chicken spaghetti lol

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Funny, Tabitha! LOL That used to ALWAYS happen to me. This way, I’m looking over what I already have and trying to figure out the cheapest items to buy to make complete meals. I guess it’s working backwards from what you and I are used to. So much less stress and aggravation. 😉

  17. Danielle
    February 13, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    Fun idea!! I’ve done something like this a few times, but it usually doesn’t turn out the best.

    • Shan
      February 16, 2017 / 5:22 am

      Try and try again. That’s what I’ve had to do.

  18. Elizabeth
    February 23, 2017 / 7:59 am

    What a great challenge, this! I think as a family of five (with one very hungry teenager) I’d struggle to spend so little on a filler shop, but it could be done!

    • Shan
      February 23, 2017 / 8:56 am

      Thanks, Elizabeth. I know about those teenagers! Just do your best and forget the rest. 😉

  19. Lane & Holly @ With Two Spoons
    February 23, 2017 / 8:54 am

    I love this idea! If I wasn’t hosting book club, a supper club dinner and a baby shower all throughout the next 30 days I would join you (but sadly this isn’t the month!).

    • Shan
      February 23, 2017 / 8:56 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Lane & Holly! Wow, you are busy. You can join up anytime!

  20. Beth
    February 23, 2017 / 9:00 am

    I do accept! I have boat loads of quinoa and lentils that need to be cooked!

  21. Kenya
    February 23, 2017 / 10:21 am

    Interesting challenge. I do a great deal of these but there is absolutely no way I could only spend twenty bucks. I actually cook everyday and I try to be semi-health conscious.

  22. Leighann
    February 23, 2017 / 12:18 pm

    I love this! We’ve been trying to be better at using everything AND budget, so this is perfect for us!

  23. Sophia
    February 23, 2017 / 4:54 pm

    This is an interesting challenge I would completely do this.

  24. Lecy | A Simpler Grace
    March 21, 2017 / 7:40 am

    These are great tips! I have a habit of stocking up my pantry but never using any of the stuff in it. Somewhere in the back of my head, it’s for “emergencies”. Haha!

  25. candy
    March 21, 2017 / 9:57 am

    All recipe is a wonderful site to find delicious and simple easy meals to fix quick, fast and on a budget.

  26. Wendy Sprous | Moments For "Me"
    March 21, 2017 / 11:59 am

    Love this! I usually do this one or two weeks each month lately. It’s also a good way to use up food in your house before it goes stale or bad. I have shared with my Facebook group, Friendly Meal Planning.

  27. Tara
    March 21, 2017 / 12:28 pm

    Always needed info! Thanks for sharing your insights and strategy!

  28. Reeni
    March 21, 2017 / 1:29 pm

    This is a fun challenge! I think everyone should try this in order to create less waste!! Thanks for sharing:)

  29. Ayanna @ 21FlavorsofSplendor
    March 21, 2017 / 1:54 pm

    Thanks so much for reminding me about All Recipies! I used to live on the site before I fell in love with Pinterest. But I haven’t visited it in a while. The next time I plan my meals for the week I visit it again and plan to shop my pantry as well.

  30. Rebecca Hicks
    March 21, 2017 / 2:32 pm

    Wow I don’t know if I could do this! I have THE tiniest pantry in the world, so we’d be out of food by the middle of the week haha. And that is AWESOME that you only spend $20 a week on groceries. I spend almost more than that on meat alone!

  31. Dara
    March 21, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    Shopping your pantry is important because otherwise you (or me?) forget what’s there and it expires!

  32. Amy Blake
    March 21, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    Love this idea! We are always trying to reduce our grocery bill but its hard to do that and have food that tastes good. I will be trying this for sure.

  33. Caroline
    March 21, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    Thanks for these great tips! We’re on a budget so I like to meal plan for the week and usually stick to the protein, carbs and veg combo 🙂

  34. Elizabeth Peace
    March 21, 2017 / 4:29 pm

    I’m trying to do more of this because I realized we have sooo much food in the pantry that I just never bothered to cook and it seems like such a waste!

  35. Mamaguru
    March 21, 2017 / 4:41 pm

    Shopping your pantry is so important! I have to a few times a week. It helps to keep it well-stocked.

  36. Joanna
    March 21, 2017 / 4:45 pm

    This is awesome! There are times when I just don’t want to go to the store because I feel like I am wasting all of the food in our pantry and I need to use it up.

  37. anne @onedeterminedlife
    March 21, 2017 / 4:59 pm

    I have so much food in my deep freezer! I am trying to shop from it so that I can unplug it!!

  38. jehava
    March 21, 2017 / 8:31 pm

    I’ve totally done this before! Great reminders for saving more!

  39. Lisa
    March 21, 2017 / 8:33 pm

    This is a smart idea! I try to do this at least 1-2 weeks every month/every other month, just to make sure I’m spending less and actually using what we have. Pinterest makes it so tempting to buy new ingredients every week,though, doesn’t it? 🙂

  40. Angela Kim
    March 21, 2017 / 8:37 pm

    These are great tips. It’s so difficult to cook healthy for the kids daily, although cooking at home is best and most affordable. I’ll try this when I can get more organized about my meals. 😉

  41. Anna
    March 21, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    This is an awesome challenge . My husband and I has been really good at shopping in our pantry . I would do this challenge.

  42. Lora
    March 21, 2017 / 10:25 pm

    This is a great idea for a challenge and something I should try in order to save some money.

  43. Danielle
    March 22, 2017 / 7:12 am

    I’ve gotta try this. We are always spending so much on groceries (and I meal plan and coupon and shop sales)! We try to do leftovers, but since my hubby sometimes brings those to work, it can be hard.

  44. Amanda
    March 22, 2017 / 9:13 am

    Great challenge. I often shop the BOGO’s and end up with way too much in the pantry.

  45. Lauren
    March 22, 2017 / 10:18 am

    My husband and I were just talking about this Sunday after grocery shopping.. we realized we have a TON of stuff in our outdoor freezer and pantry that we need to use up. I am going to round up what we have and try this for next week!

  46. Heather
    March 22, 2017 / 9:01 pm

    This is an excellent challenge! We call this an “Eat Down” at our house. It is fun to see what you can create with what you have on hand!

  47. Rachel
    March 22, 2017 / 9:27 pm

    We desperately need to do this. And I feel like we probably COULD easily do this too. I’m just…. scared!! LOL

  48. Brittany
    March 24, 2017 / 10:05 am

    I save so much money when I only go to the store once a week, but I’ve been terrible at this lately because I’ve been so busy that I don’t think I can plan. I need to get back into this!

  49. Rebekah
    March 27, 2017 / 5:04 pm

    I love this challenge!! I love shopping the pantry…we did that pretty much all last week. One thing that I like about doing it that you didn’t mention, is the fact that I can use up all things that may be expiring soon. We usually don’t have things like that in the house, but when I shop the pantry down to nothing, I may find a thing or two that needs to get used.

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