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

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 on 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 with $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) 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!


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Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, her local newspaper and more, Shan Walker is jokingly called the “Guru.” A Travel Journalist, Wife, and Mom who shares daily “how to” enjoy planning and executing EVERY single family vacation AND “how-to” find joy with your family in the cozy haven you’ve created and can’t wait to get home to!



    • 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!

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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! 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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!
    Rachel recently posted…Soothing A Colicky Baby //My Profile

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 5:25 am

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

  12. 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.

    • 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!) 😉

  13. 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. 😉

    • Shan
      February 16, 2017 / 5:22 am

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

    • Shan
      February 23, 2017 / 8:56 am

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

  14. 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!).
    Lane & Holly @ With Two Spoons recently posted…Maple Mustard SalmonMy Profile

    • Shan
      February 23, 2017 / 8:56 am

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

  15. February 23, 2017 / 9:00 am

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

  16. February 23, 2017 / 4:54 pm

    This is an interesting challenge I would completely do this.

  17. 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!

  18. March 21, 2017 / 12:28 pm

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

  19. 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:)

  20. 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.

  21. 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!
    Rebecca Hicks recently posted…Race Day Rituals – What To Do Before a RaceMy Profile

  22. 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 🙂

  23. 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!

  24. 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.
    Mamaguru recently posted…Dinosaur Deviled EggsMy Profile

  25. 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.
    Joanna recently posted…Update Your Spring Skincare with ZenMedMy Profile

  26. 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? 🙂

  27. 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. 😉
    Angela Kim recently posted…Style Tips For Breastfeeding MothersMy Profile

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.
    Danielle recently posted…$10 Target Challenge [March 2017]My Profile

  31. 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!

  32. 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!

  33. 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!

  34. 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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