Homesteader Pantry Challenge

In 2021 for the months of January and February we decided to join in on the three rivers homesteader pantry challenge. This was around the time that I stumbled into the homesteading community and several of the people that I followed were talking about it. I thought about it a lot and it didn’t take long for me to realize this would be a great opportunity for us, for a few reasons.

Why We Did The Challenge

  1. It was going to save us money. I, personally, had barely gone to a grocery store in all of 2020. Since working from home I just wasn’t out and about to grab things all the time. We used Imperfect Foods to get fresh fruits and veggies (and several other items) each week. Plus, I utilized Kroger shipping to get all of our pantry staples. I love their Simple Truth organic brand (more on that later) and if you spend $35 shipping is free. Having everything delivered was easier and didn’t cost more so it was worth it. However, I did feel like we used it as a convenience. Instead of planning meals based on what we had on hand I was basing them off of what I was ordering that week. Thus, costing us more money. The definition of a challenge is to make things more difficult so I thought it would be cool to see how we did without these modern conveniences. 
  2. There were a lot of things in our house that I wanted to get rid of. As we went further into homesteading I wanted to get rid of more of the easy convenience foods to start making more of our own foods. We had a lot of food that were less healthy options, a lot of foods with artificial sweeteners, and a lot of “older” foods that I just didn’t feel like using most of the time. I no longer wanted these items in our house but I also didn’t want to just throw them out either so I needed something to coerce me into using them. 
  3. I included toxins in this challenge. We started our journey to a toxin free household sometime in 2020. I started to realize that all of the products that we were using could impact our fertility and knowing that kids was our goal right away I wanted to make sure we had only “good” things in our house to help both us and our future children. I’m the most frugal person ever though and I just cannot justify throwing things out because I don’t like their ingredients. These are things that I had already bought and had been using for years, I knew a few more months wasn’t going to kill us. Including these in the pantry challenge made it so I wasn’t buying new though, I was making them myself. We had several cleaners that ran out “conveniently” during the challenge and I loved being able to create and explore making my own.
  4. This was going to challenge my cooking skills and abilities. It was going to force me to get outside of my comfort zone to use just what we had on hand instead of ordering whatever we needed. I’m pretty decent at throwing some things together to make a meal and do that frequently. Using the things we no longer wanted was going to add a whole new twist. I was trying to find ways to use them up but also make them healthy-ish. This is probably what excited me the most about the challenge, honestly. I love to find my own versions of recipes. I could never make them twice because I forget immediately how I made them. It’s still a very fun process to me.

Pantry Challenge “Rules”

The great thing about this challenge is that everyone kind of gets to set their own rules too. Some people went with absolutely no groceries. Some just wanted to stay within their grocery budget. I decided to set our own ground rules before we got started-

  1. In preparation for the homesteader pantry challenge we stocked up a little. The first week of January we got our “last” Imperfect box for the month. It was the last of the fresh fruits and vegetables that we would see until at least February. I decided to let us get another box to start February but no Kroger or Thrive or any online orders from anywhere else.
  2. We had gotten ¼ cow of beef from my parents for Christmas (best gift ever). The goal was to not want to use that meat. We had “older” meat that needed to be used up first. They were cuts that I wasn’t as comfortable with or hadn’t ever cooked before. That meant these would also going to help me learn new ideas and recipes in the kitchen.
  3. We could buy spinach, milk, and  bananas at the store. Colin regularly picks these up for me. I have a smoothie every single day that has spinach in it and that just wasn’t something I was willing to give up. Next year, I want to freeze some of our greens to hopefully be able to take that off of the list. We also just really love bananas and if he’s going to the store for one thing he might as well just grab these. We did definitely cut back on them during this time. I think for the entire two months we only grabbed bananas twice which is much less than before the challenge.

That’s it! I didn’t want to be too strict but I also wanted it to be what it was- a challenge! 

Here is what our pantry normally looks like-

Our (overly) full pantry!

This is what it looked like at the end of the challenge-

Our barren pantry after the three rivers pantry challenge.

Plus this doesn’t even include all of the canning jars that we emptied too, and, honestly, that was one of the biggest rewards. I appreciate every moment that we had spent canning because it provided for us later. This was such a big blessing and really spurred me into wanting to preserve even more in 2021.

The Homesteader Pantry Challenge Results:

All the things we got rid of during the challenge:

Frozen Avocados

Artificial Syrup

Various Protein Powders (I had 10+ different flavors of protein powder on hand, obscene.)

Processed Pancake Mix

Frozen Breads

Dip packets (Those premade ones you can buy at craft shows.)

Processed Veggie Patties

“Old” Meat (The cuts we needed to use before we got to our Christmas meat.)

Artificial Puddings

Canola Oil

Swiffer Pads (the scented wet ones)

Artificial Sweeteners

Cool Whip

Frozen Soups

Frozen Veggies

Protein Bars

Chips

Pledge

Hand Soap

Bathroom Cleaner

Pine Sol

Jam (we had an absurd amount of this stocked up)

Chocolates/Candies/Desserts 

Of course all of this is in addition to our pantry staples like flour, pasta, rice, etc. We still used all of these but this list is full of things that really needed to be used. We also saved over $600 by cancelling the Imperfect boxes alone and plus everything that I didn’t spend by ordering from other stores.

Did we cheat? Yes. There were a couple times that my husband grabbed lunch meat and sliced cheese. He ended up being home from work for a few snow days and breaks so he needed lunches. I don’t feel bad about it, it was still a very minimal purchase.

Overall Experience

I would absolutely do the homesteader pantry challenge again. It helped me get into a better routine of making things on our own. Something as simple as tortillas that we couldn’t buy at the store and had to make on our own. I had to plan a little bit more but I also tried a lot of things that I normally wouldn’t have. For nearly a year I was eating salads for lunch and this also forced me out of that routine, which I see as a positive thing. I feel much less dependent on everyday conveniences and it renewed and fueled my passion for growing as much as we can on our own. We also set new garden goals for 2021 just because of this very challenge. 

I highly recommend you give it a shot, if nothing else other than to see how self reliant you are and to challenge your cooking skills. Get creative and have fun with it!

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