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Time to reevaluate your food waste? Try a Pantry Challenge!

Spending time with the family over the holidays has always been a fun, relaxing and stress-free vacation from the busy city life of my adult years. This year’s festive season had something else in store for us, when the refrigerator from my childhood decided to call it quits. Amidst Christmas chaos, we were out to price out and purchase a new fridge that was the perfect style, perfect price, perfect colour and perfect fit. “Perfect fit”, we learned, is all about perspective, and nothing a little home renovation can’t tackle.

So with my parents’ new appliance on the delivery truck, we began the tedious task of sorting through the contents of the old fridge. With decades of wear and tear, and jars of items that I’m convinced were there equally as long, the sort had us filling up the garbage with long-expired containers and food. Once the fridge was sorted, restocking from the pantry was the next to-do.

A creature of habit – my mother had grown up on a farm where shopping trips were few and far between – the pantry has always been fully stocked and padded thanks to flyer items and sales. As we sorted through the collection, we found that many of these, too, had long surpassed their expiry before they could be used, and I’m talking years beyond any ‘best before’ dates.

Taking these experiences back to our own home, my husband and I decided that we were going to make an effort in January to reorganize our fridge, regain control of our monthly grocery bill and minimize our food waste.

After a review of some of my favourite pantry purges and challenges, I’m here with some serious inspiration to get you started and put you on a path to success.

1. Apartment Therapy shares Pantry-Purging Tips

Maxwell specializes in making people’s home “beautiful, organized and healthy”, which certainly extends to the kitchen. In his post Cutting Down on Waste: Pantry-Purging Tips, he focuses on using up ingredients, even when there’s very little left.

Two tablespoons of salsa? A great snack with whole-wheat crackers. Only a handful of trail mix at the bottom of the bag? Granola is a wonderful use for the last of the sweet and salty ingredients. Muffins are another great way to use up nuts, over-ripened fruit, or fruit that’s nearing a frost-bitten end.

“You don’t have to be a culinary genius to cut down on food waste; you just have to be willing to get creative.” – Apartment Therapy

2. Reduce Food Waste From Your Pantry with Laura Trotta

A home sustainability expert, Laura hones in on reducing food waste from your pantry. Storing food properly, rotating your pantry stock to make older goods more visible, being aware of your supply, and getting creative with the ingredients you have on hand are obvious, yet often neglected ways to reduce waste. Being conscious of these simple actions will make big waves of change in your home. It’s truly shocking what you can make of the forgotten ingredients on your shelves!

“Meal planning is really the critical ingredient to reduce the food waste in your house, and the food waste from your pantry.” – Laura Trotta

3. 8 Things you can do to Reduce your Food Budget

A great read from our Fall 2017 Love Local Food magazine brings 8 ideas to the table to help reduce grocery budgets. A shocking 40% of food in Canada goes to waste each year, while planning ahead and simply buying less can help!

Have fun with the challenge and designate a “leftover night” to combine different foods into one wonderfully disjointed meal. An “eat first bin” sure makes it clear when you head to the fridge for a snack or key ingredient! Trying out just 1, 3 or all 8 ideas will help jump start your purge this month!

“The easiest way to save doesn’t involve coupon clipping or buying in bulk, it is as simple as this: stop throwing way your food!” – Love Local Food

4. Operation Pantry Purge

Taking the challenge to the extreme, Jenn of Operation Pantry Purge addresses hunger awareness, food waste and grocery spending, while reducing her grocery budget by 85% to just $15 a week. $15 seems absolutely impossible – I have spent that much in a drive through for lunch. How can this be realistic for a family? And then you remember your cupboards at home, lined with potential.

The creativity and ingenuity that Jenn displays in her daily recipes, and the amount of planning and careful analysis of available ingredients is certainly no easy task. She’s not shy about sharing the hardships and cravings that she and her family faced, but reiterates the importance behind the challenge and celebrates successes in each post.

Day 30 of Operation Pantry Challenge lands swiftly on our doorstep. The journey seemed to happen so quickly for us as readers, and shockingly, it was a quick 30 days for Jenn as well! The challenge allowed Jen and her family to think critically, work creatively and plan logically using what they had on hand and plan within their $15 weekly budget. Her reflective final post is full of hope, inspiration and encouragement and is backed with her promise of a donation to her local food bank.

“We really had to look closely at what we had on hand, what we were going to make and how we were going to spend our meagre budget. This avoided wasting what we had bought and using everything we had to the fullest.” – Operation Pantry Purge

With a little planning, creativity and inspiration it’s easy to cut down on your grocery bills and food waste each month. We hope these tips will help you get started!

Are you already practicing your own pantry challenge? We’d love to hear about it. Tag us on social when you post about it and we’d love to share your insights and inspirations!

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