Summertime Pantry Challenge: Messy pantry photos and my budget goals

Thanks to Jessica at Good Cheap Eats, I get to join in with her pantry challenge this month! And boy, do I need this goal-setting incentive. I've got some stuff in the freezer that needs to be used soon, and my pantry (dry storage, fridge, and freezer) could use a good cleaning!

And our food budget. I've gotten a little off-track and could definitely stand to go a month buying just mostly necessities and stashing the extras into savings. We do well on a small(er) budget, but groceries is the one variable that I have some control over and could cut. (Other areas? Not so much.)

Cathy asked:

I would love for you to post more about your general budget.  I always enjoy reading how others budget their, I tend to learn things from this.

The last time I wrote about our budget was near the beginning of this year (2011). I'm happy to have met quite a few of those goals! Going to Costco every 2 weeks (where we buy most of our groceries) has definitely helped our household grocery budget. Moshe has been in cloth diapers, Ruth has been potty trained for 4+ months now, and a family member generously helped fund my trip to Ohio to see my family!

Of course, as life always seems to, for nearly every goal met, a curve ball was tossed our way as well. ;) Our medical expenses (even with insurance) have been greatly increased this year. Thankfully, we have a savings cushion! God has always provided and continues to do so. With so many unemployed in this country right now, we are blessed with a steady income and health insurance! :)

I don't say that lightly. I feel very blessed! I do get tired of going over our budget trying to find things to cut though.

I could sum up our budget by just saying "We try to spend as little as possible." I know that doesn't really help anyone!

In more detail: We use cloth-everything (except toilet paper), we have 1 vehicle and stay home a lot, we don't go out to eat, we don't have cell phones, we don't have Cable, we do most things at-home -- like haircuts.

What DO we spend money on? Food! We love to eat well. ;) So this month I will be focusing on eating well while spending less -- much less -- than normal. ;) I WILL be spending some money though. Milk, fresh fruit, vegetables, and toilet paper are all things I'll need to buy.

I'll also share my grocery shopping trips for this month, to help keep me accountable. ;) Here is what we've bought so far this month:

Bananas, strawberries (on sale), and corn on the cob (on sale).

Now, I also took pictures of my pantry, fridge, and freezer. I didn't organize anything first. Hopefully by the end of the month things will look a little cleared-out and tidier and we'll have saved a few hundred dollars as well! :)

My dry food storage. Some of this needs used -- like the canned corn. Mostly it just needs organized! I also have buckets of dry food storage -- like wheat, oats, corn, lentils, pinto beans, and black beans. I need to make a more concentrated effort to use those more often! I did get a START on that, though. Last week I ground some wheat and corn flour for the first time in several months. :)

This is our stand-alone chest freezer. You can't see much: mozzarella cheese, turkey broth, buns, the ice cream maker bowl, and some soaked cedar planks. Down below are some whole chickens waiting to be used, and a lot of pollock, which I need to figure out better ways to serve so it gets used! It was a very good price, and isn't old or freezer burned, but if I don't start serving it, we'll be out of our other kinds of fish and just have pollock. :P :)

It's also annoying to have a chest freezer and *still* have trouble finding room for things! :) I know why it's so full (we got a good price on fish in May) but eating from the freezer plus organizing it should give me some "breathing room" in there by the end of the month! :)

This is the freezer attached to the fridge. Some organization is definitely in order for this baby! I don't even know what's in here. That's pathetic! I'm still recovering from my month-long vacation in some ways. (Anyone seen the missing butter dish???) :)

The fridge! I am so lucky to have a huge fridge like this!! It helps stretch those Costco trips. When I come home with 6-8 gallons of milk (a 2-week supply), it's FULL but manageable.

The main thing I need to do (besides cleaning the fridge) is use more carrots. Theyr'e organic and affordable at Costco, but I tend to neglect them. Carrot sticks need to be a more available snack! There's a 10-pound bag in the back (that you can't see). I've already used some from it twice since this photo was taken 4 days ago! :)

Let's see... what else have I done? I cleaned behind the fridge! Does that count for anything?! :)

I also cleaned the coils on the fridge. They were SO NOT DIRTY compared to last time!! :)

And Yehoshua helped me sweep and mop under the stove. We even found a few toys in the process. And, he earned a little money for his savings. I've been having Yehoshua (7) help me with "Spring cleaning" types of projects and paying him for his help. It's been an exciting motivation for him! :)

So that's my start for July's pantry challenge!

Goals for next week:

1. One *reasonable* trip to Costco (I go crazy at Costco!)

2. Clear off the kitchen counters so I can start cleaning out the fridge (This should ideally happen BEFORE the trip to Costco!)

3. Plan my menu and post about it

Some other great ladies are joining in the Summertime Pantry Challenge! Visit them for more inspiration:


It never dawned on me to pull out the drawer beneath the oven to clean! But I've only owned a range for three years, so I don't feel like too much of a dummy. This will definitely be taken care of this weekend. Thanks for the idea!

I love when you show your shopping trips. ;) I would also love to hear about your budget. My husband is in the military and I stay at home with our kids. Money is tight and everything seems to keep going up in price. I feel like I'm drowning some days. Thanks Tammy, you are so encouraging.


I won't get a post done on this today, but my two goals for this week are:

1. Organize under the sink
2. Plan another ZERO spending Menu Plan Monday using ONLY what's in the house no spending at all. Might get tough--I'm out of powdered milk!

Lisa @


How neat seeing my name in your post. Thank you for posting my question. Always love reading what you have to say on things.

You always have a way to encourage so many!!

Look forward to reading how you do with your grocery budget this month with using things up.

Blessings to you,

I used to live on the water and although I didn't fish, my neighbors did. One of the women always saved her husband's catches in the freezer and when she had enough (often several varieties), she made the most wonderful fish cakes. It's a suggestion for the fish you bought on sale.

Looking forward to reading about how you do with this challenge. I, too, enjoy reading about other peoples' food budgets because I learn something new . . . such as: I didn't know about Costco's organic carrots--thanks!



I love reading your posts because they are so honest, which is very refreshing. I know that sounds silly, but I often feel that many bloggers try to come off as perfect or sometimes will include mistakes or messes, but even those seem scripted. Your posts are always genuine, which is why I enjoy coming here, in addition to the great recipes! Hope you meet your goals this month.

Michele in Northern Virginia

ANY advice given for pt a 3 yo boy would be so very appreciated! I know it isn't relative to this post...but you brought up cloth dipes and potty training Ruth- which made me think of it. :)

Love this post--when I clean my freezers I quickly write down everything in them, then later-neatly. Helps me to remember what I have and to plan better.

Thank you :)

Tammy, give this recipe a try if you haven't already:

You can use it with any fish, I think. I make it with snapper from Costco. I struggle with cooking fish well at home but I love this recipe. I save the crumbs from the bottom of bags of Goldfish crackers and add them to the topping when I can.

Thanks for your site, every recipe I've ever tried has been fantastic and we hope to save up for a Weber grill soon because of your review.

Hi Tammy - I use pollock a lot as we get large bags, enough for several meals, from Lidl, and it is good value. I usually use it to make fish pie- yummy, and the kids can't get enough of it! You can also cut it into pieces and make goujons out of it. Your pantry is very organised compared to mine!



The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee; and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:22-26)

you're freezer and pantry are way better stocked than mine! :-) Looking forward to seeing your results.

I'm so glad someone else's freezer and pantry looks like mine! :) I'm going to do the same thing....clear out and save some money this month. I'm also looking forward to hearing your menu plans. That's something I've been lacking creativity with lately and could use some inspiration.

I'm so very much in agreement with you about appreciating our blessings. Life has thrown many curves at me health-wise but I feel so blessed. I have a job, the bills are paid, we have a roof over our heads, we have food in the pantry and we have healthy, happy children. We also only have one vehicle, no cable, I do a lot of sewing for gift-giving and we sustain ourselves with vegetables and fruit from our garden each year so it's tough to find other ways to cut costs but I'm always up for the challenge. I love the idea of trying to save some money being more frugal with our food budget.


Thanks, Ladies, for the fish ideas, and budgeting encouragement! :) You are so sweet to me... these comments meant a lot. :)

Two (use to be three) times a year I thoroughly move, clean and reorangize my entire house, shed, and garage. My grandmother use to call it spring, fall and holiday cleaning. I make it every six months.

I just started a long term food storage project this past year. It is costing a small fortune, but if the storms continue, or if there is a national disastier, it will be the best plan of my life. It is, however, a major work. Most of what we use to spend on going out and extravagant menu's is now gong towards that. And we do eat well -- filet, shell fish, etc. I'd say we spend about $400 - $500/month on food, cleaning supplies, necessities, for the two of us.

My fridge looks like Tammy's after I shop, because I shop every two weeks. We have Aldies in our area, and a place called Save A Lot, so there is a huge savings -- about 30% on food buying from a regular supermarket. No Costco here.

I started an excel sheet to keep tabs on servings of long term storage I am aiming for long term storage for 2 people for a couple of years. Probably more than what we'd need, but spiritually, I'm comfortable w/that.

Also, we paid off our mortgage, cars and all other debt. We think there is going to be an economic storm coming of major intensity. Just trying to be responsible here. I'm trying to plan to have extra for others too.

I appreciate your post...we are also two in our family and are in our late 60's but I have been diligent about making plans for being self-sufficient for a period of time. Unlike younger posters, we do not have jobs (retired) and most of our income is in interest-paying stocks that we have absolutely no control over. If the market crashes and we have no income, I want to have food, medicine, fuel, etc. to sustain us. Not since WWII has there been so much uncertainty in our world, in our country, and I believe it's very foolish to ignore it.

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