Monday, January 4, 2016

Pantry Challenge #1 ... 2016

Happy New Year! 

It’s a brand new year and I’ve spent the last few days getting organized and ready for it.  I’ve got my goals set for 2016 and am ready to start baby stepping my way through them.

My personalized homemade planner is finished and ready for use. 
This year, like a lot of other people, we’re having to tighten our financial belts due to huge increases in the cost of our monthly health insurance premiums.   That ‘financial tightening’ will be reflected in my weekly pantry challenges … in what we do and don’t do!

So let’s see what I’ve done and what I haven’t done since my last pantry challenge in 2015 …

My to-do list from last time:

I didn’t have one!

In addition:

Our son and daughter-in-law spent Christmas with us and when out shopping one day came across hams on sale for $.77/lb.  They purchased one and gifted it to us.  We added it to the freezer part of our pantry!  Our son and daughter-in-law are learning how to bargain shop and we were the lucky recipients of this bargain!

 Our daughter-in-law also came across a really good sale on Whitman chocolates that were in beautiful tins.  She gifted us with one of the tins and after the candy was eaten from it (Yes, I did help with the emptying of the container … it was so good!) I took a good look at that tin and knew instantly what I would use it for.  Since it has a hinged lid, it would be perfect to house and carry around the small cross stitch projects I enjoy doing and that is exactly what I did with it.  I toyed with the idea of painting the tin, but decided that it was just too pretty as it was to change so I am using and enjoying it as it is!

After the holidays were over and our kids and grandchildren had gone home, we found ourselves with more bread than we would use so … I am making bread crumbs … I’m letting the bread, which has been torn into smaller pieces, air dry.  Yes, I have a dehydrator, but letting them air dry saves on our power bill.

We were gifted a corned ham for Christmas by a dear friend and after enjoying it for a couple of meals and leftovers, I froze enough of it to have for 2 more meals.

Our Sam’s Club find this week were these boxes of sugar cookie mix … on clearance for $1.91 per box.  We added them to our pantry for use when we have little ones visiting or when we need to take food to someone else. 

In our area, this time of the year, hog jowl goes on sale.  You can get it sliced, or unsliced (unsliced is cheaper).  We love hog jowl so our goal every year is to purchase a year’s supply when it goes on sale and freeze it.   Last year we found it unsliced, for $1.19 a pound … a much better price than bacon in our area which is currently running in the $3 - $4 per pound range.  And for those of you wondering what hog jowl is, it is nothing more than thickly sliced bacon that comes from the jowl of the hog.  This year the best price we could find was $1.29/lb unsliced.  Since we have a meat slicer we purchased several packages and my husband sliced it himself using our meat slicer.  We added 25 meal size packages to our freezer plus 6 packages of scraps and chunks which were too small for slicing that we’ll use for seasoning purposes.   In addition, we left out enough for 2 meals which we enjoyed this week.

I saved the grease from the hog jowl we cooked, strained it up and refrigerated it for future seasoning use.

I saved ribbons and gift bags from gifts at Christmas.  The ones I saved are in excellent condition and there’s no reason not to reuse them.

I continue to work on earning Swagbucks that will be redeemed for Amazon gift cards, done a couple of Pinecone surveys and am working on earning points through Bing that I’ll also redeem for Amazon gift cards.  It all adds up over time and will be used to help keep our pantry stocked.

I was in the mood for something light and simple to read this week so I read The Photograph by Beverly Lewis (affiliate link).  This is book #1 in my attempt to read at least 25 books this year.

I am taking part in The Vicky Challenge.

I have also started a ledger recording all of our monies spent and expenditures. We should be able to discover areas we can further save in by doing this.

Here are some things I didn’t do:

I didn’t do any after Christmas sale shopping. 

Here’s my pantry to-do list for the upcoming week/month:

I have a canning/preserving marathon planned for January so I’m going to get started on that.   I have the following that needs to get done in January:

Can pinto beans

Can white beans

Can kidney beans

Make bread crumbs.  We don’t use a lot of bread crumbs since we are low-carb eaters, but I’m not about to let these stale pieces of bread, etc go to waste!  The bread crumbs will last us a very long time at the rate we will use them!

Make turmeric capsules

Make vitamin c capsules

Make a batch of laundry powder (The last time I made it was in November 2013 … the last batch lasted over 2 years!!!)

Now it’s your turn, what have you done to build up your pantry or live frugally?

She looketh well to the ways of her household … Proverbs 31:27

You can also follow A Working Pantry on Pinterest and on Facebook!

Earn cashback by shopping through EBates! (affiliate link)


  1. Dear Patsy, that was a good start to the year. I am on the watch for good buys too. Usually I get turkey but not so far, it is just not marked down far yet. I will keep watching.
    i did save money in surprising amounts and now this next week I will see how much i save in a week via the challenge. Of course I will be trying to find new ways to save too. I am planting basil as this time of year it goes crazy and so tall. Have a really good week! Love Annabel.xxxx

    1. Annabel, I am so excited about The Vicky Challenge! It will be an encouragement to see how much we are saving in this financially challenging year!

  2. Sounds like you have a plan. I have one as well and we now have a our teenage grand who has moved in with us for awhile. So I am digging my heels in to stay on budget.

  3. Well, Patsy, I did go after Christmas shopping. I was able to buy 4 Christmas gifts for the 4 nephews for next year, all under $10/gift! I also picked up a few universal gifts for women to add to my gift stock. It was getting a bit low. Of course, there was cheap candy too, so I picked up some to use in my daughter's Easter basket. Always planning ahead!

    1. Rhonda A, you scored some good deals and are thinking smart! Looking ahead is how we stay ahead!

  4. I don't comment often, but I read a LOT!!! I learn new things all the time from all of you. This entry is especially helpful -- hog jowls!!!! I've always wondered what they really were! Thank you so much for all your helpful knowledge!!!!

    I learned something new this week on my own. I have a refrigerator that has a water filter built into it. We had to go to an appliance parts supplier to get a part for our washing machine that broke ON New Years Day! While there I realized that these people were VERY knowledgeable about all things appliance related. So after I asked how much a filter would be for my refrigerator ($49-that only lasts about 3 months) and I had a little panic attack, I asked the kind gentlemen if there was a way you could by-pass this expensive filter. He then explained that, yes, in fact, you can simply join the two lines together with a little fitting that can be bought at your local home improvement store!!!! I wanted to kiss the man!!!!! My husband is on it and I will be saving a lot of money from now on! Have a fantastic week everyone!

    1. Holley, thank you for commenting and for that great tip about your refrigerator ice filter. Glad the gentleman was willing to help and not just make a sale!

  5. I'm paying extra attention to our budget, too, since our health insurance also went up by a considerable amount.

    My mother had two coupon for $5 off a ham at my favorite grocery store so she and I went shopping together to redeem them. I love having a ham in the freezer!

    I made stock, and soup, and more stock from turkey carcasses and veggie trimmings. Part of the stock is in the freezer and I'm deciding if I'll can (bottle) or freeze the rest.

    I had coupons to get a free flashlight and free batteries. While they don't go in the food pantry they are helpful in being prepared for winter storms that can visit our area at this time of year.

    I need to get back to my Swagbucks and Bing rewards. I did end up using a cash back site to order much-needed new flooring, which helped take the sting out of the expenditure.

    I'll be following The Vicky Challenge and am looking forward to hearing everybody's tips and successes.

    Have a great week, everyone! Blessings, Leigh

    1. achatovercoffee, it seems that a lot of people are dealing with increased cost in health insurance premiums. I've got a turkey in the freezer that I need to defrost, can and make broth from. I am constantly looking for ways to add to my pantry!

  6. I love the idea of reusing the tin. What a great idea. I have been practicing to cook from scratch with items we have on hand. I have been trying to learn more on stocking my pantry. As we are very tight I couldn't add to my pantry this week so far. I simply have to get in the pantry and get creative with what I have.

  7. Hi Patsy. At the moment we are living off our pantry. I stockpiled so I wouldn't need to do too much shopping during the heat here in Australia. Here's my frugal list for the week -

    * Made a batch of vanilla yoghurt using a frozen starter.

    * Picked a handful of beans every few days. I started freezing them for future meals.

    * Made a big batch of pita chips.

    * Made chocolate truffles to go to a New Years Eve party. I used homemade sweetened condensed milk from the freezer.

    * Gratefully accepted a bag of shredded paper for my chickens.

    * My family ate leftovers for dinner two nights running after Christmas. By doing this, we didn't waste any food.

    * Both the girls took advantage of the sales and bought some presents for next year. I was so proud of them for thinking ahead and saving some money.

    * I bought lots of hand towels from Spotlight for $4.19 a pack of four. I also bought some Christmas material at 60% off to sew on the towels.

    * Used scraps of material to make some other hand towels into presents too. I was on a roll and made 14 in one afternoon.

    * .Made two large dishes of zucchini slice with the last of the zucchinis from Cath. The slice was cut into single portions and frozen.

    * Picked a couple of handfuls of strawberries. Jessica enjoyed some with the homemade yoghurt.

    * Bought a Tupperware lidded container from the op shop for $4.50 It looks new so I'll give it a wash and fill it up with homemade biscuits to give as a present. Tied with a matching bow, it will look beautiful.

    * Megan got her ears pierced ( seconds ) and handed over a coupon she found online for $5 off. So proud of her for researching this herself.

    * I used a Spotlight gift card ( Christmas present ) to buy a big pad of 120 Christmas papers for half price. This will be great for card making.. I also found some craft ribbon at 75% off.

    I have a few photos of some of these tasks on my blog

    1. Wendy, I love reading about your frugal weeks, I get so much inspiration from you!

  8. I got a tin that was similar. I love using them for embroidery floss!

    My challenge this month is to use up as many things from my pantry/freezers/cupboards that have been there for a long time, are expired but still good, or otherwise need to be used.

  9. I got one of those tins, too, only with a different picture. I often use old candy boxes to store embroidery floss in, and will use this tin for that if my husband doesn't repurpose it first.

    My goal this month is to use up as many items that are getting old, are unusual, etc. that I can. This includes home-canned and frozen items, as well as pantry items.

  10. I was given a pretty tin full of biscuits for Christmas. The tin is now in the cupboard and will be re gifted with homemade biscuits next Christmas. Today I made a batch of mango chilli chutney and a batch of mango passionfruit jam. Both batches are now in jars in the water bath. This week I need to get my pantry cleaned out and re organised. It's been a while since it had a good clean out. This is the pantry task for this week.

    1. Jane Allan, that's a good idea to reuse the tin. The chutney and jam sound good and I'm working on reorganizing and cleaning my pantry too! There's always something to do in our pantries, isn't there?


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