The pantry door slid open and out fell two bags of tortilla chips with nothing more than crumbs sprinkled at the bottom. As I peered inside, I saw an additional open tortilla bag, alongside an open pretzel bag, potato chips bag and a slew of other unmentionables.

I’d had enough.

Things were tumbling out and our 14 year old daughter admonished, “It’s because you didn’t do that No Spend Things like you always do. You need to do a month of that no spend stuff.”

My jaw dropped. She knew? She remembered?

She realized the value that occurs when we eat up what we already have and stop treating our food like it’s our right to have what ever convenience food we want, whenever we want it?

“You are right, Ab, we are starting tomorrow,” I declared.

“Well, I didn’t mean you had to start right now.”

Yes, we are. We need to eat through what we have and stop wasting what’s already on the shelves and in the freezer.

And so September began with an unplanned, spontaneous NO Spend Pantry Challenge.

If you’ve been with me before, I’ve done this for the last three years and documented it full on past posts (search the archives.) The first year, we only spent $100 on food for the entire month.

Whew, it was a long month, but life changing to see what we could stretch.  The concept is simple: to steward and use up the foods that we have already purchased, while saving money on the food budget.

Come on, let’s admit it, there’s that same can of soup that’s been sitting there for a year or that bag of frozen veggies that you are pretty sure has freezer burn but you won’t throw it out. Now is the time to use them.

It’s a time to remember that creativity in the kitchen is critical when one wants to slash their spending. My goal is to save $500 that I would typically have put towards food and that money will go right into my couch or hard wood floors fund. I haven’t quite decided.

I invite you to just jump right in.

If you think about it, you’ll talk yourself out of it. It doesn’t have to be for a full month, just join me for a few weeks. Follow along on my facebook page and/or instagram (jenschmidt_beautyandbedlam).

The first week is always the best.  In fact, my guys celebrate it because I thaw the steaks that have fallen to the freezer’s abyss. We get the grill going and it’s a carnivores delight as I work my way through our deep freeze and I always make sure I am implementing my Power Cooking Hour. 

Whether you decide to do this or not, that Power Cooking Hour has literally revolutionized my time in the kitchen. Yes, it’s often my sanity saver.

By week two, it starts getting a bit more tricky, so if you join in, commit to at least two weeks. I am on day 18 and at the point where we are truly starting to feel the effects of it. It takes more time, but I’ve also created some delicious meals from just what we have on hand.  It’s also that time when I have to stay strong. My natives are getting restless. That 14 year old who brought the need to my attention, no longers wants to do this. It’s getting old and our teen boys are screaming, “Let’s stop this stupid challenge.”

They don’t know it now, but I am serving up life lessons for them that they can’t begin to understand right now.

To clarify, I do buy produce and basic dairy products (milk and eggs) throughout the month. Ignore the fact that my husband went with our daughter to get the tires changed  at Cosco and came home with a big box of Pizza Rolls and Hummus (traitors). They were desperate, or so they tell me.

freezer inventory snapshot Do You Know What Lurks in Your Freezer? Free Freezer Checklist

It’s always critical for me to do a complete freezer inventory. I have no idea what’s all in there. Yes, I admit, it’s sad. Use this free Freezer Checklist that will help you keep track. That way, you’ll be able to plan your meals around the foods you have on hand. Yes, we’ve already had my Crockpot BBQ chicken recipe because I had 8 bottles of BBQ sauce. I forgot that I stocked up when they were BOGO.

Print out this Printable Weekly Menu Planner and brainstorm meal ideas from what you have on hand. My goal is to have one month worth of ideas on paper.  If you are feeling super organized, Use my Free Printable Monthly Menu Planner  to jot down thoughts for the whole month. Remember, by the last week, it will be about creating new things.

It’s important to address the issue of stockpiling food and when is “enough, enough?”. (There are some great pointers and comments over at that link.)

Cheese and Egg Puff Recipe is a perfect way to clear out your fridge and make it a meal. If you have miscellaneous veggies, cheese, bacon or sausage, this is perfect..

Mexican Roast

Mexican Style Pot Roast

Since you know that I love prepping up my chicken in bulk, I have both ready to go in the crock pot frozen chicken and precooked chicken taking up space.

Orange Chicken recipe Low Fat Orange Chicken Recipe (in less than 10 Minutes)

Since you can eye the Apricot Preserves in the picture, my Super easy Chinese Orange Chicken Recipe will be made this week. Both this and my Sesame Chicken recipes are two of our kids favorites, so it’s a Go To in our home.

3 Ingredient Cheesey Chicken Cheesy Chicken (3 ingredients)

Please tell me I am not the only one with crackers either opened, uneaten or hiding in their pantry? Well, this is the perfect quick meal to use those up. They add a great coating and you can put your own gourmet touch on my 3 Ingredient Cheesey Cracker Chicken Recipe by adding in additional Parmesan cheese, garlic coating or even some cream cheese.

easy taco casserole Taco Casserole Recipe (Our Kids Favorite Family Casserole)

Remember all those open bags of tortilla crumbs? Don’t think that I threw those away. Oh no, they were perfect sprinkled in with our favorite Taco Casserole. That thing was chock full of varying additions.

Along with being creative, my kids are loving the fact that I’ve been baking up a storm. Since I am not buying any more snacks and treats, we’ve had everything from the Overnight, Refrigerator Rise Cinnamon Rolls, Biscuits,  Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies and more.