How To Eat For a Week From Your Pantry and $20

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By Colette

If you can eat for a week from your pantry, you’ll be well on your way to living as frugally as possible. And it’s totally possible as well! Let us show you how…

I consider my pantry to be an important part of being prepared….for anything! One of the most important functions of my pantry is to help me ride through any financial storm I might face. Yes, there are foods I love to buy and enjoy when the time is right.

However, if there is a lean week, my pantry is there for me like a good friend.  (If you want some tips on building a pantry on a budget, check out this great article!)

What is so important to note is that I fill my pantry with amazing sale items. So, it not only represents a storehouse of food, but also a storehouse of savings. Just one example of this was a recent sale at a discount store, where 10 pounds of onions were a mere $1.97. Of course, I bought TWO! They are keeping quite well in my utility room and I use them regularly.

Recently, I have felt the need to tighten my belt a bit

Not going grocery shopping saves me money on gas, as well as money on food. I’m going to share what a week with minimal grocery shopping and maximal pantry eating looks like for me. While I clearly can’t do this forever – my pantry would eventually empty – I find that it helps me get by in tight times.

Then, I top it up when I am able.

What is great about my pantry meals is that they are some of my favorites and I don’t feel at all like I’m “doing without.” I hope my week of meals will inspire you and your own pantry plans.

My Shopping List on my Shopping Lite Week
  • Dozen local farm fresh eggs – $4 –using only half of them this week = $2/week
  • 4L organic milk – $9 – using only half of it this week = $4.50/week
  • Pound bag of carrots – $2.49
  • Bunch of celery – $1.97
  • Bunch of kale – $2.49
  • 10 large Whole wheat Tortillas – $4
  • Bunch of Bananas – $2
  • Grocery Cost Total: $19.45
Pantry Items I can use on my Shopping Lite Week
  • Flour
  • Organic spelt kernels
  • Oatmeal
  • Other baking items (baking soda, salt, curry powder, cinnamon)
  • Red lentils
  • Peanut butter
  • Jam
  • Rice
  • Onions (I keep 20 pounds in my utility room, bought on sale for less than $4)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger (I keep some ginger root in my freezer at all times)
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 box Kraft dinner (white cheese, please!)
  • Coffee (I have some beans on hand this week, but could use my emergency instant coffee jar in a pinch)
  • 2 cans chick peas
  • 2 cans tomatoes
  • 1 L low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 jar organic apple sauce
  • Raisins
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

This list gives you everything you need to eat for a week from your pantry.

Breakfasts That Allow You to Eat for a Week From Your Pantry

My favorite breakfast is peanut butter and jam on toast. Because I’m not buying any bread this week, I will celebrate my Irish roots and make Irish Soda Bread. I like to cut my soda bread into four quarters (called farls) and fry it in my cast iron frying pan. The pantry items I use for my breakfast are: whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup freshly ground spelt kernels, homemade kefir for making the soda bread instead of buttermilk, baking soda, salt, peanut butter, jam, coffee, and milk.

If you want to learn more about getting started with making your own homemade kefir, check out my How To Guide 1 on my website.

Hearty Pantry Suppers

I am lucky that I don’t need a whole lot of variety in my food. If I like something, I can eat if quite frequently. So, for my pantry week, I would plan to make only three supper meals. The first is my famous tuna mac casserole, made with a can of tuna and a box of KD macaroni. My secret ingredients in this are a can of tomatoes and some dried chilis to add heat. This would make me two suppers with leftovers.

My second pantry meal is chick pea curry, with two cans of chick peas, one can of tomatoes and some chopped onions, garlic, and ginger and spices. I would serve this over pantry rice. Again, this would give me two suppers with leftovers. For either of these two suppers, I can have steamed carrots and/or kale to accompany them.

Finally, I make an absolutely fabulous red lentil curried soup that would use my chicken broth, some carrots, onions and celery and spices and, of course, red lentils. It is soooo delicious, and even better the second day. It makes such a big pot that I could have my remaining three suppers with lots of leftovers, even some to freeze for another lean week. When I eat this soup, I will have some of my Irish soda bread along with it. I like to dip it in the soup when the soup is too hot to eat at first.

Lunches for the Frugal

My lunches on my pantry week would be simple: leftover KD casserole one day, leftover chick pea curry with freshly chopped kale in a tortilla wrap another day.

One day, I can have a scrambled egg omelet with onions and garlic for lunch, either with soda bread or in a tortilla. With any of these meals, I can eat some of my extra carrots and celery raw on the side, or some gently steamed kale. On the other four days, I can have some of my homemade kefir and the muesli I make by mixing oats with raisins, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds and cinnamon. I like to also add some applesauce to this for natural sweetness.

Snacks You Can Eat for a Week From Your Pantry

I have lots of options for snacks this week. Perhaps I will grab a handful of my muesli mix or some jam on soda bread with tea. I sometimes like to cut a banana in half and put some peanut butter on it. Then, I line up some raisins on it. I think this is called “Ants on a Log.” Tasty!

I can also have my bananas plain, or some raw veggies, or even a hard boiled egg. Depending on the amount of time I have available, some of my kale may be made into kale chips as well. There are many options for snacks this week. These are all healthy and I feel great when I eat them.

A Pantry is Like a Bank Account

I am eating from my pantry these days. I put most of my deposits in my pantry months ago. Now is the time to make my withdrawals. It is very helpful to be able to cut back on the cash I’m spending these days.

The next time I will need to go to the grocery store will only be when I run out of organic milk to feed my kefira (live kefir grains)….I just went to check how much milk I have left…yes, OK, enough milk for two more batches of kefir, so I will need to go to the grocery store in a few days. Other than that, I’m great to eat for a week from your pantry.


“My” pantry. Though if you’re stocking it like this, I’ll be more than happy to eat out of yours as well!

A Pantry Saved is a Pantry Earned

Here are some more “eating-from-the-pantry” ideas for you.

Do you stock your pantry for lean times or for another purpose? Could you see yourself trying any of the pantry meals I have shared here? Do you see a potential meal I could make with my listed ingredients? Do you have a great pantry meal you can share with us?

How do you eat for a week from your pantry? Please tell us in the comments below.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in February 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!

How To Eat For a Week From Your Pantry and $20


Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, "Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture." Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

20 thoughts on “How To Eat For a Week From Your Pantry and $20”

  1. Hi Collette!

    You bet I stock my pantry! And I buy as much as I can when an item I use is on sale, much as you do, just as my grandmother and aunties did before me. The savings add up, and it’s nice to have a full pantry since I can go for 2-3 months without receiving payment for my work. Then when a check drops, I top off the pantry. Like you, I make larger meals that can last for a few days. A roast with potatoes and carrots will last me one week, in fact. Yay pantry! And if cooking for oneself isn’t self-care, what is?

    1. Hi Jayne, Well said about self-care! I have found this month, with my decision to eat out of my pantry, I am eating better and feeling better than ever. It seems like the basic foods in the pantry are agreeing with me. I am totally in with the potatoes and carrots: I use a simple steamer basket to cook a big batch of them initially, and then for the next several days, I just briefly steam them to warm then up (not a fan of microwaves). So, I would say carrots and potatoes are a staple of my diet right now and it’s working so well. Wishing you a chock full pantry for the coming year!

  2. I love this article! How do you freeze your ginger? I’ve never done that. But it sounds like a good idea. Is the texture different when you cook it after freezing? I’d love to extend the life of the ginger I have.

    1. Hi Tammy, I just actually froze a bunch of ginger today that my aunt gave me. I find that it’s the best way to always have it on hand. I cut it into chunks about the size of a Tablespoon, as that’s the measure my favourite recipe calls for. I can pull out those chunks to thaw them ahead of time. If I just want a little bit, I even just pull out a totally frozen chunck and grate it. That works, too. Rather than have a beautiful piece of ginger go mouldy in my fridge, I find my chunks last until I need them. I hope that’s helpful. Another trick I learned on the internet that I tried….I actually skin the ginger before I freeze it. Using a tablespoon as a skin remover works surprisingly well! Happy Pantry-ing!

        1. Hi Cia, Cool! This is a neat idea. I am imagining you just rinse and use as usual. I generally have vodka on hand to make plant-based medicines, and I would guess that would work, too. Thanks for sharing this unique tip with all the Frugalites out there. Wishing you the best!

  3. Hi Colette — We could eat from our pantry for way longer than a week. Many years ago as the new bride of a construction worker, I learned the hard way about lay-offs. From then on, I stocked what I called “the lay-off” cupboard, which included a small freezer that fit in the corner of our apartment. And I always had a small stash of funds for eggs, produce, milk, etc. Sometimes lay-offs were a week or two, often winter lay-offs were up to three months, and once, when the construction industry crashed, my husband didn’t have a job for over six months. That lay-off cupboard saved us — although after six months we ended up on food stamps (which was more than our food budget had ever been!) Now, almost 50 years later and at a way different stage of life, I still keep a well-stocked pantry that could keep my daughter (who has disabilities and lives with me) and I going through an emergency. One of our favorite pantry meals is what my daughter calls “taco soup.” A half-pound of low-fat hamburger (cut from a pound in original recipe), several kinds of beans (canned or dried that have been soaked and will cook in the soup – we usually use red, pinto and navy beans), a can of corn, diced tomatoes, diced mild green chilies, and seasonings (mild taco seasoning and ranch dressing seasoning – both homemade). Simmer on the stove or in the crockpot. It makes enough for several meals. I’ve recently discovered lentils and am going to see if I can cut the hamburger a bit more using lentils. It is my daughter’s favorite meal and she will eat it several times a week. I usually freeze enough for an emergency lunch or dinner when what we had planned doesn’t work out.

    1. Hi Nancy, Your experience has made you a wise pantry-keeper. In these times, especially, I am happy for you that you have a pantry you could eat from for way longer than a week! I think many people have precarious employment these days. Your sharing your experiences could be very helpful to them. I love your “taco soup” idea. I was wondering about liquids….is the liquid from the diced tomatoes enough or do you need to add some water or stock to it? Do you like to serve it with tacos to dip in it, too? I am also limiting how much beef I buy and this sounds like a recipe which would go well with a reduced amount. Many thanks!

      1. The recipe didn’t originally call for extra liquid. It makes a very thick soup left that way. I usually use at least a can of water to wash out the cans — pouring from one to the next, just to get all the bits that stick. Sometimes I will add more water if the soup still seems too thick. I’m also going to try making it with dry beans one of these days — soak the beans overnight, then put it all together, maybe with a handful of freeze dried corn — just to see how that turns out. It will definitely need more water or stock, and maybe more seasonings. We usually have it with a sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese on top but have also added a bit of sour cream and some crumbled tortilla chips (great way to use up the bits at the bottom of the bag!) The original recipe also called for a whole packet of taco seasoning. That made it way too spicy for our taste, so we cut back to a lot less — think we add a bit more than a teaspoon.

        1. Hi Nancy, Thank you so much for getting back to me on this. I usually work from recipes, so this helps my confidence in giving this a try. I also like to get all of the goodness out of a can of food by shaking a bit of water in it and adding it back to the dish. This is what I’ll do, too. Wishing you a great holiday season and a bountiful pantry for 2022!

  4. I too am a soup fan for pantry meals – I try to make it ahead and freeze. I am also a fan of rice and beans. One can black beans, some chopped onion and garlic, rice (shredded cheese added to rice is optional). Start cooking rice, then saute the onion and garlic in some olive oil; when tender add the beans with liquid and let it cook down and thicken a bit. It may sound dull but it’s quite delicious.

    1. Hi Alice, I wrote a whole article about Beans on Toast, so beans could never be dull to me. Thank you for this reminder of how, so often, the simple meals can be so healthy (high fibre!) and also comforting. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Great article! One thing I do is something I like to call “root leaf stew.”
    I basically make stew out of whatever leftover roots and leaves I have left from my last Misfits Market box or natural grocers haul. Usually this is an array of beets, carrots, and sometimes things like turnips or radishes, plus chopped cabbage, often onions, and sometimes a little meat. I add seasonings/bullion to taste towards the end of the boil, adjusting depending on whether the items are more sweet or more savory. I always add hard stuff first and tender stuff last.

    I could also add fresh or dried mushrooms towards the end. Last time I had some spare sweet potatoes so I used those. Sometimes I’ll use fennel stalks and bulbs, and I often put chopped beet greens in there. I add rice or other things from my pantry.

    It sounds like a bit of a mishmash perhaps but depending on what you put in it, this can be a surprisingly tasty stew. Together with some pantry-originated bread or biscuits, this is a leftover-user par excellence.

    (Now I keep thinking I’ve mentioned this before. If I have, apologies!)

    1. Hi Redbranch, I am so happy you shared this. I cannot recall your sharing it. Even if you have, it is a wonderful addition to this comment thread. I am quite a recipe-bound cook. I am learning from the comments to try some of these “throw it in the pot” meals using my pantry materials. I’m ready for some new pantry adventures. Many thanks!

  6. All of these comments and your article remind me that eating at home with pantry food is much healthier than fast food. I’m not a fan of dried beans. but I keep cans of different kinds in my home. Putting them together with other items is quite imaginative and fun. I remember when my kids were small, I had a terrific cold. Dinner time approached, my husband was out of town, and I had two pairs of laser eyes imploring me for food. We had eaten tacos two days before and had some leftover meat, so I added a can of pork and beans and quickly made some dumplings from a mix I had. I always kept cut up veggies and ranch dressing on hand, so that was the meal. It was so good that the kids requested it a lot.
    Other quick pantry meals included chicken coated with egg and crushed cereal, a can of green beans with tomato sauce and tater tots on top, a box of cornbread made with only 2 eggs and a can of creamed corn (better than the mix directions), and pancakes with cottage cheese whipped into the batter. Of course mac and cheese was always a hit. One night our son dumped in a can of chili (which I do not like) into the mac and cheese. It was pretty good I had to admit.
    Twice a year we would always go through our stores of food and replace items we needed. We’d watch for sales and buy at a good price. We lived in an area where heavy snow would fall, keeping us housebound for as along as 3 days. The pantry was and is a necessity for us. Thank you for writing this!

    1. Hi Marie, Thank you so much for your positive feedback. That is like a great Christmas gift to me! Your comment was so informative and entertaining. I was laughing out loud at your description of the “laser eyes” of your hungry children. What a great meal you made under difficult circumstances. All of your tips are so helpful. I’m sure our community of readers will benefit. Wishing you and your family a full pantry and a great 2022!

  7. Sigh… if you didn’t insist on “organic,” you could very easily live off $20 without most of your pantry. It is a bit of work, but you could do it. Pretty much oil, salt, and pepper.

    You blew, and I do mean BLEW more than half your budget on two items because of your personal preference. I can get a gallon of milk for less than three bucks and a dozen eggs for $1.19. Also, where do you get carrots? My two pound bag costs less than your one pound bag. Add some frozen broccoli to your veggies, and maybe some bell peppers or zucchini.

    When you’re on a real budget you have to realize that you may not always get exactly what you want, and that means ditching organic and maybe substituting 30 corn tortillas for your ten large wheat ones (and saving a few dollars more). You could also buy some chicken drumsticks (about a dollar a pound for a store brand).

    I hate to be a buzzkill, but I remember days when I had to make sure I made my tuition payments before I ate meat, for example. There was no organic. Heck, there was no ramen!

    One thing I see from your pantry items (and carrots) is that you have nearly all the ingredients for mercimek corbasi (Turkish red lentil soup). It is delicious, especially with home made bread (just four ingredients… and time).

    1. Hi Bill, I’m not really sure how to respond to your comment when so much of it seems to be intended to undermine the intention of the article (available for free on the internet) and demean my choices. So, I am choosing not to respond to the content of your comment. I’m sure that you have a lot of knowledge to share, but it becomes impossible for others to benefit from it when it comes wrapped up like this.
      Wishing you the best!

      P.S. Since I began writing for the Frugalite, I have responded personally to almost six hundred comments, all on a volunteer basis. (That’s right, we are not paid to comment, only for our articles.) Why do I do this? Out of the goodness of my heart to support the wonderful community of Frugalites, and to try and make the world a better place.

      I believe that life is too short to respond to negativity or to dwell on it, even for a moment.

      1. Colette, I was questioning your choices, not demeaning them. I believe “organic” is a luxury that isn’t the best option for someone on a budget. I also showed things that I would buy with the money.


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