What is “Pantry Week” + How does it Prevent Waste?

We recently had our monthly “pantry week” at our house, and it made me wonder if other families do this too. Maybe the do and don’t have a name for it. Or maybe some people do it without consciously thinking about it. Or maybe still, others don’t have pantry week at their house.

What is “Pantry Week”?

So let me start by defining “pantry week”. In our house, pantry week is when we only use up food that we already have. There are a few rules to pantry week in our house:

  1. No going grocery shopping
  2. No getting takeout or delivery
  3. Eat leftovers first
  4. Next use food expiring soon
  5. Find meals that use up food
  6. Create our own recipes

Of course, you can define pantry week by what works best in your house and for your family.

Why have a “Pantry Week”?

Lower Grocery Bills

When you skip a full week of grocery shopping, that’s one less week of groceries you are purchasing! Of course, this is the most obvious way that pantry week will save you money.

But, it also saves since you are using up food that might have otherwise been tossed out. When food goes bad, you are throwing out (or hopefully composting) food that you have spent money on already. Plus, you then have to replace that food, so it’s now cost you twice as much money.

Reduce Food Waste

Along with saving money, pantry week helps you reduce your food waste. If you go grocery shopping, there’s a chance you may double-up on ingredients because you didn’t know you already had it in the pantry.

Also, by forcing yourself to only use what you have, you will be using up anything that would otherwise expire. It’s amazing what you will find buried in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer when you don’t put new groceries in front of it!

Related: Food Waste: Top 8 Tips to Avoid Throwing Away Food

Get Creative

If there’s ever a time to get creative in the kitchen, it’s pantry week. Some of our favorite meals have come about from trying to figure out what to do with the foods we have left.

Here are some examples on my recipe website if you are interested:

When is the best time for “Pantry Week”?

The short answer: any time!

Budget

If you are tight on your budget one month, try having a pantry week and see how far you can stretch the food you have. We like to have our pantry week the last week of the month so we can save the money on groceries before we start the next month’s budget.

Vacation

We always have pantry week in the days leading up to a big vacation. I don’t want to have a lot of food in the house when we are gone that will just go bad. I also worry that, if the power goes out, and we have a full refrigerator/freezer, we will be out a lot of food and money if it doesn’t come back on.

Overabundance of Food

This is the hardest time to quantify, as only you will know what is considered an “overabundance” in your household. For us, it’s when we notice we have a lot of similar food that needs to be eaten.

For example, if you were to look in my pantry right now, I have half a box of four different types of pasta and a refrigerator crisper drawer full of veggies. Instead of planning new meals and buying more groceries, we are about to do another pantry week and find ways to use these things up.

Finding Recipes

The hardest part of pantry week for most people is coming up with the recipes. While we like to just start cooking and see what we make, others don’t have the time or desire to do that.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a recipe website, so you can check there. Use the search option at the top and type in an ingredient and you can find all of my recipes with that in it.

There are also other websites that you can enter multiple ingredients and find recipes that use those foods.

How does Pantry Week Prevent Waste?

Throughout the post, I’ve touched on these points, but here’s a list of all the ways I know of that pantry week prevents waste in the kitchen:

  • Eat food before it expires
  • Use up what you have instead of buying new
  • Eat through any leftovers rather than continuing to cook new meals
  • Save money by not going grocery shopping for a week
  • Stop paying twice for ingredients that have gone bad and need to be replaced

Your Turn

  • Have you done a “pantry week” in your house?
  • Do you have a different name for it?
  • What other benefits can you think of for doing a pantry week?
  • Is there a food that you always have an overabundance of?
  • Do you have a budget for groceries or just buy them as you need to?

18 thoughts on “What is “Pantry Week” + How does it Prevent Waste?”

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea, Stephanie! I often do an informal version of this, often on a day-to-day basis. BUT I like the idea of formalizing it more so that it is a deliberate plan. My cooking pretty much ALWAYS uses up the leftovers we already have around anyway (from my husband’s cooking), but I like the challenge of trying to stick only to what we have on hand, vs. even having to go out and buy that one more ingredient! 🙂

    1. It can definitely be a challenge. But, we have also come up with quite a few of our favorite recipes this way!

  2. This is great! Never really occurred to me that I’ve been on pantry week since I moved out. Haha! I always have the tendency to buy lots of veggies, so I roast them all together in the oven and eat them throughout the week when they’re about to go bad. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I did it a lot more when I first moved out as well. Now, we do it intentionally to make sure we use everything up.

  3. I’ve done this the week before vacation but I like the idea of doing it monthly, so that things don’t build up as much! I don’t have a big pantry and I really need to go through it.

    1. It helps to do it monthly to make sure to clear out old foods. Our pantry is such an odd shape I lose things in there sometimes.

  4. Love all your tips. We always try to use everything we have and only shop when we actually need something rather than just for the sake of filling the cupboards xx

    1. That’s such an awesome way of doing it! We usually meal plan, so most of it goes into meals, but we sometimes have extra that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes.

  5. I love the idea of pantry week. I wish I could convince my parents of this. I am having to take care of them right now because of some difficult injury issues and they really need to use up a lot of this extra food they have sitting around.

    1. You could always do a semi-pantry week. Find meals that use up most of the food in the pantry, and only buy the few extra ingredients you need for meals. But, at the same time, when you are in a situation different than normal, it’s ok to let it slide.

  6. I’ve done pantry weeks before but have never called it that. Sometimes I just want to clear out what’s sitting around. Other times, I want to avoid the grocery store! I love the idea of having a purposeful pantry week.

    1. We do it for both reasons, too! It’s nice to have it scheduled so we know ahead of time what we are doing and that it will be a “scrounging” week.

  7. Ahhhh I love the name of this!!! I’ve done this before but never knew it had an actual name!!! Love doing this when I have a big purchase since every penny counts

    1. The name is nothing official, as far as I know, it’s just what we call it 🙂 And yes, definitely helps save money when you really need it!

    1. You’re right, if you already shop minimally, then it usually isn’t a big saver. But I know a lot of people end up with half a box of this and a quarter container of that without finding ways to use it up.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *