Can I survive on what's in my pantry for a week?

By Tori Hopp - 11:30 AM

Recently I have been, how should I put this, broke. Working in a commission based job is always tough and it just keeps getting tougher. I have been looking for ways to tighten my purse strings and realized I usually spend around $50 a week on eating out for lunch. Sometimes it's that I go out with friends or family for lunch but most of the time it is laziness. I don't want to go home for lunch and I have work to do so I go get something and eat it in my office.

Do I need to do that? No. I used to make my lunch every day and brought it with me. That was when I was in graphics and I ate while working so I could get Fridays off. Now I can just go home to eat but I wasn't. So my mission was to find budget-friendly lunches and dinners I could either make at home or bring to work with me. I wanted to make things that could also be used as leftovers for lunch the next day as well. So I set out to figure out how to make meals be healthy, fun and not cost me a kidney every week.

The first thing I did was set a budget. Since I was spending about $50 a week I decided that $20 a week for groceries was a great start. Then I looked in my pantry and saw what I already had. Surprisingly, I had quite a bit I could work with. Here is what I had:

- 1 box rotini noodles
- 1 bag spaghetti noodles
- 2 jars pasta sauce
- 1 loaf of bread
- 2 cans chickpeas
- 2 jars full peanut butter
- 1 jar half full peanut butter
- 2 jars jam (raspberry and blackberry)
- milk
- 3 bags shredded cheese
- cream cheese block
- 2 chicken breast
- 1 sad and frostbitten frozen hamburger patty
- Panda Express orange chicken sauce (why do I have this?)
- Taco seasoning
- Broccoli beef seasoning packet
- Condiments galore (mayo, every mustard known to man, ketchup, salad dressing)
- Two boxes of rice
- 1 pound of lentils
- Frozen corn
- Frozen veggie mix
- Frozen wild rice mix
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can diced tomatoes

Upon first glance that is quite a bit! In fact, I wouldn't need to get much with that. Also, why do I have so much peanut butter? As someone who isn't the biggest fan of peanut butter that shocked me. This is a great start and my $25 would be spent basically on a roll of Hamburger and maybe some sliced cheese. I can live off of grilled cheese, I've done it before.

When I actually got to looking at everything on my list and what I already had I decided to challenge myself even further by only using what I already had on hand for the week. I always have to one up myself. By the way, I also started this on a Thursday because I thought that would be easiest since I get paid on Fridays. Also note, my mother is on the keto diet and will sometimes give us food when she doesn't want it in the house. I made sure I noted that the food was given to me.

Thursday Lunch
Sad Hamburger Patty
Shredded Cheese
A bun my mother gave me

Thursday Dinner
Spaghetti Noodles
EVOO Parmesan & Garlic Dressing
1/2 Chicken Breast

Friday Lunch
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich (2)

Friday Dinner
Roasted Chickpeas
1/2 Chicken Breast

Saturday Lunch
Rice
Diced Tomatoes
Black Beans
Taco Seasoning
(made a rice taco bowl thing)

Saturday Dinner
Peanut Butter Sandwich

Sunday Lunch
Lentils
Broccoli Beef Seasoning Packet
(this meal was kinda gross to be honest)

Sunday Dinner
Cavitini

Monday Lunch
Leftover Cavitini

Monday Dinner
Stole some of my roommate's cereal
(She didn't like it so I asked if I could try it. I didn't like it either)
Milk

Tuesday Lunch
Leftover Cavitini

Tuesday Dinner
Grilled Cheese Sandwich (2)

Wednesday Lunch
Grilled Cheese (just one this time)

Wednesday Dinner
1/2 Chicken Breast
Frozen Veggies with Potatoes

Thursday Lunch
Peanut Butter & Jelly

Thursday Dinner
1/2 Chicken Breast
Frozen Wild Rice Blend

I did it! I got through it. And I wasn't starving! One thing I noticed doing this was I overeat a lot. I would make twice as much food normally but I didn't need it. Yeah there were times I felt a little hungrier than usual but it went away. I didn't buy anything but a bottle of tea and I paid for it using change I found in my car. I'm not kidding. You might have noticed I didn't do breakfast. I didn't include it for two reasons. First, I am not a breakfast person. Because I don't usually eat breakfast I don't typically have anything breakfast related in my pantry. I could have had some toast I guess.

The main lesson I got from this was I overeat and overspend on food. I need to eat at home more and use up what I have before I buy anything else. I made a lot of great dishes using what I had on hand and I only spent $1.75 the whole week! Would you challenge yourself to do this? Let me know!

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