The Pantry Challenge

Greenletes / Recipes / The Pantry Challenge

Last updated on February 28th, 2021 at 10:23 am

By Nikki Nies, MS, RD,LD, CDP, Contributing Blogger

In a world where time is precious and valuable, who isn’t looking for more ways to be efficient (especially in the kitchen)? That’s where the Pantry Challenge comes in! This simple test challenges you to ‘shop’ through items already in your pantry, instead of heading to the grocery store. Not only will this simple test de-clutter your pantry and save you money, but it will limit food waste and help with meal planning. What is the challenge exactly?

A challenge to see how many items you can eat from your pantry

The premise of the Pantry Challenge is to use items that have been forgotten in the pantry, and in the process:

  • Learn what not to buy in the future
  • See how well a family can eat from pantry stocked items without additional trips to the store
  • Get creative with different meal options
  • Use items before their expiration dates

[bctt tweet=”Take the pantry challenge to de-clutter your pantry & save money! ” username=”nutritionalanat”]

Here are the rules:

  1. Prior to starting the challenge, estimate how much money you want to save and how long you want to partake in the challenge. I suggest starting with a week.
  2. Do a detailed inventory of what’s in the pantry.
  3. Create a meal plan for the challenge. Use the concept of ‘theme days’ to help plan your menu. The Kitchn talks about the themes, besides Taco Tuesday (e.g. rice night anyone?).
  4. Make a short grocery list of any fresh produce you will need to fill in the gaps. Don’t forget to utilize fresh herbs and items from your home garden.
  5. Get cooking with the pantry’s ingredients!

To get your creative juices flowing, below are some commonly found pantry items and ways to use them!

Bamboo Shoots sesame chicken coconut thai chicken curry; chicken lettuce wraps; Chinese rice soup; chicken dumplings
Baked Beans Bean soup; Mexican pizza; chili bean dip; chili bean quesadillas; enchiladas; nachos
Bread croutons; bread pudding; breadcrumbs; French toast; bruschetta; burgers; crostinis;
Chickpeas Chickpea salad sandwich, roasted chickpeas; Lemony chickpea stir fry; sauteed chickpeas and kale; avocado and chickpea salad; chickpea and spinach spread


Diced Tomatoes tortilla soup; Middle Eastern tomato salad; penne alla vodka; tomato corn salad; tomato and sausage risotto; creamy tomato bisque
Green Chiles Thai green curry; salsa; quesadillas; sirloin tacos; enchiladas; green chile sauce; chicken stew
Honey granola; roasted vegetables; roasted nuts; dressing; dip; yogurt, fruit salads or cottage cheese
Milk, Evaporated French toast; oatmeal; smoothies; beef stroganoff; enchiladas; alfredo; chicken and dumplings; potato salad; vegetable medley; soup; chowder; sauces; panna cotta; cake; fudge; pie; gelato; bread pudding; coffee; tea
Mustard honey mustard dressing; marinade, glaze or rub for meats, potatoes or fish; balsamic vinaigrette; deviled eggs; barbecue sauce; breading; pot pie; stews
Oats fruit crisp/cobbler; granola; overnight oats; oatmeal; oatmeal cookies; oat cakes; muffins; pancakes; waffles; oat cakes; bread; smoothies or milkshakes; breakfast bars; energy balls; meatloaf; sub for rice in soup
Raisins oatmeal raisin muffins or cookies; cinnamon raisin bread, buns or rolls; granola; trail mix; bread pudding; curries
Tomato Paste tomato gravy; ketchup; marinades; pizza sauce; braises; stews; tomato salt; sloppy joes; chili; hummus; dip; lasagna
Tomato Soup parmesan basil tomato soup; chicken tortilla bake; pasta fagioli; chicken with sun dried tomatoes; tomato chicken stir fry; corn chowder with sun dried tomatoes; beef barley stew
Tortilla Chips tortilla soup; chilaquiles; breadcrumb substitute; taco salad; nachos; chili; breakfast scramble
Tuna tuna patties; nicoise or tuna salad; tuna noodle casserole; pasta bake; pizza; avocado boats; salad;wraps; quesadillas; white bean salad
Vinegar, Balsamic baked cheese; dressing; reduction; roasted vegetables; ice cream base; cake
Water Chestnuts sesame chicken; coconut Thai chicken curry; moo goo gai pan; chicken lettuce wraps; Chinese rice soup; chicken dumplings; rumakis




As you can see, the above ingredients can and should be used in multiple dishes! Notice you can use bamboo shoots in the same dish as water chestnuts? WIN-WIN!

Additionally, head over to Pinterest for even more ideas on how to use up those cans! If you’re up for more, expand the challenge to include freezer and fridge foods. What’s the most creative concoction you’ve made with pantry staples? Tweet at us @nutritonalanat and @simpleeatsRD about what you’re cooking up and how you’re utilizing your pantry!

Nikki is a Dallas-based LTC dietitian and freelance writer. When she’s not exploring local trails or coffee shops, you can find her in a hammock trying to beat her latest time at a soduku. Connect with her @SimpleeatsRD.  


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I’m Natalie Rizzo, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian.

My mission is to help everyday athletes fuel their fitness with plants.

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