Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eat from the Pantry: Looking Back at January 2010

Redemption Unlimited's A. Reports on her "Eat from the Pantry" Experience

When I first read about the Eat from the Pantry Challenge on Crystal Paine's blog, I thought, "Oh, yea, I can do that!" - a little too confidently. Now, at the end of this month, it's turned out to be a much bigger challenge than I initially assessed. We definitely had our hiccups, including the following:
  • On January 2, my husband ordered some K-cup coffee on Amazon for a bargain price (in relative terms) of $15.
  • He also did a trip to Sam's Club for us in the middle of the month, which bought us a few convenience foods (aka frozen lasagnas) and frozen chicken breasts ($13 for a huge bag).
  • I was along on the two trips to Giant, during which I picked up about $30 worth of beef and poultry to freeze since it was on sale.
SO, if we had been following Crystal's general parameters of produce-dairy-eggs-only, and foregone at least the frozen protein and K-cups, we would have spent $211 on groceries in January, or $47.64/week. As it is, our total made it $60.74/week - which is still quite a bit lower for us, considering that we spend about $12/week on organic milk alone around here (one of my routine grocery splurges). If you divide our spending over two adults and a toddler, that's $2.89/person per day.

The net effect? Our kitchen pantry has been pretty well hollowed-out. I still have a lot of cream cheese, brown rice, and Heart-Healthy Bisquick, but I guess that those can be used up in February, too! There's a lot less "convenience" or processed foods left. In general, over the past year or so, I've tried to increasingly buy "whole food" items and staples to build meals from scratch, so this is actually a good thing. (But I'll always have a few frozen pizzas and lasagnas around...)

I'm convinced that - for the sake of the money saved and health, I should sally forth by concentrating my personal couponing/sale-shopping energies more and more on deals involving simple less-processed nonperishables (rice, pasta, etc.) and fridge staples (produce, dairy, etc.) that allow me to assemble healthier meals. I'm also going to focus more on eating what we already have around, now that I've seen how far it can take us!

Though, February 1 will definitely find me buying some decaf coffee... 0:-p

Redemption Unlimited's Mel Reports on Her "Eat from the Pantry" Experience

Like A., I thought I could breeze through the month of January and save 50% on our food budget. I was wrong! Though my pantry is nearly empty, I still had to buy a lot of staple foods - like chicken, for example. After all our Christmas guests departed, I had very little in the freezer because I'd used it up to feed the horde.

Additionally, I was blessed to provide 5 meals for other families in need. I maximized these opportunities by cooking from the pantry as much as possible, but I ended up using a lot of the chicken I bought the first week of January. Which meant I had to buy a second round of chicken halfway through the month.

I did end up saving about $50 on our food budget for the month. Though I'd like to see a much higher number, I feel very convicted with what I learned, as outlined below.
(1) I do not do a good job of checking what we have in the FRIDGE before grocery shopping. I truly am a fridge stockpiler! We don't have a second fridge or freezer, so our fridge is generally pretty full, especially full of condiments and things in the fridge door. Case in point: we had 2 bottles of opened barbecue sauce and 3 bottles of salad dressing in our fridge. We rarely use barbecue sauce, so I purposed to use both of those in January. I finished 1 of the 3 salad dressings. I also realized that I let produce go bad by not planning to use it all up in 2 recipes. I'm good at using it in 1 recipe, but not about finishing it all up. Moving forward, I will purpose to plan 2 ways to use fresh produce.

(2) I need to visually LOOK at what I have in the pantry, fridge and freezer before writing up my meal plan for the week. I assume I know what we have, but I realized that if I don't see it I really don't know what we have "in stock." Easy fix: look in all 3 places on Sunday afternoons before writing up the meal plan.

(3) I need to pack my lunch more. I really like to eat lunch out 1-2 times a week. I usually do this when I have coverage for my toddler and maximize the splurge by using coupons, but this was an easy habit to break. I will purpose to pack my lunch at least 1 of those 2 times per week. To make it exciting, I can pack a soda, sweet treat and/or chips. This will save me $ and calories.

I really look forward to continuing this new trend throughout 2010. I'm hoping and praying for additional savings in other months as I get better at using what we have.
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