I read about a Pantry Challenge a while ago. Parts of it sounded intriguing; I liked the idea of using up some of the random things that have been on the shelves for a while, or that we have just way too much of, or that tend to go bad before we use them. There was a great sale on canned tuna a while back, so now we have a lot of tuna in the pantry. I recently had to throw away a box of beer bread mix from a specialty store because it expired before I got around to using it. I never seem to use up more than half of a carton of sour cream before it goes bad. I liked the idea of maybe addressing issues like these. Part of it sounded kind of annoying, though; I don’t always have the time to get super creative when it comes to meal planning. Hubby’s work schedule is weird (to put it nicely) and some days there’s a very limited window of time to get dinner ready between when I get home from work and when he has to leave for work. It doesn’t leave much wiggle worm for extreme creativity or made from scratch everything. And we like food. A lot. Neither one of us are terribly happy when dinner isn’t great.
One of the perks of the Pantry Challenge is that in theory you’re able to save up the money that you normally spend on groceries, or use it for another purpose. I definitely liked the sound of that. The bills, even with insurance, from my medical issues earlier this year are insane. We also had some septic tank issues last month, so that was a big hit to the savings account. It could definitely stand an infusion.
I haven’t been very diligent about keeping the grocery spending as low as I can. We’ve switched to organic milk and organic beef. Because I’m trying to avoid soy now we’re pretty limited as to which brands we can buy of a lot of different things. I’ve found myself justifying a higher grocery bill because we’re trying to eat healthier and buying more organic foods. But I need to be more conscientious of checking to see which stores offer the best deals on organic milk and beef and trimming the cost of other grocery items to help balance it out. In an effort to do this we’ve allotted $200.00 for groceries this month. It works out to about $44.45 per week when you factor in the half week at the beginning of the month, with about $22.20 for the short week.
We’ve also slipped into the habit of eating out quite a bit more than we should. It started slowly, but has built into a pretty bad habit. It’s kind of shifted from “hey our favorite Mexican place sounds great for Friday night” to something along the lines of “I’m tired/had a bad day at work/don’t feel like cooking/didn’t defrost anything/it’s just easier/ we won’t have to clean up the kitchen”, which leads to eating out a lot more than we should. It’s bad for the budget, and has brought the weight loss to a halt. Fortunately we haven’t gained, but restaurant portions aren’t the way to keep that from happening.
The eating out thing is a little tricky, because as I said before, we like food. We like trying new foods, and going new places. We don’t have much time off together, so we tend to eat out when we do as something that we both enjoy doing to spend time together. We talked about it and decided that saying we’re not eating out this month is just setting ourselves up for failure, so we’ve imposed a limit. We’re allowing ourselves three times of eating out together this month, and we each get one time of eating out on our own with friends or co-workers. If we both don’t use our own option by the end of the month we’ll allow ourselves the fourth time together.
We’re hoping that we’ll save some money this way, start losing weight again, use up some of the things that we have too much of right now, and eliminate a lot of food waste by actually using the bottles of salad dressing, bunches of herbs, cartons of sour cream, leftovers, and everything else that ends up languishing in the back of the refrigerator. I’m also hoping to come up with some new recipes this way; some of the best recipes are born of desperation, so I’m hoping for some good ones.
One of my other objections to the Pantry Challenge was the daily blogging of what you eat. Daily blogging doesn’t seem to happen for me lately. And I think that kind of daily blogging makes for very boring reading! Maybe, maybe if you’re someone like Kate Middleton the world cares what you eat for breakfast on Tuesday, otherwise I don’t think so. So, I plan to only post recipes or quick meal ideas, or how to make something cheaply. I hope that will keep it interesting.
Basically this all comes down to our very own Save Up & Clear Out Project; $200.00 for groceries this month and limiting eating out to four times this month to save up some money, using up things we have on hand to clear out the pantry and freezer, and sharing recipes and time savers we utilize to do this. I’d also love to read about any of your quick go-to meal ideas.