Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lessons Learned

Earlier this month I mentioned the January Grocery Challenge.  I decided that I was going to spend for the whole month what we typically spend in a week at the store.  In fact, it was actually at the lower end of what we spend in a typical week.

So here we are, at the end of the month.

I have learned a few things.

  • It CAN be done. We obviously couldn't do this every month but once or twice a year, yes, we can.  We have 4 cents left over.  :)
  • I need to pay more attention to what is in our pantry and freezer. As the month wore on, I got more creative in my meals.  The other night I knew I had a package of pork chops and plenty of potatoes. So I did a little Googling and found a recipe that used those two ingredients.  And we had a dinner.  Our fridge is a lot less cluttered.  I got some items out of the freezer. And I used up some of my "stockpile" in the pantry.  I just need to inventory on occasion to see what we have.  Which brings me to my next point...
  • I am the one who makes the menu. I take a LOT of things into consideration when I do that including our plans for the week, time at home, different types of food, different meats.  But I will say that I tend to base most of my decisions on what I am in the mood for.  And that is okay sometimes. I make the menu, I do the shopping, I do the cooking.  There has to be some perk. :)  BUT that being said, sometimes I need to base my menu more on the foods we already have in our house.  Buying a big bag of potatoes is MUCH cheaper then buying a few at a time. But it won't do any good if I just use a few.  So I need to plan more meals (not necessarily back to back) that use those potatoes.
  • I have learned a LOT about food storage including what can be frozen.  I am still learning. I am so thankful to live in the world of Google where I can find what I am looking for with a few clicks. I have always had fresh herbs go bad on me because I can't use them all in a short period of time.  Never occurred to me that I could freeze them.  Or that I could freeze half and half which I need on occasion but not regularly.  I am learning.
  • I have discovered how much I can make "home made" with ingredients on hand. I have found two different sandwich bread recipes that I just LOVE.  Toward the end of the month, I told the kids we would not buy more bread to save up our money.  Instead I made it. At first, they kind of balked.  I think one child said, "I kind of miss store bought bread now that you bake it all of the time..."  But now that they have had a few tastes of the good stuff, they actually get excited when they see a new loaf on the counter.  I am not saying we will never buy bread again, but I plan to make it more than we buy it.  (That also allows me control in what goes into it...)
  • I have learned to prioritize.  I LOVE pistachios.  But they are not cheap.  And my Christmas stash ran out about a week ago.  I eat them daily.  Except not now since I am out.  So I started eating a pistachio blend I had in the pantry.  It is not the same thing.  Good but not the same.  However, it wouldn't be fair for me to spend all of that money instead of buying a gallon of milk for the family. :)
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth.  When we went to Mississippi a couple weeks ago, I came home to find two gallons of milk and some from my parents. If they hadn't done that, I am not sure we would have quite met the challenge.  My poor son has been out of his favorite beverage for about a week now.  He is very grateful to have picked up a few from his grandma this week.  
  • I have learned a LOT about convenience foods.  We have moved away from a lot of packaged meals but there are times we do rely on convenience foods.  One example:  Uncrustables. I am not saying that I will not buy them again. I will.  But I have already told my dear daughter (who eats them like crazy) that I will be buying one or two packages for the month.  Otherwise, she can make her own.  Just today I was reading up on how to make my own chicken nuggets and microwave macaroni and cheese.
  • Simple is best.  We don't need 5 different bags of chips. Maybe 2 or 3 but not 5.  From now on I will have a couple of bags of favorites in the pantry and no more. We waste a lot of food because the kids will ignore one kind of chip while they eat up another.  The ignored chips go stale and get tossed.
  • Substitute with what I have.  The potatoes and pork recipe I just used called for red potatoes. But my potatoes were Yukon gold.  I went with the Yukon gold.  It didn't drastically alter the taste and I used up some food we already had.
  • I need to "prep" food more.  Like use meat bones to make broth.  Or chop up whole onions and freeze them until needed.
  • I need to watch flyers for sales and stock up when I see a much needed item (like chicken).
These are just a few of the lessons I learned from the January Food Challenge.

Though the challenge may be over for now, I plan on using these little lessons to help me with my February Food Challenge...

cutting our regular weekly bill (monthly average) by 25%.


1 comment:

  1. Well, I think you did a great job! Like you, I make the menu based on what I want. I also know we waste a lot of little ones just don't eat much right now. I want to buy less packaged food and more fruits and veggies. It will take some time, I'm sure. --Rhonda


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