Thursday, December 1, 2011

Update: Cleaning out the Pantry

Okay, so the final grocery budget for November is...$522.  That means we went over by about $75 this past month.  In our defense, $20 of that was for Hubby to buy lunch to reward his employees at work one day.  But I'm human (I'm saying "I" and not "we" because I do almost all of the grocery shopping.) And like I said before, that is the hardest category for us to stick within and I will try and do better this month.

Though we blew our budget, I still am feeling pretty proud that I stretched our food to last this final week and didn't go even more over budget.  Living off what we already had in the house was a good reminder of how blessed we are, how much food we really do have in our kitchen on a regular basis, and that we can utilize a lot more of what we have on hand before going shopping.  It also made me reflect upon those families that don't have the option to go grocery shopping every week or two and are forced to go without.  I couldn't bear the thought of my son going hungry.  It makes me very sad and angry that there are people going hungry here in the U.S. and I am inspired to donate more to the food pantry.  I am going to try to eat from our food reserves more often from now on, maybe one week out of every month or two, to remind us that we are incredibly lucky while others are not so fortunate.  Maybe in January we can challenge ourselves to a super low grocery budget, and donate the remainder to the food pantry or to the No Kid Hungry Campaign.  I also have a bag of groceries sitting on my kitchen table as we speak, waiting to go to the food pantry.

Sorry for the off-topic rant.  It just was an eye-opener.

So, what's the plan for December, then?  I have already adjusted my food budget down $50 (to $400) this month to try and make up for last month.  I don't think it's a good idea to go adjusting your food budget from month to month to try and make up for going overbudget, but I think $50 is a realistic goal (just a little over 10% of our budget).  I'm also going to try to do more of those things I mentioned in the last post...prep ahead, make double batches when cooking so I can freeze some meals, and use my slow cooker. And no eating out, except for maybe my birthday.

From now on, I am also going to try and move to a 2 week shopping system, hopefully saving me time, fuel, and money.  The difficult part of this will be making the meal plan for the whole 2 weeks.  One week was no problem, but it will take a while to get the hang of planning and organizing my list for that many meals at once. A long time ago we would try to shop every two weeks, but a lot of our food would spoil before we had a chance to eat it which ended up costing us money.  I will have to front load my recipes utilizing fresh produce so that doesn't happen, or freeze those veggies that start spoiling for creative use later in stocks, soups, or purees.

Anyway, I did my first session of 2 week grocery shopping today.  On average, at Aldi we normally spend about $60-75 for one week of groceries.  I feel like I might have forgotten or under bought because today we only spent $92 for 2 weeks.  Although, I do need to make one trip to a different store for a couple of ingredients, which will likely put us at $100 for the 2 weeks.  But still...$100 for 2 weeks.  Sweet!  Not sure it's sustainable, but I was pretty impressed with myself.  I did plan more meatless meals than usual so that could be the reason for the lower than expected number.

Have you ever considered living off your pantry for a week?  I strongly suggest you give it a try.  You can survive a week, I promise.  I think it will give you a new perspective.

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