Thrifty Tip #14: Take the Eat From the Pantry Challenge!
A few months ago, I was reading the Money Saving Mom blog, and she challenged her readers to clean out their pantries and freezers and just grocery shop for the basic necessities of dairy, produce, and few other items for an entire month. The two main goals were to reduce grocery expenses and to donate the money to a charity. While I was too late to participate in the charity, I was able to help our family with some unexpected medical expenses by using what would have been our grocery money.
One on the contributing bloggers gave some suggestions of what you might learn from doing this challenge. The titles in bold and quotes are her ideas and below are written glimpses of my experience.
Why, oh why must I have four bags of brown rice in the cupboard and no spaghetti noodles? I am so thankful for the internet when it comes to finding recipes for the random things I found in my cupboard! I tried not to use up my handy staple items right away, so many days I was googling two random ingredients to come up with a new menu item! It was fun to try out new dishes and experience new flavors!
"Look at all the opportunities we have to buy food and utilize discounts, coupons, and rewards. It's easy to take that for granted. When was the last time your family gave thanks for having a local grocery store, fresh produce, and the funds to pick up a treat or two?"
We are so blessed! As I pulled meat out of my freezer and food out of my pantry, I was constantly reminded that we often eat even nicer than we would expect. I remember when we were first married and finishing our senior year of college, we manged to live on $20 a month for groceries. Meat was such a luxury! We would often split one small frozen chicken breast and savor every bite! It was good to be reminded of the blessings God has provided even through having a freezer full of clearanced Target meat and cupboards full of items that had amazing coupon deals attached! God has and is taking care of our family in big and small ways! What a great reminder to give Him the glory for all we have!
One of my downfalls is being suckered into buying something just because it's on a greally great clearance. I've taken a few risks and figured out ways to use those obscure spices I thought I really needed... Again, google can make any ingredient in the kitchen seem useful!
One of my biggest hesitations in participating in the Pantry Challenge was the need to have meals ready to go for people at church. I was afraid that I wouldn't have the things on hand that I needed in order to be able to deliver a nice hot meal. Right off the bat, I set aside ingredients for two meals so I would be ready when a meal was needed. This worked out well because one of the meals was something that is not particularly a favorite of Cody's. Since I love him so much, I refrain from serving the mushiness that I call comfort food. When that meal was needed, I found it fun to make an old favorite recipe but be able to share it with friends.
*I never want to participate in any challenge or program if it takes away my desire to be generous! Nothing we have is our own...I think it's a slap in the face of God to hoard our things when others are in need...this is a lesson I'm learning and applying!
When I jumped on board with the Pantry Challenge, I honestly had a selfish twinge that I would just hoard the grocery money and treat myself to a pedicure or something relaxing. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Two weeks into this, our family came down with strep throat. It's stinkin' expensive to be sick! The money that I had saved from not buying groceries was exactly the right amount for a round of medicine and an office co-pay. Sometimes the purpose I would want to give money is not the practical purpose! I painted my own toes...all is well!
I know of other families that have taken this challenge and saved the money for family vacation or a home improvement project. Determining a purpose for the money saved is a great motivator!
What I discovered
"When I found myself thinking of eating out or running to the store for 'just one little thing' I would immediately challenge myself to recreate the meal at home. And on the days when I was busy and pressed for time, a bowl of soup and peanut butter with jelly sandwich worked just fine."
I discovered that I became a little more creative and a little more simple with the meals during this challenge. When I wanted to really use up some crazy things in my cupboard, I would search and search for a new recipe. Other days, we enjoyed the simpleness of breakfast for supper!
I also discovered that I enjoyed not always feeling pressed to find the sales, read the ads, organize the coupons, make the list, get to the stores...at least for awhile! February was a great month to be able to stay home and not have to take the boys out in the cold to the grocery store. I also enjoyed not carrying grocery bags and feeling like my hands were going to freeze off!
Lastly, I really did discover a new attitude of gratefulness for all that God has given us! I realize it is a huge blessing to have so much that we can eat from our pantry for a month! We still have plenty of brown rice on hand...better start googling...nine days until payday!