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Up for a challenge?

up for a little challenge?

Last week, I went to the grocery store and spent almost $200.

I wanted to pass out. I felt sick to my stomach. So much money sucked out of our bank account. Even with my menus carefully planned out, list in-hand, I still spent way more than I anticipated. And it's like that almost every week.

I know groceries are a necessity. It's not like I'm getting my hair highlighted and my nails done. We must have groceries. But still. It is so much money. And despite some great tips, I'm still spending too much.

Driving home from an errand today, I began to think how nice it would be if I could just take one week off from grocery shopping. Right now, I plan my menus on Monday morning and the girls and I head to the groceryafter breakfast and shop for the week. I get just what I need for the week, save for a few staples or pantry re-stocking, and the occasional impulse buy.

But back to my idea about taking a week off….

You know it's not like my cupboards are bare except for the things I'm putting in each week. They are still stocked with rice and beans and cans of soup and pastas and….. There are the odd cuts of meat and frozen breads in my freezer. I have flour. And sugar. And yeast. And butter.

It's just that I often ignore those things in my pantry for what I feel like making that week.

I'm not using what I have.

So here's my challenge for this week. My own mini no-spend challenge. I'm not going to the grocery store next week. (And I'm not going to stock up this weekend either–no cheating.) I'm going to make do with what I have in my cupboards and freezer. I'm going to get creative. I'm going to do my best to put together some meals with what I have on hand. I'm going to save a little money this week.

Sometimes my best meals are the ones created when I think "I have nothing to make for dinner".

So as I head in to next week, here are a few things I'm allowing:

1. I'm allowing myself to buy milk for the week (a necessity for my children), a bag of coffee beans (c'mon, I'm not crazy), and I'm going to refill the propane tank on my grill.
2. If someone invites me to dinner. I'm going to say yes. 🙂
3. I'm going to buy two quarts of strawberries at the farmers' market tomorrow.

Here's what I'm slightly concerned about:

1. I have no fresh greens in my fridge. But I do have frozen varieties.
2. I still think I'd rather go with a meal of rice and beans than break into the deer sausage my grandmother kept passing on to us. Which has been sitting in my freezer since, well….deer season. Yuck.
3. I hope I can make enough to eat for meals, plus leftovers for Dan's lunches.

All next week, I'll let you know what I make each night for dinner. In the midst of my normal posts, I'll keep you updated on how it's going and whether or not I'm making it. Ugh. I'm nervous. But I know it will be fine. I like a little mini-challenge.

Anyone brave enough to join me? And by the way. We have lots of granola.

up for a little challenge?

Last week, I went to the grocery store and spent almost $200.

I wanted to pass out. I felt sick to my stomach. So much money sucked out of our bank account. Even with my menus carefully planned out, list in-hand, I still spent way more than I anticipated. And it's like that almost every week.

I know groceries are a necessity. It's not like I'm getting my hair highlighted and my nails done. We must have groceries. But still. It is so much money. And despite some great tips, I'm still spending too much.

Driving home from an errand today, I began to think how nice it would be if I could just take one week off from grocery shopping. Right now, I plan my menus on Monday morning and the girls and I head to the groceryafter breakfast and shop for the week. I get just what I need for the week, save for a few staples or pantry re-stocking, and the occasional impulse buy.

But back to my idea about taking a week off….

You know it's not like my cupboards are bare except for the things I'm putting in each week. They are still stocked with rice and beans and cans of soup and pastas and….. There are the odd cuts of meat and frozen breads in my freezer. I have flour. And sugar. And yeast. And butter.

It's just that I often ignore those things in my pantry for what I feel like making that week.

I'm not using what I have.

So here's my challenge for this week. My own mini no-spend challenge. I'm not going to the grocery store next week. (And I'm not going to stock up this weekend either–no cheating.) I'm going to make do with what I have in my cupboards and freezer. I'm going to get creative. I'm going to do my best to put together some meals with what I have on hand. I'm going to save a little money this week.

Sometimes my best meals are the ones created when I think "I have nothing to make for dinner".

So as I head in to next week, here are a few things I'm allowing:

1. I'm allowing myself to buy milk for the week (a necessity for my children), a bag of coffee beans (c'mon, I'm not crazy), and I'm going to refill the propane tank on my grill.
2. If someone invites me to dinner. I'm going to say yes. 🙂
3. I'm going to buy two quarts of strawberries at the farmers' market tomorrow.

Here's what I'm slightly concerned about:

1. I have no fresh greens in my fridge. But I do have frozen varieties.
2. I still think I'd rather go with a meal of rice and beans than break into the deer sausage my grandmother kept passing on to us. Which has been sitting in my freezer since, well….deer season. Yuck.
3. I hope I can make enough to eat for meals, plus leftovers for Dan's lunches.

All next week, I'll let you know what I make each night for dinner. In the midst of my normal posts, I'll keep you updated on how it's going and whether or not I'm making it. Ugh. I'm nervous. But I know it will be fine. I like a little mini-challenge.

Anyone brave enough to join me? And by the way. We have lots of granola.

111 comments on “Up for a challenge?”

  1. I am! And it tells me this was posted 8 hrs ago.PS we are a family of 5, and I spend around 150 EUROS (!!!) a week for groceries, even though we eat simply and we have a veg garden. Fortunately, someone invited us for dinner tomorrow:)

  2. I want your deer sausage! I love deer sausage! And that deer had a good life.

    We do $150 CDN a week but it’s only for 2 adults & 1 kid.

    I try to buy everything organic, as much local as possible. We’ll be stocking the freezer with local meat this fall.

    I try to only plan meat for max. 3 nights a week. Other nights we do eggs (a lot! perfect for you!), tofu & beans as protein.

    I bake my own bread & make granola to cut back on costs. But it’s still all a bundle. I’m super excited to see what you cook this week!

  3. Ok, I’m in! I have a stocked fridge though, so I feel a little like I’m already cheating. Oh and I have lots of greens in the garden already, so that’s feels a little unfair too. Thanks for the reminder that I CAN do this!:)

  4. This usually happens to me at the end of the month. The food budget is gone and there is still a week left. What about using the sausage in a hash with potatoes or rice? My kids always eat that.

  5. Yikes! I can do that for a night or two, but a whole week!Tuna melts? I always have tuna and cheese and you probably have the ingredients to make the bread if you run out.I am also astounded by how much I spend sometimes at the grocery store, but I usually (thankfully) find that if I spend a ton one week I have enough stuff left that I spend much less the next week. It’s always for a reason, too, like ending up needing dog food, lots TP, and something else big all on the same week.

  6. This is such a good idea. We buy our meats in bulk from Costco and supplement with the grocery and Farmer’s Market, and I am horrified by what we spend. Part of it is the trade off for buying generally better food than we were a could of years ago, but still, yikes!

    I’ll be following you with interest.

  7. This is why I hate going to the grocery store. It’s always a pit in my stomach. I’m trying to cut back as use what we have as well, but I don’t think we’d make it a full week around here. Good luck though! I am so curious to see what you come up with.

  8. I regularly spend $170 per week at the grocery store. I laugh whenever I see the bloggers who use coupons to get their groceries for next to nothing. There is not a retailer in my area who doubles coupons let alone triples like I see these people getting. It will be interesting to see how it goes for you.

    BTW – your blog isn’t showing up in google reader for days on end and then 4 posts will show up all at once. This one isn’t there yet.

  9. They did this earlier this year on eGullet I think. I didn’t officially participate but I did go without shopping for 2 weeks. It’s amzing what you can find socked away in your pantry and freezer! (Esp. when you are in the food biz.) Good luck-you’ll do fine, I’m sure!

  10. Put the deer sausage in eggs, or in casserole. Or in pasta with parmesan, chicken stock, and spinach. Or give it to someone who needs/wants it; there’s no use in wasting it.

    And this is how I live all the time. You’ll love the time freed up from being at the the grocery store!

  11. Yay you! I’m in. I guess from tomorrow until next Saturday. My eating habits have tanked since work got stressful two months ago, and I keep buying/eating junk instead of what’s in my cupboards. Which means I’ll be eating soup. Everyday. Everyday. Woah.

    ps. it doesn’t sound like it, but I’m really really grateful that I can do this. I know too many people whose cupboards are truly bare, or who have no cupboards at all 🙁

  12. This is a great idea. Sometimes I try to do this once a week, but a whole week would be even better. We’re really trying to cut back on our food budget, too.

  13. Good luck, Molly! I know you’ll pull some amazing meals out of your pantry & freezer. No problem.I’m off to pick up my weekly CSA bag. You have no fresh greens, I still have half of last weeks + a whole new bag for this week. I wish I could bring you over a pound of spinach. 🙂

  14. I’m here from Google Reader!

    I’ve been thinking about doing just this very thing. I guess there’s no time like the present to give it a go. 🙂

  15. I am such a storecupboard pack rat – we could probably last a month!! But we’d all have scurvy.

    Sometimes I go for a few days allowing myself to buy food, but not from the supermarket – only the farm stall and the bakery. It’s all those additional extras that I toss in the trolley that cripple me.

  16. Oh my goodness! I just made my own batch of granola today!

    I love the idea of an “every other week” grocery schedule! I am pretty thrifty when it comes to grocery shopping but with 7 of us it is still a hefty bill at the end of the month.

    I’ll look forward to your posts on your mini no-spending challenge!

  17. I’m so in. We had a very rainy Memorial Day weekend and I did a full-on kitchen scrubdown. I could NOT BELIEVE the amazing stuff we had in the freezer! So this week I’ll buy milk (we get it delivered), and that’s it. Handily we’re going out of town on the 9th, so it’ll be nice to come home to a (hopefully) cleaned out pantry and freezer!Can’t wait to hear how you do 🙂

  18. Hi Molly, I’ve been off the blogging radar for a while. But I’m still around.I just wanted to say that our family has gone through our ups and downs in the budgeting arena and I have come to one conclusion. The place to make savings is not in the family food allowance.

    You should get the things you like to eat/ are good for you. These are not things that you should compromise on. I’m not saying that families should be wasteful. Everything should be used each week or each fortnight depending on how you shop. But a dollar or two saved here or there for going without something that is enjoyable to eat and good for you is not going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

    If you want to save money in your household budget attack the big things like contracts, utilities, insurance etc. Make deals, negotiate and get yourself some big savings each month. Swap companies if you don’t get the reductions you are looking for.

    Remember, food is expensive and you are not going to be able to feed your family of five for the same amount of money that you spent 5 years ago for example.

    I still think your challenge is great and it is good to use things up. Just make sure that once you finish this challenge that it becomes a regular habit to use things up. The night before our weekly shop we have usually eaten up all the fresh stuff, so I do have to make use of what is in the pantry and we have some very slap dash meals, but if we eat one meal a week like that, then so much better for getting value out of what we have.

    By the way, I can recommend an excellent book on managing household income which is so different and such a better way to look at things. It is called All Your Worth by mother and daughter duo Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi.

    I hope I’m not being too preachy but reading that book made me breath a whole lot easier and meant that I didn’t sacrifice the simple, wonderful things in life. Like good food.

    Best of luck with your challenge. It really does get you to be very creative.

  19. Oh I will definitely be following your week. I swear that I go to the supermarket EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I think it’s partly because I have to run there last thing at night or in the middle of a busy afternoon and I’m in a total daze and I always forget something!!!! I think this month was worse because I didn’t do my big costco shop and I’m so used to having tins of tomato or granola bars down in the basement. We have a family of 6-2 teenage boys, one husband training for a 100mile bike race and 2 others who under 10 who eat like there’s no tomorrow. I wish I had a freezer…then I could make up bulk meals and divide them up and freeze them. I usually make dinner with whatever we have-but I’m continually supplementing the basic: vegetables, fruit, bread and milk and cold cuts for sandwiches (I make 5 packed lunches each morning). I need to get back into baking more. The kids come home ravenous for afterschool snacks before going off to sport. (It’s their 4th daily meal). But I’ve highjacked your topic again-you just come up with such good ones!!!

  20. We are a vegetarian family so I think that helps some with cost.We were shopping about every week (family of five) and spending too much, it is crazy and I always felt like “what did I just buy” there was not a huge show of food for our spending. We adopted the eat what is in the fridge/cabinets too, your right it does seem to bring on creativity in meal planning. We have eaten more interesting meals this way and it is *amazing* how much food really is in the house, so much more than I ever would have realized.Yup. rice and beans alot over here too… ; )Good luck with this, there is always something to balance huh?!

  21. I like the idea of staying out of the grocery store–I went on Monday, spent way too much (it was the salmon that did it), and was back today buying things for a Sunday birthday party. I felt sick to my stomach at bill time…I do have a stockpile of rice and pasta, and a decent amount of meat in the freezer, but I feel weird about not having fresh greens. Come on, summer! It’ll be so nice when I can pick the broccoli from the back yard!

    I’m glad you made exceptions for the necessities (around here, that’s milk, coffee, and half-and-half). I think I’d like to take this one on! And to add to the fun, I have no menus planned beyond Sunday night, so I’ll really be flying by the seat of my pants.

  22. I’ve done this a lot lately, mostly because I’m pregnant and lazy (and because going to the grocery store with a 2 and 3 year old is just not fun). Pasta is my best friend. Carbonara and Puttenesca are usually whip up-able. And I have discovered some parts of my freezer I didn’t know were there. And now I can fill it up with summertime goodness.

  23. oooh I’m definitely in. I’ve been so lazy about this, but my cupboards could really use a cleaning out. Do you have cheese on hand? Homemade pizza is a staple around here and maybe you could put your sausage on that.

  24. I’ve been thinking about doing this lately as well. My cupboards & freezer are well stocked, yet I keep buying. I can’t join you next week, its coupon day for the month at my local grocery, but I’ll take you up on it the next week.

  25. Hey, I’ll take your venison sausage (you can turn it into meatloaf w/ tom. paste, herbs/veggies, oats, and an egg or two)!!I only go to the grocery store every few weeks- but we did get a CSA bag all winter and when I go (besides milk/bread runs), I restock the pantry. Fully stocked freezer, too.BUT- we somehow don’t seem to eat a lot. N is on a lean-eating phase, I have no sweet tooth, G eats cereal in the mornings (I make him buy it so I don’t see the receipts) and supper, and I pick at leftovers at lunch- not a breakfast gal. I know a lot of people who are committed to eating down their pantry and freezer, but my thing with that is that I’d hate HATE to restock it all at once.

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

  26. We’ve been doing this for a while, seeing how little we can buy between food pantry days (2x a month). It’s been a little nerve-wracking eating down our stash of food, but we’ve also been using up all the food that’s been sitting around pretty much since we got married (over 3 years ago!) and I really didn’t want to be lugging food along when we move in a couple months. It’s a good exercise for the future too, so I can really get used to using cheap staples and just supplementing with the inexpensive in-season goodies with the occasional splurge.

  27. Molly-We only have a family of 3, but have recently switched to a method like you are trying. One big shop at the beginning of the month for cupboard and freezer items and then we use our weekly delivery of fruit and veg from a local farm (the UK equivalent of a CSA). It forces me to be MUCH more creative and we rarely eat the same thing every week.

    What about scavenging for greens? I am sure the library has some resources on which “weeds” are edible. We have been doing a lot of this recently…much to the shock and horror of the other villagers, but oh well, gives people something to talk about.

    Good luck!

  28. You can come over and get some fresh greens from my garden! I have arugula, romaine, curly green and butter lettuces. Make your own spring mix!

    You can have lunch with us while you are at it. I have roasted pepper hummous and babe ganouj from Wegman’s with homemade pita chips and tabbuleh. Email me if you want to set up a day…..

    we are strawberry picking at Brad’s on Monday as well…

  29. you go girl!i don’t know if i could do this for a week. maybe a few days at most. i am horrible shopper although i have cut down on my daily trips to the store and now go twice a week. the other issue is that i am really bad about frozen foods. we NEVER eat them and it must be an aversion on my part. if i don’t see it, i forget i have it and i am not in the habit of checking the freezer. i hope to get better about that. i think that should be my goal for now.

  30. We do this at least one week out of every month out of sheer desperation. It works and is very rewarding when everyone likes what has been made. 🙂 (Can you tell I live with picky family members?)

  31. baby steps, erin. baby steps.

    You know, I really miss my “fridge on top, freezer on the bottom” refrigerator, which we left in the wisconsin house when we moved. I think it makes it so much easier to keep track of what’s in my fridge. And I could look down into the freezer and see what was there. I often find little fresh “gems” go bad because I forget they are jammed down in the drawer of my fridge. Is it wrong to pray for your fridge to die (and your washer/dryer, too?) Yes. probably. 🙂

  32. I’ve done that, but not necessarily from choice. It works to clear out some of your food that’s been sitting there for a while. But eventually, you have to replace that too! Good luck! You can do this, and you’ll find it easier than you though. Sometimes, most times, we need less than we think. If nothing else, this will certainly shift your thinking. Best of luck!!

  33. We just did this last week! Egg salad sandwiches and tuna sandwiches were the highlights. Glad we had a lot of mayo…

  34. We did this about a week and a half ago, so I’m not sure if I’m ready for another week of it. ;)I found I had too much accumulating in my deep freeze, and I want to de-frost it.I ended up allowing myself a little bit more to spend to get through the week…milk, cream, eggs, yogurt, lettuce, tomatoes and 2 or 3 fruits. That alone cost close to $40, which is much better than my ‘wish I could spend $130 for 4 people, but usually spend near $200’ every week grocery shopping.

    i was laid off from my job this week also. And although I am thrilled to have more time with my boys, and for myself frankly, i am looking for more economical visits to the grocery store.

  35. Good luck. I’m not sure I could make it a week, at least not with food my hubby would want. I know it’s hard to switch up your routine but it really is cheaper to shop on Thursday when they have all the sales. I also try to buy lots of chicken when it’s on sale and just cook 2 meals from it, either the same meal with one frozen or a different meal later in the week. I also seem to save money shopping for 2 weeks instead of one. I’m off to see what’s in the pantry.

  36. Good Luck!!! I am trying to shop less & less. I was sick with a virus a couple weeks ago & just didn’t have the energy after my afternoons at work to grocery shop so we made lots of meals out of what was “lying around.” We ended up with breakfast for dinner a few nights which the kids loved, I seem to always have eggs & bread for french toast or omelets. Can’t wait to see how creative you get!!

  37. I used to shop weekly, but I was spending way too much money. So I started planning 2 week menus instead, and I reduced my shopping to one trip a month to the bulk warehouse store and one trip to the grocery. Now, I kind of know how much I need for that long and I can shop without the plan, and always have enough food on hand. It’s reduced our grocery bill by $400 a month to just not go as often.

  38. I have been trying to do better with our groceries too. We like to have fresh eggs and home made bread for dinner sometimes. It is a good quick dinner. We recently made pesto from garlic mustard pulled from our field. I even froze five jars. We are looking forward to some garden bounty soon.

    I usually have to go to the store for milk. We go through a gallon a day!

    I have started making yogurt. It is much easier than I thought it would be and saves a good bit of money. It also cuts down on our trash!

  39. I like to do this every now and then, too. I think it’s a good way to make sure that the stockpile gets rotated. It helps prevent food waste. You should definitely figure out at least one good way to use the venison sausage this week! I like to try to challenge myself to find creative ways to use up foods that don’t sound very appetizing during weeks like this.

    Our CSA is about to start, which is a great time for me to do this since I’ll get fresh veggies to round out the pantry staples with no shopping.

  40. We do this at least once a month. I find it actually cuts down on stress! We plan more than a week’s worth of meals (and allow for a variety of meals made from leftovers- grilled chicken one night and chicken salad the next). I LOVE shopping once a week…but spend too much. If we shop 3 times a month (aside from a milk run), we spend less, use what we’ve got, and have fun creating new meals. Then again, we only have one child (2 1/2 years old). Not sure how well it will work with more!

  41. I could not do it, because I live off of fresh veggies and fruit. That is what always costs me so much. I could go without meat for a week, but not the produce. Good Luck. I cannot wait to see what you make. It can be done, because I do it often throughout the week. I too plan my meals, but I don’t go shopping on the same day every week. I try to go as long as I can on what I have, and then when I need to shop I do. The other thing that has saved me money is to buy on a daily basis, as I did in when living in Germany. Instead of hitting the big grocery stores, where you buy canned or boxed goods, go to the farmers market and butcher. That usually saves a pretty penny. I wish they would have coupons for tomatoes and zuccini instead of all the junk that we don’t need.

  42. We shop every other week, and unless we run out of milkand my dd really wants it, we don’t stop off for a few things, we make do. If I get any complaints, I simply remind my family how lucky we are to have pasta “again” or whatever…I’d try those sausages with eggs, cheese and salsa in a tortilla (McD’s makes a similar sandwich)yum!

  43. We have had to become much more aware of our food budget since I’m staying home and no longer earning an income (which means less money in and the money that is in goes farther, a component most of us don’t think about when someone decides to stay home).We get a fruit/veg CSA weekly and a meat CSA monthly so we’ve been supplementing those with random trips to the market. I went yesterday and it was odd, odd, odd to primarily pick up staples (pasta, rice, cans of tomatoes, yogurt) and not stuff the basket with vegetables. We recommitted to both CSAs and have wasted very little. It helps that our chickens get veg scraps and we get their eggs. But, I turn every carcass into stock if I can and we’re getting better about leftovers.The no-spend goals are great. There is good community support for no-spenders at my husband’s site: wesabe.com.Small tricks, by the way, spinach frozen is usually more economical than fresh per pound and for most recipes just as good. Same with peas. I love me some fresh peas, but frozen veggies shouldn’t be wholly written off.

  44. Hi, Molly – great idea! I’m actually doing the same thing for a different reason. We’re packing to move in 2 weeks, and I am hoping buy no more food except some fruit and vegs for that time. I plan on making a LOT of bread, bean tacos, and granola.

    Here’s one recipe you might try if you have the ingredients. My kids love this! It’s a pumpkin polenta. Heat 1 small can of pumpkin plus 2 can-fulls of milk; mix in 1 1/2 t ground ginger and 1 t salt. Mix 1 c cornmeal with 1/2 c water in a bowl. When the milk/pumpkin mixture is hot but not boiling, whisk in the moist cornmeal. Stir constantly until it thickens, just a few minutes. You can add some raisins, brown sugar, or maple syrup, or just eat it plain.

    It’s a bit more of a fall dish, but then, that’s why I still have that stuff hanging around in my pantry! I hope you enjoy it. Good luck with your experiment!

  45. it’s popping in to the store every few days for fresh veggies and fruit that drives me nuts. then i see a sale item or two, and all too soon i’ve “re-stocked” my cupboards. but i have noticed since gas prices went crazy last year, i am not running out nearly as much. i guess i got creative with what i had!

    maybe you can barder the sausage for apples when in season or something like that.good luck.

  46. I do this occasionally, too! But then, ultimately spend more the following week to try to restock! 🙂 Oh well – a family must eat! We often times do breakfast for dinner (or lunch) and the kids love it! Sometimes eggs and sausage/bacon or even choc chip banana pancakes for fun. It’s easy, inexpensive, and a easy crowd pleaser. Good luck on your challenge. I look forward to seeing what you can do and being inspired! 🙂

  47. I’m so with you… even being frugal, I definitely notice a large increase in grocery prices… I can no longer stop at the store for a few things(milk, yogurt and some staples) and only spend $40… now I’m spending between $70-$80.

    We do love venison sausage though, in fact, it’s one of my last minute go to meals. The kids especially love it when I pair it with pancakes and fruit for dinner…

    At least twice in the last 2 months, we have had “use what we have” weeks… and it should start to be easier now because we are starting to get greens and things out of the garden and easier still when the summer fruits start to come in…

  48. LOL Well, I would be happy to only pay $200 a week for groceries, but I have a family of 9 (soon to be 10)so that is not a possibility. I have big eaters too. Dh does most of the grocery shopping, so I am not really sure exactly how much is spent, but I do know it is well over $1000 a month. I do try to do meatless meals a couple of times a week, and usually make enough of one meal to have left overs the next day. This always seems to stretch everything, and I have a day off from cooking a big meal. A couple of our favorite cheap easy meals are bean burritos and tuna sandwiches. I just cut up some cucumbers and bell peppers to go with them. Today dh is pot roasting two huge rump roasts, I will make 10 pounds of *smashed* pototoes (as my 5 year old likes to call them lol), green bean casserole and homemade sweet rolls. We try to have a really good meal like this every week. Also, there will be enough food for tomorrow as well.

  49. I’ve been doing this for @ 4 months now :)You can do it!

    I shop every other week.I buy the basics + try to stay away from processed food. You’ll be amazed at how much that saves!

    We have milk delivered every Monday morning, and I do pop into the store to pick up broccoli or salad, but other than that, I have been pretty successful in my shopping every other week.

    It took me awhile, but I have become much more creative in my cooking. I’ve been tracking my spending and we have significantly cut out about $150 a month. Plus, I have finally discovered which stores have the best prices for certain things and so I divvy up my shopping that way.

    I finally feel like a smart shopper 🙂

  50. I read this post a couple days ago and didn’t comment be/c I was thinking about it. And I was thinking of ways I could cut back and be more thoughtful in what we cook and also use more of our dry beans etc. And I think I’m up for the challenge with you this week. What days are you doing this exactly? So the last time you went to the store was last Monday? So you’re doing two weeks on one store trip?

  51. Such a great idea Molly! I too feel that there has to be a better way of maximizing my food budget. Between our CSA box, the farmer’s market, Costco, and the regular grocery store, we spend too much. I know we spend our money on quality products but it still makes my stomach turn over when we spend more than $100 a week.

  52. I know what you mean. My weekly grocery bill is usually around $200 for our family of 5. I’m paying a lot more attention to it lately and finding a few good ways to cut back. Pork shoulder in the slow-cooker makes great BBQ sandwiches. And another recent hit was a chick-pea salad with oil and vinegar dressing, olives, and fresh herbs.

    Fortunately, our garden is starting to have a few things now. Collards, onions, and lettuce so far.

  53. I did this last summer and we had a better variety and more well-balanced meals than we had the winter before. Granted, I was not working for the summer and our uncle kept us supplied with fresh vegies from his garden, so I had time to look, plan and execute delicious meals with enough leftover for hubbie’s lunch the next day.

  54. This will be a piece of cake. You’ll be surprised what you can do with odds and ends. Just take a tally of what you have and put it into one of the recipe places online.

  55. I kind of love it when we move or go on vacation or something where we’re forced to clean out the fridge and use what’s in the freezer. It’s tough but it’s nice to start fresh. We eat a lot of brinner those weeks (breakfast for dinner) because it seems like I always have lots of eggs and ingredients for making waffles with frozen fruit on top and such. Plus we all like brinner around here. Good luck to you! Deer sausage. Hm. Does it tasted like normal sausage? Can it go on a pizza? In a frittata or strata? (See how I have a one-track mind? “Hey, eggs and breakfast foods, you should give that a try!”)

  56. I think I could get some dinner on the table from what I have in the house, but it is the school lunches that would be hard. I am in such a rut with lunch box food anyway at this point. But – on the other hand I bet if I had to meet this challenge I might come up with a whole other menu of foods for the lunchbox. I think I would do more baking, and more cooking from scratch (even though I do a fair amount already).

  57. I’ve never intentionally done this challenge but there have always been weeks with no money for groceries, we are usually surprised to find that those are the weeks with some of the best meals. Coconut milk curried shrimp with green beans (all from the freezer and a can). This leads us to always adding one bulk item to our cart when shopping. I saw a few people mention how pasta would drive them crazy after a few meals. We try to mix it up with various grains. If A doesn’t want the main dish he’ll eat the grain like a pasta with some sauce (we always have a pot going).

    Yogurt and milk would definitely be the stumbling blocks around here

  58. I can’t believe you are doing this, this is my personal challenge this week too. We are having a party in a few weeks and I just don’t know how we will fund it. So, I decided to go on strike from grocery’s this week. Tonight is chicken and beans. The beans are dry of course, that’s why they were sitting in the pantry. So, I need to go soak them right now. Tomorrow I’m thinking tuna sandwiches or pasta. Wow, that’s two more. This may be easier than I thought.BTW, what is your granola recipe?

  59. Great idea! I normally try to only go to the store once a week and that really helps.I went last Sunday and have went since, but we went to my FIL’s for the weekend so that is kind of cheating. I am pretty good at whipping up casseroles using frozen veggies, a can of soup, some cheese and rice or noodles. I think I am going to try to only go to the store 3 times a month and see if that works(I know it will help my budget). By the way what is your granola reciepe?? If you don’t mind sharing, I would love it.

  60. i have thought about doing this so often, but i’m a cook-by-the-book/recipe type person, not really a creative make-it-up-as-i-go type chef. so i worry about what the heck i will do in the kitchen without a (gulp!) plan…and i am always so desperately jealous of people who are so successful at this.

    so i would be willing to take the challenge. we DO have plenty of cereal… 🙂

  61. that homemade muesli looks awesome!

    interesting idea you have here, and one that I find inspirational for other areas of my life

    a trick we use to keep the grocery budget down is to extend-a-day [people usually do their grocery shop on a certain day, simply extend that out one day each week, and after a few weeks, you’ve saved a whole week of grocery bills]

  62. I do this often, but that’s because I typically stock up. So I could say I’ll join you, but I just bought a couple bags of chicken breasts and I just went to Costco. So it wouldn’t be much of a challege for me!

  63. yes, great idea.the hard part will be vegetables and fruit. I don’t eat meat and so veggies are often the base of every meal. I tend to buy fresh veggies every few days.

  64. I am up for the challenge but must confess that I have an ulterior motive: we are moving so it’s the most perfect time to eat out of cupboards.

  65. Oh, good luck… we have to do this sometimes at the end of the month… we call it eating from the larder, we generally allow bread and milk purchases too. It is the fresh veg that you miss though… we tend to eat lots of veg chilli and daals.

    I look forward to seeing how you get on.

    x

  66. This is a good idea and something that I need to do too. We just got back from vacation and are low on everything. I might give this a try in a week or two. I think it might just be the way to convince my husband that we can eat more than one vegetarian meal a week!

  67. Love this challenge. I hate going to the grocery store. It’s usually a milk or produce run that gets me out of the pantry and then things spiral from there. Too late for me this week, but I’m on next week.

  68. yes we cut back on our bill too! It takes a little bit of planning but we manage. We do rice and beans one night, I really try to make use of my left overs!

  69. I know the feeling at the grocery store. It’s hard for me to imagine how the simple things I buy for the week can add up to so much. On the one hand it is comforting for me to hear how much someone else spends on groceries. But I have that pit in my stomach a lot, No matter how disciplined I am at the store.

    Good for you for trying this challenge. We have this kind of “challenge” forced on us more often than I would like, and we always come out fine. We might have to do without some of our normal food, and have more sandwiches for dinner, but we have never gone hungry. The kids might grumble about having leftover bean soup, but honestly they don’t realize how lucky they are.

  70. I tried to do $25.00 a week to use up what we had in our cupboards and we found it hard (+ there are only 2 of us). The budget was to mainly allow for fresh fruit + veggies and milk. We do not eat a lot of meat, but do like to have lots of varieties of cheese on hand. We have managed the $25.00 some weeks, but then decided $50.00 was more realistic.

    Also some of that budget goes to lots of cook-ahead + freeze soups, muffins, scones, etc. I do like baking homemade bread, but I do let my bread machine take over some weeks to get some stocked up and into the freezer.

    I do find we tend to stock up on pasta, different rices and grains….now to start cooking through the stocked up items. I need to make way in the freezer for the fresh fruits and veggies of the summer.

    It’s always interesting to hear what others are doing.

  71. So glad I found this. I have been doing this for a few weeks, mostly because other “surprises” and tuition took away our grocery funds. We used to budget $100 – $150 a week on groceries, we have been down to $40 – 60 a week now.

    I have only been buying soymilk, milk, fresh fruit, veggies and eggs.

    With mostly pantry stuff I’ve made:

    ** lentil/mushroom burgers with defrosted buns from the freezer

    ** brocoli soup (broccoli was fresh)

    ** bannock. (delicious and we always have tons of flour/baking powder about).

    **rice salad – good for lunches all week

    ** vegetarian chili – lots of time to soak up the beans, use of canned tomatoes and the lb of texturized veggie protein hanging out in the pantry

    ** honeybee snacks (from vegan lunchbox)

  72. I’m sorry I missed this challenge. I’ve been so absent from my blog and visiting others’ blogs because I’ve been in the throws of couponing…stockpiling (a bit) to actually spend less in the long run.

  73. I love this idea! I think of it often, too use up old items that we ignore for the faster, ready-to-eat items. Best of luck to you. I look forward to your creations!

  74. Just an FYI — it’s *Venison*, not *deer* sausage. Unless you are planning on putting cow patties in your hamburger buns, too.

  75. haha! I’ll have to remember that joke–though most people eat steers, not cows. A cow is a heifer after she’s given birth to her first calf. my grandfather is a 3rd generation farmer who raises beef, and he always gets upset when people call it hamburger–it’s not ham. it’s beef. beef burgers. For the record the white paper wrapped around my sausage says “deer sausage”. But yes, it is venison, as well. 🙂

  76. after Hurricane Gustav last year, I thanked God that we had the outside freezer packed with 200 pounds of ice. Then I refused to buy ANY meats until after I used up everything in it. I had to get VERY creative…but I am so glad I did it. It taught me to buy differently and I save money along the way. (I also don’t stock up the outside freezer during hurricane season!)

  77. I have found allrecipes.com to be a LIFESAVER in such circumstances. Perhaps you know this already…you can search using the ingredients you have and/or want to use and voila! recipes that take the guesswork out of it. There are even 29 recipes that use ground venison. :0) Good luck!

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