I think it's taken me so long to write this post because I've been so overwhelmed by everyone's response to this challenge. It definitely got a lot of you thinking, as it did for me. Many of you are 'old pros' at what I attempted last week, some of you are daily grocery-store shoppers and couldn't imagine not going for a whole week. I get that, too.
I don't think I'll bore you with a week's worth of menu plans and "what we ate" lists. There were some definite highlights of the week, like lunch on Wednesday. When I reached in to the fridge for my leftover chicken from the night before, with big plans of chicken salad swirling around in my head. Only to realize that a certain man of the house had squirreled away all the chicken in his lunch. It even warranted a desperate call to his work, "You took ALL the chicken??!!! What are WE supposed to have for lunch???!!" He was sorry, he didn't realize there was so much in the container. blah. blah. blah. It's amazing how grumpy you can get over a few pieces of chicken when you're making every morsel count.
After I collapsed prostrate on the kitchen floor, weeping over the lost breasts of tender white chicken (not really–they weren't tender… No seriously. I didn't collapse.) I did one of those electricity-wasting moves of standing in front of the open refrigerator door waiting for food enlightenment to ascend on my soul.
And it did. In the form of leftover Orzo–one little box sure makes a lot. Some Ranch dressing–which makes everything edible for my children. And a few pieces of bacon–which makes everything taste good. We rounded off the meal with a can of soup and a few carrots hiding in the vegetable drawer. My children gobbled and proclaimed it their favorite meal, ever. (They tend to get dramatic when they're hungry.)
So, in a nutshell, here is what I learned this week:
* there is a lot of food in my pantry. especially a lot of side dishes–rices, beans, hearty grains. I need to use them in my meals more frequently.
* when you know you can't run to the grocery store as soon as you are out of something, you are more careful with portion sizes and waste. I offered less food at every meal. And carefully saved any bit that was leftover.
* I took more control in my kitchen. No more cupboard-diving by little girls. I tended to control and watch each thing that was eaten–which often led to healthier choices.
* I had plenty of food to get by for the week. Some of this was due to the fact that I had skipped a dinner the week before and had some of the supplies leftover. But I also found a few things buried in my freezer that I didn't know were still in there.
* I did not eat the deer sausage. But I will. For fear of receiving a lashing with a wet noodle from many of you. 🙂
* for me, the hardest part was when I wasn't in the mood to be creative. I have grown accustomed to my planned-out meals and some evenings, I just longed for something easy and planned to throw together. I didn't want to do the mish-mash, make-it-work kind of meal. When I whined about this over the phone to Emily, she reminded me, "Well, technically, you could have opened up your cupboards and freezer and made a plan with what you had at the beginning of the week." Oh yeah. I could have.
All in all, it was a great experience. There were a few low points. A few moments where I was really, really tempted to sneak off to the store. But I didn't. And I don't think my children, who suddenly became the grocery-store police, would have allowed it.
Though I haven't admitted it to my husband yet–who tried to get me to go another week on the challenge–I kind of wonder if I couldn't make this an every-other-week, kind of deal. I wonder if I could do a big shop one week, and the following week get by with a budget of about $50 for the farmers' market, fresh veggies and dairy? Hmmm…something new for me to think about.
If you played along or if you thought about food spending and using what you have this week, will you share your thoughts, observations? I'd love to hear.