So now we are in the home stretch of this challenge! Week 3 of January has come and gone, and I’m planning our final week of January and eating from the pantry. If you’re just tuning in and want the full scoop, check out these posts:
The only wrench in this week so far is the impending snow storm the East is getting this weekend. As I write this early Saturday, we already have a few inches of accumulated snow, with more on the way all weekend long. But I’m not worried. We have plenty of food still stocked in the freezer & pantry, including non-cook items like packaged salmon & tuna, granola bars, and pop-tarts (yeah, I still have a few boxes I bought on sale a while ago hanging out…)
To prepare for the snow storm, we also brought in three extra stacks of fire wood and piled it in a corner of the living room, found three flashlights and made sure there were new batteries, and have lots of water stored away, just in case. When it comes to Mother Nature, you just never know what she’s gonna throw at you.
This week, all I’ve bought at the grocery store includes:
|Half and half||3.98||Apples (3)||1.87|
|Ricotta cheese||3.47||Bananas (9)||0.86|
|Yogurt (8)||3.64||Oranges (2)||1|
I’m just over my $20 limit, which is fine. All told, I’ve gone over each week, but by $3 or less each time. If this were an actual life-or-death financial situation, I would definitely not be buying as much fresh produce, or any at all. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice short-term nutrition until you are in a more stable financial place before you can add back in fresh produce and dairy. But I am lucky enough to have the resources to not worry if I go over my budget by a dollar or two, and am very thankful for that!
This past week’s menu included:
Jan 16 – Butternut squash macaroni & cheese for lunch, Olive Garden for date night dinner
Jan 17 – Black bean turkey burgers & fries, salad
Jan 18 – Chicken cacciatore
Jan 19 – Leftover burgers, asparagus, potatoes
Jan 20 – Burritos
Jan 21 – Stuffed shells, salad
Jan 22 – Leftover buffet
Breakfast was mostly oatmeal (steel cut oats, dried cranberries, cinnamon & water or nut milk) or toast & almond butter, and lunches were almost exclusively leftovers from dinner. One day I went and got lunch from a food truck at work, and one night we used a gift card from Christmas to go to Olive Garden for dinner. Both of those occasions ended up giving us enough leftovers for two more meals as well, so one time eating out = 3 meals total.
Overall, this challenge is not as challenging as I thought it might be, but that is likely because I’ve stocked up so thoroughly before now that I have too much excess. So I guess I’ve learned I need to either calm down on buying when there are deals (sad face) or have these challenges on a more regular basis, where I use up a good portion of pantry items before I buy more.
It is also teaching me to be more creative about leftovers. For example, I had a butternut squash that I had used for decoration for Halloween (yup, they last a looooong time) and also some cracker-sized cheddar cheese slices I’d bought on sale and we never used. Therefore, I naturally decided to make butternut squash mac & cheese. Even using only half the squash made a TON (there is still enough for another serving or two…) and I have half a cooked and mashed squash, to turn into soup, or butternut squash gnocchi this week!
Just looking in the fridge at what odds and ends are still hanging around can give you ideas about what to make that will cost you little to nothing extra for a whole new meal, so this is a big money-saver. And of course, if all else fails, make soup! Now with winter finally roaring to life, there’s nothing quite so warm and comforting as a hot bowl of soup. You can throw just about anything into a pot, add water and spices, and have a meal ready in 20 minutes flat.
Stay tuned for the final week!