Monday, February 1, 2016

Join Me For a Pantry Challenge and Saving Money!

Have you heard of the pantry challenge?  If not, please go to goodcheapeats.com asap.  Jessica Fisher, the author of this ingenious website, has come up with the pantry challenge, which she and her very large family participate in several times a year.  It started out of necessity several years ago, and now has become something she does every once in a while to clean up her freezer and pantry, and to of course, save money!

I'm gearing up for something like this myself, and my start date is Feb 1st.  I've always wanted to do one, and I've always wanted to blog about it, but there's a huge fear of being held accountable.  Yes, I said it.  I do not want to let my readers down, or worse, be judged, or much worse, fail! 

I do however want to save money, lower my grocery bill, and use up things that we already have.  I currently spend about $600/month on groceries.  I live with my hubby and daughter full time, and my step-daughter is with us every other weekend and occasionally during the week depending on her mother's schedule.  Both girls are teenagers, both are very active, and both have big appetites.  Hubby is an enthusiastic carnivore who often asks 'where's the meat??' if (god-forbid) he's served a vegetarian dinner.

We eat a lot of meat, veggies, and carbs (for them - I stay away from carbs).  I love to cook (as you know) and we get bored very easily with repetitive meals.  I generally shop the 50% off meat at my local grocery store, and throw it in the freezer.  Last week I scored a huge pork shoulder for $1.49/lb.  This week it was .99/lb!!  I should have waited.  Oh well.

So for February I'm going to ease into this without too many rules.  I want to use what I have, I want to shop smarter, and I'd like to come in under $500 for the month's grocery bill.  If that works out, I'd like to try for $400 in March.  As the warmer months come, it should be easier to reduce the bill thanks to our epic Farmer's Market...but lets see how long I last on this, shall we? 

Just a note - I'm not going to include non-food items that I purchase at the grocery store, like toothpaste, bathroom tissue, paper towel, etc.

If you'd like to join me in this challenge, I suggest you check out a few more amazing websites to prepare; budgetbytes.com and onehundreddollarsamonth.com are both incredible sites to help get you started on your own money saving journey.  Along with Good Cheap Eats, these sites offer simple recipes, DYI projects, and so many money saving tips.  They have completely inspired and motivated me, and now it's time to do something about it!

To prepare myself for my start date, I have taken stock of everything I have in both my kitchen freezer and deep freezer, as well as all 3 of my pantries.  I have one pantry in the kitchen that mainly holds seasoning, flour, current cookies and cereal being eaten, etc, and I have 2 in the basement that hold the overflow.

I have browsed endlessly on Pinterest planning meals that can be made with my stock pile, and will continue to do so throughout the challenge.  I'm not sure that "challenge" is an appropriate word since I'd like this to be a new way of life for me and my family, but the word adds some competitiveness and fun to the situation so I'll keep it.

There are some things I already do to save money.  I used to be very big into couponing, but just don't have the time for it anymore.  I still take advantage of an amazing app on my phone to price match though.  If you don't have flipp, I suggest you download it now.  Trust me.  I also wash out my Ziploc bags (both freezer and sandwich) as long as there wasn't any raw meat in them.  And as I mentioned above, most of my meat (and cheese, and bread, and anything else I can find) has a beautiful pink 50% off sticker on the packaging.

With the rising cost of food, I think a challenge like this will help reign in the spending and make me more conscious of what I am spending my money on.  I have always used budgetsimple.com to keep me on track, so it will be nice to see the grocery fund go down in number, and I'll be using the savings to put towards our debt.

I'll still post recipes throughout the week, like always, but I'll also post a weekly recap showing you what we ate for the week, and what I spent just so you can see how I'm doing (and so that I can remain accountable. The horror).  My hope is to give you some ideas on how to save money, perhaps inspire you to do the same, and of course to fatten my wallet.  Wish me luck...we'll be in touch!