5 Lessons Learned:
1. It is not humanly possible for me to feed my family for $25 a week unless I resort to cooking ramen noodles and off-brand macaroni and cheese for dinner. With my Pantry Challenge budget, I could barely keep us in milk and produce. $50 a week would’ve been more doable–and still challenging.
2. Left to my own devices with an empty refrigerator and nothing good to eat, I will bake up some kind of delicious homemade bread, cake, muffin, or cookie and eat way, way too much of it.
3. There are little luxuries I need to feel healthy every day, like a good whole-grain cereal, fresh fruit, and pre-washed salad greens. Without these anchors in my day, my eating gets derailed and I feel gross.
4. Extended meal planning is my new best friend. At the beginning of the month, I made a list of 28 possible dinners using the items we already had. As the weeks went by, I checked off meals we’d eaten and mapped out the next week. This was something I’d never done, but extremely helpful–and hopefully it will help prevent me from overbuying in the future.
5. We can get by on less. I’ve been packing a water bottle in Henry’s lunchbox instead of a 100% juice box or a pricey Horizon milk box. He hasn’t complained about it yet, so I plan to continue. He doesn’t need the juice and drinks plenty of (less expensive) milk at home. Also, we don’t need five different boxes of cereal in circulation at one time. And if I don’t buy chips for Joel, he’ll eventually eat those 3-month-old pretzels no one else will touch.
And now, the numbers:
- My goal was to spend $100 for the month of February.
- I ended up spending nearly twice that amount: $198.95.
- Compared to what we usually spend on food every month, it was still a success. In the past four months, I averaged $634 a month at the grocery store–so we saved an impressive $435. (And in January, we somehow spent an obscene $850 on food, which is what prompted me to embark on this experiment when I did.)
If this Pantry Challenge inspired you to cut costs or clean out your cupboards, please share in the Comments section!