Grocery Challenge Finale

September 29, 2017

I survived the month of pantry eating and limited grocery spending!  Pretty pleased with the results, I have to say.  At the very least, we really did clear everything out before buying anything, which was my original goal.  Did you work on your pantry this month?

Things I Learned

  • John was much more receptive to the challenge in general than I thought he would be.  I figured he didn't pay much attention since he would keep stopping at the store and buying things on a whim, but when I suggested this plan, he immediately said 'yeah we need a cleanse, we have way too much around here and I keep buying and wasting stupid shit.'  He was much more aware of the kitchen contents than I thought!
  • We don't like pantry items.  We need to stop buying them.  John likes chips so that's one thing, but I don't know how we got canned vegetables and soups in there, because neither of us like them.  I also need to be better about using up the things I do buy, like oats and breadcrumbs, because I use such a small portion for a recipe and then forget I have it.
  • Marinades and such have an expiration date.  It may be a long one, but they still expire and John can't be opening 12 bottles of sauces at once.
  • We're more creative and willing to eat random stuff than I thought!  Once you force us to.
  • We don't spend much on groceries as it is, so $100 was way too generous.  I barely touched it.  Next challenge I'll only make is like $20!

What We Ate

For the record, we technically started this challenge on Monday, August 28, so that's why Labor Day is in week 2 and not week 1.  It was just easier to track and a good time to start for us.
  • Week 1: A lot of food consumed at home this week!  John's Daley day fell on a Wednesday, which means that he was at home Monday through Friday, and that rarely happens.  Breakfast was easy enough because I already had the ingredients to make the crock pot casserole for John, so that was enough breakfast for the week for him.  Dinners were straightforward usuals, since we didn't have to get ingredient creative yet and had everything on hand: grilled burgers (veggie burgers for me) with corn, asparagus, and fries; pasta with my dad's homemade sauce, meatballs for John, and garlic bread; hard shell tacos with ground beef for John and refried pinto beans for me, plus the toppings; Korean beef with sides (I just eat the rice, veggies, and edamame); and baked potatoes, to which John added some barbecue chicken he made a lunch time.  John's lunches included leftover pasta, baked chicken breasts he marinated in barbecue sauce and lemon juice, some frozen salmon filets he had in the freezer, and a frozen pizza.  Plus he snacked on stuff from the pantry, pretzels and chips and such.
    For myself I made my usual, coffee (I had enough coffee at home to last all month, didn't need to buy any yet), overnight oats with almond milk and my Vega protein powder.  In fact, I was able to use the same oats and protein powder the entire month, and only had to go buy a container of almond milk, which I got at Aldi for $2.50.  I usually try to eat some fruit with this, but I wasn't in the mood.  In later weeks, I ate a little of whatever John's fruits were.  For my lunches, I used up what I had on hand to make burrito bowls - quinoa and rice mixed, beans, sautéed onions and peppers that were leftover from John's breakfast casserole, and salsa that was left from our taco night.  The only thing I bought to add were avocados, which were 2 for $3 which is a rip off but I really wanted them.
  • Week 2: I watched my parents's dogs while they were on vacation, which helped with my personal grocery budget because my mom leaves food for me at their house when they're gone. That combined with a Labor Day party at John's uncle's house where food was provided, and a dinner out with my parents for my Dad's birthday the day they got back into town, I had 5 full days of not worrying about any meals.  Boy was that nice!  For the 6th day (Saturday the 9th), I had canned soup and toast for lunch and leftovers from the dinner with my parents for dinner.  Sunday we were taken care of with John's dad bringing food over for the first Bears game of the year - he said he'd bring stuff if John bough Sunday Ticket on our DirecTV, which he did.
    Meanwhile John ate whatever he wanted at home, concentrating on clearing out the freezer which had a massive amount of prepared meals - pierogis, beef and broccoli, orange chicken, and frozen pizzas, plus I know he made the frozen fries and onion rings that were in there.  He also found a frozen steak he had forgotten about, so he made that for himself one night with a potato and frozen veggies.  Looking at this list, I'm amazed how much we managed to stuff into the freezer.  He also had two days at the firehouse, where all meals are provided, so that helped.    He did have to get some breakfast food for himself, so he got eggs ($1), fruit ($4), and Greek yogurt (2 big containers for $5).
  • Week 3: A little trickier this week!  John pulled some frozen fruits from the depths of the freezer to mix with his Greek yogurt from last week and the rest of his eggs for his breakfasts.  He switched shifts with someone so he had 3 days at work this week, which meant very little eating at home.  John's dad, brother, and a family friend came for football on Sunday and brought the food, John supplied the games and the beer, which we still have leftover from his birthday party in July.  So there were only 3 other days we needed lunch and dinner for him for.  He still had stuff to grill, hot dogs and burgers, so he did that one day with canned corn and canned green beans, and made mashed potatoes.  Yeah, we're still working through our potato stash!  I shared the mashed potatoes but I didn't have any veggie burgers left, so I made canned vegetable soup that I added canned cannelloni beans to for added protein.  We also still had oyster crackers in the pantry, which are my favorite.  For the other day, I made Mexican rice with some canned tomato sauce we had in the pantry and had that with beans and fajita veggies (from my lunches I mention in a minute.)  John ate his with ground turkey he pulled from the freezer.  On Thursday he ended up going to his brother's new apartment to watch football and they ordered pizza, but I'm not counting that in my budget because that was John's fun spending money and he split it with Eric anyway.  For John's lunches, he made a box of mac and cheese one day from the pantry, had football Sunday leftovers another (ribs), and leftover pizza another.
  • For my lunches, I went with burrito bowls again.   My favorite.  We had more quinoa and rice and beans, so it just made sense, plus I still had salsa my dad had made.  I decided to get some onions and green peppers to mix with this, which cost me $2.  I skipped the avocados this time because I'm cheap, but I did pick up a bag of baby carrots for a snack for $1.  On the days John wasn't home for dinner, I just picked at whatever was around that I felt like eating, to get as much out of the kitchen as possible.  I made pancakes even one night to use up the rest of the box of mix!  I also had soups, crackers, frozen broccoli, cornbread, pretty much anything.
  • Week 4:  The home stretch!  Unfortunately, John only worked at the firehouse one day this week, since he had switched that shift, so he had to eat at home more.  Obviously Sunday was taken care of because of the usual football drill, and Friday's dinner was too, because John coaches football for his grade school and they had a Friday night game.  John's mom got food and made sure we all ate to soak up the beer.  For his lunches John picked up chicken ($4) so he could finish off all the marinades in the fridge, and he finished off his last frozen pizza that was in there.  For breakfast he got strawberries on sale for $1 to have with his Greek yogurt and some grapes ($1) and eggs ($1).  I had to buy ingredients for my lunches, which were Greek salads - I already had beans for it, but I needed cucumber, tomato, red onion, and spinach ($4).  For dinners, we did chicken dumpling soup one night since we had the dumpling mix and the broth, and John bought the chicken anyway.  We added carrots and celery ($1.50).  I also ate this the night John was working (minus any chicken of course!)  One day John had these mini frozen pre-prepped burgers that were leftover from a party with a baked potato and canned veggies, while I just had the baked potato and topped it with leftover spinach from my lunch (plus salt and butter and garlic.)  Another day we just prepped a ton of random stuff still left - canned baked beans that John cooked hot dogs to add to, a box of mac and cheese, corn bread, it was super random.  And on the last day we had pasta with the leftover meatballs we froze after week 1, sauce from my dad, and garlic bread ($1 for the bread).
Total Spent - $31.00

Resources That Were Helpful

  • Budget Bytes.  My favorite resource for cheap recipes!  She really knows how to save money, and her recipes turn out great every time.
  • Savor+Savvy.  She also has a ton of cheap recipes, and her site has a lot geared toward meal prep and freezer cooking, which is how I like to cook as well.  She's also done these sort of limited spending, kitchen clean out challenges, so she had a lot of useful info on that.

I'm glad I did the challenge this month, we ended up clearing out our stocks which allowed me to deep clean everything, and nothing went to waste except a really old open bottle of barbecue sauce that neither of us knew was in the fridge.

Did you do any sort of grocery related challenge?  Have any super cheap recipes to share?  Link up your post here:


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