Wisdom from my Pantry Challenge

This is a little overdue but I would still like to share with you what I learned over the months of December and January...

So, I did the pantry challenge for both December and January and overall did not really save that much money. Can it really still be a pantry challenge? I think so. I did make a real effort to eat foods that were hanging around our house too long. I think I realized what we do and do not eat and I've started to get my couponing and kitchen more organized. Here is some things I have learned through my journey.

Only buy the foods you know you like. Seems like a no brainer? I have a habit to purchase foods that I think I might like that I find a great deal on and think I'll probably use this... and then never cook them. Now I am throwing them out which is KILLING me but teaching me a lesson. My new mantra only buy the new food if you have a recipe and you put in the next week's menu plan. If you cannot do that then don't buy it. Sounds simple but has been a lightbulb moment for me.

Some convenience foods are ok to purchase and some we can live without. I have learned that there are some foods I could easily make from scratch like pancake mix but with Mr. C being the primary waffle maker it's so much easier for me to grab the box in the morning before I head out. However bread, which most people would say is much more involved, I primary make in my bread machine. Bread in the bread machine is SO easy and the benefits of doing it homemade by far outweight the extra time. Really admitting to myself what I have time to make from scratch and prioritizing what I do and do not want to mess with has been a huge burden off of me.

Having a set list of meals to build off my meal plan is a great way to save me stress and money. I don't really want to eat the same thing all the time BUT having a list of meals we rotate about a month...now eating something once a month isn't really all that often and saves me stress of coming up with new meal ideas constantly.

I also like the idea of the monthly meal plan just as a general idea board of what we are going to eat AND THEN being flexible if I find a great sale or coupon on something I know we like.

Having your significant other on board with the plan. I can honestly say this is the most successful pantry challenge I ever did. I think a huge part of that was Mr. C being on board. There were days where he would say "Pantry Challenge." In that I think we did as well as we did because we did it together.

When meal planning look at my panty FIRST before looking at the sales flyers. Sometimes I only need 1 or 2 ingredients to make a meal instead of building a whole meal from the ads. This does save money because 1 ingredient will always cost less than a whole meal, even a really cheap one. I had the habit, I think with a lot of other couponers to be enticed to "stocking up" on something that I am already well stocked on. Build from the pantry first and then buy from the sales ad.

Do you see an overarching theme here? Meal planning! I think there is a learning curve to it but honestly I think our family would be (food wise) lost without it.

Finally, in our lives it's ok to step back from couponing and saving money for more important things. I started my challenge in December so I could concentrate on my time with my family. I continued in January to hope to get control of our food clutter in our house. I think it's important to put priority on things other than essentially money at times to make sure that it's not becoming a false idol.

That's it. There is wisdom from my pantry challenge...

I am linking up my post to Frugal Friday over at Life as Mom. Hopefully others can learn from my experience of couponing not to save the biggest percentage but to make it fit for me!


Reading through the alphabet: (M) Money Saving Mom's Budget

As I am reading through the alphabet  I am following Booking it over at Life as Mom. Booking it is an online book club that each month we link up a selected read. This month was the Money Saving Mom's Budget. 

I think only Crystal Paine, the Money Saving Mom could make budgeting inspirational and exciting. I have been reading her blog regularly for a couple of years now. When I saw she had a book coming out I said to myself "I should read that."

But THEN I saw she is donating all of her profits to Compassion International and I thought. I'm going to preorder that book instead of waiting for it from the library. 

I did enjoy the book and found it was easy read. Yup, an easy read on budgeting. She really is a great writer. Who can make such a dry subject of budgeting interesting?

I though I would know most of what was in her book because I do religiously read her blog and usually do pretty good with finding deals/coupons but I did learn some things. 

Some things I did love:

"Saving money is going to take time and hard work. If living beneath your means or saving sixty-five percent on your grocery bills were effortless, everyone would be doing it."

"Contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances."

Things I am implementing. Shopping every 2 weeks. I have already failed implementing this from the get go but I'm going to try it for at least 3 months and see how it goes.

Things I already do: Coupon, meal plan around the sales ads/what we have on stock, we never spend more than we have, we have small savings accounts set up for non-monthly expenses.

I coupon by the whole insert technique. I do miss the occasional amazing deal but it takes WAY less time and time is precious when you are a full time working mom with an infant.

Things I want to implement: Creating a realistic budget. We have one but we don't greatly stick to it. Decluttering. The time budget.

Things I don't think would work for me: Envelope system & Garage sales. I fear I would blow the money in the envelope system and fall back on the credit card. Since we live so far out I'm not convinced that we would bring in much money from a garage sale. I'm not 100% I might not try it this year but I'm on the fence.

Why I like this book: Makes budgeting interesting. Is there a drier topic? All the proceeds go to Compassion International. 

If you have considered wanting to budget but feel overwhelmed this book combined with a couple of the coupon blogs are a great place to start.

I haven't finished either yet but will report back when I do. 

My first thoughts about The Happiness project are it's a good read but she basically did CBT on herself to boost her mood. 

The vegetable gardening book is SO dry but I am learning a lot and it is very helpful with setting up my garden (and it was free!)

Menu Plan

Last week I spent $90 between Publix and a fabulous deal I found on real maple syrup on amazon.

I know it's a lot of money BUT

I did save 60% AND.

In my reading the Money Saving Mom's budget one of the ways she says to save money is to shop for 2 weeks. You will do much better with spending in one week and planning ahead. I thought this is something I could implement easily and actually might give me more free time. Also, it breaks down to about $45 a week, which is a savings of $15 a week compared to the $60 I have been averaging.

I was super pumped.

I then saw the BOGOs for this week and now I'm going to the grocery store. Sorry I just can't stay away when there are things I have been holding out on to go on sale, like dog food, diapers, cake mixes, Morningstar Farms. So, I will be running to publix and will be shopping for this and NEXT week. I'll try this again. Anyway here's my menu plan for the week. Everything but the steak I did purchase ahead of time, so I am sort of sticking to my goal of every 2 week shopping...

Saturday: Broccoli Cheese Cassarole & Breaded Chicken or Fish
Sunday Lunch: Papa John's Free Pizza!
Monday: Valentine's Day Meal. Steak. Yup, Mr. C it says STEAK
Crockpot: Potato Soup
Kyle Cooks: La Choy Teriyaki Chicken with asian veggie medley, chick'n
bridget's breakfast: peanut butter baked oatmeal