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!