The Great March Pantry Challenge: Week 2 Update

by Melody on March 19, 2012

For more information on The Great March Pantry Challenge, read my original post here.  In a nutshell, I blew the grocery budget to smithereens in February.  In an attempt to work through our well-stocked pantry and freezer, I’m trying to make up for it in March with what we have left over.  Per week, this works out to $17.  Seriously.  Per week.

I started off the month by doing a full inventory of our pantry/freezer, splitting up our monthly budget by week and pulling out only the necessary cash for each week.

Grocery Shopping

Again, I just stayed out of the stores as much as possible and tried to ignore the deals.  We made one trip in the beginning of the week to Fred Meyer for milk, eggs and produce.  I rolled some +UP Rewards at Rite Aid and spent a minimal amount out of pocket to pick up some diapers.  I had to pick up fruit for our MOPS meeting at Costco, so snagged a bunch of bananas while I was there (SO cheap) and that was about it.  We would have been fine if our water dispenser had not run dry, so I had to pay $1.75 to fill up one of our 5-gallon water bottles, putting us a little over budget for the week.

Total spent for the week: $19.17

Menu Planning

Seriously.  I’m really hoping I can stick with planning our weekly menus after this month is up.  It has been an amazing time saver, money saver and stress saver.  To plan around the events we have going on during the week has been crucial for saving that crazy “witching hour, what-can-we-possibly-throw-together-for-dinner” craziness.

We had a CRAZY week and weekend, with several events to go to so I planned our goodies and treats around similar ingredients.  I planned on making 3 cups of cooked quinoa to use in a few different recipes, but instead made 3 cups of DRY quinoa which turns into about 172 cups of cooked.  Not only did I use it in the few recipes I had planned, I’ve been eating it for breakfast with almond milk, raisins and cinnamon and for lunch with fresh shaved romano cheese.  Yum.

A few things we made this week:

Honey Sauced Chicken - This was in the freezer from a previous cooking day, crazy good.  My husband, who gets sick of chicken easily, said he could eat this for every meal.

“Favorite” CasseroleWhile I won’t necessarily call this my favorite, it was decent.  My kids and husband however, thought it was possibly the best thing I’ve ever made.  It has 3 ingredients and looks severely unappetizing on the plate, which is apparently what my boys like.

For the various parties/events we went to:

Quinoa Salad - I added avocado this time and oh mercy.  I was the popular girl at the party.

Lofthouse Sugar Cookie BarsDied the frosting green for St. Patrick’s Day.  Double mercy.

Cheesy Quinoa BitesI made them in a full-sized muffin tin and cooked for about 18 minutes.  My husband thought they were so good, he didn’t even drown them in hot sauce.  Trust me, that’s unusual.

Cinnamon Apple Quinoa Parfaits - In a perfect world, these would have actually had the apple compote in them.  However, my youngest son had a rough night and we got a late start to the day, so they were actually just Cinnamon Quinoa Parfaits with oat crumble.  The yogurt was green though, I could bust out a little festivity.

A few miscellaneous thoughts

My original intention was to make my own bread when we ran out last week, but I gave in to the good price on our favorite brand at Fred Meyer.  We have had two crazy weeks and bread started to feel like a giant weight on my shoulders.  We were able to squeeze the money out of our budget to buy a few loaves and save me a LOT of anxiety.

My other goal was to try my hand at making my own tortillas, which I was able to make some time for.  I found a fairly straight forward recipe and was able to make a batch of about 16 whole wheat tortillas over the course of a day.  People have always told me that store bought tortillas can’t hold a candle to homemade, and I can now officially say it is true.  These are amazing.  I used coconut oil, so when they are slightly warmed they have the most amazing flavor.  Not overly coconutty, but just slightly on the sweet spectrum.  They weren’t so much work that I would run to the store next time we were out either, it was pretty manageable.

Ignoring all the “Deals”

It has taken an enormous amount of willpower to walk away from most of the deals available.  There have been some really fantastic prices on things we use all the time, but truthfully can do without.  I forced myself to walk away from clearance racks and turned down a moneymaking deal at Rite Aid because I just didn’t have the cash to spend out of pocket.  While this is not going to build up my stockpile in the long term, it has been a fantastic exercise for me to reign in my impulsive “I NEED that just in case the apocalypse comes and I run short on paper towels” spending.

Over all, this week turned out great.  We had enough fresh produce, milk and eggs to get us through.  Instead of having salad every night like usual, we had frozen green beans and carrot sticks a few nights.  Maybe not quite as exciting, but still healthy and we didn’t have to run to the store.  It has been very interesting to focus solely on what we have in the house to use, versus what I think we “need” from the store.

I’d love to hear how you are doing with your grocery budget this month?  How do you make a thin week’s budget stretch?  If you have any fun menu ideas for me, please share.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Faith March 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your recipes and update on your budget. Meal planning has saved me so much time and headache. I don’t why all young children have a “witching hour” just before dinner time, but it’s so true for my kids as well. Have a meal plan and some of the veggies/ingredients cut, chopped, etc. before hand has been such a time saver!
I cleaned out the freezer this week and found things that I had forgotten about and now have them on the meal plan for this week. It saved me money and the hassle of having to load up the kids to go to the grocery store (to buy something we already had!) I also substituted ingredients and got creative with what I had on hand that needed to be used up before expiring, which allowed us to try some new recipes and keep us from throwing food away.
Thanks for sharing with us! I’m seriously impressed by the $17/week!

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Brandy March 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Have you ever used the site supercook.com? You enter the ingredients you have on hand and it pops up hundreds, or in my case 2,000, recipes you can make without having to run to the store. I used it a lot in the past and just recently started again. Many are not support healthy but most can be adjusted so they aren’t so unhealthy.

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Trina March 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Awesome Brandy, thanks for the site!

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Emilie March 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

You are amazing!

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Nicole March 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Oh I love this! And I love your blog becaue you are normal! Lol not everyone has $300 every week to shop for just whatever they want, so I appreciate this topic and your humbleness. I wish more people were like you!

Kudos to you and thanks for the money saving tips recipes and your strategies.

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Melody March 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Man, sometimes I wish I had that much to spend on what ever I want. But I’m also glad that we’re able to make this work and make it stretch. Some times more is not always better. :) Thanks for the nice comment!

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Shannon March 24, 2012 at 3:38 am

yum. All of these recipes look like they would hit it out of the park in our home. Will definitely have to try the quinoa bites soon. I love your blog because it is fairly local so the deals and stores you talk about are relevant to me :)

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