The Great March Pantry Challenge: Week 4 Update + Final Wrap-Up

by Melody on April 2, 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

I only did one decent sized shopping trip this week and that was to Fred Meyer.  For everything in the picture above including a gallon of organic milk, I spent just $13.93.  (I love Fred Meyer and would move in to their produce department if they let me).  Using a Neosporin mail-in rebate, I converted some of my Rite Aid +UP Rewards into cash and bought a product we’ve been really wanting to try for my son’s dry skin.

My very last purchase for the month was to pick up a bag of marshmallows for some treats we were making, which put me over budget by $.01.

Total spent for the week: $14.25
Total spent for the month: $129.80

Menu Planning

Since I had gone through and taken inventory of our pantry/freezer, we were able to have some creative and yummy dishes and use up a few freezer meals on busy days.  Just writing down what we had was helpful, as I tend to forget about things in the freezer if I don’t pay attention.

Honey Sauced ChickenI made this in our last Freezer Cooking Day and it is crazy good.  We ate it over rice the first night, but after that, I ate it with salads for lunch.  The sauce is delicious and you barely need any salad dressing.  I have one more bag in the freezer that I might pull out just for my lunches this week.

Maple Mustard Glazed Pork ChopsThis recipe is actually for chicken, but since we’d been eating so much chicken I used pork chops instead.  Out of this world.  My kids were done before my husband and I even sat down to eat and my husband wouldn’t stop raving.  Make sure to use a good quality maple syrup, not pancake syrup.

Pumpkin EnchiladasThis was another dish from the freezer and also crazy delicious.  I promise they don’t taste like pumpkin, they just taste like amazing-ness and you should probably make them if you haven’t already from the one million times I’ve told you about them.

Chocolate Chip Quinoa MuffinsMy kids wolfed these down.  I swapped raisins for the chocolate chips, to make them more suitable for breakfast.  If I had to complain, they definitely do smell like quinoa.  They don’t taste like it, but the smell is there, which kind of turned me off in a muffin.  Next time, I would add some cinnamon to help balance that out.  But otherwise, these are great and super healthy.

Apple Puff PancakeThis recipe is from the Farm Chicks In the Kitchen cookbook (Amazon).  I’ve made it twice now and my family eats the whole thing in one sitting.  It takes just minutes to put together, perfect for a Sunday morning breakfast that you forgot to prepare for.  My kids think the puffiness is pretty fantastic.

Final Wrap-Up and Thoughts

I’m honestly shocked that we made it.  I often think about everything in my life that I have little to no willpower, but I have come to surprise myself.  I thought there was no possible way I could give up sugar, caffeine, dairy, fat and carbs for 10 days.  But I did it and did it well.  I thought there was no way I could stay away from “The Greatest Deal in the World” or “I’ve Never Seen That Item That Cheap Before and Must Stock-Up” pull.

What I have learned from this challenge is that I need to be much more intentional and methodical about our weekly/monthly grocery budget.  I’m going to do my best to stick with weekly menu planning, as it has really proven to save us a lot of time and stress.  Especially now that we are going to be heading into spring with farmer’s markets, our garden and our local CSA, I’m going to be overflowing with produce.  Without having a tentative plan, it’s very easy to let things go to waste.  Which I hate.

I’m also going to continue to break up the monthly budget into weekly amounts.  The first day my husband got paid to kick off the month of April, I headed to Costco to restock our pantry and freezer.  I spent about $100, so for the rest of the month, I’m going to take the remainder of our budget and allocate it into a weekly amount.  Hopefully this will help keep me on track.  I honestly never blow the budget on anything crazy.  I always shop from a list, but little purchases here and there add up.  I found when I was doing a lot more coupon shopping, I knew exactly what I would be spending.  This isn’t the case when buying mostly fresh items, so I need to be more careful about weighing everything.  I do want to go in to the store with an exact dollar amount in mind, just so I know what to stay around.

Even though I have been a frugal shopper and/or coupon shopper for several years now, I realized I had a lot to learn about myself and my shopping habits.  I’m excited to see how I can keep this up in the future.

I’d love to hear what you thought of this series?  Have you found it helpful to see how someone else manages their budget week to week?

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