The Great March Pantry Challenge: Week 1 Update

by Melody on March 12, 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 and planning our menu for the first week.

Grocery Shopping

An unintentional bonus from this challenge is that it just kept me out of the stores.  I had to run to Rite Aid a few times to check prices for my match ups, but otherwise I only went to Fred Meyer once for cilantro.  The bulk of our budget last week was spent at Rite Aid on the fantastic Pampers deal (not available anymore), I still spent around $12 out of pocket even though I had $20 in +UPs to spend.   The only other thing we had to spend money on was to refill one of our 5-gallon water bottles (we have a water dispenser in our kitchen) and that costs $1.75.

Total spent for the week: $17.04

Menu Planning

This worked wonders for so many reasons.  I sat down last Sunday, looked at our calendar and planned accordingly based on what we had in our pantry/freezer and what I thought we would have time for.  We had a super busy week (as we will again this week), so having ideas written down already was a huge time-saver and prevented us from wanting to pick something up or go out to eat.

I know so many of you already know how great menu planning is, but I struggle with it.  This was a big week for me.

My husband was home on Monday, so I made a batch of homemade chicken stock with the carcasses of two chickens I roasted last week.  I followed my usual recipe, but threw it in the crock pot instead.  Verdict?  I will do it this way every time from here on out.  So easy and just as delicious.

Since we don’t eat chicken stock for dinner, here is what we had this week plus a TON of re-purposed leftovers:

Chicken Asparagus Black Bean EnchiladasYum.  Much healthier than most cheese/cream-laden recipes.

Chicken Enchilada SoupSwapped taco sauce for enchilada sauce (thanks Facebook friends and your suggestions).  Ate leftovers in tortillas as more of a burrito.

Steaks on the BBQ and Quinoa SaladThe steaks were found buried in the freezer during my inventory (fun surprise!) and the salad was a definite hit with everyone in my family.  Super easy, delicious and healthy.

Ignoring all the “Deals”

Apparently I am hard-wired to replenish my stockpile, regardless of what is left in the budget.  I’m just not doing as much coupon shopping these days, so it’s hard for me to pass up a great price on anything we use all the time in fear that there won’t be another deal for awhile at a store I frequent.

I picked up Tide detergent for a great price at Fred Meyer, even though we don’t really “need” it.  I had to, quite literally, force myself to walk past the clearance bins at Fred Meyer.  Starbucks coffee on clearance for $5?  But I NEED it.  This was hard for me.  While I can’t spend the rest of my life shopping this way as we do need a stockpile, I feel like it’s a good exercise for me this month.  Also another reason why staying out of the stores is a good idea.

Over all, this week turned out great.  We had enough fresh produce, milk and eggs to get us through thanks to a trip to Costco in the previous week.  Instead of doling out milk like it was going out of style, I was a little more selective this week.  My husband and I used almond milk in our cereal (and really enjoyed it) and I cut back on the amount needed in the enchilada soup.  I was definitely more aware of the amount of food we have in the house and how we were going to make it stretch.  While I’m not going to sacrifice important things like milk and eggs, it’s a healthy attitude to be mindful of what and how much we have.

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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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Miss Jay March 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

Great job Melody!!

I have overspent at Costco soooooooo much so far this year. I am trying to figure out if I need to up my budget a bit or make up the difference like you are. Maybe a bit of both.

I completely understand about how hard it is to say no to a great deal . . . you are succeeding much better than I am this month!


Trina March 14, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Great job sticking to your $17 budget for this week! It is amazing how much less you can spend when you’re not shopping (even when you only shop for deals anyway)!

Have you watched the documentary Food Stamped? I got it thru Mid-Columbia library, and it was very interesting. I think you’d appreciate it.


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