Saving Money…Thrift Store Shopping

Life with little ones is all about saving money, right?  Whether it is at the grocery store, a clothing shop, or toy store, we moms want to get as much for our dollar as we possibly can!

Leighann over at Three Hobbits and a Giant shared her ideas on thrift store shopping the other day.  She has some great ideas, so I thought I’d share them here with you.  While you are on her blog, check out some of her recipes!

You can read her post here.

The Pantry Challenge–Rachel’s Story

Last week I posted Stacey’s story to the Pantry Challenge. As you know if you have read her story, Stacey is a busy wife and mom of 3 young children. The Pantry Challenge didn’t really work for her because of having to cook for 4 other people.

My friend Rachel also decided to do the Pantry Challenge.  Rachel is a busy single teacher of middle school students.  Because she doesn’t feed a family, the challenge worked for her.  Here is her story in her own words:

“Usually, I keep track of only the “rough” amount of money I spend on food per month. I buy as needed, grab food on the way home from work a couple nights a week, and end up buying double of something I already have in the freezer if I don’t plan ahead and decide on a whim that I want spaghetti but haven’t thawed ground beef! So, I buy more ground beef when I already have two packages in the freezer. I tend to cook based on whim rather than planning, and I usually cook too much – I’m not good at cooking just one or two portions! And, since I live alone, I often end up with too much leftover food (I can stomach only so many leftovers!), which, at times, I have to throw away after a few days if something can’t be frozen (and I hate frozen leftovers anyway).

I would also end up with too many non-perishable items in my pantry because I’d buy a large quantity of rice/pasta, etc. for one meal (buying in bulk is cheaper) and then have a ton of several items left in my pantry! Instead of using up these items  before buying more, I would often forget what I had in the pantry and end up buying more. So, my pantry, as of January had five boxes of pasta (varying varieties), one 5lb bag of basmati rice, 2 boxes of wholegrain rice, rotel, peanut butter, a Costco-sized box of Fiber One bars, instant oatmeal, instant grits, 2 bags of regular grits, three kinds of flour, two kinds of sugar, a massive bag of milled flax, wheat germ, couscous, cornmeal, gravy mixes, syrup, canned pumpkin, baked beans, three kinds of cereal,sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, coconut, curry sauces, packet sauces, jar sauces, taco seasoning, several oils, vinegars, and a BUNCH of other items! And, I was continuing to buy!! Ridiculous, right??! All this was adding up to a LOT of wasted money and, often, wasted food. I had to stage an intervention.

I decided to try a one-month pantry challenge where I would buy only perishables (veggies, milk, eggs, bread, meat when I’d used all the meat in my freezer). At first, it was really fun and challenging, but since I become easily bored, I got annoyed after a week or two (breaking habits is hard!), but I was determined to press on so my pantry would look a little lighter! I also struggled with making a few meatless meals – I love, love, love meat, but I forgot to thaw meat a few times, so I was forced to make several meatless dinners, which actually turned out well! I also ate breakfast for dinner a few times – such a money saver!

Here are a few of the meals I created using pantry items, perishables, and leftover meat from the freezer:

Veggie stir-fry (using shredded carrot, celery, onion and sauces/rice I already had in the pantry)

Meatless spaghetti pie (had leftover ricotta – didn’t know what to do with it, so made this pie)

Meatless curry with lentils and barley (sauce, lentils, and barley from pantry)

Scrambled eggs&instant grits (had this several times!)

Chicken/dried cranberry salad (I don’t like leftover chicken warmed up, so I decided this would be good for leftover sandwiches and salads as well as a dip for crackers- this lasted several days for lunches and dinner)

Vegetable cream soup (using ingredients from fridge and pantry – I usually put chicken in it, but this worked out cheaper)

French toast (I ate this a LOT!)

Cornbread and blackeyed peas (cornmeal in pantry, peas in freezer)

Chicken and rice casserole

Pasta with olive oil and a little cheese/canned tomatoes

Fried chicken fingers (breaded with crushed cereal and buttermilk to use up some I had in the pantry/fridge) with baked sweet potato wedges

I used packaged/jar sauces with pasta/rice, sometimes with meat, sometimes without Tortillas (I made my own – cheap, easy – don’t know why I didn’t do it before – put cheese or chicken in them)

Lots of homemade muffins/bread using pantry items, some savory, some sweet

Homemade pizza at least once a week using pantry items & spices for crust

For breakfast, I often grabbed a bagel on the way to work because I couldn’t be bothered making anything, but I started taking instant oatmeal with me, heating it up when I got to school. Or, I would take a box of cereal to work and keep milk in the fridge. This saved a good bit of money!

Overall, I saved over $250 this month just by taking the challenge! I saved mostly by not buying meat and not doubling up on buying items I already had.

I will definitely keep up my challenge, although on a smaller scale. I’m looking forward to continuing to save money and challenge myself to use what I already have rather than buying needlessly!”

A very special thank you to both Stacey and Rachel for sharing their stories!

We are almost at the start of a new month! Why not try the Pantry Challenge for your family during March?  See how much money you can save!

Great Ideas for Leftovers

With the cost of feeding our families going ever higher every week, we as moms need to come up with creative ways to use the leftovers that inevitably get put into our refrigerators. I grew up with parents who lived through the Great Depression and learned to never waste anything, especially food!  Their frugal ways were ingrained in my brain, and I have a hard time seeing food go to waste.

 When my kids were younger, we would have leftover meals twice a week…usually Wednesday and Saturday nights.  I would pull out all the leftovers from the fridge and let the kids choose whatever they wanted. 

A friend of mine recently shared this post from Good Housekeeping on great ways to use up leftovers.  Maybe you can give some of these a try with your family!

The Pantry Challenge

This new year of 2013 is going to be all about saving money, right?  If you are like me, and I am sure you are, saving money on that ever-growing grocery bill is a priority.  It seems like the cost of feeding the family goes up weekly as prices seem to increase over night.  Two of my friends are working on saving food dollars by doing the pantry challenge.

Sometimes we do extra shopping because a frequently used item is on sale and we stock up.  Then we end up not using the item and we do end up with extra on our pantry shelves…cans of whatever just sit there forgotten.  The pantry challenge encourages us to cook our meals with whatever we have in the pantry.  This often requires some creativity on the part of the cook!  Obviously, there are items which we purchase weekly…fresh fruits and veggies and dairy products.  But seriously, we all need to take a look at our pantries and see how we can make use of what we have.

While my kids were growing up, I would do leftover meals twice a week, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I pulled out whatever leftovers were in the fridge and let the children fix their own plates.  It worked for us, and it was rare when food spoiled in the fridge.  Well, ok, that did happen sometimes. But I do hate throwing away food!

My friends doing the pantry challenge represent 2 different family types. Stacey is married with 3 young children, and Rachel is a single middle-school teacher who enjoys entertaining guests when she can.  Both of them often have crazy schedules, but they still need to eat! And both of them want to save money this year on their groceries.  These ladies are keeping track of various recipes they create using items they have on hand and seeing how they can lessen their grocery bills each week. 

Rachel has already created a curry dish! Here is what she said: “last night, I wanted a curry – had all the ingredients and spices, but I’d forgotten to thaw chicken. Usually, when that happens, I just go out and buy fresh chicken (money-waster because then I have all this frozen chicken that doesn’t get used for weeks!), but I decided I’d just go vegetarian. I had dried lentils and barley, so I used those instead of chicken. The curry was delicious, and I saved money!”

How are you going to save grocery money this year?