Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 new years resolution, pantry, freezer, fridge challenge!!!

so as the new year approached and the christmas and end of the year finances came into play, i started to think "wow! it's time to cut the budget back again and regroup for a new year."
one of my annual christmas/new year traditions is to clean out the whole house and do a big good will donation. i have challenged my kids to this every year also, to teach them how to be giving and what the real meaning of christmas is. so they set to cleaning out toys and i set to the closets and house. while doing this i thought to myself, i clean closets, rooms,and the garage out every year, at least once, sometimes we do a summer clean too. why not my pantry, fridge and freezer. except instead of getting rid of stuff, how about i challenge myself to use and cook with what i have and see how creative i can get. i am not saying there weren't a few items that hit the trash can due to when did i buy this or what was i thinking? the best part of this challenge was the opportunity to cut that family budget while testing myself in the kitchen.

so this is what i decided: i would start by surveying what was there and then, allow myself to buy only what was really needed on a weekly basis. those items were things such as, milk, eggs, fresh fruit and veggies (all though using frozen ones if i had them first) the same for bread and yogurt which i do freeze or keep in the fridge a lot, but usually go through pretty quickly.the same goes for meat purchases, either use what's in the freezer, try a different version of protein such as beans or eggs, or just skip it for the meal. only purchasing if really needed and then looking for a sale or bulk buy to help with the freezer supply. basically what this means on a shopping trip is no visit to the middle isles, and no impulse buys just because something sounds good.
first rule of thumb, don't go hungry or sample hunting, and the two together! a deadly combo. second, avoid taking my kids at all cost. believe it or not, kids can cost us more wasted money in the grocery store than anything else. the treat to keep them happy while you shop, the snack they must have, because all their friends do. the best one, "MOM! I LOVE THESE!!! PLEASE??!!" only to come home and sit on the shelf and end up in the trash because, they taste different or they are not the right ones, code for never mind i'm tired of eating them.
so, as i head into the third week of january, things have been going really well. we have eaten a different meal most of the time, with a few left overs here and there. we've made smoothies with soy milk and frozen fruit, instead of yogurt and fresh fruit and milk. oatmeal from scratch on the stove with their own version of mix in's, like apples/bananas, brown sugar and cinnamon. my kids have been trying new grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and risotto, in sometimes interesting combos other than just a side. we wrapped quinoa, boca crumbles (from the freezer) and feta and broccoli in tortillas for a new version of a burrito. brown rice mixed with chicken tenders (another freezer find) with cheese and tortilla chips for an inventive rice bowl. lunches have been fun too, coming up with ideas other than a sandwich, like yogurt and granola, with dried fruit, or leftovers from a dinner that was a hit. the fact that we have been saving money in the grocery bill department is only one of the rewards. challenging myself and family to think outside the box has been fun and best yet, the opportunity to scale down and maybe learn a better way to shop and eat in the process. then i get to start stocking the pantry all over again, and maybe with some new family staples.

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