The no groceries challenge was an interesting experiment that taught me a few things:
Firstly, that it wasn't as hard as I had anticipated! Having a chest freezers full of meat, canning shelves full of canned food and wheat berries enough to last until 2020 (slight exxageration, people.) really makes things easy. We wouldn't actually STARVE for a long time! But boy did I really miss our weekly binges on bananas and daily binges on milk and....my much coveted food- cheese.
A key factor in stretching a grocery budget (or an empty cupboard) is to make things from scratch. It is no surprise that when you stock up on staple ingredients- you can stretch your cupboards far more than when you stock up on convenience foods. A bag of flour, for example, costs about as much as a loaf of bread but you can get a whole lot more bread out of a bag of flour than just one loaf. A bag of rice costs pennies more than a box of Rice A Roni and will feed your family a much longer time. Same with dried beans versus canned, bags of sugar instead of premade sweets, etc.
I was very pleased that (besides sugar) I had many staple ingredients on hand to work with and I know that stretching four weeks (unexpectedly) before another grocery day wouldn't have gone so smoothly had I not had basic, necessary staples.
A second thing I learned was that I had been buying more convenience foods than I ever thought I was. As you could see from our daily menus, our family has a snack time in the afternoon and I would often buy things like crackers, pretzels, and the occasional bag of cookies for them. Not having access to these quick snacks, I had to be creative and start from scratch. I liked it. But it also required more forethought. Making homemade usually does. I am going to try to limit the overpriced store snacks and be more intentional about making things in the future, especially at snacktime.
Another valuable change I noticed was that since moving I had become lazy at bread baking, opting instead to buy whole wheat sandwich bread from the store. Being forced to start making it again was just the impetus I needed to make the switch back to homebaked bread. They are healthier; they are fresher; they TASTE better; they are cheaper. And, by golly, I already HAVE the wheat. But our family goes through a phenomenal amount of bread each week which leaves me having occasional flour-induced meltdowns having sandwiches everyday, so I have decided I need to begin offering a more varied lunchtime meal and save the sandwich eating for just a few times a week.
Of course, the sandwiches lend some ease as we use paper plates at lunchtime making it a virtually dish-free meal! It sure would be nice to get a dishwasher before I have the dishes of three prepared meals a day to contend with. (BIG hint there, Mattie.)
A few ideas I have come up with for a sandwich-free lunch is:
- pasta salad
- rice and bean salad with corn
- tuna, egg, ham, or chicken salads on a bed of lettuce
- summer sausage and cheese crackers
- wheat berry salad
I would love any suggestions, if you care to share!
And now- here are the result of my shopping day.
If you are a grocery cart watcher (I am too!), this is for you.
5 lb. bag of sugar
3 gallons of milk
10 lb. bag of onions
5 lbs of bananas
5 lbs bag of apples
2 lb block of sharp cheddar
2 boxes of Toasty Oats
2 lbs unsalted butter
2 large containers of yogurt (1 lb a piece?)
2 half gallons of ice cream
Wegmans Club-size Spring Lettuce Mix
Wegmans Club-size grape tomatoes
5 lbs Mozzerella (Wegmans Club Size)
4 lbs of Ketchup
To celebrate grocery day: for dinner we had~
prepared boneless BBQ chicken wing wraps and steak fries
(a bag of steak fries, prepared BBQ chicken pieces, tortillas-and the lettuce and mozzerella from above)
1 package of diapers (this money came out of the 'non food envelope)
16 lbs cat food (this came out of the livestock fund)
I try to buy in bulk where ever I am able, so this should last us just fine for a few weeks (except the milk, of course.)
Notice I didn't buy any bread OR any snacks? I told you I was going to make from scratch more often!
I figured with the money I saved by not buying those things, I could "celebrate" my resolve (and self-restraint) by buying myself flowers. (Do you see how I justify splurges? By 'celebrating'? I am terrible.)
I bought the most gorgeous bouquet of bright yellow ranunculus and a pot of heavenly-smelling hyacinth.
It is taking every ounce of restraint not to selfishly put the hyacinth by my bed so I can go to sleep and wake up with its scent in my nose. I put it instead, on the table, for everyone to enjoy.
But what I wouldn't give for a hyacinth by my bed....that is the stuff of queens.