I am not big on “New Year’s Resolutions since 93% of resolutions are thrown out by the end of January each year. I have kept resolutions before—doing something every day, like reading aloud to my kids or doing a daily cleaning routine, etc. (I prefer to make life changes a little at a time, like monthly, as described in my Productivity Series.)
However, I decided over Christmas that my freezers and cupboards HAD to be reduced. My husband and I raised seven kids for thirty-four years, twenty-five of those years on one income. I prepped, cooked, organized, couponed, sale-shopped, and cleaned like a madwoman during those years in order to stay on budget and “get it all done.” I had one deep freeze that was collecting ingredients for my next freezer cooking day and another was filled with already-made mega cooking meals. My cupboards were the same.
We became empty-nesters eighteen months ago, and while my shopping and cooking have radically changed over the past several years as kids have “left the nest,” I still haven’t learned how to shop or prepare food for two (much less for two people who eat one meal and a snack a day through Daily Intermittent Fasting (IF)—that is just not much food compared to feeding nine people three times a day!). We are getting increasingly frustrated by our inability to grab what we want or need out the pantry, and my beautiful freezers are hopelessly stuffed. So…..grocery fast it is.
I had to narrow the parameters for what this would look like, not just because I like rules and creating systems, but also because I wanted the grocery fast to be effective. If I fasted from buying canned goods only, I could just buy more fresh veggies and still not empty my pantry any. If I fasted from buying perishables only, I could still not guarantee that I would use all of the frozen meat in my deep freeze. It needed to be significant and clear in order to be effective.
So…..here were my “rules”:
1) Cut Weekly Groceries to $25 a Week
For two months, I would cut my grocery spending down from whatever it currently was (which used to be $150 a week before IF simply because we have the kids over a lot AND I made everything low carb and from scratch with expensive ingredients, etc.). I haven’t really established my new grocery budget with IF, but I’m thinking that with 7 meals a week plus 7-14 snacks/desserts per week (per person) and having “parties” with the kids often, I should be able to settle in at $100 a week for all groceries and cleaning (I buy bare minimum cleaning supplies), and toiletries.
2) Buy Only What We Absolutely Need
I knew this would be tough because I NEED fresh green beans and bananas every week. I NEED to make fresh stir fry two nights a week. I NEED to have Romaine lettuce and Romano cheese for salads most days. Or do I?
I decided that I would focus on what we really needed in order to survive…not what I saw as “needs.” Toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste lettuce, eggs, and apples to start with. Then if I had leftover money, I would buy fresh veggies for stir frying and my favorite salad cheese. (I have tons of frozen veggies I can stir fry and bags of shredded cheese in the freezer!)
3) Make What We Have!
Not making what we already have in the freezers and pantries is what got us into this position to begin with. Keeping the grocery dollars low each week will force me to use what we have for sure. But I also needed to make what we have as much as possible without adding too much to it. In other words, I need to make what we have without adding this veggie or that spice or this sauce to the shopping list. I actually think this will be fun! 🙂
4) Figure Out Ways to Party With the Kids for Little Money!
The kids are all really great about contributing to family parties. However, Ray and I usually make the main entrée, provide the drinks, etc. I will keep you posted on how this goes for us (our first “party” for all will be next week’s Family Movie Night!). One way I know I can make this work is to have the kids bring very specific side dishes (i.e. cornbread for the soup beans as opposed to anything savory or anything sweet, etc.).
5) Make Combination Dishes
For many years we lived on casseroles and combination dishes, using meat as more of a condiment than the main dish. This approach reduces per person meat consumption from 4 to 6 ounces each to 2 or 3 ounces each. But now we are spoiled! We love our meat and potatoes or meat and stir fries or meat and salads. However, I told Ray that I am excited to make tuna casserole and chicken spaghetti again! The point is that we have to cook and eat out of every shelf, refrigerator, and freezer in order to make a dent in our stash!
I will think of more money-saving/stock-depleting approaches as I continue over the next couple of months—and I will share them with you in posts that will be called Grocery Fast Week One and Two, etc. I hope you will join me! And if you have any suggestions for me, please write to me! I’d love more ideas!
P.S. Have you ever gone on a grocery “fast”? If so, what tips helped you get through on budget?
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