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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Frugality (Part VI): Use What You Have

Perhaps this is an obvious topic, but I will say it again. Use what you have. This requires knowing what you have. I'll admit to falling down on that lately. I used to have a list on each freezer with its contents on it, so I could see what was in it and I'd cross things off as I used them and add things as I added to it. I also had my pantry relatively organized so I could take a quick peek and know roughly what was available to me. While I'm admitting these things, I also had my herbs and spices organized alphabetically, as opposed to the haphazard way they are all in there now, and I need to get all these things back under control. And the towel closet, but that's another topic.

This kind of organization kept me from buying nine packages of sliced almonds from Trader Joe's (I just discovered these when organizing the baking part of the pantry over Christmas). It also allowed me to see that it was time to buy more ground beef, instead of finding out because we needed a set amount for a meal and were a little short.

The reality is that I have in this house enough food to last our family for a couple years. The meals might not be the most exciting or varied, but we would be able to eat and survive the coming economic disaster/terrorist attack/volcano eruption/earthquake/wind storm/ice storm until things were closer to normal. We also have tons of seeds for vegetables and live in a good area for gathering berries, fruit and greens, not to mention all the venison and seafood, so if the ship hits the sand, you can all head over here with your food, toilet paper, skills and tools.

Since we have all this food available to us and we want to use it before it goes bad, I figured this would be a good way to cut our grocery expenses as well. We already do pretty well, but I have challenged myself to cut our weekly grocery bills in half (which for us is about $75) and use what we already have. This means that I need to get on that organizing and inventory of the freezers, fridges and pantry (and the spice cabinet!). I spent $67.23 on groceries last week, including diapers, paper towels and iodine. I'm fairly certain that we can do better this week (though I did send Rich to the store to pick up two things, which means we may blow my goal in just that trip - he tells me he just cannot promise to stick to the grocery list, which is why I usually do the shopping with all the children or by myself at 10:00 at night). The weeks when I have to buy chicken feed and the first week of the month when I pay for our whole month's of milk will put me over my goal, so this is more of a guideline thing. However, I am hoping to reduce our grocery bill and rotate what we have in our freezers and pantry.

So, the plan is to take inventory of both freezers and our pantry and reorganize all of them so we know exactly what and how much of what we have over the next few weeks and see if I can keep our budget down by such a drastic amount for the next three months or so. I also plan on implementing a no consumer month or two this year. This actually won't be that hard for us, as we aren't the biggest of consumers, but I'd like to see how much of an impact our small consumerist purchases make on our budget.

So this week, I challenge you to use what you have. This, in conjunction with buying in season and on sale will help your budget, help your health and stretch your cooking abilities. You will also see if you have 85 pounds of frozen peas that you should use before you buy any more.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
The Celery Stalks at Midnight

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