7 month no spend-part 2- how
Judging from the email I received from Part 1- why, of our no spending food plans I got your attention. In general it seems that I am not alone in my thinking. So many of you are trying to figure out how to feed your family the best possible food and the best pricing you can find. It sure is a big challenge.
Some are thinking this would allow them to save the grocery money for other expenses, and I think it could. The savings part comes when you buy what you can afford at the lowest prices. Fruits and vegetables in season then put up for later is about the best way to go. So is waiting for the sales and stocking up then. Bartering is another good choice and so is the local road side stands and Farmer’s Markets. Even though we have our own garden I am not above stopping to see what is available. The last bushal of corn I got came from a road side stand and it was the best 15 dollars I have spent in a long time. $35 a bushal is the going rate this year around here.
I loved the suggestions of using coupons. For us that works for some things but it can not be the main source of food for our family. Most of the coupons available are for highly processed, pre boxed foods and we don’t eat the stuff. It’s great to get a 7 cent box of mac and cheese, and yes maybe for an occasional emergency meal but not to hit our monthly meal plans. We need nutrition not chemicals.
Coupon deals I do take advantage of in two way though. First I all summer long used them to stock up on things like tooth paste, paper towels, dental floss, first aid supplies, over the counter medications and shampoos. Things we do use. We don’t use lots of paper towels around here, but a few are on our supply shelves. Shampoo we use but to be honest most of the time the bar of soap in the shower does just as well and the bottles sit there forever. First aid supplies are the basic bandages, wraps, tapes. We don’t use many store bought tube concoctions. We have the different salves that work for most anything that comes up in day to day life here, and we have our dried herbs.
I did find and use coupons for flour, sugar, spices and other basic ingredients. This was a great help. I bought 7 cases of canning jars with coupons over the summer. I also used them to do some trading for things I did want for my family. A good one that comes to mind are several cases of canned veggies and Tuna Helper for several cases of empty canning jars. The cases using the coupons cost $16.85. I could not have bought 7 cases of canning jars for that. Here a case of jars, Ball pint regular mouth are $8.00 a case. Wide mouth and quarts are higher. The woman I traded with was tickled pink, she got the food she wanted and got rid of the jars she never used.
Second I did take advantage of these buy one get one free sales using coupons and ended up spending pennies for boxed foods that went to our local food pantry. We have a yearly budget for charity and I wanted to get that used up before fall so I wouldn’t have to think about it any more. Some of the food is still in the cellar and I will drop it off for the holiday season. The food pantry loves this kind of food. Most who use the food pantry know how to cook this kind of stuff and would have no idea what to do with a bag of plain long cook rice. Second they don’t have the means to cook from scratch and must use the microwave and boxed foods where you just add water.
We grew a small garden that produced enough veggies to carry us over the winter. There are still a couple of canning projects yet to be done. Some of this was put into the freezer for our use, to make dog and cat food and to help feed the chickens. I planted a fall garden and hope with the use of small hoop houses something will survive over winter to take off in the spring much earlier than any thing would by planting by seed in the spring. Carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce and swiss chard are this year’s experiment.
There was a bit of wild harvesting with dandelion roots, wild violets, wild herbs, rose hips and berries. The acorns have just started to fall from the trees. This all helps in the form of tea, jam, jelly and a bit of flour. Free is always good.
Our chickens are producing well now, so there are plenty of eggs. For milk products I have frozen plenty of cheese, butter and margarine to last us. Fresh whole milk comes from the farm down the road and we will continue to trade or purchase this. From the fresh milk sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese will be made. For some of the baking I have powdered milk. We will have to continue this next year as well. We have plans on adding a couple of goats to the farm but not for a few years yet. So technically, yes I will be buying fresh milk. I can find no other way around it. The cost of adding an additional freezer to freeze milk is not cost efficient for us and would take many years to “pay itself off”.
As for meat I did a large shopping trip to our local butcher/smoke house and put around 40 pounds in the freezer. There are a couple of local farms raising chickens I hope to add in the next few weeks. Maggie I will be sending you an email soon.
We are not a huge meat-eating family so meat hits our plate for dinner 3 times a week. Of those 3 times one meal usually Saturday lunch or Sunday lunch and is focused around the meat. Meals like pot roast, baked ham, pork loin, roasted turkey or chicken. I cook large enough pieces to have left overs that can be frozen for at least 2 other meals later on. The other 2 meals with meat use up the left overs, pizza with ham or chicken, a noodle bake, and soup. There are a few meals like Chinese Pie, Baked Spaghetti Pie that ground beef is used in. These kinds of meals always have left overs for another meal. There are also breakfast meals where bacon, ham or sausage is added as a side, meals like eggs and french toast.
For bread I will go back to baking ours along with things like muffins, quick breads, crackers and baked desserts. For now I will bake our bread in the oven as I always have but I am on the look out for a nice bread machine. I have always baked desserts here, the only time we see a store bought dessert is when someone brings it with them. We are well stocked in the baking department.
I planned this all out by starting almost 2 years ago by keeping careful track of exactly what our family ate and how much we went through. But it could be done over a 3 or 6 months time. To the totals we used I added a few extra to be on the safe side and to account for larger meals to be served with friends and family.
The plan is to stick to our monthly meal plan as much as possible. Our meals include the items I know are in the pantry so we won’t need additional items for a meal. When something runs out we may have to make adjustments in the meals, but I don’t think that will happen. This was a long and time consuming process for me. I am not a meal planner and never have been. But it was enlightening to see how many meals I wanted to fit into this time frame and to see over time how often they would be served. So many we love were left off the plan because I ran out of days before I ran out of recipes.
I always think to myself I would like (you add the meal here) for dinner tonight and I know the ingredients are in the pantry or freezer. Now long term, longer than a few months took some thinking and planning because I will not be stocking the pantry during this time. That’s where I had to plan meals. I’m not the type to say today is Tuesday and the meal plan says we are having pizza, like it or not. The days can and will be switched around to our liking. It’s the ingredients I know will come off the inventory list and it doesn’t matter to me when they do.
There is 1 meal per month I planned on eating out. I’m not a huge fan of restaurants but Dick enjoys it to get his seafood and Daisy is a social butterfly and loves to people watch, so that meal is part of the plan. He has seafood and I usually have something I know can’t be messed up to badly like baked chicken or BLT sandwich. I’m pretty fussy when it comes to how I like my meals cooked and am usually disappointed when eating out. It just isn’t home cooking and no matter the chef they can’t match that taste in mass produced meals. That’s my opinion of course. Now take me to a friend’s house and I am thrilled and love every bite.
I realize come mid-winter we might be craving fresh fruit, or a crisp fresh salad but to be honest I usually don’t buy them in the winter, they are tasteless and expensive around here mid-winter. We have canned, dehydrated and frozen fruit to hold us over. You know growing up fresh fruit was put up in the root cellar and when it was gone it was gone until the next growing season. Come Christmas morning one of the first things we did was empty our stockings to get the fresh orange hidden in the toe. I survived it then and I’m sure I will again. Yes I will put up apples, oranges, lemons and pears in the cellar and we will have those until they are gone. And if the urge hits to bad we could order a huge salad or something on our monthly eating out night. I think of it as an extension of eating seasonally and in turn eating local, what is available when. We are so spoiled with these super center, grocery stores that carry everything you could ever want any time of the year. All summer we have stuffed ourselves with fresh fruit and veggies-grilled, baked, raw you name it, a few baked casseroles and soups will be a nice change.
Next time I’ll post the list of our pantry supplies with the quantities so you will have a better idea of what is here. The list is long and varied, our own mini supermarket right in our cellar. I believe the pantry should be a fun place to stop, look around and have plenty of choices. Don’t stock what you won’t eat! Around here winter is long and cold and food becomes a great comfort on so many levels with family and friends to join in.