Welcome to another edition of Financial Friday. A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing. Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!
When setting a budget, one of the first things most people look at is their food spending. It is an area that people easily can overspend (oh, it is just so much easier to go out to eat tonight.) And it is an area where it is easy to cut down your spending (you mean, I can make five lunches in one week for the same cost as eating out once?)
For the PFG family, we have made major cuts to our food spending over the years. First we started by setting aside a certain amount of money each month for “fast food” lunches. Then we decided to try and bring lunches to our works every day. Then we cut down our restaurant spending to $50 a month.
But we didn’t realize that we had another tool in our pockets to cut the spending even more. Our pantry and our freezer.
For the last two weeks of January, we tried an experiment. We wanted to see how long we could go without going to the grocery store by just using what we had in our pantry and our freezer.
As we began the experiment, we were amazed with how much “money” we had put into stocking our “food reserves.” It seems that every time we went to the grocery store, we were buying staples but what we were really doing was buying things that would just sit in storage for months.
Why does any family need six different packages of pasta? Whose idea was it to buy a package of thirty egg rolls? Why did we buy three packages of vegetarian hot dogs when we had never tried them? Did we really need six half used jars of peanut butter?
In the beginning the experiment was easy. There were tons of options and variety. Fish and rice. Sweet and sour chicken and lo mein. Potato pizza. Pasta and spinach. Soup.
But as the experiment got further, the options became harder. Vegetarian hot dogs three days in a row for lunch. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Pizza. Pizza rolls. Mini pizzas. Maybe we need some variety… at least they were different kinds of pizza!
Yes, we still needed to buy some milk and baby food but for two weeks the experiment worked. Just from what was in our pantry and freezer, we were able to make over 35 meals. Were they always the most healthy? No. Did they provide the most variety? No. Did it save us some money on our food budget for the month? Yes! For the month of January, we were able to feed our family of four for $235. This included three meals out.
In the end, it also made us realize that we need to spend our food budget more effectively. We do not need to buy food for “storage.” We need to buy food for now. By meal planning, we can spend less money and make more meals out of similar food. Will we still show love to our pantry and freezer? Yes, there are still some foods that are easier to buy in bulk and have on hand. But we will be intentional about what gets stored in there from now on.
Have you ever shown love to your pantry and freezer? How many meals do you think you could make using the food in your storage? This could be the reprieve you were looking for on your food spending for one month. Try it out and share your story with the PFG community.