Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'm Playing Along with the Eat from the Pantry Challenge

I read about this challenge on the Money Saving Mom blog, and I'm going to give it a try. Since I drained a lot of my stockpiles with the cookie challenge, we are short on some staples and that'll keep me from following a strict "pantry-only" approach.Here's my version of the challenge:

- Only spend half our grocery budget, preferably less! The excess will go toward paying off the "grocery budget deficit" we acquired from buying a meat/eggs/yogurt CSA membership, which is good through April. I'd like to pay back the deficit over the next two months and try to sock some away to pay for our annual veggie CSA -- the membership starts up in June, but we haven't bought our share yet. This may need to turn into a habit...since as soon as we've paid off the meat CSA, it'll be veggie CSA purchase time, and then meat purchase time again (the veggie CSA is annual, but there's a winter supplement, and a fruit option, and...and...and...). The "preferably less" part of the goal will be important if I ever want to get us off of the "deficit" wheel and see pretty green bars in my grocery budget entries on again! This is a good warm-up for my 2010 goal of cutting down the grocery budget 20%.
- Eat from the pantry as much as possible -- in part so that I can get it better organized.
- Stick with my kitchen resolutions and boost our preparation for my maternity leave in the spring.

Here's my tenative meal plan for the next two gets a little sketchy after the first 10 days:

Thursday, 12/31: Dinner: Lamb chops, sweet potato latkes, mulled cider, no-bake cheesecake
[prep for future: sweet potato hashbrowns]

Friday, 1/1:
Lunch: defrosted stuff from the recesses of the freezer (doesn't that sound yum! But there are cookies in those recesses, you know....)
Dinner: eggrolls (ground pork, carrot, cabbage from pantry -- wrappers from the store); kung pao chicken (pantry-only); teriyaki noodles (pantry-only)
[prep for future: bake bread from freezer, make extra eggrolls]

Saturday, 1/2:
Lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches, maybe w/chili or soup
Dinner: French beef stew in crockpot (pantry-only)
[prep for future: make cinnamon rolls]

Sunday, 1/3:
Lunch: veggie burgers, maybe w/chili or soup
Dinner: Roasted chicken; butternut squash and potatoes with rosemary in crockpot (all pantry)
[prep for future: make mac & cheese for Stella's lunches]

Monday, 1/4:
Dinner: leftovers!
[prep for future: soak some beans]

Tuesday, 1/5:
Dinner: steak, roasted carrots, white bean crostini (all pantry)

Wednesday, 1/6:
Dinner: lamb roast; potato-carrot pancakes; pita chips (all pantry)
[prep for future: bake a cake]

Thursday, 1/7:
Dinner: onion-coated chicken; corn (all pantry)

Friday, 1/8:
Dinner: leftovers!

Saturday, 1/9:
Lunch: ???
Dinner: yellow split pea-spinach dal (will need to buy some spinach) plus...??
[prep for future: make & freeze some bread dough]

Sunday, 1/10:
[prep for future: ???]

Monday, 1/11:
???something with the other beef roast I have

Tuesday, 1/12:
tortellini & sauce, garlic bread with cheese

Wednesday, 1/13:
shredded beef tacos, refried beans, tex-mex rice, homemade tortillas
[prep for future: make extra tortillas and freeze]

Thursday, 1/14:

Friday, 1/15 --> onward ....

For breakfasts, we have sweet potato hashbrowns, eggs, cereal, chocolate tarts, apples, yogurt, and poptarts, so no one is going to go hungry. For drinks, we have leftover cider and various cans of soft drinks.

This actually takes me pretty much to the end of my meat supplies (other than some smoked ham hock....). I feel a little guilty thinking about meat as central to a meal, but it's almost always the limiting factor...and figuring out what I need to defrost & when is the easiest way for me to think about what to make. I'm expecting another CSA delivery on the 19th, which will help. Tonight, we went shopping (technically that falls on 12/31, but I'm counting it against the challenge because mostly we were refilling on must-buy staples like milk) and that put our expenses so far at 8.26% of the monthly budget. So far, so good!

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