January was a month with added expenses and less pay due to the Christmas holidays and inclement weather. Therefore, in an effort to have enough money to cover these extra expenses, I turned to my pantry and freezer to save money. Robert Waldroup, creator of the Better Times website, says that low and moderate income families should be encouraged to keep some of their household savings in the form of food. It is good advice and one of the tools we use here at the Frugal Workshop.
At the end of December, I took an inventory of all the food I had on hand. You can see my list here in my post, Pantry Inventory December 2012. During the month I made an extra effort to use up food I had on hand for meals. Having the inventory helped me a great deal in planning meals.
I can recall one time years ago, when a friend of mine called to tell me a friend of her mothers had her freezer break down and she had food she wanted to give away from this broken down freezer. I graciously accepted her offer. By the time the food got to me it was clear that this was a freezer that had not been cleaned out in a very long time. The majority of the food had to be thrown out. One lesson that I learned from this was...
I never want my freezer or pantry to be a dumping ground of food that will never be eaten.
Amy Dacyczyn wrote about Freezer Management in the The Complete Tightwad Gazette. She shared her system for spreading her stockpile out until gardening season rolled around again. Using this system ensured she would not neglect any food and still made the food last until her freezer would be filled again the following year.
The other day for breakfast I decided to "use up" these toaster hash browns my Mom bought for us in September for school breakfasts. The problem was they did not taste good straight from the toaster and my daughter would not eat them. I figured out that if you cooked them longer they tasted better. So, I decided to bake them in the oven as an experiment and they did taste better. So, rather than throw them out and waste they money that was spent on them, I found a different, more palatable way to use them up.
By finding a way to use up the hash browns, I've stretched my resources farther, made another meal out of the food I already had on hand, so I didn't have to spend more money for additional food. I continued this practice all month long, creating meals from my inventory, scouring cookbooks and Internet resources, to find ways to create meals out of what I had on hand. One day when I was looking for my favorite cole slaw recipe, I found one for macaroni salad that I knew I had all the ingredients on hand for, so I added that to my list of meals for the month.
My menu changed weekly as a result of this planning. And you know what? I felt a great sense of pride using the food in my freezer and pantry. Using up foods that I had on hand rather than letting them go to waste or linger in the back of the freezer ensured that I was using my resources wisely.
As we close out the month of January, I can say all of the bills were paid even the extra ones, we had plenty of food to eat and have extra to spare, several of the bills for February have already been paid, and we have a surplus of money left over. Things look good going into February and that leaves me with a good feeling. :)
© Belinda Richardson and Frugal Workshop, 2011-2013.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”