Thursday, January 31, 2013

End of the month ~ January 2013

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”


  1. Hi Belinda,
    Good work with using up freezer and pantry items. Sometimes in our efforts to stock-pile to save money, we forget that if it never gets eaten, then the savings aren't real. (My current personal challenge is to eat up some of the condiments in the fridge, so those won't have been a waste of money and work, either.)

    I wish I could make my freezer surplus of fruits and veggies last until summer, like Amy D. I do feel fortunate that I can make the fruits last through February and well into March, as the winter months are the expensive months for fruit around here.

    1. Thank you, Lili. You made a very good point about how stockpiled foods that don't get eaten are not real savings. That is just like throwing money away. If I do have something like that, I try to give it to someone who I know will use and appreciate it. One time I bought my daughter these Macaroni and Cheese dinners that she did not like. I knew a single Mom with 3 kids who was having a hard time feeding them and she was very grateful for them. She is the person we always give our turkeys too that my mom got when she was working.

  2. Great job on making it through January.

    I'm definitely with you on not wanting to have the food go to waste. It is hard sometimes to walk that fine line between the extreme of always buying more food and learning to use up what you have and actually doing it.

    1. I agree, Shara. Doing it requires a lot of energy sometimes, which is something that I am in short supply of some days. I do much better when I stay home (like on the weekends)...if I have to get out of the house it takes more effort when I get back home for some reason. Anyway, it can be a fine line to walk.

  3. Belinda, yet another post that I just love! Food is a major part of my life these days. I make virtually ALL my meals at home and it really is the best way to save money and live well. I always enjoy coming to your blog for insight and advice.

    A couple months ago my kitchen got totally flooded and have to be redone (thank god for landlords who are responsible for those damages) anyway I had to empty out my entire pantry for the construction workers to fix things up and it was SO nice to see what I had on hand and how much! As I was pulling things out of cabinets all I could think of was 'what can I make with this?" I haven't done any grocery shopping this week and it makes me so proud to save a few bucks!

    Im looking forward to your next post!


    1. Thank you, Nico. What a big job you had to undertake and thank God for LLs is right! Glad you are saving your money by cooking at home. :)

  4. Belinda-your best post yet! I enjoyed your insights to pantry challenges, one that I try to follow as I plan my menus in advance (usually mid month for the upcoming month), using what is on hand, bought inexpensively, saves me so much money. While trying to save every penny possible for another home, I am also saving for some creature comforts in this rental. I just shelled out some serious $ for insulated curtain panels, which I know I will use elsewhere, when I move, so that is a practical "investment" and i am also now saving for some area rugs, one for the kitchen eating nook, one for the living room (I'll then move the braided rug from the LR to the boy's room) and one for the dining area of my L shaped porch.

    1. Thank you, Carol. You are always a source of inspiration for me as I try to be as frugal as I possibly can. Your investment in the insulated curtain panels is a good one and one that I hope has a big payoff in the long run. I hope you find great deals on your area rugs too. With an anticipated income tax refund in February I am making plans to pay off part of my student loan debt. Continual planning makes all of this possible. :)


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