Many people are complaining about the cost of groceries these days. And with good reason, they are increasing like crazy, and a shopping cart that used to cost me around $80 is now over the $100 mark, and showing no signs of slowing.
In the past, I have challenged myself to shop less, to do more with things already on hand, and those have been fun challenges. The thing about them, though, is that they were planned in advance. I would pick up a few extras on the last shopping trip and then see if I could actually go two weeks without shopping again- except for maybe replenishing milk or eggs. Of course the challenges were easier with all the usual suspects on hand.
But what if you didn’t have the opportunity to prepare? What if, all the sudden, you could not go on your planned shopping excursion for the week? How would your family fare?
That’s what it’s been like here the last few weeks. We’re at the very tail end of Andy’s lay-off time, and there are just no more nickles to rub together to pay the bills. I literally was unable to go grocery shopping last week, and for a minute, I let that worry me.
And then I went and looked in our freezer. And I peeked in the pantry. And then I looked through the fridge to see what needed to be used up. Needless to say, it’s been surprising to me, all the meals that I have come up with out of what I would think of as “not much in the house”. I did have to rummage through the change jar and go pick up a gallon of milk, and I may have to do that with eggs either today or tomorrow, but for the most part, we’re managing, AND enjoying meal time just a little more it seems.
The usual has become different, and the variety that has brought to the table has been delightful! As I went through the freezer, I found some frozen chili and a full assembled and baked lasagna, so those went on my menu for some dinners. I baked up some corn muffins to go with the chili, and homemade breadsticks to go with the lasagna- along with some fresh broccoli that I’d forgotten about. Some frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts were baked up with a sprinkle of delicious Garlic Pepper, and then sliced thinly and piled on fresh homemade bread when we needed a dinner-to-go. I added some home-grown sprouts and a squirt of BBQ sauce, and you would have thought we were eating sandwiches we’d ordered out.
Of course, there’s been a couple of soups in there. Organic chicken broth I’d frozen, coupled with some turkey brats were paired up with a can of Italian tomatoes and homemade noodles for an amazing Italian Sausage Soup. We had that twice- with homemade bread smeared with homemade jams.
Lunch has also been fun! One day I made pita bread, and then we topped that with chicken salad made with leftover roasted chicken, and those home-grown sprouts. I paired that with some freshly popped popcorn and apple slices and we had a really complete meal that tantalized the taste-buds. Popcorn to go with a lunch is a wonderful idea- it’s whole grain goodness at it’s finest and is way better than greasy chips as a go-with.
Lunch for a few days now will most likely be leftover lasagna and soup, but tonight’s dinner is a scrumptious beef stew, compliments of a pair of steaks unearthed from the bottom of the freezer. Would we rather have a steak dinner? Sure, but two steaks and four people don’t go far, and the stew will be wonderful with that tender beef as its base.
It’s just that, every day I get to the point where I’m thinking ahead, and I think that I just can’t wait any longer, I HAVE to go to the store, because I don’t have much else I can throw together. And then I think of something else. We’re having complete, well-balanced meals that are nutritious and delicious. We had a waffle dinner one day last week along with some home-canned pears, and a topping of strawberries we’d put in the freezer last winter. If I break down and go get eggs, we’ll have another breakfast-for-lunch-or-dinner meal of pancakes with blueberry sauce.
It’s just that, in this day and age of amazing grocery stores, we often don’t realize just how much food we actually have on hand. Seriously, if I worked really hard at it, I could probably keep this up for another 2 or 3 weeks- especially if I threw in a lot of legume-heavy soups.
So the next time you’re wondering if you can cut back on your grocery spending a bit, just do it! Go cold turkey and challenge yourself to feed your family on food you already have on hand. Set aside ten bucks to be used in case of emergency for replenishing milk and eggs and just do it! You’ll be doing yourself a favor, because you’ll be using up foodstuffs that has been around for a while anyway and could probably stand to be used before it goes bad. And maybe you’ll also get a needed reality check. The first step in reducing the grocery budget could very well be assessing the needs in the first place. Do you really need those bags of chips or cereal for example? Try a $2 tub of oatmeal that will make breakfast for two weeks, or try a $3 bag of popcorn that will last a very long time. It’s amazing the things that we could change- but we don’t, simply because it’s just not our way of thinking.
I think it’s time to change the way we think.