MENU CHALLANGE & PANTRY CHALLANGE
This was what I made for dinner tonight - tuna and noodle skillet and a green salad. The salad is mostly oak leaf lettuce, kale and green onion tops which are fresh from the garden. It really was good.
I think I mentioned a while back that I joined both a Monthly Menu Planning Challange and a Pantry Challange on a frugal website. Both have really been helpful AND a lot of fun this month and they fit very well together. So before January 1, I went through everything in my kitchen food cabinets, the fridge and the freezer. By 'freezer', I mean the small one over at the top of the refrigerator. We didn't move the separate one from the other house. I listed most of it in a notebook, (after listing about a dozen spices, I decided to let myself off the hook for that!) and worked with that list to plan dinner menus for the month. I was really pleasantly surprised to realize that there was enough food in the house to make a 31 day menu from! That seems like a lot. Now this is a FRUGAL challange, so none of the menus I planned are elaborate. I did have to do some menu juggling already this month, and will, no doubt, do more. Sometimes I counted on leftovers for the next meal, but it turned out that there were none. And sometimes I had a new dish listed for a meal on a day when there WERE leftovers...or there was some other reason why I had to switch things a little. But this has made meal preparation SO much easier. And I actually look forward to making dinner each night now. I am going to continue doing it permanently.
As for the Pantry Challange, the idea is to use up what you already have so things don't get 'lost' or passed over indefinately, or just plain wasted. This has really helped me too. Not only because of the money saving aspect of it, but just knowing I am making use of things that we have and like, but might not even think to use. And this challange doesn't mean that you can't buy any food items during the time you are in it...which is however long until you can't put a decent meal together from what you have left. Fill in items, perishables like milk, and things like that are 'legal' if you need them and choose to buy them. So since December, the only groceries I have bought are a bottle of catsup, that Chuck couldn't live without, a jar of coffee, a carton of cream, a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs and a package of bacon for seasoning. And I didn't stock up or even do a regular 'meat and potatoes and all the trimmings' grocery shopping trip anytime recently before starting the challange. When I started this Pantry Challange, it only stretched out until the end of the month on paper. In actuality I think my pantry challange will go a few days to a week longer. That really surprises me, too! And it is nice not having to do bigger grocery shopping runs until then.