Use Your Pantry Wisely
Out with the old, in with the new! We are committed to keeping our groceries for a family of four to $550 a month, or $137 per week. Period.
I had noticed, though, that the lack of snacks in the house was a bit of a downer. My husband has a bit of a sweet tooth and mentioned wanting to pick up something like a cake mix to keep on hand. My teenagers were looking for snacks and there were only so many times I could say “Pop some popcorn!” Maybe this week we could find a way to stay the course, but add a few goodies. Now, I know that most strict budgeteers and those who are more healthy than me, may be dismayed. But, we are a typical family who, admittedly, isn’t always perfect in our habits. I’m sure someone out there can relate. Back to the plan, to keep everyone engaged, we struck a deal – We’d all plan the week’s meals together with an eye towards primarily using what we had on hand. If we did this, and kept the ingredients and pantry restocking budget to under $100, I would give the kids $10 a piece to pick out a few snacks for the pantry (with the hope that this would last them at least a good month). Another aspect of our deal, was that they would have to do some research to find the best deals on their chosen products! Why not teach them a worthwhile lesson about budgeting that, with any luck, would stick with them as they grew into adulthood?
Once again, I began by taking stock. The usual suspects were all there – boxes of various dried pasta, bananas, a jar of salsa, taco shells, spaghetti sauces, rice, a box of corn bread mix, Campbell’s tomato soup, yellow rice, broth, red beans, lots of salad dressings, sugar, flour, brown sugar, a can of cream of mushroom soup, 2 cans of crab meat, a bag of dried stuffing mix, 2 cans diced tomatos, water chestnuts, soy sauce, a can of black beans, and other assorted items.
In the freezer, I found two generous packages of ground beef (1.5 pounds each) that we had divided up when Walmart doubled my order, frozen chicken, a bag of frozen cranberries (probably left over from Thanksgiving), a large bag of frozen stirfry veggies, frozen fruit, frozen onion rings, frozen french fries, and a few other items.
In the fridge, there was smoked sausage, spring mix salad, fresh spinach, thyme, mint, a huge bag of shredded mozzarella, asparagus, a pound of cheddar.
We could work with that! Here’s what we created for the week.
- Sunday – Chicken Stirfry with asparagus, mixed stir fry veggies, white rice
- Monday – Easy Red Beans and Rice with a large salad and corn bread muffins
- Tuesday – Cheeseburgers (with muenster cheese) with onion rings and french fries (made in the air fryer)
- Wednesday – A roasted chicken from the grocery store, with stuffing and Perfect Cranberry Sauce.
- Thursday – Tacos with Yellow Rice and Black Bean & Corn Salad (toss black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, Lawry’s Total Seasoning, lime juice, and extra virgin olive oil).
- Friday – Sausage and Caramelized Onion Bread Pudding with Roasted Carrots with Parsley and Thyme
- Saturday – My Crab Cakes over spring mix salad
- EXTRA: Homemade Banana Bread made with the excess bananas I had on hand.
Staples Needed: 3 cases flavored, sparkling water ($2.98 each), 2 16 oz. boxes of cereal 38 oz total ($3.98), 32 oz. coffee creamer ($2.48), Milk ($2.98), 18 eggs ($2.90), minced garlic ($1.98), 2 bags of 12 oz. each of shredded Mexican cheese ($6.99)
Menu Items to Buy: lime juice ($1.98 ), 1-14 ounce package turkey kielbasa ($2.78), 1-16 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes ($1.24), 3 lb. sliced muenster cheese ($6.79)*, a roasted chicken to be bought that day ($6), celery ($1.78), 2 green bell peppers ($1.56), 1 lemon (.50 cents), 1 bag frozen corn ($.84 cents), dried mustard ($4.44), french bread ($1), 16 ounces turkey Italian sausage ($4.74), 64 oz. apple juice ($1.97), 1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese ($5.16), 1 pkg of carrots (.88 cents), flat-leaf parsley ($1 ), Panko Bread Crumbs ($1.68), Townhouse Crackers ($7.99). NOTE: Costco sent a flyer that advertised pork loin was $3.00 off a pound this month. We were able to get a 9.17 pound boneless pork loin for $16.41. We can cut that into four packages and freeze them for four meals.
TOTAL – $47.65 from Walmart, $28.54 at BJ’s, and $16.41 at Costco, for a Grand Total of $92.60
*All items were priced from the Walmart Grocery App with the exception those in italics. At BJ’s, I bought the muenster cheese, milk, cereal, shredded mexican cheese, and Town House Crackers. As noted, the pork loin came from Costco. The roasted chicken and flat-leaf parsley will be picked up from Publix.
** Add in $20 for the kids’ snacks as promised, and we were still well below the weekly not-to-exceed budget of $137!