The Bare Minimum


I really wanted to stretch out my December budget and put a lot into savings, so I decided, on a whim and completely unprepared, to use every single food item I have in my kitchen before grocery shopping again. I didn’t go to the grocery store from November 25, 2009 to January 10th, 2010.

I typically go grocery shopping once a month though sometimes I will purchase milk, eggs and bread mid-month. This time, I didn’t even want to do that. I started out with everything mentioned in the link above plus all baking essentials. I really lucked out by purchasing all that meat and freezing it. I made my normal meals for a while and didn’t think anything of it until the middle of December. A life saver was having my home-made marinara sauce in the freezer. Definitely glad that I made extra of that.

Getting Creative

When I ran out of bread and milk, I had to come up with another idea for breakfast. Well, I always have a huge container of oats in the cupboard to make oatmeal cookies. I took advantage of this and began having oatmeal for breakfast, something I haven’t had in years.

AllRecipes’ Ingredient Search was a huge help, too. I cleaned out the freezer and found some forgotten kielbasa. Using the search, I boiled the kielbasa with some flat Ginger Ale that I had in the fridge and served it with my home-made honey mustard. That was a quick and easy meal that I wouldn’t have thought to make if I wasn’t trying to use up my grocery items.

During this time of no grocery shopping, it was extremely important for me to actually cook dinner every single night so I would be able to have lunch to eat at work the next day. I did not buy any prepared foods either.

Other than not having any fruit (but still eating lots of vegetables), I would say I ate pretty healthy. I made meatloaf, pork chops, and my normal chicken recipes served with frozen vegetables. I probably ate more full meals in that time period than I normally do because I couldn’t make any “quick” meals like a grilled cheese sandwich and soup, which doesn’t allow for leftovers.

Making Sacrifices

The food items I missed the most were cheese, milk and bread. I did dig out a box of powdered milk to use for baking but I didn’t like the taste enough for cereal. I knew things were getting bad when I ran out of pasta. Thankfully I had a ton of rice.

Another adjustment was not having any snacks. By snacks I mean cheese, yogurt, toast, etc. I did have the “Holiday” advantage though. I received many sweets as gifts and ate some free dinners with family and friends over the course of December.

After 46 days, I still have all of my baking items, condiments, spices, instant rice, bouillon/broth, tons of canned tomatoes (but no pasta) and two bags of frozen stirfry vegetables. I am all out of meat, bread, pasta and milk.

What I learned

I learned to be more creative with meals. I incorporated rice and couscous into my meals when I ran out of pasta and potatoes. I used tortillas in place of bread. I substituted beer for milk in pancakes. I ground up walnuts to make breadcrumbs. I mixed cheerios, peanut butter, coconut and confectionery sugar to make a bar dessert.

I learned that when I really need to save money, I can. It might not have been the best way to do it, but I consider it a success.

I learned that I need starch and fresh foods. While the meat, frozen vegetables and rice were complete meals, the lack of starch and fresh vegetables/fruit was noticeable after a month.

Would I Do it Again?

I do think this is a great idea to clean out your pantry every six months or so, but I suggest just doing this for no more than a month or at the very least continue purchasing fresh foods. If I try this again, I will make sure to stock up on pasta, freeze jars of marinara sauce/pesto, and buy a big sack o’ potatoes.


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