The Bare Minimum

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.


2 Replies to “The Bare Minimum”

  1. Great idea! I think everyone should do this once a month or every other month. You’ll be surprised how much food just sits around before getting eaten or thrown out.

    Doing this clears out the clutter (food) and you can buy fresh food to replace it.

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