This week I had to face a real thorn in my side; my food storage situation. It’s not that I don’t have enough food, it’s that I can’t store much food. You see, my kitchen lacks a “real” pantry and so I use my kitchen cabinets for the storage of non-perishables. I call this set of cabinets my “fantry” (short for fake pantry). Last week I was moving stuff around and about 3 items fell out of my “fantry” while I rummaged. One item broke, one spilled and one almost broke my toe. I don’t know if it was the near broken toe experience or what, but it got my attention. My “fantry” was cluttered and crammed with random, half used nonperishable items. As I stared at the cluttered shelves I came to one conclusion, I was being wasteful. Being wasteful, is just not thrifty.
Finally taking the challenge…
In that moment I took a deep breath and decided to take a challenge that I’ve been putting off for 2 months. That challenge is living off the contents off my pantry, freezer and fridge for 1 month. I’m loosing a cluttered battle. The fact is, I’m not getting a real pantry anytime soon. It’s time I use up what I have to free up my “fantry” real estate.
I read about this challenge on one of my favorite blogs, Living Well Spending Less. Blogger, Ruth Soukup has a 31 day challenge to spend $0. The first time I read about it I literally laughed out loud at the impossibility of me spending zero dollars for 3 days much less 31. I may be thrifty, but I’m still the spender in my house. Her family does this challenge in January. I have too many things going on in January and February so I decided to bite the bullet and do it in March. I provided a link to Ruth’s challenge at the bottom of this post if you’d like to check it out at anytime.
To be honest, I’m nervously excited. Like, I know it’s possible now, but I’m praying I’m keeping that debit card in my wallet after two weeks. I worried it will be like week 2 of a diet. The week where I’ve lost a few pounds and gotten comfy cozy so I lighten up a little and break open a box of girl scout cookies. (Note to self: Must go grab a few boxes of thin mints before March starts! FREEZER STASH!!).
Step 1: Stocking The Fake Pantry & Real Freezer
One good thing that came from all the snow we had was that I wasn’t able to go to the grocery store therefore my February grocery budget had some money left over from previous weeks. I went to the grocery store and stocked up on essentials that we will need to help in the battle plan to eat the contents of the “fantry”. You know, those staples that you need to turn any crazy combination of ingredients into something that tastes good.
- Meats – Frozen chicken & ground beef freezer stash.
- Frozen Onions- We eat onions in EVERYTHING.
- Broth- Chicken and Beef flavored
- Soup- Cream of chicken and cream of mushroom.
- Diced Tomatoes
- Pasta Sauce
- Canned Beans
- My kids favorite snacks.
- Candy- My husband likes to eat chocolate every-night with milk so I can’t not have chocolate, it’s like keeping coffee away from a coffee addict or something. I bought 2 bags of his favorite candy and put them in individual serving bags to be sure they would last the month.
- Chips and Salsa- 3 bags of tortilla chips and a Warehouse size container of salsa. This is another one of my husbands small requests in life. He likes to have a stock of chips and salsa to snack on.
- Coke Cans- My husband drinks one with dinner at night. They were 5 for $12 at Target so I got 5 twelve packs of cans.
What about perishables?
- Good question. According to the 31 day challenge, Ruth says you should be able to buy things like milk and cheeses with short shelf life.
- In my life, I don’t have that kind of self control all the time so I’m going to pre-load a grocery store gift card for a particular amount so that I don’t get to use my debit card when I go for perishable purchases.
- By using this gift card I will be limited to only getting the necessities. For me those are milk, organic lettuce and some fresh fruits.
Step 2: De-clutter
- Clean- Once I got home from the store, I completely removed all the items from my cabinets, wiped them down and started over.
- Evaluate Real Estate- With a clean slate in my cabinet I can start putting things back in logical order. That means putting things on the top shelf that I don’t use often and working my way down.
- Group- I grouped my items together like beans with beans, pasta with pasta and so on.
- The Freezer- I pulled the items out of my freezer and quickly dumped all duplicate bags of frozen veggies into one freezer safe zip top bag and labeled it with a marker. Now instead of 3 half used bags of spinach floating around, I have one freezer safe labeled bag of spinach.
- When I was done organizing I realized two things: 1- I’m ready. 2- I need to be the “Market Pantry” brand spokeswoman (sheesh)! Look at my stock! It’s all red and white. They probably wouldn’t take somebody who doesn’t have a real pantry though… If they were “Market Cabinet” or “Market Drawer” or “Market awkward cabinet that you don’t know what do with” I might could get a gig. It’s not. So on with my prepping! (Please note, that if the cabinet picture below doesn’t look any different to you from the “before” shot, I’m not a Mrs. Super Duper Organizer, at least I know where stuff is now and what I have.)
Pantry & Freezer De-clutter Tips and Tricks:
1. Freezer- Combine any duplicate whole or half bags of fruits or vegetables into one freezer safe zip top bag and label it.
2. Candy & Snacks- I broke the candy down into single serving bags using a food scale and fold top sandwich bags. This insures my hubby eats a reasonable amount and they last the whole month. I like food scales because they seem more accurate to me compared to counting or using a measuring cup when it comes to measuring food out.
3. Combining left overs- I had about ten 3/4 used bags of nuts, raisins and chocolate morsels so I combined them to make a crazy sort of trail mix in one bag. Then I was able to throw away or recycle the other packages.
Step 3: Check The Other Stocks
- This isn’t just about groceries. I’m planning on spending $0 for a month unless it’s an emergency. Going into a store to get these items at any point during the month could cause a relapse so I have to put my self in a position to not fail. Therefore I checked out my stock of the following items to see if I was ready.
- Dog Food/Treats
- Toilet Paper
- Hygiene Items
- After checking these items I ran back out to restock what I needed.
Ready or Not…
As of today I feel ready to do this. I’ve got my plan from Living Well Spending Less.com, I’ve got a stocked freezer & pantry. Now all I need is a prayer and to rely on the self control God has equipped me with to get this stuff done! If you find that in the month of March I’m posting some seriously crazy recipes or really weird crafts, I may have used up all the good pantry supply or am suffering from some form of money spending cabin fever. Nevertheless, let’s do this!
Want to take the challenge too?
If you want to learn more about this challenge or take it yourself please visit Ruth Soukup’s blog series 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero. By clicking on the link you will go straight to the 31 day challenge information which she has organized beautifully on her amazing blog!