Jack and I were both happy with how well the Zero Grocery Challenge went for us during January! I think what surprised me the most was how much food we still have left in the freezer and on the shelves. Several other things stand out as well:
- The garden produce we put in the freezer really does make a huge difference in our winter grocery needs, but ONLY if we intentionally use it. I have been guilty too many times of freezing things, letting them get lost in the freezer, and then composting them a few years later. Strategically planning meals makes a big difference and this needs to become our consistent practice!
- We have had some delicious meals that we otherwise would never have tried that were based on using things up rather than creating something from newly purchased ingredients. Meals were both balanced and healthy.
- Having a tiny budget for replacing staples was important. Jack needed to replace milk, eggs, yogurt, and Miracle Whip. I needed to purchase additional butter for lounge treats (see #5 below) and a loaf of bread when we decided to invite guests for dinner one night (see #6 below).
- I got a fun little thrill every day when we ate supper, knowing that we were using ingredients up in creative, delicious ways. It didn’t feel like deprivation at all!
- I was able to provide 4 days of teachers’ lounge treats last week using almost entirely ingredients we had on hand. The only ingredient I needed to purchase for this was butter. This included 2 large sheet pans of Cinnamon Rolls on Monday, Chex Mix (using up many of the ingredients left over from what Jack made at Christmas), Ranch Crackers (using up left over soup crackers from Christmas), a large container of peanut butter stuffed pretzels that was approaching its use-by date, and homemade caramel corn. At our school, each teacher signs up to provide lounge treats one week of the school year. What I typically would have done for this was go through my recipes, select things that sounded good, head to the store to purchase the ingredients, and make the items. This year I went through the pantry noting what I had a lot of and let that lead to selecting what to take. The cinnamon rolls and caramel corn are typical things for me to have taken. The Chex, peanut butter pretzels, and Ranch mixes were purely based on the ingredients we had on hand.
- Early in the month, we elected to invite friends over to eat soup and custom grilled cheese sandwiches, leftover from our family Christmas gathering, in lieu of going out to eat one evening. Time constraints forced me to purchase a loaf of bread for the grilled cheese instead of making it from scratch, but considering the difference in cost between that loaf of bread and a restaurant meal, it was a win!
We have decided to continue to Zero Grocery Challenge through February. With travel plans this month I will be gone for 12 days and Jack with be with me for 6 of them, which cuts down the number of meals we will need to prepare at home. I shopped last night for 2 staple items we needed (potatoes and cooking spray). I believe we should be good to go now other than replacing Jack’s milk when needed!