Mama Squirrel has posted her eat-from-the-pantry wrap-up, and as I began writing a book rather than a comment when I tried commenting on her post, I decided to post it here instead.
I found it difficult after the first two weeks to keep away from the grocery store, because I didn't have a well-stocked pantry to begin with. I have always wanted to shop in a pantry-stocking way, but I don't coupon as well as some folks do (unless I make it my full-time job), and we just don't have the budget to build up a pantry supply. One of these better months, I will have to break down and include a budget item, just for that month, called "stocking the pantry".
Anyway, it's hard to fathom a concept like 'extra food' when you have big kids, lol. These growing girls keep wanting to eat! I felt stingy this month telling them, "No, don't eat that. I am saving it for a dinner later in the week." (It was usually cheese or a can of something or ham or something like that.) But we had fun coming up with ways to use up the flours and grains and other items we had. In fact, Aravis is in the kitchen toasting oat-and-millet granola (her own concoction) right now. The kids really enjoyed the Hillbilly Housewife hot cocoa mix (we substituted Splenda for the sugar), too. There were a couple of things that didn't work out-- for one thing, we all got tired of Mexican soup (I had quite a lot in the freezer).
We went into cracker and sweet tea withdrawals this month, too. At this point, we are keeping white sugar out of the house as much as possible, and trying to switch more of our carbs to whole grains, fruits and veggies. We found a great recipe for a non-sweet oatmeal quick bread last week. The only sweetener in it is 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey. I made this at around 10am on a school day, and the kids ate it warm as they went about their school work.
We use our grocery money for paper goods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and any eating out we might do, as well as food items. We allot $400 per month in the grocery category, although the amount spent often creeps higher. This month as I compared the costs of conventional versus organic/grass-fed dairy and meats in the markets, I realized those items don't fit within our spending limit. We may have to put off the clean meat and dairy effort for awhile.
All told, we spent $494.06 this month, so we actually went over our budget by around $95, even with all the meat we had stocked in the freezer at the end of December. I think I just shuffled around the spending rather than spending less-- we spent a lot more in the last half of the month than in the first half.
Our dinner plans for the next four days (Friday is payday!):
1. Chicken, pinto bean and rice bowls with Mexican seasonings
2. Chicken and rice soup (These first two meals will be made with leftover roast chicken-- the rubber chicken recipe, you know.)
3. Homemade cream of tomato soup with 'doodles' (they're kind of like dumplings) from the More with Less cookbook.
4. Autumn millet bake, which we have never tried.