Saturday, January 3, 2015

Making do, use what you've got-an annual pantry challenge

Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-VVwkqtHCg5Y/Uz17dGIhH7I/AAAAAAAAC1c/qFq3Go4t3Dk/s1600/pantry+challenge.jpg

Every January, I sit back, review how the past few months have gone (I budget from Sept-Aug), and made adjustments, as needed to our monthly budget, reviewing goals, and progress to goals. One thing that helps me to remain focused, is my monthly meal planning and an annual January pantry challenge. January is a rough month for me, due to semester exams, reports due, work in general. Although coming right back from Christmas break, I know that things will be hectic. I plan accordingly. My menus are set for January,and I've also completed February's as well. I normally meal plan around the 15th of the month for the upcoming month, but that is right smack in the middle of exams! January is also Shoprite's Can-Can sale and I just took advantage of a preview Can-Can sale and grabbed some deals for the cellar pantry shelves. We are no longer receiving our CSA deliveries, and fresh produce is expensive. To continue to keep my budget in check, I do the following:

-meal plan, using what is already on hand as a main focus
-cook as much as possible from scratch
-keep a keep eye on perishables, leftovers to avoid food waste
-serve/eat leftovers
-cook "planned overs"-using part/whole of one meal to get a jump on a second meal. New Year's roast turkey became turkey tettrazini the next night
-eat seasonally, domestically. Now that we are under snow-there are few offerings except those in long term storage. We eat more frozen and canned produce as a result
-"shop" from my pantry and freezers-substituting as needed. I recently would have prefered fzn green peas to accompany a fish meal. We were out, so canned, green beans filled in.
-limit spending to must haves and deals too good to let slip by (Can-Can sale, recent buys on marked down meats)
-reducing what I choose to buy. Example being: oats in a canister vs a box of packets. I am also trying to use up and eliminate the bulk of my cleaning supplies (stockpile significantly reduced, I am pleased to note) for financial as well as environmental/health concerns. I am experimenting on what I can mix up myself and substitute, in order to achieve these goals
-seeking alternative stores/sources: Dollar Tree became my friend well over a year ago for most cleaning products for me, tissues, some grocery items, shampoos etc
-bulk buy to save money

 Case in point: here are 2 gallons of vinegar and a gallon of canola oil, waiting to be returned to the pantry storage down cellar.
I had brought them up to refill some vinegar and oil bottles for the kitchen cupboards, and also replenished some additonal supplies, grabbing new bags/boxes of contents such as mini chocolate chips, brown sugar. Starting the new month with my stocks replenished, helps me. I also mixed up another batch of homemade "Bisquick" today.

As I try to do often, I gave the fridge a good clean out, and culled some items to use up, before they went bad. The rest of the "bisquick" was first used up, along with some long in the tooth apples to become this:

An apple coffee cake

Some remaining banana puree was used up, with some fresh "bisquick" to become these:

18 banana-pecan muffins with cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top.

I still have about 1 cup of mashed, Red Kuri squash that I am eyeballing, as well as some cranberry sauce and some cranberry-orange relish that soon need to go.

So I aim to make do, use what I already have to keep my stress level down, my monies in the bank

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