Friday, March 12, 2010

Shopping in my Garage

Now that it's Saturday, I can proudly declare that I have succeeded in NOT going to Kroger this week. I know what you're thinking: so what?! But to this deal-addicted maven, it's been a struggle to stay away. A few times I almost talked myself into going by trying to focus on what I could get for free or with the $6.50 in catalina coupons that expire next week. I've been kicking myself for not picking up more Barilla mini pastas when they were 10 for $10. Will the stockpile I have last until the next sale?

I know it sounds crazy, but this is what happens when you start paying attention to prices and a budget. You agonize over the deals you're missing and the coupons that will expire while you stayed away. So why put myself through the torture?

A. I'm committed to staying within a monthly budget. Last week, I went over by $85 and the only way to get back on track is to cut somewhere. With all the consignment sales going on now, it wasn't going to be there.
B. Kroger continued the same sale this week as last, meaning there were no extra deals to entice me. But if you're reading this 3/13, you can still pick up nearly free granola bars today.
C. It was time to examine and deplete some of my stockpile in my garage--from both the chest freezer and pantry rack.

Before I began this experiment, I sketched out a weekly menu to make sure we had enough food. Running out for a fast food dinner was not an option. It became a game of "What can I finish and clear out?" No food source was safe from my rampage: the remaining 3 tablespoons of hummus spread, the last sliver of organic cheddar cheese, the final swig of half n half for my coffee. My goal was to have a mostly empty fridge so that I could clean it thoroughly on Sunday.

Then it was time to take stock of my pantry and reorganize shelves. Bob had commented a few times that we had chips on the verge of expiring and did we really need all this cereal? I checked all the expiration dates, and the closest was May. A few pretzels were slightly past date; so into the lunch boxes they went. I have a lot of cream of mushroom soup, canned beans, and fried onions; looks likes it's time for green bean casserole. Who says you have to wait for Thanksgiving?

We do have enough granola bars to take us through September (when most expire). I also learned that I have way more soup than I'd expected. I had been storing them in two places and then found some extra I'd bought at Sams last fall. I hate to admit we have 23 cans of soup, but they're all good til the fall of 2010. I won't stress about them yet but will not buy any more. I've also vowed not to buy more storage bags until we deplete some of the stock. I have multiple boxes of every size from snack to freezer gallon.

My next focus was on the freezer. I did the same clearing out odds and ends (the last butternut squash soup, three frozen hotdogs, etc.) I also finished off my last freezer meals to make room for the next round. Then I decided it was time to make some duck gumbo, given the stash of duck breasts. My father and brother are hunters and graciously give them to me if I carry on the family recipe for duck gumbo. It's a lot of work (takes two days), but it is so delicious. I made enough for one meal now and 13 servings to freeze. I can't disclose the recipe because it's a family secret, but seriously, who reading this other than my mother has wild ducks to cook?!

So with some fresh veggies and fruit from last week, a few leftover meals, and odds and ends pulled from the pantry or freezer, we were just fine. I'm happy to report I only spent $104.21 this week. Most went for three consignment sales, but I have all the clothes the kids will need for the year. I spent about $15 for food at Earthfare and Weigels. Hey, we needed milk and I couldn't pass up the free organic potatoes good through 3/16; plus, I saved nearly 50% at Earthfare this week! Check here for match-ups good through the end of March. And of course a bit extra for my stickers to stuff Easter eggs. That puts me $10.79 in the black for March so far. Mission accomplished.

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