Taking on Heather of Real: The Kitchen and Beyond’s $29 Grocery Budget Challenge has been a great way to manage an area of our family budget that can get out of control too easily. When you have 5 kids and a busy schedule filled with school, homework, and activities, spending money on convenience items to save time doesn’t always save money.
As I mentioned last week, we’re a family of 7 transitioning from a mostly whole foods diets to a kid-friendly Paleo diet. Why kid-friendly? I may use some shortcuts and ingredients that wouldn’t be considered pure Paleo. If you’re interested in learning more about Paleo, NomNom Paleo and The Paleo Mom are good resources for families accustomed to the standard American diet.
In the past we’ve used our vegetable garden and homegrown fruit to help stretch our food budget. Since we eliminated our vegetable garden this year in anticipation of moving, we can’t rely on homegrown vegetables. The few vegetables I can plant in our flower beds will help only a little.
Since we can’t stretch the budget with homegrown produce, I need to focus on paying the lowest price possible for nutrient-dense foods, making the most of our ingredients, and managing leftovers. This week I’m sharing tips on how I manage leftovers to make sure they don’t get lost at the back of the fridge.
Grocery Spending Week 2
As I expected we spent less money during the second week, only spend money on needed produce, milk, and dessert for Mother’s Day. During week 3, I know we’ll spend money on produce, milk, and a few items that we’ve run out of, putting our total around $707 for 3 weeks, dropping our per person spending to about $33.
One way I’m keeping costs lower during the challenge is keeping a running list of items we run out of. I’m also making sure we use up what we have since we already spent the money on the food.
Week 2 Breakdown
Total Spent: $90.79
Last Week’s Spending: $517.03
Total Spent this Month: $607.82
Save Time and Money Using Leftovers in Meals
I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m going to tell you about having leftover night once a week. Actually, we have leftover night twice a week, and I include leftovers in most of our dinner meals and some of the other meals.
Whenever I’m stumped for ideas or just want to try something new with our leftovers, I turn to The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste which I’ve had in my cookbook collection since 2004. The book is organized by types of food, making it easy to look up recipes if you’re short on time. I first read about The Use It Up Cookbook in Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and never regretted buying this resource.
Some people call it Purple Plate Special. Some just call it Leftover night. Depending on the age of your kids, you can ask them to choose from available leftovers, set them out buffet style, or make up the plates yourself.
Another option is using leftovers in sandwiches, wraps, omelettes, or fritattas. How about Leftover Soup, though you may want a fancier name for your one of a kind recipe. Basically, you’ll need meat, gravy or stock, cooked veggies, and some type of grain if you are eating grains.
Leftovers in Meals
Whenever I make side dishes, I usually double them and use the leftover later in the week in a meal. Rice, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, sauteed vegetables, and cooked pasta are good for doubling. If you can’t use them later in the week, freeze the leftover side side dish and use it another week.
How DO You Keep Track of Those Leftovers?
The best way to track leftovers is the way that works for you. I’ve tried posting a list on the fridge and the freezer. Despite being organized, keeping a running list of leftovers like that doesn’t work for me.
Some people dedicate a shelf in their fridge or freezer for leftovers. Since we are tight for space for 7 people, this hasn’t been the best strategy for us. Food gets shoved to the back of the fridge as people hunt for snacks and meals. Or, it’s back there because it was the best way to organize the storage containers in the fridge.
Right now, I’m using my modified Erin Condren Life Planner for leftover management. I write down leftovers I know may go slowly. I keep the main list on the side of the weekly spread. I also write notes below each day if I want to use up the leftover that day. Thanks to this management technique, I remembered to use up the roasted cabbage that I undercooked by turning it into Apple Raisin Slaw.