by Texas Homesteader~
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WHEW, what a month it’s been! Y’all know RancherMan & I embarked on an entire month-long Grocery No-Spend Challenge. It was a rigid challenge, allowing for no purchases whatsoever on anything grocery related which included dining out, beverages and herbs, etc.
Week One wasn’t bad at all. Our pantry & freezers were full so there really wasn’t much change to our routines.
Week Two had a few catches but it was still easily workable.
By the time we got to Week Three was a little more of a challenge and we had to make several compromises. But by then I’d pretty much hit my stride. Plus we had our eye on the end of the month, so our motivation was still pretty high which helped a lot.
But how about that last week? Read on, dear friends.
Problems With The Challenge
Well, well, well. As difficult as this week has been you’d think the village would have broken out into riots and RancherMan & I would be arm-wrestling for that last piece of bread!
Even though I kept warning him that the bread would run out, there wasn’t enough moderation in his consumption. So as expected the bread coffers ran dry. And there was not enough flour to make more! (gasp!)
Yep, I was really concerned that this one item would be the undoing of our steely dedication to seeing the challenge through.
Thankfully with only one week left we were able to begrudgingly get through it.
A Birthday Plan Gone Awry
Another notable event was that we had planned a birthday celebration with our youngest daughter during this final week. I was pretty proud of myself that I’d been able to plan a suitable birthday spread for her. (with a small homemade cake even!)
But Ole Man Winter had other plans!
I was worried about her traveling on icy roads for such a long distance and begged her to reschedule.
In this case it worked out in our favor since we rescheduled to her next day off from work. That will be in a time frame OUT of our restrictive challenge!
Getting To The Bottom Of The Freezer
Thankfully this final week really did a number on emptying our freezer. I finally got to the bottom and was able to pull out the last of the frozen tuna given to us by a dear friend who went deep-sea fishing several months ago.
Now I’m not a big fish eater but I know it’s healthy. So I’ve been trying to incorporate it into our meals as often as I could stand it. RancherMan on the other hand IS a lover of fish. So he relishes those meals.
I pulled out some frozen fillets, thawed them and dipped them in milk & then a mixture of bread crumbs/corn meal/Cajun seasoning. For easy cooking I popped them into my * Baby George rotisserie. (MAN I love that thing!)
In 15 minutes those fillets were done to perfection. I added the rest of the bagged salad from our Valentine’s Day meal, and whipped up a broccoli rice side dish using brown rice, a can of soup & those leftover chopped broccoli stems.
Of course I always purposely cook up way more fish than we can eat at one sitting. Because although RancherMan really enjoys that first fish meal, he REALLY loves how I serve it the next night!
That’s when I take the leftover cold fish, crumble it all up, add diced onion, minced garlic, an egg & some bread crumbs to make fish croquettes. It makes my heart happy to hear his declarations of culinary enjoyment!
Let’s see, what were some of our other meals… I cooked up some Salisbury steaks to use up the last of the ground beef as well as the leftover gravy from a meal a couple of days earlier.
And I cooked up the last package of wild-hog pork chops by dipping them in egg & using the last of those saved breadcrumbs.
Oh and we had a very simple meal of spaghetti & meat sauce one night. And one night we wanted breakfast for dinner so we made homemade pancakes and I even whipped up some homemade maple-flavored syrup to go with them.
And although we don’t have dessert every night, when we were having a very simple meal I thought it’d be a nice touch to whip up a batch of homemade chocolate pudding to make up for the meager offerings.
RancherMan loved it!
Now that we’re FINALLY done with this
year-long challenge (I mean MONTH long, it only seems like a year), I asked RancherMan what the three hardest things were for him to complete the challenge:
- Not being able to eat out. Restaurants were purposely eliminated during this challenge because it seemed there was always something that came up necessitating a restaurant meal. We were eating out way more than our budget really allowed. During this challenge we had one special night that we worked around by using a restaurant gift card. We had a few other times during this challenge where it really would have been nice to grab a quick bite.
- Not being able to replenish staples like milk, bread, fresh produce, etc. (especially bread. eh-hem)
- Limited grab-n-eat snack foods like tortillas, crackers & chips. As I mentioned, RancherMan is a grazer during the day. So not being able to grab munchies on the fly really affected him.
No surprises there but what about me, what about me?
What I Learned
- Well I was reminded that by thinking outside the box I can save lots of food that might otherwise be wasted. Like those bread crumbs or broccoli stems that were important ingredients in later meals.
- Also by using my Planned Leftovers method of cooking, I was able to remake meals & keep things from getting boring. Remember those fish croquettes from leftover baked fish? It was an entirely different meal using the same base ingredient.
- And if we ever do this challenge again I may consider the time of year. Doing this challenge during the spring or summer when our garden is going well would keep us in fresh produce. I really missed the fresh stuff.
Have you ever done a grocery no-spend challenge? What did you discover were your pitfalls?
Follow Along & Read The Weekly Challenges:
- Grocery No-Spend Challenge: Week 1
- Grocery No-Spend Challenge: Week 2
- Grocery No-Spend Challenge: Week 3
Other Planned Leftover Posts
- Fast Food: Remaking Leftover Steak & Veggies
- Planned Leftovers: Easy Slow-Cooker Pork Roast
- How To Quickly Shred Leftover Roast
- Leftover Mashed Potatoes Into Potato Cakes
- Leftover Biscuit Dough? Make Cinnamon Rolls!
- Hearty Stew – Quickest Planned Leftover Meal Of All
- Pulled Pork Enchiladas From Leftover Roast
- Planned Leftovers: Carnitas Tacos From Pork Roast
- Leftover Meatloaf Made Into Quesadillas
- Leftover Chicken & Zucchini Noodles with Herb Bombs
- Chicken Tortilla Soup From Leftovers
- Chicken & Dumplings Using Leftover Chicken
- Using It ALL – The Art Of Eliminating Leftover Food
- Leftover Great Northern Beans Into HUMMUS
- Leftover Turkey & Dressing Into Patties
…and MUCH MORE!
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Congratulations! I’d have to stock up on coffee first, for sure! LOL
LOL – I hear ya Donna. There’s no way (read none, zilch, ZERO!) we’d be able to complete this challenge without our morning coffee. ~TxH~
I am working on Week 1 now. Started last Thursday on 3/1. Very good so far. Made up food saver packets of liver and onions, doing a brisket with cabbage, and veggies this week. Also food saver and plenty of sausage, chicken and frozen beef(Christmas gift) in the freezer, and plenty of home canned soups that I really need to use up. GO JOHN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Congrats on making through your pantry challenge. Ive been snooping on your website and reading through the archives all day. My husband and I have successfully completed one one month challenge and three two week challenges. Most of the time they are spurred by the need to clean out the freezer!
In my experience when you are really feeling in the trenches a homemade dessert makes everything a little better. Sometimes it is as complex as a from scratch cake and sometimes as simple and resourceful as bread pudding. Good call on the chocolate pudding!
I agree Cecile and usually when our supper is more meager I’ll offer up a delicious homemade dessert. Pudding is one of our favorites and is a snap to make. ~TxH~
Yay you made it. What a wonderful experiment and I agree that doing it in summer might have been better so that you had fresh vegetables to use as well. I think you proved that you can do with what is in your cupboard and definitely gave us something to learn from. Thanks for sharing at Good Morning Mondays, Blessings
You’ve totally inspired me to start using more of what we have. Our kitchen is under renovation so it’s been extra difficult but eating out all the time is not only pricey it just doesn’t taste good.
Glad you shared these posts too at Simple Saturdays.
Hugs from Oklahoma,
Cottage Making Mommy
We do a lot of breakfast dinners to cut down cost. Pan cakes and eggs people, eat em up! Thanks so much for sharing on the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop.
What a great challenge and kudos to you for making it through the month! I would have really missed the fresh produce too. Thanks for sharing at What’d You Do This Weekend? 🙂
I’m so impressed by your dedication. You should feel proud of yourselves. What a fun month is coming up for you. Thanks for sharing at the This Is How We Roll Link Party at Organized 31.
Gasp! Ran out of flour, I think our world would end around here. There are some items that I have a year supply of flour is one of them.
Thanks so much!! I will give them a try! It should be warming up enough here in the next week or so that we will be getting a mess!! Sounds delish!!
Congratulations on making it the whole month!! So as I am reading this, I am so curious as to a recipe for your fish croquettes. To make them, does it matter what kind of fish it is? Truthfully, I nor my husband had ever heard of them, and always tend to have left over fish. You just can’t be choosy on how big they are or sometimes even which fish is going to bite when you catch dinner!
Karen, I’ve made salmon croquettes many times before. This is the first time I’ve used leftover baked tuna but the taste and texture were basically the same to me. RancherMan seems to think almost any kind of fish would give the same result, give it a try. Depending upon how much fish I have leftover I chop some onion pretty small, add in a minced clove of garlic, an egg and enough bread crumbs to make everything stick together when I press into a ball. Oftentimes I’ll roll the ball into more breadcrumbs before I plop it in a cast-iron skillet with just a little oil, and I use the spatula to press into a patty. I let the first side brown for a couple of minutes, flip & brown the other side and BOOM! RancherMan absolutely loves these. ~TxH~
Wallyworld in G-ville finally has 1/2 gallon canning jars back in stock. These work great to store flour, dry milk, beans, etc. Got a food saver for Christmas and it’s great for sealing these. I’ve enjoyed reading your challenge and will consider the same. Today I’m making your dog treats (Which I think if I make a little bigger, my wife’s horse and our min donkey & goat would scarf up!) Our big dog likes them though, and it sure saves money.
I’ve got a couple of those larger 1/2-gallon canning jars – didn’t know you could still buy them, thanks for the heads-up. I LOVE that you’re making those dog treats today, our little mini-Schnauzer really loves them. ~TxH~
If you are close to an Ace Hardware, you can order the 1/2 gal jars online & then pick them up at the store. I love those jars. Only thing, they are not freezer safe.
I’ve got a couple of those larger 1/2-gallon canning jars – didn’t know you could still buy them. Thanks for the heads-up, Ken. I LOVE that you’re making those dog treats today, our little mini-Schnauzer really loves them. ~TxH~
it was wonderful reading your overview, I hear you bout doing it in summer but its just not as hard of a challenge as march is.. it was great to be done it on our own end as well..
I enjoyed reading your no-spend finale as well FarmGal – congrats. If we do this challenge again it will not be until RancherMan forgets the discomfort of it 😉 and will probably be more focused on what we can provide for ourselves than rigidly challenging ourselves from the stores. I think it was a bit counterproductive that I ran out of flour & my handsome man had to do without bread because I couldn’t buy flour to be able to make it homemade. I think next time will be when the garden is at least growing cold-weather stuff so I can keep our meals more balanced, and I’ll probably allow a small amount of grocery money for milk/flour, etc. But I’m glad we did this challenge, it did prove to us that we *could* do it. ~TxH~
Sounds to me like you did really well! I’m not sure I could ever do something like this. I thought I would wait until I have milking cows/goats and in the summer when the garden and fruit trees are producing. But is that cheating? I don’t know. I also thought it would be extra difficult to do with four young children, ages 2-8. For me, my ultimate goal is to be at least 80% self sufficient for our grocery bill. Slowly I’m getting there. Last year we spent about $1000/month on groceries, now we spend $300-450. Having small children, I think that’s a huge accomplishment. But for you working out this challenge, it sounds like you did really well, you should be proud of yourself!
OMGoodness Stephanie, you’re doing AWESOME on your grocery budget, especially given the ages of those young ‘uns. Congrats! And no I don’t think it’s cheating to make the challenge to provide as much as you can for yourself via garden/fruit trees/milking animals. What a great goal, you GO girl! ~TxH~