Monday, July 02, 2012

pantry challenge, final

This month I issued a challenge to my household: we would refrain from buying anything that resides in a package, to clear out pantry (and freezer) clutter. 

June has come and gone, and with it, our silly little pantry challenge.  We managed to get through the month without killing each other over shopping lists, so that's a plus.  Let's revisit the original goals for this project: 

use up the majority of the forgotten food

I must confess that we didn't manage to use up nearly as many stockpiled food items as I'd hoped.  As I mentioned last week, one revelation during this challenge was that we simply don't seem to do a lot of cooking from the pantry, at least in the summer when fresh veggies are plentiful.  This means both that we could probably make do with a much smaller 'stash,' and unfortunately that it will take a lot more than a month to go through the extra.  

temporarily reduce the grocery budget

Viewed from a strictly budgetary standpoint, the experiment was a dismal failure.  As you can see at the bottom of this post, I spent nearly $500 on food this month, and that's rather higher than my monthly average of around $350 ($368.25, if you're into precision).  So... goal #2 was not particularly successful.  But we did eat better, with a focus on the fresh food available at the farmer's market.  I'm mildly disappointed that we didn't manage to save any monty this month, but the lack of actually using up cupboard materials quite sensibly correlates with a lack of reduced expenditures. 

create more space in the kitchen

While there's a little more wiggle room in some areas, it's not necessarily noticeable.  No significant elbow room gain has been realized.  

At this point, it seems that the project has failed on all fronts --- we've still got a lot of ignored food to use up, June saw a rise in food expenditures, and the kitchen is no more livable or organized.  However, this brings us to goal #4...

gain a better awareness of what we have (and what we buy)

...and this is the real triumph.  Through the month we've poked through cupboards and freezers, can see what's behind where the 'staple' items customarily live but have not been replaced, and we now have a pretty solid idea of how much food we've got stashed around the kitchen.  If June was a failure in terms of money and actually using up extra items, it was a definite triumph in terms of mindsets.  By focusing out attention on the issue for a whole month, I feel that we've come to have a subtly different outlook when it comes to shopping. 

The original stated purpose of the challenge was to do a one-time clean-out, and wind up with less stuff.  That didn't happen, but we gained the infinitely more valuable shift in outlook that will be needed to change our food-buying habits and be just a little more sensible about stocking the kitchen and avoiding some of the excesses of consumerism.  Instead of a single massive purge, I suspect that we'll slowly whittle down the superfluous, and the problem will self-correct over time.  With periodic reality checks, of course.  Habits can be tricky to change, but it's never too late to tackle them.  

Yesterday my husband asked me to add dijon mustard to the list for the simple reason that we were out of it.  Then a bit later he crossed it out and declared that we could simply  use up some of the fabulous gourmet mustards lurking in the cabinet.  When at the store, I actually think about each thing I'm getting, not just in terms of price but also whether we actually need the item, and if anything else could possibly substitute.  

Shopping is no longer done on reflex.  I kind of like that. 

food budget tracker: week 2
farmer's market: $12
grocery: $109.66
other (kettle corn): $11

total: $132.66

grand monthly total: $497.16

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