Operation: Clear. It. Out. is a series of guest posts from my friend, Katie. To find out more about OCIO, check out the Introduction post.
I’m excited! This house is full of food!
Spend the day taking inventory…of everything. Clear out the cupboards, even the ones with spices and baking supplies and half-eaten bags of egg noodles. Clear out the freezer(s). Throw away the six-month old lump of cookie dough and the nearly empty bag of peas that has nothing in it but ice crystals. Empty the contents of your refrigerator. There’s no judgment here. Forgive yourself for the leftover homemade apple cider that’s been sitting in its jug, fermenting, since Thanksgiving and move on. Organize all of your beautiful, delicious and useable products back in their cubbies and shelves. Smile. Take a deep breath. Plan.
I am a list maker. There are dozens of lists on post-its and copy paper piled up around our computer table in the house. I’m going to advise you to be a list maker for this project, as well. However, if you have the super power of keeping thoughts organized inside your head then by all means do what works.
Make a list of meals that are ready to go (i.e. freezer meals), no assembly needed. Take notes of extras you’d like to have with them. For example, I like sour cream with our chicken fajitas and garlic bread with our pasta. Not necessary, but desirable.
Make a list of meals that are near ready, but missing something essential (shells for the tacos or a side dish for the pork chops).
Make a list of staples (milk, yogurt, fruit, bread). Write out your menu. Consider your schedule. Put the heat-and-serve lasagna on the busy day and the roasted chicken dinner on a weekend.
Determine your budget. For us, it was easier to create a weekly spending budget rather than one for the month. We didn’t have to buy any meat or other bulk items, just produce and staples. Setting a weekly max would help us stay on track and avoid making an impulse purchase. On average we go through two gallons of milk every week. That’s automatically $7. Our toddler eats yogurt and bananas/berries every morning. That’s another $6. Leaving us with $12 each week to buy what we need.
Every family is different and naturally, I can only tell you how my family went about this. We are not fancy breakfast eaters. Our mornings consist of yogurt, cereal and coffee. On the weekends we might break open a couple of eggs or whip up a batch of pancakes, but that’s it. Our son also goes to daycare. So for five days a week his lunch, snacks and milk are provided for. My husband and I both come home for lunch and raid over leftovers. This is an established habit we’ve had since we sliced through our food/grocery budget a year ago and it all plays a huge roll in how we were able to make our version of Operation : Clear. It. Out. a success.
Your version could look much different. Throw a few more kids into the mix or a commuting husband and this endeavor will need a twist that’s compatible to your lifestyle. The important thing is that you make an honest effort to reduce your spending, use what you have, and reach the goals you set for yourself.
Our mission : $25/week ($100 for the month) for produce and staples. Not including cleaning or household items. Redeem gift cards. Clear out all/most of freezer and pantry items. Get creative! Allow ourselves one treat night.
Day 1 : Superbowl Sunday. We were invited to a friend’s house for a potluck 😉
Day 2 : Chicken Rice Bowls. This is a household favorite. A blend of fajita-style shredded chicken with black beans and corn on top of cilantro-lime rice and whatever toppings you want. The chicken came from the freezer, the rice came from the cupboard. Everything else was in the fridge.
Day 3 : Shepherd’s Pie (freezer meal). We needed milk and yogurt from the store. Spend = $12.99
Day 4 : Enchiladas. Easy to make with the leftover chicken from Day 2 and pantry items.
Day 5 : Meatloaf (freezer meal) served up with mashed potatoes and corn.
Day 6 : Hamburgers, Mac N Cheese and broccoli. We needed buns. Spend = $1.30
Day 7 : Turkey Soup. Frozen leftover. Reheat and serve.
Total spending for the week = $14.29