Re-Visit July 15, 2011

About a month ago I finished up the All You grocery challenge.  It was a personal challenge for myself and I learned quite a few things, which I enumerated in the post link above.  I believe the value of lessons learned is how you apply the new knowledge.  I thought it would be interesting to see where I am a month later and how I applied what I learned.

#1 I don't know how much to cook.   And I still don't.  But I'm trying harder to be more creative with  the foods I cook.  Last week I made tacos, a tortilla tower and taco salad out of a pound of taco seasoned ground beef.  And this week we've made 'new' recipes from chicken, roast beef, and another ground beef dish.  More variety and a few less leftovers than in the past.  I'm getting nearer the mark of cooking for two.  As well I'm going to be rethinking how I package up my meats.  I don't know why I lean towards putting up a pound of hamburger when we're only going to eat 3/4 pound at most and usually 1/2 pound.  So still more to learn, but this time about how I store my foodstuffs.

#2  My current method of menu planning doesn't work well for us.  And my lack of planning hasn't exactly worked well either. For the past month I've not written out one menu plan at all. However, by NOT planning I've been forced to be more creative with the leftovers.  See #1.  Personally I don't recommend this method at all.  Obviously I need to really work on this.  In the past I did a twice weekly menu planning session that worked rather well.  It worked like this: I'd plan meals on Monday and on Friday I'd sit down and plan meals based upon leftovers/produce/dairy products that might need to be used.  I think I'm going to adopt that method again.

#3  I'm an insecure shopper.  I've tested myself and actually skipped shopping at some of the sales and the world didn't turn belly up.   I've been monitoring my inventory of various items and for the most part we're doing okay.  There are a few areas I let slip, but I'll address that in #5.

#4 I need to rethink how I shop. I've been trying to shop weekly.  I can say honestly that it's a lot less work and a lot easier on me.  I need to do some tweaking and adjusting.  I've been focusing on the local grocery for the past three weeks.  I had given serious consideration to trying to shop at just one store each week.  I discovered that the local store has some really well priced sales compared to the larger stores.  They have excellent meats...and if I'm very very careful, I can find a little fresh produce.  Is this the only store I want to shop at in future?  Probably not.  Next month I'm going to try shopping only at Publix and see how if the sales are better and the budget holds up as well as at the local store.

#5  Time to rethink how I spend my budget.  Just like menu planning, I tossed budget out the window this month.  No, not really.  We ran out of a number of vitamins and other the counter remedies as well as personal care products this month and I spent extra restocking.  I did overspend this month on the foodstuffs as well.  I'll palm that off on the fact that I went into two extra stores besides the local place and at one I just plain out consciously dropped budget concerns and bought what I wanted.  Foolishness and not something I'll indulge in again anytime soon.

Shopping at the local store only I've noticed that most weeks I spent an average of $60.  This did not include personal care or pet products, nor sodas and only a little fresh produce.  It did include some stocking up on pantry items and reduced price meats for the freezer. 

#6  I need to rethink 'stocking up'.  I paid close attention to the stock I had on hand, the expiration dates on items and what foods I purchased.  I'm very satisfied with the application of lessons learned last month in this area.  There were quite a few items that were well priced, but impractical for our needs for one reason or another.  The purchases I made this past weekend at the local store were almost all for pantry/storage purchases and I can say honestly I filled gaps in our storage with foods we normally eat.

#7  I want better foods.  Whether I have homemade or bought foods I wanted better, quality foods.  This month we didn't toss even a single slice of bread, I made our sweet snacks and desserts from scratch and purchased a quality jam at a discount for the pantry shelf.  This week, after watching the steadily climbing price of our current coffee brand (which had been quite reasonable) John mentioned how much he'd enjoyed the German coffee we used to buy from a mail order firm.  We looked, priced, found it to be only a few cents more including shipping than the day to day price of our current brand and ordered a bulk shipment of the coffee. 

Lesson learned well and truly here.  We've had far less waste, have enjoyed our foods more and feel less 'pinched' budget-wise.

#8  I am bored bored bored with the foods we're eating.  I've tried several new recipes, dusted off one or two that were set aside for the warmer seasons and continue to look for new fresh ways to prepare our food.

#9  I miss the fresh garden produce I grew up eating.  And so I've purchased a handful of fall planting seed packets, all suitable for container gardening, bought a paper back copy of The New Square Foot Gardening,  priced concrete blocks and soil amendments to build and fill raised beds.  I guess a little at a time is good progress for a big project like this.

#10  I could have done better with spending even with the purchase of better quality items.  Ditto.  If I had not spent randomly just once I'd be nearer my usual budget and truly there was only one purchase that time that benefitted us for the month (sodas purchased on sale).  Next month I will be more budget minded and continue to try to purchase the quality goods I bought this month.

I don't expect I'll do another follow-up post on this subject but I did think it warranted a re-visit this month, especially as I'd been mentally reviewing the month past and came across this post as I did so.  How have you applied the lessons you learned?

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