SHTF Test – Eating Out of the Pantry

With a new baby on the way, we are shoveling tons of money towards our HSA to prepay the thousands of dollars the hospital room will cost.  We did take a hard look at birthing at home, but I’ll speak more about that in a separate post.  Our food budget has been slashed to make all the ends meet, and we’ve decided to challenge ourselves to skipping a week’s worth of grocery shopping once a month, probably until August.  I’m not sure I’ll have something interesting to report each month, but if I do, y’all will get to hear about it.   The “rules” are pretty simple, we pick one week and don’t buy food. Whatever’s in the house is fair game to eat.

Astute readers may notice that I said “we.” Budgeting is not easy, as most of you know. For those readers that may be struggling in this economy to keep financially solvent, I’ll share a bit of advice about budgeting.  In our house every adult gets equal say in the process. It doesn’t matter who’s bringing in the most cash in a particular year, every adult contributes (works our butt off might be closer to the truth) so every adult gets a say.  It’s been my experience that budgets made without the cooperation/input from everyone inevitably fail. From a SHTF perspective, having all the budget info residing in the head of one adult is a recipe for financial disaster if that one person doesn’t make it home someday.  It’s not something you “set and forget” either, spend some time every month to see where you’re succeeding and where you’re failing and have dialogue about both.  Nuff said, back to the pantry.

Doing this challenge in January is a bit harder than when we’ve done it in the past, namely because there’s nothing fresh coming out of the garden or being gleaned.  We do have various “fresh” foods in cold storage of course, but we lean much heavier on the canned and dried goods.   We’re eating up some of the older stuff (~2 years old on avg) so this is another bonus to the challenges.  We don’t have any fancy can holders that keep our cans sorted by date, you know the ones I’m talking about, the 300$ a pop FIFO jobbies. We have old fashioned shelves. :-D  And, we’re busy people, sometimes the pantry goods get put away properly, sometimes they don’t.  :-D So, eating up the dusty stuff is beneficial, both to our budget and to our stores.  As we come out of this lean time at the end of summer, we’ll can a bunch of fresh garden goodness and refresh the stores with that bounty.

The first week went really well. (Don’t they always?)  There was one little surprise, with the canned fruit.  Apparently my fruit loving toddler was talking Daddy into fruit snacks from the stored cans in the basement.  This has been going on since the fresh local fruit (except for apples) petered out in the fall.  He does eat the apples, and he does eat the frozen stuff, but every other day or so they were bringing up a can of something for him to eat in the afternoon.  Not a bad thing certainly, he’s a growing boy and canned fruit is better than any number of things he could be asking for, but I was a little surprised at the level of the fruit stores. Mostly because said can would be empty and gone by the time I got home and I just wasn’t aware that it was happening.   It doesn’t help that we had a terrible year for local fruit production in 2011 and my three main gleaning sources were almost fruitless, so I didn’t get much canned in the that category.  We’ll need to keep a close eye on that as we do these challenges, it won’t do to completely run our shelves dry of canned fruit.  Shouldn’t be a problem though.

What did we eat?  Potatoes, baked, fried and casseroled with freezer beef and freezer cheese. Pasta with white sauce and tomatoes/garlic. (Oh, apparently I’m especially terrible about rotating pasta supplies. Good to know.)  Sweet potatoes, mashed. PBJ on home baked bread, with the aforementioned fruit. Storage apples, eaten as is or in smoothies with bits of other fruit that were going downhill. Whole wheat choc. chip cookies, (you do store choc chips, right?) Toast, oatmeal, and spinach/egg burritos for breakfasts, with freezer OJ. Weekend breakfasts of nutty whole wheat pancakes.  Since we follow the eat what you store and store what you eat philosophy, I’m betting Rowen didn’t even notice a difference.  Although, he did ask for pizza once, and was disappointed to get casserole instead. :-D

Thoughts on pantry living or budgeting food costs? Do chime in!

-Calamity Jane