I think I still have too much stuff.
I realized this weekend that despite the fact that we’ve stuck to our no-spend rules, we still lack…space. Freezer space and pantry space in particular.
One of our goals for our no-spend month was to eat some of the stuff that’s been lingering in our freezer and pantry. Two weeks into our no-spend challenge, and there’s still tons of stuff in both. If I bought our regular grocery hall this week, I’d be struggling to figure out where to put it.
I must have been buying way too much food. We spent less than $20 at the grocery store this week for milk, half and half and a little produce. I may spend a little more this week, but only because we could also use some butter, eggs, and cheese.
(Jon doesn’t give up butter. Ever.)
Basically, though, we’re still well-stocked. We haven’t had any unexpected expenses. Not much has changed, other than a big awareness that maybe we’ve been buying way too much.
Amanda confessed in her no-spend January roundup this week that she might be bit of a food hoarder, and I might have an issue as well.
How did we get here? The last time we did a no-spend month, we said we were going to ratchet down our food supply, and we did for a while. Our level of food waste is way down. We still, however, have been buying way more food than we need. What’s driving it?
Sixteen months ago, Jon and I spent a lot more on an average month’s food than we do today. A lot of this was because we made regular trips to BJs and Trader Joe’s that added to our food costs without subtracting from our grocery bills. We got mainly extras, and snacky extras at that: We also had a tendency to buy new items that looked appealing but sat in our cupboards unused and a penchant for buying more produce that we got around to consuming.
After our initial no-spend month, we cut a lot of those things out and cut our food bill way down. We cut out the extra trips to warehouse clubs. Instead of going to Trader Joe’s every other month, we dropped down to every 5-6 months. We bought food, especially perishable food, in smaller portions more appropriate for the three of us.
Most of all, we stopped buying nearly so many experimental items and stuck to the basics…most of the time.
So this time, while we have a bunch of food in our pantry, it does tend to be things we actually eat. There’s no quinoa or barley in the pantry this time, waiting desperately for us to pick up and use. We mostly have the staples we eat…pasta and grits, rice and broth and canned tomatoes. It’s not the same stuff we had last time, and that’s a good thing.
An Ibotta Factor?
But, I wonder if I haven’t fallen victim to an Ibotta factor.
I like using Ibotta to get rebates on things I ordinarily buy. And if you get rebates or use coupons on things you would buy anyway, using Ibotta or any other app or coupon that reduces your price or gets you cash back is just smart shopping.
But sometimes, I’m buying things I wouldn’t ordinarily buy because I can get a rebate. Not big things. But maybe I buy two boxes of Special K instead of one, or three packages of Knorr noodles because that’s what it took to get the rebate.
And that’s NOT smart shopping. I just bought extra stuff, crowding my cabinets, for a couple of measly dollars in rebates. And that’s one reason we’re stuffed to the gills in foods we haven’t eaten.
I’ll continue to use the apps, but buying additional items to get rebates is getting worked by the apps instead of working them.
The Moving Target
The other issue, of course, is that our daughter still asks to try new things she then doesn’t eat. So yes, we have cookies and cream Pop Tarts that no one eats, two types of Captain Crunch and stale white cheddar Cheezits Only Regular Cheezits
Only Regular Cheezits now, please. Or Toasty. Or Big. Or maybe the kind with the M&Ms, okay, Mom?
And no vanilla yogurt. I like peach yogurt. Or the vanilla kind with M&Ms. But don’t just put M&Ms in regular vanilla yogurt, that would be yucky, it’s not the same thing at all.
By the way, I love blood oranges but don’t put them in my lunchbox, okay, because then the other kids tell me I’m a vampire.
That’s not cool? That sounds cool to me. Evidently not.
So, buying the right food for a six-year-old still drives a lot of extra foods into the house. I’m hoping as the month progresses and the snack supply shrinks she’ll realize that she should probably stick to more dependable choices.
But I probably just need to stop taking her grocery shopping for a while. She can ask to add things to the grocery list, but making her ask ahead of time instead of letting her pick at the store will probably screen out a bunch of the surplus items.
We’ve gotten some wonderful food gifts from family members…turkeys, a ham, sausages.
We haven’t necessarily done a good job of leveraging those gifts into dinner. And we need to come up with a better plan to use food gifts when we get them.
Maybe a bit more menu planning?
Back to the List
Last time we did the no-spend month, we made a list of what we had in inventory.
I’m not naturally organized, and it can be difficult to figure out what we have around the house just from a quick glance. Things end up where I don’t see them, either because I’ve put them down somewhere different or because there is another item in the way. The list helped. We knew what we had, and we could make much faster decisions about what we might prepare for meals or even eat for snacks.
The list even reminded us to use certain things.
I thought maintaining the list was a great idea. I was going to keep an inventory list going. Only I didn’t do that. I got out of the habit, and we no longer have a list.
So I’m back to filling out the list and trying to figure out how to make it easier to maintain even as we add and use items.
What Else Have We Done?
Staying home and not spending has been pretty easy this week. Icy roads kept Little Bit home for several days, so we had a lot less running around. We had a bunch of leftovers in the house too, so I only really had to cook once.
We’re out of leftovers, though, so maybe we can start making some progress on clearing space.
Little Bit spent much of the week home playing Minecraft. It’s the first really immersive game that she’s played and I haven’t, so she gets to show me things. Right now, she’s obsessed with building virtual rollercoasters. Her Dad and I have been binge-watching The Expanse on Amazon and The De Medicis on Netflix. So we didn’t have the most active week, but I’m making an effort to jump on the elliptical machine most days.
We did, however, take Little Bit rollerskating for the first time. We had signed her up with her Girl Scout Troop over a month ago, so this was an anticipated expense. At Jon’s urging, I did not don skates. I did walk around the rink, helping her back up and providing encouragement.
We now, however, have a big temptation at our house right now: Sixty some boxes of Girl Scout cookies, waiting for some little Daisy I know to make some sales. She really wants some cookies so we may have to bend the rules a bit to allow for a box. Samples help you sell, right?
Space and Shopping
So here’s how we sit…plenty of food and still no space after two weeks of very limited groceries.
Our no-spend month is certainly showing us that there is room to continue whittling down our food budget while still maintaining an ample supply of good food in the house.
We’ve let extras creep into our grocery cart and sit in our inventory, crowding our space and our budget. Some of the extras will be easy to screen out, some not so easy. We’ll see where we go from here.
What factors sneak into your food budget that you’d like to eliminate or limit?