Frugal Dinner Challenge: The End and a Wrap Up

March 15, 2011

I saved our family from spending $680.04 on groceries in the past 30 days.

Well, we did it. We made it for 30 days, making the dinners we ate at home all from what we had in our freezer and pantry, save for produce, bread and dairy that we needed to buy about once a week.

I really should have taken “before” pictures of my two freezers and the pantry. Then you would have fully understand why I embarked on our frugal dinner challenge–to use up what we had been stockpiling on sale because we didn’t have anymore room left to stock our freezer or pantry–and would have fully appreciated these “after” pictures:

Pantry, After

As you can see I’ve still got some staples left in my pantry (left)–primarily things I can use to make desserts (cake mix and what not)–as well as soy sauce, vinegar and cooking spray. There are also a few cans of soup but really not much else.

Main Freezer, After

The freezer in our main refrigerator (right) is also relatively bare, though I still have two boxes of Boca burgers in there for my non-hamburger-eating daughter, and some Healthy Choice/Lean Cuisine entrees that we’d stocked up on months ago when they were on sale for about a buck a box. (I find them to be quick, convenient lunches to have around.)

Extra Freezer, After

Probably the biggest change is in our extra freezer (left), which we keep near the back door. When I started the Frugal Dinner Challenge, I couldn’t even see the lightbulb in the freezer. Now that freezer is mostly empty except for some ice blocks that you put in a cooler (no nutritional value), random popsicle/icey pops in flavors no one likes (I should really throw them away), and a few more of those Healthy Choice/Lean Cuisines that we’d stocked up on months ago. All of the frozen vegetables have been eaten.

What made the most difference in this freezer was getting the free turkey I’d earned back in November out of there and into the oven. I cooked it on Monday and we had a modified Thanksgiving dinner Monday night–turkey, mashed potatoes, and corn.

With only four people to feed, I’ve got a lot of turkey leftover and now I need to figure out what to do with the rest of it. Of course, I’ll freeze some and maybe make turkey salad but then I’m a bit stumped of how to use up the leftovers before they should be tossed in the trash.

Here is the best part of about Frugal Dinner Challenge: I crunched the numbers and figured out that by using up what we already owned in making dinner–plus eating breakfast at home every morning, and packing lunches for my daughters and my husband every weekday–I saved our family from spending $680.04 on groceries in the past 30 days.

My plan is to take a slightly different approach to grocery shopping going forward. My hope is to spend one month stocking up–and spending money on groceries–and then one month using up what we’d stocked up on and not actively spending money on groceries. I’m hoping that in doing this, I can truly reduce our grocery bills for the long haul.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to post some of the things we ended up making for dinner, so you can get a sense of how we stretched what we already had in the freezer and pantry into a month’s worth of dinners.

If you’ve attempted your own Frugal Dinner Challenge, how did things turn out for you and your family?


13 Responses to Frugal Dinner Challenge: The End and a Wrap Up

  1. Leah Ingram on April 5, 2011 at 7:28 am

    That’s a great idea on how to use up the ice pops!


  2. Daisy on April 5, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Those popsicles and icy pops – Have you considered cutting them off the stick (or out of the packaging) to use as ice cubes? They make a glass of water fun, and add color to mixed (adult) drinks.

  3. dee dee on March 17, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Love your frugal food challenge and am very impressed by your results. We’re are always very frugal with our food budget, but take a different approach. It’s just the 2 of us, so it’s a whole lot easier than feeding a family. We shop almost everyday and find that we tend to save more that way. We only buy what is on sale and only stock up on essential pantry items (organic chicken or beef broth, pasta, canned tomatoes – if we’ve run out of the home-canned variety – when they are on sale. By planning our meals around what is fresh, and on sale, we keep our expenses way down. And because we don’t by much in the way of processed foods, we think it’s a pretty healthy approach as well.

  4. Kat on March 17, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Some ideas for leftover cooked turkey: turkey curry, turkey chili, turkey tacos (saute onions, add 1/4c powdered cumin and saute a minute, add turkey and a jar of salsa; add cilantro before serving, if you have fresh).

  5. […] empty extra freezer I showed you in this post? She’s not so empty […]

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  7. […] Finally we have a wrap-up to wrap-up our round-up. Leah discusses how they finished their month of eating every meal at home and using up all of the scraps and leftovers from their pantry, freezer and fridge over at Suddenly Frugal… Frugal Dinner Challenge: Then End and a Wrap Up […]

  8. Denise on March 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Interesting — I like that you crunched the numbers; that figure must make you feel good. I have to say I’m intrigued by your idea to keep this up going forward — spending a month stocking up, and then using everything you bought. Maybe it’s because I have a smallish fridge/freezer (source of endless frustration by how poorly designed the inside is!), and no extra freezer, but I’ve found through trial and error that I can spend less money by shopping MORE frequently, and buying less each time, especially if I make a sincere effort to avoid impulse purchases. I found that when I tried to shop for more that would last longer, I bought things I didn’t use. This way, I try to keep to, say, $100, knowing that it’ll likely last most of the week, with maybe at trip or two to replenish fruit, lettuce, milk.

    • Leah Ingram on March 15, 2011 at 9:51 am

      If I could keep our grocery bill to $100 a week outside of this challenge, I would be thrilled. By the way, hubby doesn’t approve 100% of the one month on, one month off approach. And since he does the lion’s share of the food shopping, we will have to come to some sort of agreement on how to proceed going forward. 😉

  9. Cristina on March 15, 2011 at 9:15 am

    If you’ve still got the bones from that turkey, you can make some tasty and simple broth. A bit richer than chicken broth, and perfect for homemade soups. Yum!

    • Leah Ingram on March 15, 2011 at 9:29 am

      I did save the bones and the legs, and plan to make some broth or some kind of turkey soup soon. For now I’ve stashed them in the freezer.

  10. Joetta on March 15, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Hey! If you really need some ideas for leftover turkey, I have a few suggestions. First, remember hot turkey sandwiches – like hot roast beef, only with turkey – i.e., bread/toast, turkey, gravy, with sides of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc.
    Then, you can use the turkey to make a pot pie – really easy, just turkey, white sauce/canned cream soup, frozen mixed veggies, and biscuit mix for topping.
    I also have a casserole recipe – layer of dressing mix, layer of turkey, layer of creamed soup, layer of frozen green beans (french cut is best), another layer of dressing mix.
    I have found that leftover turkey/chicken gets eaten (at least in my household) if it’s cooked into something else; if not, it just goes to waste.
    Hope this helps.

    • Leah Ingram on March 15, 2011 at 9:03 am

      Great ideas. I just had turkey on lettuce with goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette, for lunch. I may serve that for dinner, too!

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