Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Pantry Plan or How I'm Not Buying Groceries Until September

My Pantry

As I was scanning my groceries in the self check-out line last week at the local grocery store, I watched as each item I zinged across the reader pushed my total higher and higher. By the time I finished with a week's worth of groceries, I had exceeded the entire monthly grocery budget I put myself on last year when I moved to Connecticut. My one week total, if I pulled out the three pharmacy items that are "one offs", was over $90.00 for one person and one cat! Ouch...

As I put the groceries away, I started to consider how I could reduce my weekly and monthly food bills. After all, I have a well stocked pantry and freezer and my garden is starting to bear produce beyond lettuce and herbs. Not to mention, cooking and baking are more than hobbies for me, they are a vital part of who I am and contribute to my general well being in the form of providing a creative outlet and stress relief from my job.

As I looked at the boxes of pasta, the cans of tomato products and vegetables, and various baking ingredients in my pantry, the frozen chicken, pork, and beef in my freezer, and the pounds of butter and other staples in my fridge, I realized that I could restock depleted often used items and staples in my pantry and quite comfortably, with a little planning, not have to buy any quantity of groceries for the next forty-five days. Further, given that between now and Labor Day, I will be on business trips for about three weeks, I decided that I would not buy an substantial groceries until September 1, 2008.

Thus, "The Pantry Plan" was born.

Here is the plan: between today, July 1 and September 1, I will not be doing any grocery shopping except for the following items:

  • Perishable dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, half and half (got to have my coffee!)

  • Cat food (LB doesn't understand the meaning of "pantry plan" and requires his Fancy Feast)

  • Cat litter (See LB's understanding of the "pantry plan" and his consumption of Fancy Feast)

  • Items needed for any Daring Baker challenge not already in my pantry (I'm setting a self imposed limit of $15.00 for any special ingredients for challenges)

  • Items needed to fulfill any baking orders or catering jobs (paid for by clients)

  • Items needed to teach my bread baking classes at the local community college (reimbursed by college)

  • Corn on the cob from the farmer's market. (I can't grow this in my container garden)

  • Fresh fruit from the farmer's market. (I have no berry bushes or fruit bearing trees in my yard)

Otherwise, I will be living off what I have in my house or gather from my garden and getting creative with my pantry. This will probably mean some of my "noblesse oblige" baking I do for my office mates will need to be curtailed but tough times call for tough measures I'm afraid.

From time to time during the next two months, I'll blog about recipes I've made and how I'm doing sticking to the plan. I'll also be posting my weekly personal grocery expenses.

This past weekend I put the plan in motion. After carefully taking inventory of my pantry, my fridge, and my freezer, I created a shopping list using tada lists to restock any often used items and staples. I then spent about two hours with the various online sales fliers and printing online coupons for Shaws, Whole Foods, Balducci's, Trader Joe's, and Super Stop and Shop, as well as clipping the new coupons from the newspaper and sorting my existing coupons to match my shopping list and headed for the grocery stores.

By the time I got home about four hours later, I had spent $165.01. By using coupons, buy one/get one free deals, and various other savings techniques, I had saved $63.21 and I had a completely stocked pantry, fridge and freezer.

Let the games begin...