A Successful Frugal Living Pantry Challenge

By ERIN TURNER

With the close of February drawing near, it also means the end of our month-long Pantry Challenge.

Be sure to read about why we started it and what we were hoping to accomplish in my original post. You can also read last week’s blog about which items I depended upon and discovered as necessary additions to a frugal pantry.

My whole family really enjoyed doing the challenge. There were moments when each of us kinda wished it was March, but overall, we had a great time and really learned a lot about what we are able to do when we coupon and get items for next to nothing and then stock up on them.

We were able to go the entire month without a major grocery trip. Now, we did hit the store for ice cream for a birthday party and today we hit Albertson’s because they were having super sales on some items which we felt were necessary for us to stock up on.

Those were some allowances we gave ourselves when we started: special occasions like birthdays, if there were rock-bottom prices on items we needed, and if we had coupons that were expiring for items on sale.

Erin Turner's son celebrates with ice cream

Ice cream for her son's birthday was one of the only items Erin had to purchase thismonth.

I had a ton of fun using all my new recipes from Pinterest this month. I did lots of cooking and baking. I enjoy doing that and my family enjoys eating it!

I think they would all agree the best thing about the Pantry Challenge was all the yummy food which we consumed this month. Not that we don’t normally eat well but this month I stepped it up and got creative.

This past Friday morning I really went out of the norm and baked a homemade cake for breakfast! When they looked at this warm, chocolately cake, my kids got wide eyes and looked at me speechless.

Quietly, they sampled the dessert and then quickly devoured it without so much as a peep. They still hadn’t spoken a word when I finally asked them if they like it, they all nodded with mouths full of the cake.

I then explained to them it was actually a healthy cake made from fresh eggs, freshly ground whole wheat flour (which has been sitting in my pantry waiting to be used), dark chocolate, applesauce, whole oats (which I had stocked up on when I couponed them for 25 cents each), and honey. They could care less what was in it but I think they were just relieved to know that their mom hadn’t fallen of her rocker by feeding them dessert for breakfast.

When we started the month we had a good supply of everything we pretty much needed. But as the month went on, we ran out of brick cheese. I have a good supply of shredded cheese for cooking but I always like having brick cheese around for sandwiches and snacking.

Last week, I really started to miss my cheese! Today at the grocery store we noticed they were having a sale on brick cheese and then we saw some of those bricks had an additional $2 off coupon so we got some cheese and now I’m happy and content.

The only other item I ran out of during the challenge and missed was my coconut Cascade Ice drink. We don’t drink soda pop anymore but every now and again I crave the fizziness of soda so I found this sparkling water which satisfies that craving without all the ickiness of soda. But I ran out of it over ten days ago and man, I miss it!

Other than those two things, we survived very well!

Erin's homemade coconut-banana muffins.

Coconut-Banana Muffins from scratch. Thanks,Pinterest!

In fact, I would have to say I think we ate better than normal.

Not only more creative and elaborate meals and desserts (can you say, “Pots de crème à l’Orange”?) but we ate more whole foods and, since everything was homemade, we consumed almost no highly processed food.

I ground whole wheat for breads, cereals, and, oh yeah, don’t forget cakes! We soaked dried beans for tacos, burritos and salads and I substituted applesauce for oil in baking. And I have to mention the completely homemade, whole ingredient cupcakes I made for my son’s basketball team.

They completely blew any store-bought cupcake out of the water, and not because I’m this amazing pastry chef, but because of the fresh, whole ingredients with no chemicals.

It’s worth pointing out these 28 cupcakes cost me around $2.00 to make so they were at least half the cost of store-bought ones. So, as you can see we ate hearty, healthy, and tasty meals, treats, snacks, and desserts. We didn’t starve or resort to cheap, processed, unhealthy, boxed meals.

Now that the challenge is concluding, it’s time to add up our savings!

Including today’s grocery store stop, Valentines’ Day treats for the boys, and Quinn’s birthday we spent $69.36 this month on groceries. For our family of five (mostly made up of males!), I am super pleased with the savings especially knowing the quality of meals we ate throughout the month.

My husband is ready to continue the challenge into March. We could easily do it but I think we’ll take a less hard core approach to it this next month. I’ll hit the stores a little bit in March.

To be honest, now that I’ve done the challenge and have gotten into the rhythm of searching the pantry and freezers for meal ideas, I’m anxious to continue on a less restrictive level. It was fun developing our weekly meal plans but the best part was watching the shelves and the freezers gain more space. With spring just around the corner, I’m very aware that this year’s harvest is fast approaching and I’ll need that space very soon.

The exciting conclusion to our Pantry Challenge is the fact we saved literally hundreds of dollars this month!

Jon and I decided at the beginning we would actually use the savings from this challenge for something instead of just keeping it in our budget. We thought this may serve as a good motivation during the challenge, although I think we would have succeeded even without the goal.

But we set the goal and now we will be heading out to buy our new washing machine with the cash we saved.

Erin Turner's old washing machine.

With the savings from the pantry challenge, Erin will be replacing Ol'Bessie!

Oh, I can hear you…”That’s a bummer, Erin. A washing machine? You should use the money for something fun!”

Well, let me tell you, with four boys, 15 hogs, and 100 chickens, my washing machine needs to be my best friend! And the one I have right now is old and senile—it walks away and gets lost during each load. So, a new machine is FUN and exciting for me!

I’m so glad we took this challenge.

We even had some friends join us in the challenge which made it a lot more fun!

It was great to share updates with them and hear their ups and downs. Some people may not be able to do a whole month but maybe a week challenge would be feasible. Regardless of how long you do a challenge, I’m fairly confident you will find it rewarding and refreshing.

And maybe, you’ll find some extra cash at the end of the challenge for something fun – like a washing machine!

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Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: What I Love About MissoulaSave Money and Do It Yourself with Pinterest, and The Frugal Living Pantry Challenge. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.

   Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It”archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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