Tuesday, 9 September 2008

August: Use It Up Month

I guess everyone is noticing the rising costs of living. I thought there must be some sort of irony in my giving up a fat paycheck only to watch milk shoot up from 35 to 49p a litre and petrol from 83 to 1.17, and thankfully back down to 1.08, per litre in the ensuing months. That’s over $8 a US gallon by the way, which is one reason I walk whenever I can.

In 2006 our grocery bill averaged £63/month; in 2007 it was £83/month and in 2008 I was beginning to wonder if I could keep it under £100. However, almost everyone I know has a major stash of food in their cupboards and freezer, like us, and most people throw away a substantial amount of food every week. When I was working we did throw away more food, as I was sometimes too tired to think about how to re-invent leftovers; you can procrastinate on a lot of things, but that's not one of them!

Now, with the luxury of time and energy, I decided to make August a use-it-up month, particularly aiming at the drawer in the freezer in which we keep meat/protein. In addition to bulk-buy bacon, frozen fish and chicken breasts, I freeze shredded cheese and leftover beans from the crock pot meals; in this house, protein is far more than just meat and I try for the most part to only use one type of protein in a meal.

My goal in August was to only buy fresh fruit and veg a couple of times, filling in with frozen or tinned. I wanted to keep us supplied with milk. We drink about a litre a day, with porridge, coffee and before bed. I knew there would also be the odd purchase as needed to keep Bill in margarine, marmalade and hot chocolate. To be fair, he joined into the spirit of the project, having different things for his breakfast to his usual toast and marmalade, like porridge (a necessity before The Great North Bike Ride – 54 miles) and leftover cornbread one morning, which he seemed to enjoy. I wanted to avoid shopping for any other purposes and to focus on using what we already had during the month of August.

It was a raging success. The drawer is still not even completely empty. We still have of bacon packages left for beans or sandwiches, etc., several containers of leftover chili from last night and a supply of fishcakes I made with mashed potatoes and a mélange of various bits of frozen fish rolled in (the last) egg and bread crumbs. The total grocery bill was only £49.44, saving an estimated £41.79 and bringing the monthly average down to £86. I realize it’s not a huge amount of money saved, but still it’s there for another use or to draw interest. I can think of a lot of things to do with £42 (about $84).

Also, planning meals was very interesting with this additional challenge and I adapted couple of new recipes I wouldn’t otherwise have used. I got out the old grinder from Grandma & Grandpa’s house and minced all the frozen bread crusts into a nice big box of bread crumbs.

Frugality can be a lot of fun - really!

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