As Thanksgiving comes, we are thinking of all the Christmas shopping ahead of us. There is not only gifts, but parties, decorations and cards. We are also getting many requests for donations to local food drives and different charities. We want to do it all without going into debt. The answer to all of these may be as close as your own kitchen.
If you are like most people, you probably have quite an inventory of food in your pantry and freezer. When I recently cleaned my pantry, refrigerator and freezer, I was saddened by the amount of food that I threw away because it was old or had freezer burn. So much of that food I had no idea I even had.
After Thanksgiving, over a 2 week period, see if you can use what you already have. Save money and give to the poor. Tell your family what you are doing so that they can help.
Here is the plan:
1. Take an full inventory of your pantry.
This means cleaning it out from top to bottom. Organize it and make a list of what you have. Cooking With Us has a downloadable sheet HERE. There are many other ways to take inventory. Find a system that makes sense for you. You may want to make a list in the order of your shelves. Many of the systems list items. Then put a slash mark "/" as a count for each of the quantities of each item. Then put an back slash "\" when one of those items is used. This makes an "X".
2. Take a full inventory of your freezer.
This means emptying your freezer completely. Organize it into sections of meats, vegetables, prepared foods, desserts, etc. Throw out what is bad. Make a list of what you have. The Frugal Find has a good freezer inventory HERE.
3. Inventory other areas.
You may also take an inventory of your refrigerator, baking area, garage, or other places where you store food.
4. Plan your dinner menu.
With your inventories on hand, plan your menu using as much of what's on hand as possible. Read Raising Teens: Have Dinner Together as a Family HERE. It includes a menu planner and a shopping list. If you use what you have, there should be very little on the shopping list.
Be creative. On a single shelf of my pantry I found 3 possible dinners. I can see clams and potatoes to make clam chowder soup, beans to make bean burritos, and tuna and macaroni & cheese to make a tuna casserole.
5. Plan breakfasts and lunches.
See what you can do differently for breakfasts and lunches. If your children realize that you are trying to save for Christmas shopping and giving to the poor, they may be more excited to try something new for the next 2 weeks. Have peanut butter and jelly on crackers instead of deli meat sandwiches for lunch. Have oatmeal instead of their favorite cereal with a big bowl of milk that you throw down the sink.
See what items are left that you are not going to be using and give to your local food drive.
7. Plan your gift list.
Families spend anywhere from $100-$300 per week on groceries. According to Daily Finance, the average family of 4 spends $236 per week on groceries and another $100 a week eating out. If you curb the eating out, and eat from the food in your home for 2 weeks, you may be able to save $200-$600. (These are estimates only. Your savings will vary depending on what's in your pantry and what you normally spend.) These savings can then be used to pay for your gift list. Plan your gift list accordingly. Do not go shopping without your budget in mind.
8. Relax and enjoy your Christmas.