Monday, January 5, 2009

Urban Pantry Challenge 2009 Living off da Larder.

Here's the 1st seg way -
While we were in Cleveland visiting with my 95 year old Abuela, Western New York had a heat wave of 60 degrees in our area thus melting the +14" of collected snow from the previous week.
Cellar flooded about 6"- 8". The majority of items such as our upright freezer & front load clothes washer are up on cinder blocks as well as the 8 year old furnace. Not my new unfulfilled chest freezer (doing a V-8 head smack).
So after putzing around doing a few loads of laundry the next day I start moving cardboard boxes which leads to moving mason jars to reorganize the home canned goods pantry shelves.
Then because I was waiting on the rinse cycle I moved on to the commercial side of our pantry area. That section holds items like coffee & white flour bought on sale along with hidden soda for adult refreshments.
What I found among the big bottles of Wesson oil bought 5 years ago for 99¢ was unfortunately a good cache of expired food.
Such a Sin.
2nd seg way - DH & I have been having this on going argument about exactly how much we spend on groceries per month. I say $100 including pantry stocking purchases. He says way more. Some weeks it is more due to a great score on pantry stocking but once averaged I still say it's about $25 a week.
Read recently that the average American family spends over $800 a month on groceries.
Food is one area of our budget that we can control to a certain degree.

So here is the details of our competition in this the 2009 Urban Pantry Challenge.
1) Keep all receipts be it from the store, farmer's market, or alternative sources such as bartering/gleaning or the left overs from food ministries (slip of paper with an estimate of retail cost of the item).
2) Shop our Pantry first & foremost.
3) Strive to use organic healthy options in our food preps.

Simple huh?

Here's what we start out with ; $287 spent on locally pasture raised beef. Split the order with BB & her Mom in September or early October. After listening to a story on NPR about the decrease in Cattle Ranchers & breeding stock due to the high cost of grain feed we decided to get our butts in high gear and load up. It worked out to $2.40 a pound after all was said and done.
So far we have used up the ground beef portion.
Stew meat, Steaks, & Roasts are left.
Chicken & Pork has been bought on a week by week basis until we find a local supply.
Then there is the 200 + jars of home canned food plus still filled jars from '07 & '06.
Commercial canned goods like Gandule beans, tuna, & pureed pumpkin. I have no idea what I paid for these except that it wasn't full retail. These foods stuffs were bought @ a store closings, Clarence, or as loss leaders. A few even with coupons.
Next is dry goods such as white rice, white flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, rye & wheat berries.
Dehydrated items such as herbs, celery, green bell peppers, butternut squash, sunflower & squash seeds, grapes to raisins, along with nuts.
Oh forgot pectin for canning.
Somewhere around a grand worth of commercial grocery stuffs collected over the past 2 years.
Milk raw from the dairy is $2.50 a gallon.
Cheese was had for a steal of which we still have 40 odd pounds left.
Personal care products such as shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. is valued around $40.

Did I leave anything out?

~~ pelenaka ~~

1/7/09 - To date neither DH or I have bought a single food item unless you count the extra large Timmy's coffee that I inhale on the way to work each night this week (under $10 but still do need to work on that carelessness).
We are out of milk but since we are having a travel advisory due to freezing rain & thick ice on roads driving out to the farm for a load of raw milk isn't happening.
Nor is visiting our local butcher for pork chops. I would love a big bowl of homemade French Onion Soup but as I write my gift from God is working on cages for my newly acquired bun's from a show on Sunday (future post next week when my vacation starts).
Just got home from my 5th night shift of 7 in a row, should be sleeping.
Note to self stop drinking coffee by 0300.
Homemade Tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches & tossed salad.
Unsure about that salad it was a discard from a food ministry on the 2nd.

1/9/09 - Correction for the 1st week of our Urban Pantry Challenge; DH spent $7 @ the butcher for ground beef to make his haven on earth meatloaf. Sides were steamed carrots & smashed papas that are some of the last had from gleaning last fall. The salad was still good.
If you have ever eaten @ his Mom's restaurant in Rochester, The Mulberry Mill then you know what I'm talking about.
$5 spent on raw milk.
So alll total $12 for the first week of January.


  1. I have to sit down and go over our list of items...what we will eat and what we won't. I've been eating our canned apples that we canned this summer...they are very good but we haven't even tried to touch the pickles yet. I am not a pickle person but Lea is...gotta push her to use them. You are way ahead of me in listings...I gotta get on the ball.

  2. Maybe you could incorperate prices in a method that we use in our pantries, basement stock, and also emergency supplies. I use graph paper on a clipboard near/in each area on a clipboard. Each item has it's own column and is marked with a / in the little box as it's purchased/put in. When used, the / changes to an X. So for example, 6 cans of coffee would be //////, using 2 would show XX////. I imagine it would be simple to use an extra few bozes to list the purchase price as you restock. I love our little system since it makes it so easy to take an inventory and also to quickly make up a shopping list. One great thing about it too is that once the whole thing is set in place and running, you can actually see and count usage over a period of time. It's amazing to see exactly what you go through over a year! I even use the same system for emergency supplies like lamp oil, propane cylinders, flashlight batteries, etc.

  3. Patrice, getting everyone including me to eat what we put up can be a hard battle if it isn't for example Wild Bluberries that is ear marked for special occassions.
    Chris, orgianally what I did was write with a black marker on each commercially canned item the cost. This was a great why of reafrimming to myself that pantry style shopping is worth the effort. Then ofcourse I got lazy & items were shelved without the true prices.
    Your system is worth a look as I need something that is real time do able by gophers a.k.a. daughters.

  4. You've only spent $41 on groceries this month???

    Buh..uh...I...WOW. How much time does it take you to make these savings? Are you shopping in many different places and if so how much more are you spending on fuel? Is it mostly bulk and sale that you're buying? Did it cost a certain amount at the onset and just averages out to $25 a week?

    Our garden will finally go in this year so that should help us quite a bit. Of course, I had to buy all my seeds this year so I've included that in my grocery costs. But I'll be learning how to save seed to save that expense next year. The most local meat we have is from upstate NV and milk is from UT but it's not as cheap as what you're spending. And spending it upfront in bulk is what gets me. Storage is also something I'm working on. I'm also going to increase our vegetarian and vegan meals. And I saw you made cheese with vinegar - I've heard of that but I'll have to look into it further.

    This is all really inspiring though. I don't think I could do quite the same as you based on availability in Las Vegas, but I must be able to do better than the $100 a week I'm spending now!! Thanks for the inspiration. I'm adding you to my Reader.


    P.S. I hope you don't mind but I'm going to share your link on my blog.

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  6. Thank you for the post on your blog about my blog. Lived for 3 years @ China Lake N.A.S. in which I had a mediocre garden. You diffently have your own unique challenges in Vegas.

    To answer your questions:
    Time - stocking a pantry is a never ending task. More than the aspect of time it is a mind set. Opportunties happen everywhere you just have to always be ready - like keeping your pantry list/barter lists handy or a stash of $ ear marked for pantry use only. In the begining I allocated a a few hundred tagged for a certain bulk order like meat from my federal tax return.
    Shopping locations - one store once a week only if something is a good deal advertised in the flyer. Whole chickens for 89¢ a pound would make me pull on my boots & go out. The other store we shop doesn't do sales per say (Aldis).
    If I pay retail for an item it is because it is a true need not a want & then only if I can't make due.

    Real reason behind a low grocery bill planting a garden and sucessfully perserving your harvest.

  7. I've just recently decided to essentially "stop shopping." We are hoping to move within the year and I don't want to move all the heavy food on hand. The perishable (refrigerated/frozen) food will have to be used up and I'd like to reduce the pantry supplies of some of the heavier foods. I don't mind moving dry pasta or wheat berries, but not the big jar of pickled jalapenos or sliced pineapples in juice where the liquid adds a lot of weight.

    My trips to the store will only be for an ingredient her or there to fill out a meal plan (such as avocado and cucumber today to make sushi). The part I'm not looking forward to is re-stocking once we do get moved.


Thanks, good to know there are other's with this interest