Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food

My kitchen pantry.....

My kitchen pantry…..

Now, before you get all bent out of shape about the title of this post, let me make one thing clear.  I’m not talking about eating expired food, or moldy food, or trash out of a dumpster or anything.  I’m talking about eating old food that you’ve been staring at for far too long.  You know, like a) food your kids claim not to like, b) food items that you bought in bulk and can’t seem to use up, or c) food that sounded good at the time but no longer does.  Since we’re on FALL FINANCIAL LOCKDOWN, we’ve decided that we’re going to eat up all of our extra food in order to come in under our monthly grocery spending goal of $500.  So, with that being said, would you like to join me?  But, wait…you don’t have to commit quite yet.  Before you pledge to eat your old food, let me first explain our strategy.

Taking Inventory

First of all, I started by taking stock of what we already have.  And, since we’re already ten days into the month, we’ve already managed to suck down a bunch of old food including biscuit mix, cornbread, frozen green beans, and other stuff.  But, there’s still a ways to go.  Here are some things I noticed when I took inventory of our food:

My stockpile….leftover from my days of couponing

  • I have 13 jars of spaghetti sauce
  • I have 12 bags of frozen vegetables
  • I have 18 boxes of Boca burgers
  • I have 14 boxes of pasta.

Although I used to be an extreme couponer, I never really hoarded food.  So thankfully, I don’t have 82 boxes of Hamburger Helper or a special shelving unit devoted to organizing my canned goods.  Instead of hoarding food, I just amassed collections of personal care items and things like Ziploc bags and Kleenex.  I will never have to buy floss again. I REPEAT: I WILL NEVER HAVE TO BUY FLOSS AGAIN.  Oh, and why the hell do I have 14 boxes of Magic Erasers?  Anyone?

Anyway, thoroughly analyzing my food surplus was incredibly helpful.  Once I took inventory of my edible belongings, I realized a few things:

  • We really need to start eating pasta once a week.
  • I really need to stop buying Boca burgers when they’re on sale.
  • I really need to make vegetable soup.

Identifying Misfit Foods

Those things will be easy.  However, I also noticed some random misfit food items that don’t fit in with the meals that we typically eat.  Here are my misfit foods:

My misfit food items....I WILL EAT YOU!

My misfit food items….I WILL EAT YOU!

  • frozen Kashi pizza
  • bag of amish noodles
  • huge jar of great northern beans
  • box of Jasmine rice
  • generic mac-n-cheese
  • Trader Joes’ bean & barley soup

 

 

None of these items are expired, so I am determined to eat them!  The rice and noodles should be easy.  The jar of beans will be a little trickier because it’s enough for two meals and I’ll have to commit to eating them twice within a short amount of time.  My kids claim that they don’t like generic mac-n-cheese…but somebody’s going to eat it!  You can believe that.  DAMNIT.  I might even swap out the box and pretend that it’s the preferred Kraft kind.

Going the Extra Mile

The Trader Joes bean & barley soup sounds delicious…but the beans need to be soaked overnight and I always forget.  Therefore, I’m going to make a special effort to do this sometime this week.

Now….onto the Kashi pizza.  I bought two of these and the first one was absolutely disgusting.  We forced some of it down and gave the rest to my dog.  And, sadly, my dog wasn’t even interested.  So, let’s face it; I’m going to have to be intoxicated to make this happen.  And, thankfully, I’m willing to make that sacrifice in order to complete Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food.  I’m just going to hold this puppy back until this weekend so that I can be thoroughly prepared for the occasion.  Now, that is dedication.

Are You In?

Now that you know what you’re getting yourself into, do you want to join this food challenge?  If so, have you located your misfit food items?  And, what do you have a lot of?  I’ll follow up at the end of this week to report how we did and find out how all of you did as well.  Are you in?

 
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. My thing has always been eat what you have in the fridge and pantry first. Way back when — we used to buy things and look at it, then go buy more knowing good and well we had things that could have been eaten. its like we were saving them for something. First in last out(FILO). New food gets put to the bottom in the freezer and to the back in the pantry so the oldest gets eaten first. Surprisingly never had the Kashi pizza before. I’m in with you guys!

  2. That’s a great idea! We had a grocery challenge a few months back and ate down a lot of our stored foods. As a result there is not much left. We’ve continued with our $25pp/week grocery budget and have found we don’t stock pile quite as much as we used to, which is probably a good thing! Good luck!

  3. I’ve been trying to do that since I got back from my vacation. My fridge is now mostly empty except for some milk and condiments. Sadly, most of what I have left to use up is in the grains food group (bread, biscuits, pasta/noodles, rice, crackers, cereal) and my gluten-sensitive digestive system is really hating me!

    • Well, I wouldn’t blame you if you took your time eating them. Making yourself sick to save money would be counterproductive.

    • I think it is perfectly fine not to eat things that make you sick. I am in, but I got allergy test results back, and basically I am not eating the 4 yogurts, cheeses, sour cream, corn tortillas, popcorn, corn chips, or soy sauce marinated crane asada. Or chocolate – did you know how much soy lesitchin is in chocolate?? Actually, I may finish off the chocolate stash. The detox can be a little wonky. Point is, don’t eat the gluten!! Not worth it!

      PS I just bought a gluten free, dairy free pizza. It will give Kashi a run for its money! Must load with pepperoni!

  4. Good luck! My big thing right now is using up some dried black beans that have been sitting in my cupboard FOREVER. Every once in awhile I get ambitious, soak them overnight, and make something awesome with them, but the organization required to soak them overnight pretty much keeps them off my week day meal list. I want them gone!

  5. Bring it, girlfriend!! We’re on a bit of a lockdown ourselves this month, so I will gladly join you. Here we come, 6-pack of Hormel Chili! :-)

  6. Let’s start! No matter how much we try to consume all the things we bought, there are always some items we tend to have too much of at home.

  7. I’m in. Sadly I have a lot of mac n cheese and Ramen noodles. I think I will have to spread those out though.

    I also have some cheap frozen dinners that I have no idea why I bought because they look effing disgusting. My youngest will pretty much eat anything though. Maybe she will like them?

  8. I’m in! We have so many things in our pantry that we could eat, but we haven’t. It’s such a waste!

  9. Haha, good luck with the kashi pizza. I don’t think we have a ton of waste, but we did just throw out a box of crackers that had been sitting in our pantry for more than a few months now. Not our proudest moment.

  10. Holly, thanks for the early morning laugh! Love that you’re willing to “sacrifice” being intoxicated to eat a terrible pizza.

    Our household problem is I don’t eat a lot of starch because I low-carb but I buy the starchy things like mac and cheese, stuffing, pasta, and rice mixes for my fiancee and he often gets “tired” of eating some of the items. I decided some things I just shouldn’t buy in bulk (like stuffing) or else it’s just a waste of money.

    Also, worst case scenario, you can always donate pantry foods you just can’t eat. Food pantries can always use donations of unexpired, unopened shelf-stable food.

    • Yes, very true. Our local food pantry will gladly take almost anything off of your hands.

      • Ours won’t take glass, which is annoying because my father often leaves us with weird stuff from Aldi’s back home that nobody here wants to eat, but might be useful at a food pantry (white asparagus tips, for example).

        • The food pantry won’t take anything in a glass container? Hmmm….I’m not sure about mine. Come to think of it, I’ve only brought canned and boxes items so far.

  11. “My kids claim that they don’t like generic mac-n-cheese…but somebody’s going to eat it! You can believe that. DAMNIT. I might even swap out the box and pretend that it’s the preferred Kraft kind.” Lol, we go through the same blasted thing with our kids. Well… our 5 year old at least. They claim to not like it, so as long as we keep it a secret from them they’ll still scarf it down. We did something like this a number of months ago and it was crazy how much food we just had sitting around that was still “good”.

  12. My goal is to use up the things in my freezer. It is a side-by-side refrigerator freezer and, as such, doesn’t hold a lot. When it is full, I can’t see everything that is in there and things can go to waste. Thanks for the impetus to get this done.

  13. Considering the fact we coupon, we really don’t have that big of a stockpile of food. There is definitely some extra boxes of things that we could eat, so I’ll take on the challenge with what we have. I like the fact that you can really cut your food bill down if you just focus on eating what you already have!

  14. Holly!!! I certainly am bent out of shape! Oh, would that it were we had such a stash of vittles!!! And damn good vittles at that! And you may be able to throw all the misfit foods into a single pot and cook it off, creating a concoction that will be written about and studied for generations to come.

    Oh, and we’re in, but we never have a stash anymore. We finally figured out our grocery list and use every morsel every week. But we are in. Have a super pickled Monday!

  15. We call it “eating down our pantry” and we’ve recently come out of a month of doing that, so we’re back at “rebulding the pantry”. DH spent a bunch of time this weekend batch cooking so our freezer has meals in it again. (I would have helped, but the baby has been sick and clingy.)

    Have fun! We often have interesting meals when we’re eating down the pantry.

    • HA!

      Last night we had amish noodles with creamy alfredo sauce….both from the pantry! The kids thought it was okay and I think Greg liked it.

  16. We’re still not home so can’t say that we’re in, but we too definitely have to eat some of the old food. That Ragu you have there looks really tasty – it’s been a while since I ate some.

    And all your negative publicity made me really curious about that Kashi pizza. :) I will look and see if we have something like that in Romania, although I doubt it.

  17. 13 jars of pasta said isn’t hoarding food? =)

    Too bad you can’t send he kashi pizza this way. We liked the ones we’ve tried in the past.

  18. A few months ago, I had 5 jars of the mega size pasta sauce, so that probably equal to 13 regular jars! I now have three jars of pickles. How did I buy three jars of pickles? I will totally join you, but I might have to buy milk. Otherwise, we’ll eat what we have. I think we might be able to make it two weeks, especially if we eat lots of pickles.

  19. Great idea. My wife and I usually stock up and the stuff just lays around in our cupboard and we don’t use it. This past month, we unintentially used most of it as we have a newborn and were too busy to go shopping for more stuff! It’s a good thing because we were running out of room in our small apartment.

  20. I think you’re just trying to corner the market on floss.

    Then when that global shortage hits, just like all the doomsday folks have been ranting about for YEARS, BAM!

    You hit the market with that premium string and make out like a bandit .

  21. I agree about the Kashi pizza, though I like most Kashi stuff for the fiber content… that’s definitely more of an ‘eat to live’ rather than vice versa moment. Our shelves are pretty shallow so we can’t store much food, but I know there’s some random misfit canned veggies that could be consumed. I’ll use them in the spirit of things. :)

  22. I’m actually pretty good about not ‘hoarding’ food. I feel like I have the opposite problem…I don’t go grocery shopping enough or regularly so I have nothing to cook and end up ordering out too much!

  23. OMG even the dog wasn’t interested in the pizza? Damn that’s pretty bad! You can send some magic erasers my way. I love those things and went through a bunch this weekend deep cleaning my apartment. I’m not sure I can fully do this challenge as I don’t store much food in my barely there pantry, but I do need to go into FFL because I’m already over budget and it’s only the 11th! Scary!

  24. We started a monthly no-grocery week – pretty self-explanatory. The first week of the month, we don’t go to the grocery store at all – no matter what’s on sale. Except for milk. I’m actually starting to be able to see daylight in the freezer (so to speak). Grocery money gets stashed.

    If you forget to soak your beans, you can quick-soak them – dump boiling water on them and let them sit an hour or so, and you’re good to go. I forget to soak beans all the time.

  25. I’ll join in, Holly. There are some odd misfit stragglers in there (canned salmon and clams from an ambitious idea of making a salmon chowder that never materialized).

  26. I’d join in the challenge, but somehow there doesn’t seem to be any old food sitting around our place. I guess I eat it all the first time around!

  27. Do it!!!

  28. Very good actions Holly. I want to add that kids must be trained to eat all kinds of food and also it is good share the financial knowledge with them. It’s better to train them on frugality right from childhood. For me storage is an issue so I don’t buy excess above my storage capacity. Anyways I am in with you that we must eat the food old or new or whatever is present at Home, I support

  29. I’m in Holly! Good idea and this is really needed at my house as well! I find that things expire sometimes before we even get to them so that makes me feel soooo good that I got them on sale and with the coupon! We are going to do the inventory this week and come up with a meal plan with all of the food that we have in the house. I”m sure we could get two weeks worth of meals out of what we already have in stock. Great idea!

  30. Use the entire jar of great northern beans to make this: http://spinthemeal.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/slow-cooked-white-chicken-chili/

    I made some yesterday, and we’ll have leftovers for quick lunches at work all week. Paired the chili with homemade cornbread to use up some cornmeal in my pantry.

    You could even substitute crumbled boca burgers in place of the chicken!

  31. I never buy things I do not eat a lot so there is hardly any misfits in our pantry because my wife knows what I eat and what I do not. However I took a peep at the pantry and found a bunch of tuna cans. I do not eat tuna but my wife does and I think she hasn’t had some for a while.

  32. I’m so with you (well I will be when we get back from vacation). We have a lot of stuff that I stocked up on when I was couponing seriously and sadly a lot of that stuff has sat around for way to long. I could probably stop grocery shopping for at least a month and have plenty to eat-maybe that’s my next challenge. Re: the Kashi pizza-we had one too and it was terrible, I mean who can mess up pizza? Apparently the people at Kashi can!

  33. Our shelves are full of misfit foods at the moment, time to start formulating a plan of attack!

  34. This is something that my wife and I really like to do. We want to make sure that we eat the things that have been just sitting around. One thing my wife doesn’t have a problem with is eating pasta. That is her crux.

  35. Can I pretty please see this floss collection? :P You guys are doing awesome with Fall Financial Lockdown! J and I are moving into our new condo in a few weeks so we’re going to try to eat all our old food as well! Thanks for the inspiration :)

  36. I just started doing this last week and I love it. We have meat and vegetables on the freezer and several cans of food in addition to flour and rice in the pantry. I have baked loaves of bread, made pizzas, corned beef hash, and a Carribean-inspired meat pie. I’m hoping to keep our grocery bill to about $40 a week.

  37. You are such a team player, Holly. Willing to get intoxicated in order to eat a Kashi pizza. Now that is dedication! LOL! I am sure we have a few miscellaneous items that need to be eaten, although I don’t think have 13 jars of pasta sauce. But I’m in. :D

    • Yay, Shannon! =)

      I know. Well, I *might* just add a bunch of extra toppings to the pizza and see if Greg will eat it. I know I can’t get past the disgusting crust personally…but he may not notice!

  38. Sean McNulty @ MyMoneyPlatform says:

    It makes for an interesting challenge anytime. My greatest achievement was pork sausage, baked beans and spaghetti…divine. Don’t knock it ’til you try it :-) delicious

  39. Well, I don’t need to do this as we just moved into a new place (with an itty bitty fridge) and we don’t have much food — but I’m digging the idea! I DO need to go on financial lockdown this fall. I’ve basically been on vacation for 6 weeks. Oops!

  40. Wow you’re a trooper! Anything I’ve ever eaten that was from Kashi was disgusting! Would it help to put something on it like salsa or extra cheese or something? Think like you’re still in college!

  41. LOL that’s a lot of spaghetti sauce. Dinner at your house? I’ll join in. :) I’m trying to be cheap this month!

  42. Wow, that’s a lot of food! This could last me until the end of the year! ;) I eat things as I buy them. If I buy three bars of chocolate, consider them gone the very same day. I guess I’m not good at storing food so I’ve learned to only buy what I need, otherwise, I will end up eating more. Good luck with the challenge! ;)

  43. We do this usually toward the end of every month. We find out what’s still around, throw out what’s bad, and meal plan starting with what we have.

    And my “we” I mean my wife. Because when I try, I mess up the entire balance of the universe that is meal planning and organizing, and send the Earth spinning into oblivion.

  44. I am so with you! Even though we have only been at the apartment for two and a half months now, things are piling up. I have a lazy susan, and because it’s behind cabinet doors, it’s easy to forget what is in there. We have a decent amount of frozen veggies, my boyfriend stockpiled Chef Boy R Dee when it was on sale (gross, that is ALL on him to eat), we have a decent amount of potatoes and maybe five or six bags of pasta (a lot for 2 people). We have been working on getting the freezer a bit more bare lately. Good luck eating the pizza; anything I’ve found I don’t like goes straight to the boyfriend, who is a human garbage disposal :).

  45. We’re pretty good about avoiding this syndrome! My wife has shopped to a list that is attached to a weekly menu. In fact, we sometimes forget to replenish some items which we go without for a week. All you have to do is incorporate all those items in future menus.

  46. This is great stuff Holly! We end up in this same type of scenario all the time. I think I have some Thai entrees hidden in the back of our cupboard somewhere. Too spicy for me but maybe the Mrs. will like it.

  47. Holly,

    Good stuff. I find far too often that I’m buying more groceries when I still have plenty to eat in my cupboards. I like the thought of putting my grocery shopping on a spending lock down and going through all that can be eaten from my kitchen and eat it up.

    I usually don’t buy in bulk, therefore I don’t have a lot of extra in there. But either way, it’s likely to save my a significant amount of money, perhaps an entire week’s worth of grocery costs or so. Good luck with your adventure as well!

    Take care,

  48. Every once in a while we will just try going for a week or two extra without grocery shopping. It keeps down the stock of old food.

  49. Amish noodles? What’s special about them? I have been going through a much smaller stockpile too, especially frozen meat, I don’t eat much meat so it’s been there for months and it is not supermarket meat so you can’t be too sure it will stay fine for much longer. When I unfreeze too much I just cook it and freeze again, like meatballs so you can thaw them and have dinner ready in 10 min.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food | The Warrior Family can be pretty bad about using what we have when it comes to food. We eat healthy, but we don’t always take advantage of what is already in the house. Great advice here that should be applied more often on our part. […]

  2. […] already time for the weekend!  Anyway.  On Monday, I invited all of my readers to participate in Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food.  And as promised, I’m ready to report how I did and check to see if everyone stuck with the […]

  3. […] Johnson @ Club Thrifty writes Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food – Do you want to save money by eating food that you already have? If so, please join […]

  4. […] Holly Johnson @ Club Thrifty is  Eating Old Food to save money. […]

  5. […] Johnson @ Club Thrifty writes Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food – Do you want to save money by eating food that you already have? If so, please join […]

  6. […] from Club Thrifty presents Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food, and says, “Do you want to save money by eating food that you already have? If so, please […]

  7. […] I loved Holly’s post Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food. […]

  8. […] Johnson @ Club Thrifty writes Operation Frugality: Save Money by Eating Old Food – Do you want to save money by eating food that you already have? If so, please join […]

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