Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pantry Living Weeks 11 & 12

I DID IT!!!!!!!

Friday I went to Sam's an spent $100 and felt no remorse. Sigh. These last two weeks were rough. I did have to cheat a bit more than usual because we were legit out of quite a few things. Our bathrooms were literally on their last roll of toilet paper each!! Also my meals were a bit more unusual but extra tasty. My family totally loved them and we may add them to our routine.Here is the skinny:
Pantry after week 12

Unopened boxes of cereal after week 10: 19
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 12: 12
Jars/cans/bottles opened: italian dressing, mac and cheese, coconut, peanut butter, margarine, pasta, spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, green beans, corn, olives, green chilies, teriyaki sauce, flour, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate graham crackers, cake mixes, brownie mix, frosting, syrup, ziplock bags, trash bags, marshmallows, chocolate bars, crystal light raspberry lemonade mix, oreos, crackers, cookies
Items we ran out of: oatmeal, jam, canned peaches, margarine, rice a roni, pot stickers, frozen broccoli, frozen green beans, fruit snacks, granola bars, eggs, breakfast sausage, goldfish, nesquik, water bottles
Allowable credit cards purchases: toilet seat, carrots, bread, bananas, yogurt, string cheese, hot dog buns,
Cash purchases: Candy, pens, burger king breakfast, goldfish, powerade, lunch meat, cinnamon buns, bread, fall decor, carpet deodorizer, cloth for halloween costume, basket,
Cheats: small jar of nutella,  disposable aluminum pans, photo prints,hot dogs, frozen pizza, nutter butters(don't judge), Levi's bday meals which were breakfast sausage, oj, a bag of chicken nuggets,fruit snacks, stuffed unicorn head key chains for Katy's bday party which will be in Nov. I just couldn't resist the sale and didn't have enough cash.
Gifts: jam, paper towels, cereal (2boxes from mom and dad), juice,
Free: So ShopRite has a policy if they overcharge you their customer service will refund the full amount to you for the first item and then just return the overcharged difference for the 2nd item. Well they overcharged me $2 for a small bag of pecans and so I was refunded the full amount. That will make this pecan pie that much sweeter!
Will be reimbursed for by church: terra cotta clay for making old fashioned oil lamps
Garden: 5 tomatoes! I'm shocked. Our temperatures totally dropped and made life comfortable but not warm enough for the veggies. We had one or two days get above 80 and that was enough for my last tomatoes to ripen. I'll take that!

Update: Cereal count ended at 62 boxes in 12 weeks!
So Friday was payday for my darling hubby. YA HOO!!! Now I can't go crazy. I have to build up my pantry little by little. We started at Sam's and had a celebratory lunch of pizza and soda. We know how to party. We bought milk, eggs, toilet paper, paper towels, nesquik, nacho cheese sauce, cocoa puffs, pam spray,  lysol wipes, chocolate chips, and Kool-Aid bag drinks that we'll give out to the trick or treaters. Yes, I like to buy ahead. I won't be tempted to break into them after 10pm. And they are cute and called "Ghoul Aid Scary Berry". Not sure why I think that is so funny. But they were on sale and so that is that. Also I'm already planning to be a mummy for Halloween and started buying materials for that. Tomorrow I plan to hit up ShopRite for an epic shopping trip. Levi is excited for that. I'm not even joking. He begs to go there because they give him free cheese. What more could a little boy want?

In a week or two I write my Lessons Learned post and get all sappy about Pantry Living. Thank you for following my progress this year.
Happy Fall and Happy Shopping!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Pantry Living Weeks 9 & 10

Oh Summer, oh Summer, where art thou?
The weather has been in the low 70s these past two weeks. I haven't been to the beach since my last update and as much as I'm loving the reprieve from the heat I still want my summer!!!
The weather might have cooled off but my family's appetite seems to have grown. Our upright freezer full of frozen veggies, breakfast meat and all other meat is looking pretty sparse. We also have a chest freezer which I've somewhat ignored so far. I keep the prepared foods in it, ie chicken nuggets, french fries, perogies, popsicles, fish sticks, fish fillets, shrimp, tater tots etc. I used many of those items these last two weeks.

Unopened boxes of cereal after week 8: 23
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 10: 19 (* note my parents gave me another 5 boxes this week)
We have consumed 53 boxes of cereal in 10 weeks!
Jars/boxes opened: peanut butter, alfredo sauce, pasta, corn, green beans, taco sauce, cream of chicken soup, crackers, oreos, fruit snacks, pirate booty, pastry crisps, pot stickers, mac and cheese, rice a roni, tortillas, sour cream, ziplock bags, sugar, toilet cleaner spray
Items ran out of: nutella, chicken breasts, fish sticks, shrimp, fish fillets, brown and serve sausage, Dr. Pepper, goldfish
Cash purchase: bread, dehydrated apples and peaches, bins, dog food, Comet cleaner, donuts, juice
Yard sale finds: free bike for my Max, Phillies t-shirt for Lilia, Sweater for Levi, bag of clothes for Max for $5 including pants, shorts, shirts and a Columbia lightweight jacket ๐Ÿ˜
Allowable credit card purchases: gas, oil change, tire repair, parking in Philly,
Church items that I will be reimbursed for: bulletin boards, ribbons, push pins
Cheats: Date lunch with the hubby to Allan's Clam Bar, lunch with the kids to Taco Bell, diapers(grr Levi still needs them at night), contact solution(ran out, drat!), box of oreos (screamin' deal)
Gifts: 5 boxes of cereal and a bottle fruit punch, 4 boxes of macaroni, eggs, ice cream, hamburgers, croutons, crackers
Garden: 3 tiny cucumbers and a bunch of tomatoes. I'm afraid this is the end. THe weather has been so cool the cucumber plant has retired itself and the tomatoes aren't turning red anymore. My poor green bean plants never produced more than a single handful all summer. The raised bed will need a big revamp with fresh soil and fertilizer before next year's planting.

Well, normally this would be the last of it. My hubby finished the school year 10 weeks ago and starts on Tuesday with the new year. He has asked if I could extend my pantry living as long as possible. He would love it if I could last 2 more weeks until his first pay check.......I shall try. My fear is lunch. This year I will pack 4 lunches 3 days a week, and 3 lunches the other two days a week. (Katy only goes to preschool 3 days.) That means all the snack food (granola bars, fruit snacks, pastry crisps, crackers, chips) , sandwiches or leftovers, fruit(fresh, dried, canned, pouch, applesauce...), desserts(cookies, animal crackers, candy) will rapidly diminish. When we sit around the house my kids get very little of those things. When I send them to school they tend to eat more of those. I can make this work, but it will be work.

Happy Summer! Happy first week of School for us!
Happy Pantry Living!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pantry Living weeks 7&8

Happy Summer everyone! These last two weeks were pretty relaxed here in Jersey. The hubby finished his summer program and we have gone to the beach, the pool, the movies, Sam’s, played legos, board games, ate too much food and are enjoying our time together with little stress. Our garden boomed with a huge bushel of tomatoes and several cucumbers. We shared those with our friends. We had another friend in need of some food so we shared 3 grocery bags from our pantry stores with them. The Lord has never let me starve so I can’t sit back and make excuses. “Because I have been given much I too must give.”

Pantry after week 8
Here are the stats:
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 6: 30
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 8: 23
Jars, cans opened: syrup, fruit snacks, cookies, peanut butter, jam, flour, spaghetti sauce, corn, salsa, pasta, box drinks, granola bars, nutella, croutons, goldfish, oil, chips, ziplock bags
Things we ran out of: chicken nuggets/strips, fish sticks,
Allowable purchases: fruit and veggies, bread, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, garlic bread,
Cash purchases: movies, popcorn, doughnuts, pizza, breadsticks, cookies, soda, reusable water bottles for the older 3 kids for school, new shirts for older two, athletic pants for me,ice cream, water ice, soda and beef jerky, plastic spoons, water
Gifts/gift card use: beans, avocado oil, pasta, cereal, cake mix, frosting. I used a gift card to buy myself an awesome North Face jacket, my mom paid for part of it as an early bday gift. Also my mom bought me a new watch. Ain’t she the best?!  I used a gift card to buy new shoes for myself and Lily at a crazy amazing deal. Short story: I saved over $90 with sales and a coupon and Lily’s shoes ended up being free and made my shoes cheaper. Totally screamin’ deal!
Cheats: I bought a few Christmas and bday gifts for amazing deals on Amazon. I had to use my credit card for that. So to make up for it I spent approximately the same amount on fruit and veggies and used cash for those when I could have used my card. Point is I think they cancel each other out so I claim I didn’t cheat :)
Garden: Check it out! This was a single day of harvest. Clearly I was having too much fun that week to pick each day. I usually get 2 tomatoes a day.


How is your summer going? Let me know if you’ve tried your own pantry living!!
Happy Summer!



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shopping Savvy Tips

So I was recently asked how I do what I do. How can I buy so much for so many mouths and spend so little? I do use coupons but more often than not I take advantage of the sales. I try to spend close to $400 a month on groceries 10 months of the year. And for 12 weeks in the summer my goal is to spend $0. I allow myself to buy eggs, dairy, bread and produce with a credit card but I try hard to keep it to that. I decided to make a basic list to be shopping savvy.  These are the general rules I live by.


  • I am a loyal ShopRite mama. I live .2 miles from my childhood grocery store and I love it. I love it because I know where items are. I know many of the employees. I know the store policies on rain checks and price plus member deals, and mis-charged items. I am familiar with their prices and how to find the extra sales. My point is you probably have a store that you like to grocery shop at. Get familiar with that store. And be sure to get a loyalty card with them. That is where the real savings are at!
  • There is another method you may prefer. My dad on the other hand is not loyal to one store but will shop at 3 different stores each week depending upon the sales!!! (The shopping gene is strong in our family.) He checks out Acme, ShopRite, and Save A-Lot. He is retired and has the time to hit up these different stores and does really well shopping the sales. He specializes in meat and soda sales.
  • Grab your marker and your flyer and get to work! Each Friday we receive a free local paper and inside is my ShopRite ad. This ad lists the deals going on for the following week. I prefer my marker rather than making a separate list. I make large circles around all the items I want to purchase. I write my needed items that are not featured in the ad on the top of the front page. When I go shopping the next week I bring along my ad and am able to reference it when walking through the store. This is especially helpful when the deal involves “Buy 2 to receive discount” or only on specific varieties. It can also be taken to the customer service desk if an item is mismarked or scans incorrectly at checkout. They will always have one handy at the the desk but that way you have an easy reference.
  • Take advantage of coupons on top of sales. My favorite savings are when I have a coupon for $2 off an item and that week that item is specially marked down to $1.50. I end up making money on that order. They won’t give me money but the coupon will take the full $2 off of my order. I am not one to hunt down coupons but I do keep them in a small accordion file and organize them by placement in the store.  Be aware of when coupons expire and use your oldest coupons first. Coupons can be found online(check to see if your store accepts printed coupons, not all stores do), in the mail, in the local newspaper, inside the cereal box, attached to the front of a new item.
  • ShopRIte has online “digital coupons”. Be sure to get their app and “add” those coupons to your shopping cart in the app. The app is connected to your price plus loyalty card and will appear as a coupon when you check out. Their store flyer will make you aware of many of those added discounts. I prefer to add the coupons to my “cart” as I’m waiting in line to pay but you can do it ahead of time or while you are shopping through the store.
  • Shopping the sales is really the best way to go. The goal is that you never actually run out of items and are therefore never forced to pay full price for an item. When toilet bowl cleaner goes on sale for $1.99 buy 3 or 4. You know your family will continue to use the toilet and it will continue to require cleaning. There are usually coupons easily enough to find for Lysol products so that is a great time to double up on savings.
  • Know when bulk is a good buy. We are Sam’s club members. They have great Member’s Mark brand toilet paper. It occasionally goes on sale for $18 for 45 large rolls. That is a good deal. Unfortunately, Sam’s club is not a great place to buy cereal. You get a lot of cereal but the price per ounce isn’t great. It is better to buy smaller boxes when on sale and you have a coupon from the grocery store. Pay attention to the price per ounce section of the price tag. It will be a great help when you go to another store and you compare.
  • Peanut butter is always a better deal when you buy the big jars on sale. They frequently put the smaller jars on sale for $2. That seems like a good deal but not really when I can get the 2 pack of the huge ones on sale for $7. When they go on sale I buy several of the 2 packs.
  • Be aware of how quickly you consume certain foods and their expiration. Many expiration dates are guidelines and can be somewhat disregarded but some cannot. I do not ignore expiration dates on peanut butter. That will go rancid. I will ignore expiration dates on most cereals. Cake mixes are fine for another year after their date. And lots of canned goods are good for a year or two as it is. But don’t stock up on cans of tomatoes if you never actually cook with them. Be smart about your purchases. You are not saving yourself money if you are throwing food away.
  • Expensive food does not always mean healthier. Organic is great when you are concerned about chemicals but a fruit snack is still a fruit snack. Your child isn’t actually getting any nutritional value in them. (I am not judging….we always have fruit snacks on hand. I’m just making a point.) Be aware of the nutritional needs of your kids.
  • Name brand vs store brand. My kids don’t care if their marshmallow cereal has a leprechaun on it or a teddy bear wearing a sailor hat. We don’t mind the store brand cereals, but I don’t like the store brand cookies. My point is it doesn’t hurt to try the cheaper store brand knock off on your favorite foods. Sometimes we like them better than the originals. But if your family can really taste the difference it isn’t worth the “savings”. Again, if your family won’t eat it you are not saving money. But don’t be afraid to give the off brand a chance. Examples of store brand food we like: cereals, condensed soups, canned and frozen veggies, baking items, bread,chips and pretzels, jam. Examples of store brand food we don’t like: peanut butter, cookies, yogurt, cake mix, spaghetti sauce.
  • There are several saving apps that I am not great about but a friend of mine is. SavingStar is her favorite. You get rebates on things you already purchased. I need to be better at that one. Check it out and let me know what you think. There are lots of others but I can’t say much about them since I don’t utilize them yet.
  • Be sure to check out the quick sale items especially meat and bakery items. My store puts their meat that must be sold that day with a bright yellow sticker on it, usually marked down 50%. That is the only way I buy beef. I just can’t afford $4 or more a pound for a roast. But I can afford steaks when they cost me $2. I love these deals. Just be aware this meats needs to either be cooked that day or next or frozen. I prefer to place my meat in serving size freezer store brand ziplock bags and freeze them. The bakery puts their items from the day before on sale and my kids can usually talk me into a box of doughnuts or muffins for a treat.
  • I am a weirdo and get a huge thrill watching my total drop after checkout. When I get to the register they are always sure to ask for my price plus loyalty card. I tell them I will give it to them at the end of the transaction. So it rings up my entire order at full price. Then they scan my coupons and then I hand over my card. Instantly the number drops and my heart races. I love seeing all my savings so crystal clear. Many times the checkers are even surprised by the plunge. I have to be careful not to forget to give them my card and miss my extra deals but I’m usually too excited to forget.
  • At the bottom of my ShopRite receipt it tells me my Total Saving for that trip, along with my year to date savings. I love knowing that family has those extra THOUSANDS in the bank instead of in the pantry.

So have no fear and don’t be overwhelmed.
It really is easier than it looks.
Happy Savings!

Pantry Living Weeks 5 & 6

Two more weeks of Summer have flown by! We have more family in town and are having a blast as usual. I did very little shopping these weeks and my only cheat I consider an investment in my kids' fall lunches. It was a screamin' deal at Sam's Club. They were selling a large box of 30 individually packaged keebler m&m cookies for only $4.76, regularly almost $10!!! I could not resist so I bought 4 cases and have hid them away for Sept....and hopefully Oct, and Nov. Honestly, I would have paid cash for them but I was in a credit card only self check-out line. Oh and I guess my one other cheat was buying my older 2 children really nice soft shell water resistant jackets for school. They were each $12 and neither kid owns a rain jacket so it was necessary. (Same shopping trip so credit card had to be used.)

 Enough about my true confessions with a credit card. Let's get to the real business here:

Unopened boxes of cereal after week 4: 40
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 6: 30 (see gifts again)
Items opened from pantry: Italian dressing, Ranch dressing, Greek dressing, honey, flour, chocolate chips, chips, cookies, syrup, nutella, peanut butter, fruit snacks, ziplock bags, plastic cups, napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, dish washing soap, trash bags, brownie mix, cake mix, twizzlers, candy,
Items I ran out of: hot dogs, granola bars, paper towels,
Cash purchases: hot dog buns, hamburger buns, lunchables, back to school clothes for kids and niece and nephew(socks and hoodie for Max, 4 shirts for Lily, outfit for Katy, shorts and socks for nephew, hoodie and shirt for niece), candy, ice cream, McDonald's, soda,
Allowable Credit card purchases: gas, milk,
Cheats: 2 soft shell jackets ($12 each), a cute duster sweater for me($12 I have no good excuse other than it was cute๐Ÿ˜‰), 4 cases of cookie snacks for fall lunches, oops I forgot I bought a case of water too.
Gifts: milk from a friend, 2 boxes of cereal, and smores brownies and dressing from my dad, zucchini from my sister
CEREAL UPDATE: In 6 weeks we have gone through 37 boxes of cereal.

Pantry after week 6
Garden: lots of yummy tomatoes, a few funny shaped cucumbers and a few monster cucumbers. My green bean plants appear to be barren and what we thought might be a zucchini plant is just a weed and my last tomato plant has yet to ripen. Next year my original garden bed will need a lot of fresh soil. I think it has been over planted, hence my lack of veggies from it.

Working: My summer choreography job has finished and the check is in the bank. Dave's summer teaching program is almost finished. I predict with everyone home a lot we will still eat a mountain of food. My freezer is still in good shape but is definitely running thin on a few items.
I would love to hear what your garden is growing and how you are spending the summer!!
Happy Summer!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pantry Living Weeks:1 - 4

So I spent my first 4 weeks of pantry living with a house full of guests. My sister and her six children came for a week at the same time as my other sister and hubby and their four children were staying with my parents. After my sister left my in-laws came that same night. It was a regular occurrence for me to serve meals to 21 people. That is why this post is combined for the first four weeks.

Reminder about my Pantry Living Rules:
  1. No grocery shopping.
  2. Cash only except for gas, dairy, bread, eggs, produce, and medical expenses.
That really is it.

Pantry after week 4
My results:
  • Unopened boxes of cereal before week 1: 55
  • Unopened boxes of cereal after week 4: 40 (see gifts)
  • Items opened from pantry: dog food, spaghetti sauce, pasta, mac and cheese, corn, green beans, trash bags, toilet paper, water bottles, napkins, paper towels, powdered sugar, syrup, peanuts, fruit snack, chips, pretzels, cake mix, frosting, brownies, spray butter, canola oil, olive oil, crackers, cookies, peanut butter, nutella, salad dressing, garlic, parm cheese, granola, ziplock bags, tin foil, granola bars, fruit roll ups, yellow rice, rice, dog food, salsa, light bulbs, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, tooth paste, wipes, graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars, flour, (you get the picture.....we ate a lot!)
  • Items I ran out of: dryer sheets, cooking oil, fruit roll-ups, hot dogs, dog food
  • Gifts: milk, sandwiches, fruit cups, individual bowls of cereal, 2 boxes of cheerios, large box of goldfish, yogurt, (I know the nicest people!!)
  • Gifts part II: My sweet mother-in-law took me to the grocery store and offered to buy me a few things to help bulk up my pantry. She was so generous and asked me to make a list. I only had oil and dryer sheets on the list. She found many more things I should have including but not limited to: detergent, beef, pork chops, chicken legs, steak, pork roast, 8 boxes of cereal, chips, water, cheese, bread, yogurt, cookies, goldfish, pasta, onion rings, tater tots, watermelon, pizza, ice cream, eggs, new sandals for Max, stuffed animals for the kids, dinner at a fancy restaurant.
  • As far as cereal goes we were gifted 10 boxes of cereal. So in 4 weeks we actually went through 25 boxes of cereal. 
  • Meat from the freezer we used: ground pork, chicken legs, whole chicken, italian sausage, chicken breasts, pork roast, turkey bacon, breakfast sausage,
  • Garden goodies: my garden isn't doing all that great. My green beans didn't all come up so we only get a handful at a time and I have yet to cook them so they keep going bad on me. Today I picked 2 tomatoes and 2 cucumbers. 

  • Allowable credit card purchases: car repairs, oil change, gas, milk, bread, buns, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, medical bills, 
  • Cash purchases: McDonald's, Rainforest Cafe, pizza, lunch at Sam's, candy, chips, ice cream, soda, bread, produce, trip to the Science Center in Ithaca, NY, membership to the Franklin Institute, water ice, popsicles, chinese food, new pretty scarf, toys,
  • Cheats with a credit card: I tried really hard to be good. On 2 occasions I was checking out and had mostly allowable items with one or two exceptions. Hot dogs, candy, dog food, paper plates, plastic forks, 
We have had the best July! We went to the beach and boardwalk, went to a lake, and the Hill Cumorah pageant. We visited family in upstate New York. Family visited us here in South Jersey. We ate a lot of food, played a lot of board games and made a million memories. I hope your summer has been as much fun as ours so far. I would love to hear what you are up to!
Happy Summer!








Friday, June 23, 2017

Pantry Living 5th Year Running

 I hope you’re as excited as I am. I think my hubby is most excited for my credit card to collect dust. My amazing hubby shapes minds and behavior as a Special Education Self-Contained Behavior Teacher for 10 months of the year. He just completed his 6th year at this school, and this is our 5th Summer in our beautiful home. Since beginning this journey 5yrs ago we’ve added a 4th child and a dog. We are happy and healthy and blessed with enough. But summer’s are difficult because despite teaching a summer program the teacher’s salary is only a 10 month contract. His district does not offer a 12 month option. I started Pantry Living to help us through July and August. It can be tricky, but I think it is a fun challenge.

So here are my self imposed rules
  • Live off my pantry stores and my freezer
  • No grocery shopping
  • Allowable purchases with a credit card: Dairy, eggs, bread, produce
  • Any other purchases must be made with cash (I have a small stash I squirrelled away.)
  • Start Date: David’s 1st day of summer vacation
  • End Date: David’s 1st day of school in September (usually 12 weeks)

We begin our journey with
  • 55 boxes of unopened cereal
  • 16 boxes of pasta
  • 11 jars of spaghetti sauce
  • 8 bags of flour
  • 6 giant tubs of peanut butter
  • 63 rolls of toilet paper (this won’t be enough I predict)
Pantry on June 22nd!

I don’t stock up a ton in June. That would defeat the purpose. I try to space out my shopping all year, shop sales, and keep a good food supply as a just in case. When cereal is on a good sale I buy 6 boxes instead of 2. I buy meat in bulk on sale and then bag it and freeze it in our family serving size.  I inventoried our pantry, and our freezer, and our bathroom closet. My goal is to finish the summer without breaking my rules, without running out of cash, and to have fun!

My garden is growing! This year I’m growing cucumbers, volunteer zucchini, bush green beans, and two kinds of tomatoes. I’ve already successfully killed all my herbs. I had cilantro, basil and oregano.

Wish us luck!
Happy Summer!