Friday, November 16, 2012

30 day challenge, day 30

November 16, 2012

I can't believe today is day 30 of the challenge. I thought I would be happy for today to be here so this could be over with. However, I think I am going to stick with the challenge. After changing up my spending and cooking habits over the past 30 days, it feels like this is something I can incorporate into our lifestyle. I may not stay quite so hard core with all of it. I know there are a few things that I will definetely continue.

This morning started out great. The kids loved last night's dinner of octopus (hotdogs). See picture in day 29's post. They even asked me to make them some to bring to school for lunch today. They brought the leftover macaroni/broccoli/corn and I made them each an octopus. We were down to one set of candy eyeballs so they each had a cyclops octopus. Ha. I guess anytime I need to use up hotdogs before they go bad I will just need to tell the kids it is time for octopus! This saved us another $4.

My hubby was home for lunch and we made one of our favorite lunches. Broiled sandwiches. I found a jar in the back of the fridge with one giant pickle. That pickle must have been waiting in there a long time for us because I don't think I bought any since my garden started spitting out cucumbers (I have a cupboard FULL of homemade pickles). My sandwich had ham, sliced pickle, and muenster cheese piled onto a sub roll. Put it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Delicious lunch plus we used up a random jar from the fridge. Wohoo!

I didn't feel much like cooking tonight so I wanted something quick. I found six cheese tortellini in the freezer. Instead of the usual marinara sauce, I thought I would attempt to make alfredo. Who knew it could be so easy? Melt butter and cream cheese (used up half a block I had open), add milk and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I thickened it up a bit with some cornstarch. Simple seasonings of salt and pepper and topped off with thyme from my garden. I was going to put carrots in the dish but was too lazy to peel them. I went with a little of the leftover corn and broccoli. I also hid something else in it but didn't say anything to the kids until they had finished eating. I thawed out a cup of shredded yellow squash that I had froze from my garden. I stirred it into the cheese sauce and they had no clue it was there!

So what have I learned by doing the 30 day challenge? I learned that we previously spent way too much money on food. For the most part, we really haven't felt deprived this month. I asked my hubby if there was anything he was missing. He said no. The only thing he could think of was that our kids would complain if they ran out of pop tarts or cereal bars. They still had plenty of breakfast options to choose from: about five different types of cereal, two types of homemade muffins, french toast, toaster strudels, oatmeal, and if daddy was around he would make eggs, bacon, or pancakes. So did it really matter if they didn't have every single breakfast item that they like?

This challenge made me realize how much food we were wasting. Each week I would clean out the fridge before I went grocery shopping. I would throw out a bunch of veggies or fruit that went bad. I would throw out leftovers because nobody wanted to eat them. Don't get me started on bread items. I buy hamburger buns, hotdog buns, dinner rolls, and a loaf of bread each week. I would throw out what was left prior to going to the store. Now I make french toast, stuffing, or garlic bread out of it before it goes bad.

This challenge has saved us alot of money. I used my weekly average of $175 at the grocery store and $80 in restaurants and compared to how much I spent during the challenge. I saved a grand total of $562.69 during the past 30 days! I had read that once you "save" money, whether it be with coupons or a challenge like this, that you should pay yourself that money and set it aside. I never did that with my couponing before. With this challenge though, I set that money aside in our savings. It is so much more motivating to keep on with this type of lifestyle if I can actually see the money sitting there for us. If you don't set it aside, you are way more likely to just spend that money on something else; hence, not really "saving" it. This challenge has helped us to cut back on other spending as well. By not going out to lunch as often as we used to, we were not tempted to go shopping just to pass time. I looked at our overall spending (groceries, gas, shopping, everything) and it was about half of what it was the month prior! I'm a stay at home mom and this challenge has made me feel like I am contributing financially to our family. If I can keep up this type of savings, it would be as if I had a part time job but didn't have to pay taxes, gas money to get to my job, and I don't have to spend time away from my kids.

Some downfalls of the challenge. I love going to restaurants and I did feel like I was deprived for some of this past month. It takes me longer to grocery shop because I use a calculator and add up each item as it is going into my cart. It is easier to say no to impulse items when I know my total is already up to a certain amount. There were a few meals that we had leftovers and I just didn't want to. I don't think I will ever fully get out of that way of thinking. There is stirfry in the fridge right now and I bet that won't get eaten.

My 30 day challenge was a success. Now to see if I can stay with it beyond the 30 days. I guess I will need to rename my upcoming posts! I'd love to hear about your experiences if you are trying the challenge!

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