Accidental Pantry Project = Huge Savings!

AC_PANTRYPROJECT

I wish I kept better track on what I spent at the grocery store last year when it came to cash purchases. I know when I worked at Whole Foods Market I would buy lunch every time I worked a shift, which averaged out to about $10 a day. Now that I am working again, that kind of spending probably won’t disappear, especially as I now work in a mall with countless food options.

In any case, just tracking grocery purchases for my home, last year during January and February, according to my credit card, I spent $240 at the grocery store. This year, being more diligent about my purchases, using what I had on hand as opposed to going for convenience, I spent $125 during the same period – almost half my money! To top it off, since I was not going to work for five weeks, I ate many more meals at home – so those savings not only saved me money, they stretched to twice the meals.

I know not everyone has the pantry I had (I should say have – it is still valued at $759, currently (that is down from the $1140 that I started with)), but it is still important to know when you are sitting on money and meals at home. For five weeks, that is $381 I kept in my pocket, and not only did I eat like a queen, I fed others as well.

Cashew Butter

AC_PANTRYPROJECT

As I am reading up on what else to make with my abundance of Vega One Nutritional Shake, I noticed a lot of the recipes I am finding include cashew butter. A few months back I bought a Vitamix and have made walnut and almond butters before. Similar to hummus, making these nut butters from scratch allow you to play around with the ingredients, texture, etc., while allowing you to know exactly what you are putting in your body.

Nuts and nut butters can be expensive, so making your own can be quite money saving.

This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups Creamy Cashew Butter.

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CREAMY CASHEW BUTTER
2 cups Cashews
2 tablespoons Coconut Oil, melted
Pinch of Sea Salt
1/3 cup Water, optional

Using a rubber spatula, remove from blender and put in desired jar or container. For optimal freshness, store in refrigerator. BONUS – some of the butter will be stuck under the blade. Follow the recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie to utilize the last of the butter. Smoothie will be creamier and more indulgent!

COST FACTOR (per my inventory):
$3.65 per 1.5 cups, or $.31 per ounce
Cashews – $3.50
Oil and Salt – $.15
Leading brands such as Jif or Artisana sell for $.58 – $.94 per ounce, more than twice the cost!

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Inventory, Part 4 – Freezer and Fridge Condiments

AC_PANTRYPROJECT

Finally! I have counted all this “inventory” in my home. The last phase of counting and calculation took place this evening. I wanted to work on it earlier in the week, but since the Snowmaggeden bust kept me out of my home the day that I was best suited to do it, I got around to it tonight.

So, using the same loose formula I used for my dry goods (gifts have zero value, stuff from Whole Foods bought under retail with my discount, etc.), I calculated the freezer contents and my refrigerated condiments (i.e., perishable but long shelf life in fridge) came to about $240, so the grand total cost of all my food is $1140.

Since starting this project a little over a week ago, I have not gone grocery shopping for myself. The only exception is I stopped and bought a dessert as a hostess gift for a friend who was having me for dinner. I have gone out with friends to eat a couple of times, but otherwise, I have just been depleting my pantry. I will have to make a trip soon for some fresh produce and dairy, but I know I’m saving a lot of money being resourceful. Next phase, of course, is to figure out what I would spend on average in the past and how I am helping my current cause.

Here is what I have to work with from my freezer and refrigerator… Continue reading

Inventory, Part 3

AC_PANTRYPROJECT

Today I figured out the value of the inventory of my pantry dry goods. I putzed around google and amazon for costs, and where applicable I used about a 20% discount on things I know I got at Whole Foods with my employee discount. Hence, the rough estimate really will not be all that rough.

The area that I really averaged an estimate, however, was spices. In terms of spice inventory, I am going to say the average spice in my cabinet cost $2.50. Most of those standard sized McCormick bottles out there go for about that price, but my spices range from free stuff I scored through work, trade shows, mom’s pantry and gift baskets, to some high quality stuff I splurged on (hello, saffron and vanilla). With 51+ spices, that’s $127.50, and I think that is a very fair estimate.

Looking ahead, I plan to omit spices from the exact cost factor in my recipes, similarly to how restaurants and food service establishments do when they cost out recipes. Instead, when I cost out recipes I will use a blanket seasoning cost estimate, which will probably be pennies per recipe, maybe $.03 – $.10. Think about it, let’s say I spent $3 on a 1.25 ounce bottle of Italian seasoning. The bottle probably has about 30 teaspoons of seasoning in it, so about $.10 per teaspoon. Some recipes will use a dash, some will use tablespoons. I’m going to drive myself crazy thinking about what I spent on that, and again, the financial aspect of this project is more of an exercise on money I am saving moving forward, not what I have already spent. Plus, and I know I’m beating a dead horse here, it’s more about creativity and making use of what is on hand.

So you want to know the full value of my dry goods inventory, what is has probably cost me? $904. The average cost of each individual item (218 in total) is about $4.16. This ranges from about 15 non-spice items that were definitely free, to pricey supplements that cost about $50 (hello, Green Vibrance). $904. I think that’s fascinating. I don’t even know how many meals and dishes and snacks I will create from all this, but knowing that I usually drop $40 – $100 when I go out to a nice dinner with friends, it is beyond foolish not to cook at home when you want to save money. Plus what I have to work with will not mean meals of ramen, plain spaghetti, and PB&J.

Next up in the project – freezer and fridge inventory, figuring out my average grocery costs before now, and figuring out on average how much I have been spending on food. Oh, and of course, what I have cooked so far. Stay tuned!