Saving Money by Eating Only Food Already in the House for a Month: “Can We Last a Month”- February Edition, Part 1

by Broke Professional on January 29, 2011 · 36 comments

can we last a month“Can We Last a Month” is a Series Where we Pick a Different “Challenge” each month and then report back on our success at achieving it.  For February 2011, our challenge is to “forage” for food in our own apartment.  That’s right, we’re going to get back to our hunter and gatherer instincts and attempt to eat only what is already in our apartment.  No grocery shopping.  No restaurants or fast food.  No Fun.  (Well, hopefully some fun).

We will be detailing how much weight we lose, our thoughts on the process, and how much money we save, if any.  We invite you to join along: how else are those 13 cans of string green beans that have been accumulating since early 2009 in the back of your pantry ever going to get eaten.  Also, we pledge to donate 1/4 of any savings towards purchasing food for a food bank or some other food charity of the sort.

Day 1 – January 29, 2011

Earlier today we went grocery shopping for the last time.  We normally spend $120.00 per week in groceries, which is kind of a lot since we eat out more than we should as well. (And we don’t have any children). The high cost of our food is really affecting our budget, and that is a big reason why we are going to try and go a month without eating food already inside our apartment.  Today we spent over $200.00 on our “final” grocery shopping trip.  It must have been the subconscious part of our brains worrying about future starvation.  We tried to focus on groceries that would not go bad, such as frozen foods.

It will be tough a week or two from now when we are out of milk, bread, eggs, (fill in other “a snow storm is coming lets go to the grocery store and get X food” here).  I even bought a different % milk than normal because it had a sell by date two days later than the type of milk we prefer.

The Objectives

We figure that since we normally spend $480.00+ in groceries each month plus $150.00 per month eating out on average, that if we are successful we should be able to save about $400.00 in food expenses this month.  Also, we know that our “battles with the bulge” have everything to do with eating out.  We rarely bring bad food into our house, but we often find ourselves susceptible to the temptation of consuming unhealthy foods when we eat out at restaurants or while at work. It is time to become b/f/f’s with Mr. Brown-Bag.

Viewpoints

Mr. BrokeProfessional:     I am a sucker for a) competition; and b) attempts at self-improvement.  I have been very disgusted with myself for putting back on 15 pounds.  (I lost over 100 pounds naturally after college and have, until recently kept all of it off for years.  See post about my prior weight struggles, here).  I am excited about the possibility of trimming our wallets and my waste-line at the same time.  My mindset is I am just going to pretend I am on a really lame version of the show Survivor.

Sophie our Dog: “I sure hope those two idiots stocked up on dog treats.”

Mrs. Broke Professional 8:00 p.m. – “Do we really have to show pictures of our fridge?  Ok…fine….then your cleaning it.”

Mrs. Broke Professional 10:00 p.m.  “I am really looking forward to creating new meals each day and coming up with edible options from the depleted cabinet supply as the days go on.  As I typically prepare the meals I am a little less gung-ho than my husband and a little more skeptical about us making it a month…but I hope we can save some money and give a little back to those who are less fortunate.  So.., bring it on!”

My Grandmother – “That doesn’t sound so tough.  You want to try something tough…do it for a decade!”   (Ed. Note: Wow…those Great Depression Survivors are Saucy.)

My Mother – “When your father and I first bought our house we lived off of nothing but spatini for years.  It builds character.”  (Ed. Note: What is Spatini?  Is it like my parent’s generation’s version of Ramen Noodles?  Ed. Note2: Wow…..my parents really are starting to get old, their starting to sound a little like my grandmother)

Mrs. Broke Professionals Mother – “Just come over our place for dinner.”  (Ed. Note3 – Ok….so now we know where my wife gets her “cheating during boardgames” genes from.)

Conclusion

So, do you think we can do it?  Has anyone else ever tried foraging in their own home?  Take a look at our full food supplies in the photos below (we will be showing updated photos along the way so you can see our decreased quality of life) and wish us luck.

our pantry.1.29.11

1-29-11 Supplies are Bountiful

*Note: We are starting it today, the 29th so we can go a full month since February is such a short month*


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 eemusings January 30, 2011 at 4:33 am

Sounds like we spend similar amount on groceries and eating out!

I love when people do these kinds of challenges. I laugh at the thought of doing one, though, because we have so little space that we might last one day past the end of the week (we shop weekly, fill up our fridge and cupboard.)

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2 admin January 30, 2011 at 9:24 am

As you may be able to see from our pictures our apartment does not have a lot of space either. As long as we learn to ration we should make it at least a month, I figure. Of course, I have never been good at rationing, as demonstrated by my near 0% Oregon Trail computer game success rate.

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3 Nicole January 30, 2011 at 9:04 am

We used to have to on occasion in graduate school (August was often a tough month for us). But we’ve always had a fully stocked pantry, so it wasn’t so bad. Luckily I’m very good at putting things together creatively! Oatmeal is a good breakfast alternative to cereal when you run out of milk– especially if you put stuff in it like raisins and nuts and cinnamon.

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4 admin January 30, 2011 at 9:26 am

I like your idea about oatmeal. And your right, the good thing about oatmeal is it doesn’t require any milk. In a prior post I also noted that plain oatmeal (not the individually packaged kind) is generally a lot more cost efficient than cereal as well.

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5 LifeAndMyFinances January 30, 2011 at 9:28 am

I think it’s a great idea! We’ve decided to do this for a week here and there when grocery money is tight, but we’ve never done it for a month! I honestly think this would be a little tough, but I’m interested to hear updates! :)

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6 admin January 30, 2011 at 9:36 am

Yeah we’re acting really confident now but I’m sure we’ll be signing a different tune three weeks from now when we’re fighting over the last can of kidney beans and we’re starting to actually eat the lima beans in our packages of frozen mixed vegetables.

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7 Nicole January 30, 2011 at 9:41 am

Hunger is the best spice, eh? And who knows, maybe your bodies will decide that lima beans aren’t so bad.

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8 admin January 30, 2011 at 9:44 am

I’m sure our bodies will be cool with lima beans….other than our taste buds. I also just noticed that our photo collage of our “food supplies” ceased working overnight, so I fixed that if anyone wants to see the visual evidence of what we’re starting out with.

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9 Cowtown Realist January 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Great idea! I eat out like crazy, one of my few vice’s, I admire your courage ;)

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10 admin January 30, 2011 at 1:03 pm

We do not use mint.com, but when I was going over our finances the other day I realized that practically all of our disposable income was going towards food in one way or the other. Hopefully we can make it through and re-learn how to eat healthy on a smaller budget. Thanks for reading! In terms of vices its probably one of the better ones!

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11 MoneyCone January 30, 2011 at 10:13 pm

A very interesting experiment I have to say! Good luck and keep us updated!

If I were to do this, I would fill my refrigerator with hot pockets! :)

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12 admin January 30, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Crap! I forgot Hot Pockets! I knew I forgot something. That and Eggo Waffles…. two things I regret not having already.

Why do eat like I’m still in college? Will my taste buds ever evolve?

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13 101 Centavos January 30, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Good luck on the project. An interesting list to see would the inventory of food items you started with, and what kind of meals you’re able to put together.

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14 admin January 30, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Yeah I think that’s a really good point. I am going to try and put a starting inventory up under the Etc., page of our site. Then maybe every week we will state what’s left and go over some of the meals we made, etc, as you suggested. Look for that tomorrow night sometime and thanks for the great idea. Also, you can get an idea of what we have starting out from the photos…..

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15 101 Centavos February 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

I hope you don’t have to get down to popcorn-pringle casserole surprise during the last week.

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16 admin February 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm

haha. The iffy old pickles are my personal worst nightmare.

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17 Evan January 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm

That is such a cool goal. I have always wanted to do it, without stocking up though. Use it as an excuse to clean out the house. Does eating out for lunch count?

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18 admin January 30, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Our rules are basically that we cannot eat out at all….with the exception of a wedding dinner we have to attend and perhaps some food while we’re at the superbowl party we’re going to (otherwise we would just come across as totally weird since we don’t tell people about our blog, also, we’re not paying for food at these types of things, although we will probably bring some snacks from home–to the superbowl party). So, no eating out for lunch, unfortunately. We only stocked up because we had no meat at all when we started, although as I said in the post the goal was not to stock up but rather to have a regular shopping trip—but subconsciously we did stock up, obviously. Oh well, I think it will still be a stretch to make it a month……if we make it a month with food to spare we’ll just keep on going. In your honor our goal for Month will be to get rid of cabe…..an easier task considering we’ve done it before.

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19 entrepreneurs startup February 1, 2011 at 3:40 am

intersting post.even i will carry lunchbox from home which helps me saving some money. the competation is also intesting.i wating for more updates on this.

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20 admin February 1, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Thanks for reading. I really think a lot of times it is the small changes we can make that really can save us a ton of money in the long run.

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21 Philly area February 2, 2011 at 11:09 am

I enjoy your blog. The longest we’ve ever gone without shopping is probably about 10 days. Fresh fruit, bananas in particular, along with milk and bread, are the things that always send us back out. We’ve disciplined ourselves to buy groceries only once a week and that has saved huge amounts of money. Also stockpiling when things like canola oil, flour, and toothpaste are on sale with a coupon saves even more.

It’s hard for me to judge your store of food since I’ve got kids. Those eggs would last us about 2 or 3 days, at most, assuming we didn’t make any baked goods. And that peanut butter about a week. Are you going to go to tap water once your bottled water runs out? That might make you sick if you’re not used to it. I probably would give myself permission to replenish a few things, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the cheating gene too. ;)

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22 admin February 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

haha. Thanks for reading I’m really glad you enjoy the blog. If you ever have any suggestions on how to improve it, let us know. We are going to have to cheat on a few occasions in that we’re attending a wedding and a super bowl party. I’m sure we will eat some food at these events (particularly the wedding). We are also going to keep buying new bottled water, because something isn’t right with the water in our apartment and our dog in particular seems to get sick from it (lovely isn’t it!) Anyway, both Mrs. Broke Professional and I grew up in the Philly area so its great we have at least one reader from there. Let’s hope the Phillies get back to the World Series this year!

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23 leslie February 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I did this out of necessity a year ago: http://www.27andfrugal.com/2010/01/14/the-bare-minimum/

It was not a challenge. I was laid off and had to adjust my priorities immediately. I did not do “one last grocery shop” before realizing that I could not buy groceries until my income became more stable. I 46 days without buying any new groceries.

I used up what was in the pantry, freezer, refrigerator. I used AllRecipes to learn new recipes I never would have thought of before. I discovered new ingredent substitutions. I made dinner every single night so I would have lunch to eat the next day.

It was difficult but I made due and learned a lot in the process.

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24 Mr. Broke Professional February 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I read your post and it sounds like you really made the best out of a somewhat tough situation there. A lot of people wouldn’t do that and would keep living the lifestyle they were used to, so it was cool that you buckled down and did what you had to do, without asking for a money handout from your parents or something.

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