08/01/2016

$200 in 2 Weeks - Fresh Start Challenge

The Empty Pantry Challenge
This past fortnight has been a huge challenge for me and I’m so glad the first stage is over.
One of the biggest challenges faced by families making the switch to home cooking is the lack of pantry staples and the resulting cost at the checkout.

You may have heard of the pantry challenge? Basically, you design your meal plan around
what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer and save heaps of money using up your excess.
This is the opposite- you’re starting with nothing…. A Fresh Start.
Whether you are trying to build up a great pantry or just looking to utilize what you have more efficiently, the New Start Challenge takes you back to basics and encourages you to ask yourself... "Do we really need that?"

How many times have you been promised a $4 meal only to find you need to spend $10+ on ingredients? You can't buy a Tablespoon of sugar or a teaspoon of basil, can you?

It is all very well for me to tell you that I feed a family of five very well on a modest budget but the fact is, when it comes to costing a single meal, two families can have very different results because their pantries will stock different items, or none at all.
The only way to overcome this problem was to start with an empty pantry and build a shopping list and meal plan on $200 for two weeks. **sweat and number crunching**
We also don't all have access to a variety of shops or time to shop around so I’ve based the cost on major supermarket (Coles and Woolworths) prices which can work out to be more expensive than visiting your local greengrocer and butcher.

Table for Five on $200 for 2 weeks
The list:Main shop
Remaining funds used for bread, milk, fruit and veg topups.
Breakfasts:
Now I know that breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day but I’m no Carol Brady (wouldn't we all love an Alice in our lives?). Stumbling out of bed each morning, tripping over toys and dodging zigzagging children at your feet as they peep like hungry little birds, is not the most inspired of times in the kitchen.
A bowl of cereal, overnight porridge or toast are standard servings here but even with the cut backs this fortnight, we still had enough for a bacon and egg and pancakes.

Morning and afternoon tea
aka: elevensies, recess, snack time etc.
Fruit and/or vegetables make a quick and healthy snack.
This fortnight we had apples, bananas and pears and carrot sticks to offer as well as making 2 ingredient oat and cornflake snack bars,  tomato and cheese mini scrolls, cheese and veg muffins and pikelets.

Lunch
In a pinch, jam and/or peanut butter sandwiches and 2 minute noodles will keep you from going hungry but they do get very boring and yes, not terribly nutritious.
Utilising leftovers whenever you can is a great way to reduce waste.
eg. Sausage sandwiches, pasta and sausage, recycled salad (last night’s salad, revamped).
When cooking pasta for dinner, consider cooking extra for a pasta salad the next day.
Ham&Salad give a different sandwich option as well as salads and toasties.


Dinner

This is the big one for most families. That one meal a day that we all get to sit down together (well, maybe not every night).
Whether right or wrong, the emphasis is firmly placed on the final meal of the day here in Australia and this is the case for our family.
I did however, make a change a few years ago that greatly improved both the financial and health aspects of this meal…. Quantity.
By making as much as we need rather than making as much as we might want, we’ve cut costs, waste and excessive eating. Although they might want more, nobody leaves the table hungry, we just don't overindulge anymore.

Final thoughts on the $200 budget:
5 people, $200, 2 weeks? Totally do-able!

I must say, getting back to basics was quite refreshing and inspiring for me. Stripping down recipes to their core ingredients was frustrating, adding each single ingredient to the list was filled with dilemma, do we really need that? Meals were shuffled, removed or replaced to free up more funds. Each meal required small sacrifices and/or substitutes but I felt rewarded by what was, in the end, a very simple and easy menu plan.

I struggled with the lack of choices I had to work with but if you incorporate building up your pantry supply, variety will be easily afforded. Stocking more variety also means more DIY possibilities, leading to further savings.

Short term cut backs for long term gain and small amounts of extra time and effort equal success. Give it a go!

The rules:
•Feed your household on $200 for 2 weeks.
*All food, snacks and drinks included.

•You do not need to purchase all the ingredients but must factor in the full package cost of any ingredients you use.
eg. Even if you only use 1/2 cup of flour from your pantry, you must add the minimum cost to buy a full bag to your total spend.

That's it! Simple right?
Now I'm betting you can do even better, so please come by and share your brilliant ideas and recipes with us on Low Budget Cooks Facebook group.
My recipes from this challenge will be posted there during the week too.

Thanks for sharing my challenge.
Live, Love and enjoy xx