Use It Don’t Waste It Challenge – Final Re-cap

May 1, 2012

In April, I shared a challenge with my readers to “Use It, Don’t Waste It” when it comes to food and other items. One way to help stretch your grocery budget a little farther is to make sure that you are using all of your food each week and not sending some of it to the trash, which is like throwing money into the garbage.

The last two weeks of the challenge, I decided to “eat from the freezer/pantry” and try to limit what I purchased. Little did I know just how much this would affect me. I’ve slowly been transitioning our food items over to Organic and healthier options but I still had some “processed foods” in there. So my focus was on eliminating them from the house by working them into our meal plans. So I went from a mostly healthy diet to one that wasn’t so great and boy did I pay for it! The headaches started. I was tired all the time, feeling like I had cement blocks tied to my feet. I knew that eating healthier was a great thing but I didn’t realize how much it had changed me until I switched back to some unhealthier choices.

We made it through the processed frozen food and I decided that the rest of the items could be donated. It will be some money lost but it’s completely worth it to me. I could barely get myself to write anything those last few weeks from the headaches I was having so that is why the posts slowed down. :)

But, it opened up a new path for me so I’m glad that I did it. My husband and I are now taking part in a “real food challenge” and I am feeling wonderful! I just wanted to share all of this in case some of you were experiencing some health changes that you may want to take a good look at what you are eating.

So here’s what I learned from the “Use It, Don’t Waste It Challenge:” (In case you missed them, you can read my Week 1 and Week 2 Recaps, too!)

1) Creating a meal plan makes a HUGE difference not only in the budget but also the stress of my week. I’ve known this for years but this challenge just confirmed it again. I was able to watch my meal plan carefully and “cancel” meals if we had too many leftovers left. Having a plan in place was nice so I didn’t have to ask myself, “What should I make for dinner tonight?” It also helped me with the next one which is….

2) “Rolling Food” is a huge money-saver. It inspired me so much that I think I’m going to do a posting called, “Rolling Foods” and sharing ways to use items in several dishes. (What do you all think?) Here are a few of “rolling foods” from last month:

~Pizza/Pasta Sauce – Use one can for two small meals
~Bratwurst – Grilled brats one night, sausage for pizza/pasta another
~French Bread – Pizza on a stick, Croutons, Garlic Bread for pasta
~Whole Chicken – Broth, Chicken for tacos, BBQ pizza, stir-fry, salad toppers,

3) Over-ripe Fruit can make for a great banana bread or frozen for smoothies.

4) Cook double batches, even meats, and freeze the rest for later. I froze extra soup and chili in small containers for a quick lunch another day.

5) Checking the freezer and pantry for soon expiring items are a great way to make sure nothing has to be thrown out later.

6) Non-meat food scraps, such as vegetable and fruit peelings, can add up faster than you think. Each week, we probably had 2-3 gallon sized Ziploc bags full of scraps that I added to the compost bin. If you start a compost bin, you can not only make some great homemade compost but you can probably save yourself a half a garbage bag of trash a week!

7) The amount of food bought in shopping trips can be cut-back. We really don’t need to buy as much food as we think. Re-using leftovers into new meals and having a meal plan can greatly save you money!

8 ) Keeping a clean and organized fridge, freezer and pantry can help your savings! We had our fridge so full before that items would get lost. I kept fewer items on hand and everything that needed to be used soon was at eye-level. I took a few minutes each day to check to make sure nothing was lost in the back. Great savings AND it saved me from having to cook a few extra meals!

I’m hoping that you all had fun if you participated in the challenge. I honestly learned a lot not only about the amount of food we eat but also about how food can greatly affect our health. This is a big reason why I’m choosing the path that I am for May’s articles. (Will find out about those later today!) Thank you all for your ideas during this challenge! It was fun doing this with you!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jr911 May 1, 2012 at 10:27 am

I had a great time reading these posts…..some of my faves on your site to date!

2 Jana May 1, 2012 at 10:28 am

Pampered Chef offers these great little weekly meal recipe cards. I think in 1 package you get 2 weeks worth of recipe cards, but the great thing is … you roll the ingredients. If this is something new to you, these are great helpers in getting started! ALSO, if you follow the recipe (even if you already know how to make the dish) and carefully measure out items like it says … you’ll realize how much you were wasting before. I figured out quickly that I was a HUGE pasta waster and now measure every time!

3 coupongeek May 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

Awww…that is so sweet! Thank you so much for saying that. Sometimes few people comment and I’m not sure if everyone doesn’t like them or if they are just being shy. :)

So glad that you liked them! I learned a lot writing them, too!

Blessings,
Jaycie

4 coupongeek May 1, 2012 at 11:00 am

I’d love to check out these recipe cards, Jana. I didn’t see them on the site. Is there any chance you could share a link for them? They sound like just what I need! :)

Thank you for sharing!

Blessings,
Jaycie

5 Natalie May 1, 2012 at 11:09 am

Creating a meal plan definitely helps cut waste, especially when you plan meals that will last a few days, like this healthy skillet lasagna. You can make it, and enjoy it for 3 to 4 days!

6 coupongeek May 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm

That looks like a great recipe, Natalie! I’m going to add it to my list of things to try. Lasagna is time-consuming so I like the simplicity of this one.

Thank you for sharing! :)

Blessings,
Jaycie

7 Christy May 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I LOVE these ideas and I need to take this challenge! I find myself throwing away stuff and I always feel bad. There is no excuse. I love the idea of using leftovers to make new meals! Thanks for all the info!

Christy

8 coupongeek May 1, 2012 at 3:10 pm

It actually turned out to be more fun that I originally thought. Getting creative to use up all the leftovers was the best part. It gave me new “uses” for foods, too. Hope you have fun when you do it, Christy!

Jaycie

9 Al May 1, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Yep, having a meal plan and sticking to it will save you hundreds a month. I’m glad more people are finding it out and once you get started, it’s easy to maintain it.

I love to cook and use fresh ingredients, but I also don’t have an unlimited budget which is why a friend and I started MealPlanRescue.com for healthy meal plans. Our focus is on seasonal produce since they tend to be on sale and more likely to be grown locally and we pair them with easy recipes and generate a weekly shopping list. Check out a free issue at the site.

Oh, and for vegetable scraps: save what you can up and make vegetable stock. I love using homemade vegetable stock because I can control the amount of salt in it-unlike those salty store-bought ones-and I can turn what was going to be thrown away into something yummy. Veg stock takes 30 minutes to make and is one of the easiest things to do to improve your cooking.

10 Sunny May 1, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I’m excited for May and what you have in store for us! Are you doing the 100 Days of Real Food challenge? Reading blogs like yours really helps me get (and stay!) motivated to changing my lifestyle to be more healthier and natural. Love the changes you’ve made and your new focus for your blog. Thanks so much for all you do!

11 coupongeek May 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm

We are just doing her 10 Day Challenge as a family. I’ll probably continue on for a much longer period of time, though. I’m a big veggie and real food eater so it doesn’t bother me so much. They have a great blog. It’s one of my favorites! :)

Thank you SO much for the comment, Sunny! Reading comments like yours motivates ME to stick to what I have set for myself as a goal for the blog to be a healthier place to visit.

Blessings to you and your family!
Jaycie

12 coupongeek May 2, 2012 at 9:57 am

Great idea on the vegetable stock. I’ll have to try that! :) Good luck with your site on Meal Planning.

Thanks for sharing!
Jaycie

13 Al May 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Thanks Jaycie, and here’s a link to vegetable stock recipe I wrote a while back: http://www.mealplanrescue.com/blog/easy-no-salt-vegan-vegetable-stock/

And save some stock for your ice cube trays. It’s great for when you just need a little bit of flavor–just throw in a cube or two and you’re done.

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