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

May 1, 2012 9:54 am · 13 comments

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!

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