Samantha’s story–Part 1

After paying bills, credit cards and child support this month, my friend Samantha sat shocked at the amount of money left . Barely enough for gas and food. Even more shocking was her discovery that her family of three spent $933.51 last month on food–groceries and eating out. She’s decided to see how little food she can buy for a month–living on what she already has stocked in her cabinets.

Samantha's cabinets

She’ll give us an update once a week.

This is her story in her own words:

My idea of saving money was opening a store credit card, and taking advantage of the 15% discount the store offered on my purchases that day.  Of course, the interest rates far exceeded the minute discount.
I used to balk at my grandmother for re-using foil and washing Ziploc bags for re-use.  I can recall my grandfather saying “Waste not, want not” numerous times throughout my childhood.  As it turns out, they were on to something.
It has taken many months of credit card payments and much dismay over the family bank account to reach this conclusion.  Therefore, our family lifestyle had to change.  No more bi-weekly dinners out or spending $10.00 for movie theater popcorn.  We decided to start with being smarter about our food.  The first step we are taking is to use the stuff  we already have in our cabinets.  If given the opportunity, I think my tendencies would veer towards hoarding.  The food banks love us during holidays.  This gives us a chance to rid the cabinets of those items that I just had to get “because they were on sale.”
Michael would be content as can be to eat Hamburger Helper every night, until I came along.  We actually end up purchasing a box every now and then.  I don’t consider it to be edible, but the boys do.  I grew up in a household where dinner was made from scratch most nights and did not include boxed dinners.
I dropped off my son at basketball practice, with high aspirations of buying local fresh meats at Kingsland Meat only to leave highly disappointed and walk out empty-handed.  Not only was it expensive there, but many of the items for sale came from unknown companies.  (Hardly a local butcher shop.)  I ended up going to Publix grocery just to get  filler items.  Here is what I bought for $47.00:
3 pounds ground beef (much cheaper in a big package versus the more convenient 1 lb ones)
1 onion
gallon skim milk
5 tomatoes
family size Campbell’s Tomato Soup
Bag of kidney beans (uncooked)
2 green peppers
1 chile pepper
2 packages of chicken breast (on sale for $1.99 per pound)
Humongo bag of apples
I went to grab a package of brown rice, but returned it, as I recalled having quinoa in our cabinets.  As it turned out, we also had 2 packs of boil in bag brown rice in our cabinets.  It seems like we did not get much for our $47.00, however this is going to last us over a week.  We will be using the unknown items that lurk in our cabinets, along with fresh fruits/ vegetables purchased from local folks, and those plucked from Jennifer’s garden.  We intend on ripping up our backyard and planting our own garden, but this takes time, of course.
Tonight’s dinner adventure of stuffed cabbage:
cabbage (on hand)
2 bags of boil in bag rice (on hand)
1/4 of an onion
1-1/4 lb of ground beef
tomato soup used in both bottom and top of cabbage
parmesan cheese (on hand)
Cost of dinner tonight:

Cabbage rolls made from the cabbage I gave Samantha out of my garden.

We also have plenty of leftovers.  It was not Mike’s favorite, by any means.  But this means lunch for me this week.  Also, we have some leftover cabbage of which the inedible pieces were eaten quite rapidly by the family guinea pigs.  As for our fridge/freezer: we have plenty of meats for a couple of weeks, along with endless bags of Steamfresh vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese, biscuits and some yogurt.  I’m sure all of this will stretch for quite some time.  So, keeping my goal in place, I am with the hopes that the only store-bought items will be the ones that I purchased this evening.  I am looking forward to scouring local markets for produce and other items that we need for our newfound journey.
     — Samantha

12 responses to “Samantha’s story–Part 1

  1. Bravo! I wonder if Samantha would like to contribute to my Recipes from an Empty Fridge?

  2. Since it’s only my husband and myself now, it’s hard to cook from scratch every night. I like to make three batches, take one to my mother and freeze one for a night when I’m feeling lazy. Cooking for a senior gives a sense of accomplishment and it usually doesn’t cost any more. Most recipes are for 4-5 servings, anyway.

    • Hi Miss Anne! I either cut recipes in half or we eat on it for a few days and freeze the rest so we don’t get sick of it. So far, we haven’t gotten sick of anything—except the collard and mustard greens. We got a little burnt out. Those things just keep going! I love that you share with your mother. How sweet of you. What’s her favorite dish that you bring?

  3. Bravo to Samantha. I just restarted trying to save more money on food after realizing I was spending $400 dollars easily by eating out almost everyday (and to think that I use to spend only $20 dollar on groceries back in colleges days….sigh~). It is not an easy process, but looks like she is right on track!

    • It’s true foottrackerluvya, eating out can really add up. Sometimes, I’m shocked at the difference between the months we eat out a lot and those when I’m on a cooking binge. Good for you for taking charge!

  4. I like this idea. I think a lot of us have this exact problem, I know I do. I always have lots of food on hand, but nothing looks interesting or I am in a rush and eat out. I am especially bad at planning ahead when I grocery shop and it shows. I just go and never make a list and grab whatever looks good at the time. Plus, pretty much anything you make at home is going to be a lot healthier than whatever you order out.

    • It is such an easy habit to get into! I meal plan and STILL have access food in the pantry! Augh! And eating out….it always seems to just happen, right? That’s a good idea. We should “plan” which days we’re going to eat out. That would save so much money!

  5. Samantha Carrion

    Hey guys! Sorry it took me so darn long to respond. Yes, the reason, or perhaps the better word would be excuse for going out so much was because our little family has quite the busy household. Both Mike and I are full time worker bees and full time students also (online classes are the best for us) and we have a kiddo who plays recreational basketball. Often we found it much more convenient to eat on the run. This actually could not be further from the truth. I would love to say that I planned every meal, but I did not. Most of the meals so far have been using just whatever we had here. We are attempting to go to stores for dairy and whatever items the boys cannot live without…haha. It is ridiculous how much we used to spend. I’ll be sending a much more elaborate response to Jen so she can do her editorial magic.

  6. Fantastic, good luck Samantha – I can’t wait to see how you get on and I’d love more recipe ideas 🙂

  7. Pingback: Samantha’s story: Part 3—the close of her month | Attempting zero waste lifestyle in a military household

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