Thursday, 26 June 2014

Join Me For The $21 Challenge

Simple Savings $21 Challenge

The school holidays are starting here next week and I could really do with a little more cash. My pantry, freezer and fridge are reasonably well stocked at the moment so I thought it would be the perfect time to have a look at doing this challenge. My good friend Nanna Chel from Going Grey and Slightly Green mentioned that Simple Savings had a special on the $21 challenge book and that was enough to motivate me to give it a go...that, and the extra cash!

Many people have asked me this week what the challenge is and the following is an excerpt from the $21 challenge section of the Simple Savings website:

What exactly IS the $21 Challenge?

In a nutshell, it is a one-week grocery slashing marathon where you can save a big pile of money, declutter your pantry and learn new skills all at the same time!

How does it work?

Simple! For one week you try as hard as you possibly can to stay out of the shops.  Instead of going out and doing your usual supermarket shop you have to stretch the food you already have in your cupboard, pantry, garden and freezer to stay within your $21 budget.

My first thought on earth could a family of four live off $21? You are not expected to do that, and if you want to raise the budget you can, it's up to you. You are actually living off food you might otherwise waste, and because I tend to have an overstocked pantry...I do waste things if I don't keep on top of it.

My $21 Challenge book arrived in a couple of days and I have read it from cover to many creative recipes. When I bought my book I also signed up to the website (approx $30) and have downloaded heaps and heaps of useful information. There are forums you can join and ask questions or share recipes, which I really like. I must mention right now, that this is not a sponsored post, I just want to share a system that is simple, makes sense and obviously works for many people. Let's see if it works for me.

If you have not visited the Simple Savings site before then I suggest you have a look if you want to save money. They cover every topic you can possibly think of and I recommended them back in April when I covered "B=Budget" for the A-Z Challenge. If you want to see if the book is worth buying then the first two chapters and some sample pages are available to download here.

So, without going into too much detail, the first step is to declutter. I started with my crazy pantry above and followed the guidelines to sort my food into three piles, the main one being a pile of bonus items...those things due to expire soon, or that I have not used because I do not know what to do with them, or they were for a one-off recipe. I filled a whole large box:

The box on the right is my compost pile...out of date items. I am pretty disgusted with myself at how much was lurking in my pantry that was no longer usable. My only consolation is that 90% of these items will go to my chooks and they are loving me every morning. A big lesson I have learned is to take better control of my pantry. There were at least six packets of biscuits the kids had opened that weren't stored in containers...a total waste of money. That's what this challenge is also designed to make you a better shopper and storer of your food. I can see that will certainly work.

I have already decided that my main goal is to reduce my inventory. I still need to keep a stockpile and I love being able to have all the ingredients on hand to cook any recipe....but I need to learn to substitute and utilise what I already have, which will also make me more creative. My friend Nanna Chel said her daughter did this challenge and her husband loved the variety of meals cooked, so I am looking forward to what I will create from my 'bonus' items.

You can probably see where this is going. I still have the fridge and pantry to go, and will then plan my weekly menus for the next few weeks using my 'bonus' items.  If you look on the website under the tools tab you will find sheets you can print to record your bonus and regular items. I had way too many regular items to record but have used the list of bonus items to google recipes for next week.

So...I am going to be off and running on Monday, and have decided I can do this challenge for two weeks, due to my over-stocking (the program is designed to just do the $21 challenge one week at a time). I also have the benefit of my vegie garden and the chooks laying, so together with the recipes I have already come up with, I may even be able to stretch to three weeks! This could realistically save me at least $300 - $400 and I will keep you posted each Monday. The great thing is, I will continue with the menu-planning which I have become a little slack with...ensuring future savings.

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you may remember my post last year on Saving Money on Groceries. Since that post I have succesfully reduced my grocery budget from $200-$250 week to just $150 - $170 week. Now my daughter has left home I am hoping I can maintain that and save a little more every now and then.

So....what do you think? Do you want to join the challenge or just join me and see how I go? Any suggestions of menu items when I share my list of 'bonus' items will be greatly appreciated!

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