Here’s help if you are at the end of your grocery money, but not at the end of the month yet.
Have you ever reached the end of your grocery budget for the month, only to realize that there is still a week left? Well, since I struggle with budgeting, this happens to me quite often. Well, more than often…most months. There is the momentary depressed feeling. When you look into the pantry and think, “there is nothing in here!” and then move on to the fridge only to discover that there too, the shelves look freakishly bare.
What to do when your grocery budget runs out…
Once I move beyond the momentary “whoa is me,” I have learned to reach deep and get creative. I love what a little creativity can do. It saves the day when the money runs out, it causes us to really use up everything that is leftover (meaning no waste!), and it helps us to appreciate everything we have and not take it for granted.
Get a Better Perspective
Let’s think about this for a minute. What if someone from a third world country looked in my refrigerator and pantry when they are “empty?” What would they see? Well, not a lot of meat, true… But they would see a half Costco bag of brown, organic rice, several pints of fresh blueberries, a ham bone, a massive bag of Sam’s Club egg noodles, lemons, limes, fresh garlic, endless spices, wilting romaine lettuce, a case of tomato sauce, croutons, a pepper or two, white potatoes, hemp tofu, sweet potatoes, dried tomatoes, real maple syrup, flour, frozen Alaskan salmon, oats, butter, coconut oil, condensed broth (chicken, beef, & vegetable) raw honey, several cans of albacore tuna, yeast, coconut milk, eggs, loaf of Ezekial bread, tempeh, a couple onions, celery, a pound or two of skinny carrots…ok now I am embarrassed to even go on.
Could you imagine what someone who struggles every day to find something, anything, to help their child stop crying from hunger would say to me? If I could reach across the world and give them what I have, physically give them my “empty” cupboards, what would they say? Would they look at it bleakly and protest that there just wasn’t much they could use? Or would they weep with gratitude and joyously gather up these treasures?
Suddenly, having “nothing” in my cupboard is making me feel shameful. I am blessed beyond measure and have food in abundance. It may not be exactly what I was picturing for supper. It may lack a bit of flavor or protein. It may take longer than I want to prepare. But it is food, nourishing, healthy food. Even when I think there is nothing available, God has provided, more than provided, for me and my family. Will I miss this lesson and lament my lack? Or will I too weep with gratitude and joyously thanksgiving that I have more than enough?
I choose to be grateful – not too hard of a choice after putting it that way, right?! So now, what do we do?
Here’s the breakdown:
1. Paper in hand, head to the pantry/refrigerator/freezer/cupboards and brainstorm. Write down any ideas that come to mind when looking at the ingredients you have. Example: Tuna salad, tomato soup, salad, salmon and potatoes, Chicken noodle soup, minestrone soup, ham soup… It doesn’t matter if you have everything to make your ideas just get them out there!
2. Next sit down with your idea sheet. Look at the ideas you put down. Do you have all the ingredients for any idea? If so, that’s amazing – congrats! If not, it’s time to get creative! Take a menu idea and brainstorm any rendition of it you can think of using ingredients you have.
Tuna salad – well I don’t have any peas like I usually use, but what about making it with celery?
Chicken soup – I don’t have any chicken, but I do have carrots, celery, onion, noodles and chicken broth, so there we go. Maybe I will add some extra broth to make up for the lack of meat flavor in my “Chickenless Chicken Noodle Soup” or dig out a can of beans to add.
Totally can’t think of any ideas? Make a veggie dump soup. Throw in any veggie you have along with a starch (if you have it – rice, potato etc) add water and salt and there you go – soup. These may not be your normal recipes but they will be edible and nourishing…really, what more can we ask for?
3. Now, take all your innovative, alternative menu ideas and plug them into this week’s menu (or however many days you have left to fill before your grocery budget gets refilled). You may eat some weird combos, but that doesn’t really matter!
Just because you run out of grocery money doesn’t mean you are out of options. Dig deep, get creative and make meals!