Like any true Southern girl, my favorite place to be is in my kitchen making something delicious to bless the people I love. My cousin Beckie has always teased me about how little TV I watch. Truthfully, the TV is just too far from the kitchen to suit me. Standing in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning, wearing my apron and listening to a sermon or worship music while I work is my happy place. Today I had the urge to go spend the afternoon in my kitchen, cooking and cleaning and prepping some freezer meals. My hands needed hot, soapy water, my favorite dishcloths crocheted by my cousin Donna (I have a lot of cousins y’all), and something yummy simmering on the stove. I do some of my best thinking and praying when I’m in my kitchen. As I scrubbed down countertops this afternoon, I started praying about our finances. I know we are just one of many families struggling in the current economy, and thoughts of how to feed my family for less occupies my mind quite often. I’m always looking for frugal recipes, tips on when/how to buy in bulk, the best place to get fresh produce or bread, anything to make our dollars stretch a little further. Today though, as I scrubbed and prayed, a new thought entered my mind. What if, instead of worrying and planning for how to spend my grocery money more carefully, I concentrated instead on using everything God had already blessed me with to its full potential? What if I focused on using all the things I had stocked up in my pantry? What if I actually learned to use my fancy espresso machine (one of my best Goodwill finds) instead of stopping by Starbucks once a week? I looked around and surveyed my kitchen, pantry and cabinets. Everywhere I looked I could see items in need of attention – cleaning, repair, organization, or just actually being used. I shifted my thinking from what I needed to do to acquire what I thought I needed to thinking about how to best use what I already had.
As I continued praying and seeking God’s direction in this new train of thought, I resolved to spend the month of October focusing specifically on stewardship instead of frugality. I’m great at finding good deals and making a dollar stretch. I’m not so great at maintenance and follow through. Sometimes this results in unnecessary waste or things that sit in my pantry unused for several months before being donated to a food bank. I decided a few steps that needed to be made and planned how to carry them out this month. I will share the things I learn through the month and maybe we will both be blessed.
Here are the things I’m going to concentrate on this month:
1. Eat from my pantry/freezer before going grocery shopping. Each month, as soon as I get my grocery money, I rush to the store first chance I get and stock up on everything I can think of that we may need that month. I use coupons, search for deals, know the best price and which store to find it in. But by the 20th, I’m out of grocery money and depending on money from our regular account to get us through until next month check comes on the 5th. It’s a feast or famine cycle. This month, instead of focusing on acquiring more food, I’m going to focus on eating what we have, using what’s already in our pantry and freezer. That’s not to say I won’t be grocery shopping, but I don’t plan to go until I actually need to.
2. Inventory and make a plan. I can’t use it if I don’t know I have it, right? I’m going to start with an inventory of my pantry and freezer and fridge and then make a written plan on how to use what I have. This will also give me a plan for all my #10 cans of tomato sauce, extra loaves of bread, etc. that I intended to prepare freezer meals with. I’m not a great menu planner but I can make a list of possible meals and list the ingredients needed so I don’t use them for something else, crossing off meals on my list as I cook them.
3. Learning to use and maintain what I already have. Two years ago, the week before my birthday, I found the ultimate Goodwill prize – a $400 Starbucks espresso machine for $10. Happy Birthday to me, right?? I must confess that I still don’t know how to use it and only have espresso drinks when Michael is off work on a weekend morning (about once or twice a month) because he’s the only one that knows how to operate the machine. This month, I plan to watch the same YouTube videos he learned from, practice, and learn to make some of my favorite Starbucks drinks. I already have all the equipment I need – I just need to learn how to use it. The same goes for the ice cream maker I bought to make special dairy-free ice cream for Georgia. I’m sure I’ll find a few other things too as the month progresses.
4. Make mealtimes special. Just because the grocery budget is tighter and our meals are less extravagant, doesn’t mean our table has to be. I plan to make regular use of our special dishes, light some candles, use the cloth napkins and napkin rings, maybe even add some flowers or a centerpiece occasionally. I have a large stockpile of things that I use when we host parties or have a family over to eat, but I rarely use them for our own family. Again, concentrating on stewardship instead of frugality – using what I have to its full potential.
Stay tuned all month! I will be posting updates to my progress through the month and at the end of October, I will let you know how it affected my monthly grocery budget. I’m excited to see what God will teach me about stewardship.