You may have had weeks like this. I’ve certainly had them often. Work was jammed. The kids had a different activity every night, with a birthday party and school event thrown into the mix. By Friday, we were tired, hadn’t planned anything for dinner, but boy were we hungry.
We decided to order Thai food (ordering in is typically our go-to option when we haven’t hit the grocery store in recent days). Upon placing our order, we were told the food would take 45 minutes to arrive. Not ideal, but do-able.
One hour later, still no Thai food. 15 more minutes ticked by, and I still wasn’t digging into my Pad Thai. After calling repeatedly and receiving no clear answer about when our food was going to arrive, we decided to cancel our order. At this point, we had waited for well over an hour for dinner, and the family was famished. What to do?
We searched through our cupboards and easily found a solution. A box of spaghetti, a jar of tomato sauce… and some leftover salad dug up from the fridge. As we were eating our thrown-together yet very edible dinner, we had a revelation. We had more than enough food in the house for several of these impromptu meals — we shouldn’t need to order in or even hit the market for a while. We therefore challenged ourselves to a one-week “eat the house” experiment. No grocery shopping, no ordering in, no takeout… we would eat whatever we had within our four walls, no matter what.
This was the day to take care of the fruits and vegetables. With a full week of eating the house ahead of us, we knew it was critical to deal with our perishables right away. That meant freezing anything freezable (namely bananas and berries), and making sure we consumed everything else within days 1 through 3. Cue the lunch salad, and dinner stir-fry using the unopened box of rice that was sitting at the back of the pantry. (Oh, and fortunately we had enough oatmeal in the cupboard to last the week, so breakfast was going to be a snap).
Day 2 was freeze-the-bread-day, which would let us stretch it out for the week. We ate most of the ripe veggies with our ham and cheese sandwiches, and pulled out some chicken nuggets and fries from the freezer. This was going to be so easy.
Days 3 – 5
Breakfast continued to be simple, if not a little dull, but we mixed in smoothies from those berries and bananas we froze on day 1. Dinners were a mix of pasta, rice, and any nuts, cheese, frozen veggies and herbs we could scrape together. Sure, it was carb-heavy, but still a reasonable diet!
Days 6 – 7
OK, so things got a bit tricker these last 2 days. Kids (and grownups) were getting tired of oatmeal, plain cheese sandwiches and bagels were standards for lunch, and dinner got a little sparse. The freezer was emptied, that box or rice polished off, and canned soup pulled from the shelves (with a close look at expiry dates!). But bottom line, we made it. A full 7 days of eating the house. While the food was a little less-than-exciting, the experiment was fully achievable and we saved a good deal of cash in the process.
- $60: On the Thai takeout order
- $250: On groceries (this is our standard weekly grocery bill for our family of four, which we completely bypassed)
- $25: Lunch at school (typically, I order the kids a school lunch once per week, to mix it up for all of us)
- $335: Total savings from one week
While we recognized that saving over $300 per week was not a sustainable budgeting strategy, we did learn that there are typically going to be in-house options for those nights when we previously thought takeout or delivery was our only option. What’s more, I realized that I probably didn’t need to buy groceries as often as I had been — clearly we were stocking some serious surplus and had spent money in the past year on food we really didn’t need.
From our eat-the-house experiment, we became more diligent about what we bought, more disciplined about eating what we had on hand, and more conscious about spending money unnecessarily.
So what’s in your cupboard? While you might not have a full week’s worth of food supplies stored up in your home, you probably have a few days’ worth of sustenance on hand. Why not challenge yourself to eat your house this week? The immediate savings will be a great plus, and the longer-term awareness of what you’re stocking is sure to mean lower grocery bills and less food waste down the road.
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