Monday – November 28th, 2016 Meal Costs :-)

Filed under :Challenges, Daily Meal Costs Challenge

Here’s the recap of our meal costs for today.   This is for two adults:

  • $3.39 Breakfast
  • $1.86 Lunch
  • $1.40 Dinner
  • $6.65 TOTAL for the day

It’s amazing that two adults can eat for a full day for a price that is less than the cost of a extra value meal from McDonalds :-)   Yes, it takes some planning and it takes a little time in the kitchen, but it is so well worth it!

Imagine if two adults ate out for 2 meals each day for 5 days per week for an entire year.  That’s 260 days of eating out.  If each purchased meal for those two adults cost $7 each, then the total cost for the year would be 260 days X $14 (for two adults) = $3,640.

If the same two adults cooked those two meals per day at home at= $ a cost of $2 for each meal, then the cost would be 260 days X $4 (for two adults) = $1.040.

The savings would be $2,600 for the year or over $215 each month!

Day 7 of the Organize Your Pantry Challenge (continued)

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry, Pantry, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

I decided to take this post and go a little further into detail on food “packaging”.  Like I said in my last post, some foods were just not meant to be stored in the packaging that we purchase them in.  Some of this food packaging doesn’t hardly even stand up to the handling it receives in shipment to your local grocery store.

One item in particular that comes to mind is dried beans…. I don’t know how many of you include at least one meal of dried beans for your family per week, but it’s a staple at our dinner table.  Beans are good for you and they are loaded with protein.  For those who feel like you need to have a “meat” – easy, just add some sausage and you’re good to go.   But back to the subject of the packaging that dried beans are in… this plastic just doesn’t stand up well at all.  And, beans are NOT something that you should put into your pantry without re-packaging first.

Let’s take an example — these are a package of dried red kidney beans that I recently purchased at the grocery store.  I always check the beans WELL at the store before I put them into my buggy.  I am checking for worms or weevils.    Your first line of defense is to make sure that you do not bring bugs home in the food you purchase from the grocery store.   The packaging for these beans is a thin, plastic bag.  It’s not open anywhere (how many times have you seen open bags of beans in the grocery store along with dried beans all over the floor?)     It doesn’t have any visible bugs in the bag either so I place it in my buggy along with my other grocery purchases.   This type of packaging used on dried beans is NOT sufficient for long-term storage in your pantry.  Why?

First, it is easy enough to tell that the packaging is not “air tight”…. and, if you look very closely at this closeup pic, you’ll see that there is a tiny hole in the bag.   Anytime a package isn’t sealed and air can get out, bugs can also get in!  Dried beans are #1 on my list to re-package before they go into my pantry!!   Also, while I’m re-packaging them, it gives me a chance to give them the “once over” just to double check and make sure there are not any bugs that I missed when I inspected them at the store prior to purchase.   So, just how do I “re-package” them for my pantry?  Remember those ZipLocks I told you about?

I love using ZipLocks for food storage in my pantry.  They are airtight, keep my food fresh and keep bugs out.  Sometimes they also keep bugs IN…. I’ll explain.  Remember what I said, it’s important to protect your foods even if you are “bug free” because you could very easily bring some home with you on your next grocery trip!   As I transferred the beans from the original package and into the ZipLock, I tried to check them well to make sure there were not any bugs in them.  They could have easily have picked up bugs in bulk storage bins, at the packaging facility, in transit or even at the grocery store.    Everything looked fine with the beans :-)    But, just in case I did miss something, these beans are now sealed up, air-tight in this ZipLock.  If there were a weevil that I might have missed, he’s in this ZipLock and he can’t get out!  So, I’m doing 2 things here – I’m protecting these beans from bugs and, I’m protecting all of the other foods in my pantry from bugs just in case these beans had bugs in them when I purchased the package at the grocery store.  If I would have left the beans in the original packaging, and…. if these beans had bugs in them, then the bugs could have migrated and infested other foods in my pantry.

Now, storing beans in ZipLocks in your pantry could be hard to organize and keep in order.  Those ZipLocks can sure be slippery when you’re trying to stack them up.  So, here’s a solution that I found (and love!) for organizing items in my pantry.  They are plastic “shoe boxes” that I found at Wally World.  They are 97 cents each and they do come with a lid as well.   These are great containers to store food items in.  They hold a good bit of items (in this case, I have 6 bags of beans).  Also, because of the shape of the lid, these plastic storage containers are great to stack!

I purchase dried pinto beans in bulk at Sams Club.  But, we only eat about 2 cups for a meal.  What I like to do is measure out 2 cups of beans into a ZipLock bag, write the date on the bag, and place them  into these plastic shoe boxes for pantry storage.  Writing the date on the front of the ZipLock helps me to use the oldest items first :-)

Another item I repackage is Jello…. the outside box is fine but the thin paper “bag” inside would be just too easy for a bug to get into in my opinion LOL.    So,  I remove the paper bag from the box, write the expiration date at the top, and place all of the same flavor of Jello into one large ZipLock.   By taking the package out of the box, it gives me a chance to inspect it to make sure that there are no holes or bugs in the product.   You do not have to do this if you do not want to – you could just place the boxes directly into the gallon-sized ZipLock.  I find this brand on sale quite often at Walgreens and I like to stock up when it is cheap.   I place these ZipLocks into one of the plastic shoe box storage containers – I have one labeled “Jello Dessert” in my pantry.

One food item that I’m always paranoid about having bugs in is CEREAL.  I think it has to do with the time when I was a child that I was eating cereal out of the box for a snack.  First of all, let me say that my mom has the cleanest house of anyone I know!!  Got to get that said LOL   Well, a huge wood roach ran out of the box just as I put my hand in about the 4th time.  Still to this day, it makes me sick if I think about it too long LOL   Now, when I purchase cereal at the grocery store, when I get home, I like to open the box up and check to make sure that the inside package is air tight.  That’s my assurance that the cereal is fresh and hopefully has no bugs in it.  I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to take a box of cereal back to the grocery store if the inside bag wasn’t air tight LOL!   Once I open the package though, I like to transfer the cereal into a freezer ZipLock gallon-size bag if it will be going back into the pantry.   Then the ZipLock bag goes back into the original cereal box.

But, sometimes, instead of returning the opened cereal to the pantry (maybe because I’m out of gallon sized ZipLocks LOL), I will fold the cereal bag over a few times, place a clip on it and put it in the refrigerator.  But I would never place a “clipped” cereal bag back into the pantry….   As a matter of fact, there are quite a few items that I do store in the refrigerator in ZipLock freezer bags:

On my bottom shelf, I have two boxes of cereal, a box of grits and a box of pancake mix.   ZipLocks work really great inside of the refrigerator for items like pancake batter or grits because they keep the foods inside the boxes from becoming “stale” or tasting like the refrigerator.  And one thing that is SO IMPORTANT….. YOU CAN RE-USE THESE ZIPLOCKS over and over again!  For me, they are a necessary and important expense in helping me to keep my food safe, fresh and bug free.

Now there are quite a few items that I have in my pantry that I do not transfer over into ZipLocks.  These are items that I feel like the packaging is adequate for storage in the pantry until we consume them.  Take a look at the photo and you’ll get an idea of the items I’m talking about.     But since it is hard to keep these items organized in the pantry (because of their packaging), I like to store them in the plastic shoe boxes.  You can really fit a good many of these type sauces and gravy mixes in just one of the plastic shoe boxes.

I hope that this information helps you to store food in your pantry so that it is protected and will stay fresh for a long time.

Day 7 of the Organize Your Pantry Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

Good morning!  How did you do with your pre-planning and organization work yesterday?  I worked on mine and these are the labels that I have decided I will need:

Food Pantry Groupings

  • Cereal & Breakfast Items
  • Coffee/Teas/Beverages
  • Snacks & Crackers
  • Canned Goods:  Vegetables, Meats, Fruits, Soups
  • Canning Supplies
  • Cake Making Supplies
  • Desserts
  • Side Dishes (potato flakes, pre-packaged pasta mixes like mac-n-cheese)
  • Spices
  • Condiments
  • Dried Beans
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Corn Meal
  • Rice
  • Dry Milk
  • Pasta

I am going to take this a step further too…. let me explain.  Many of the food items that we purchase at the grocery store are not meant to be stored long-term in the packaging that they come in.  For example, flour… think about how easy it is for pantry moths to get into flour!  Or, how easy it would be for roaches to get into your sugar.  How about weevils getting into your dried beans or rice?  These are the types of food items that you must RE-PACKAGE before storing in your pantry.  Actually, there are even more items that we need to include on this list and we’ll get into that a bit further as we start to put our food items back into the pantry.

So some of the items that I will be preparing labels for, I will put the labels on the new containers that I’m going to store them in instead of putting the labels on my pantry shelves.  And example of this would be my flour or sugar containers.  So think about that while you are working on the next step in your pantry which is:  INSTALLING the Shelf liners!  That is what we are going to do today….  I’ll check back in with you this evening to see if you were able to get all of them installed today.  That is our goal for the day.

Day 6 of the Organize Your Pantry Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

When I got home tonight, I took another look at the bright, white, clean pantry.  Wow… it looks so nice!  I can’t wait to start putting everything up.  But, before I do, some more thought is going into exactly how I’m going to organize the pantry for the long term.   I want my pantry setup correctly and in a fashion that will allow me to find items more easily.  I also want the pantry to be easier to keep organized and easier to keep clean.

In the last post, I talked just a little bit about labels….. I really do think this is a great idea in my home.  The reason why is because I’m not always the only one who puts the groceries away.  And, to make my organized pantry a reality, I have to make sure that others that use the pantry also know where everything goes.  And to eliminate any confusion whatsoever, labels are the answer!    With the pantry clearly labeled, no one will have an excuse to just throw items in the pantry.

There are several ways that you can make your labels.  First, if you have a “label maker” (which is a really good thing to have anyway), it’s easy to type out your labels and print them as needed.  Also, I’ve noticed that the label maker labels are plastic and the ink doesn’t smear…. so I do like using my label maker machine alot.  The printed labels also look very neat too.

If you don’t have a label maker, then you can type and print out your labels using your computer and printer.    There are labels that  you can buy to print on your computer.  But, you really don’t need them.  If you just print the labels out on cardstock, then you can cut them out with your scissors and then use a packing tape over the top of them to secure the labels to your shelves.  This tape will also protect the label in case something spills on it – the ink will not run :-)

We’ll also be using labels on the containers that we store our bulk foods in — rice, flour, sugar, beans, dry milk, pasta, etc.

But for now, look over your pantry items and make a list of the labels that you will need to make.  Let’s get those ready now so that we’ll have them tomorrow.

Day 6 of the Organize Your Pantry Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

Good morning!  Did you already take a look at your freshly painted pantry?  Wow, what a difference a coat of paint makes.  Today, we’re going to let the paint dry really well before putting our shelf liner in place.  You may want to keep the fan blowing into your pantry for a while longer.  This will help to dry the paint well.

Now’s the time though to do a little more “pre-planning” before replacing the items back into the pantry.  A couple of key points to consider when organizing what will go where:

  • Do you want to label your shelves?  This isn’t a bad idea… you might know where you want everything placed, but what happens when your husband or child is helping you to put the groceries up?  Labels help to keep everything in its place.
  • Storage containers – take a look at the items you store in your pantry, in particular:  dry milk, cereal, flour, sugar, rice, corn meal, and different types of pastas.  Usually the packaging that some of these products are purchased in are not sufficient for storage in your pantry.  We’ll talk more in depth about this topic in a later post.
  • Think about your goals…. what exactly do you want to accomplish with your pantry?
  • Which items do you use most?  These are the items that you’ll want to put on the “within reach/easy access” shelves.
  • Which items do you use the least?  These items will be stored on the highest and lowest shelving.

Just some food for thought!

Day 5 of the “Organize Your Pantry” Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

Good Sunday morning!  Today we’re really going to see a big change taking place in our pantry.  Today is the day that we paint….

If you have wire shelving, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve removed it.  If there are any things that you need to “tape” around, then get out the painters tape again and take care of that.  Your pantry should be nice and dry with the fan blowing on it all night.  The shelves should also be dry and ready to paint.   Before you start painting, you’ll need to measure the shelving (if you have wood shelving) because we will be covering it later with the shelf liner.  While you are waiting on the paint to dry in your pantry, it would be a good time to run out and purchase the shelf liner.  I found “EasyLiner” or “GripIt” at my WalMart.  It is a non-adhesive (which is good because BUGS like to eat adhesive, did you know that?) and cushioned.  Also, this type of shelf liner automatically grips and doesn’t slip around.  In my opinion, it’s the best and easiest to use.  Here’s a pic of it from The Container Store:

If you cannot find this in your local stores, it can be ordered online at The Container Store (click on blue link and it will take you to the product page).   Another reason I like this particular shelf liner is that it is very easy to cut to size with scissors.  The shelf liner really protects the tops of your shelves as well from being banged up and scratched up.   Also, this is a great shelf liner to use in your cabinets where you store your dishes and glassware.

After you’ve measured and written down the amount of shelf liner that you will need, go ahead and start painting the inside of your pantry.  As you’re painting, you can see how much better and brighter your pantry will be by painting it with the bright white semi-gloss latex paint.  Also, the inside of your pantry will be very durable as well.  Usually scratches can be almost wiped away.  If not, it will be very easy to “touch” them up with a little left over paint that we’ll save.

After you’ve painted the inside of the pantry (by the way, I also painted the ceiling of my pantry with the same bright white paint), wrap your paint brush up in some Saran type plastic wrap.  This will save you some time of washing out your brush.  You’ll be using it again in about 4 hours when you paint the 2nd coat of paint.  Leave the household fan blowing into the pantry while you are painting to remove the paint fumes.  Also, this will help the paint to dry.

About 4 hours later, come back and paint the 2nd coat of paint in your pantry.   Clean up your painting supplies and then continue to keep the fan blowing fresh, dry air into the pantry so that the paint dries and cures up.  We’ll leave the paint to dry overnight.

Get a good night’s sleep tonight – we have a big day tomorrow…. set your alarm for 1 hour earlier so that you can work on your pantry for an hour before leaving your home if you’re a working mom.  See you in the morning!

Day 6 of the “Organize Your Pantry” Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

Good morning!  Take a look at your pantry!  Isn’t it so nice and bright and clean!  And, without anything in it,  see how nice it looks.  We want to accomplish the same clean and bright look after we get everything moved back into it.

Today we are going to finally PAINT!  A coat of paint always spruces things up and makes the walls look fresh and new again.  Make sure and use your painters tape and tape up everything that you do not want to get paint on (including the floor LOL!)   Now, get with it!  We’re going to paint one coat this morning and the 2nd coat on this afternoon (after letting the first coat dry for 4 hours).  To help the paint dry and to keep the area ventilated, place a fan blowing air into the pantry while you paint and always keep a window or door open with another fan pulling the paint fumes out of the room.

Day 4 (Part 2) of the “Organize Your Pantry” Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

I hope that you had a great Saturday with you family.  It’s time to move on to Part 2 of Day 4 of our Organize Your Pantry Challenge.

First, how does your pantry look inside?  Did you find any dead bugs on your shelves or on the floor?  If you did, use your vacuum cleaner to clean them up.  Next, you’ll want to get out your cleaning bucket filled with cleaning solution and your cleaning rag, and don’t forget the rubber gloves (because you did spray inside the pantry).    We’re going to wipe down all of the shelves in the pantry again to make sure that we’ve removed any bug spray residue.    Keep the household fan blowing into the pantry to help dry the shelves overnight and to remove any moisture from the pantry.

Tomorrow, we’ll start PAINTING!  If you are not planning on painting the inside of your pantry, you can either take the day off or move on to the next step :-)

Good night!

Day 4 (Part 1) of the “Organize Your Pantry” Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

Good morning.  Today we’re going to let the pantry sit idle (until this evening) and we’re going to start working on the contents that are all over your kitchen table and kitchen counters.  It’s ORGANIZATION time…. along with a little “pre-planning”….

The first thing we need to do is determine exactly what items we are going to store in our pantry.  We know that we’ll be storing food (that’s a given, right?)  But, what about items like paper towels?  Those type of decisions are going to depend on the size of our pantry.  One thing I am going to caution you on is that cleaning supplies and other chemicals should not be stored in the same closet or pantry as your food items.  So please make room for these somewhere else.   Now is a good time for you to make a list of the items that you would like to store in your pantry.  Here’s my list as an example:

  • Food
  • Dog Food/Cat Food
  • Paper items – paper towels, paper napkins, paper plates
  • Boxes of Ziplocks (I buy these in bulk at Sam’s Club)
  • Cake & Baking Tools/Supplies – mixer, cake pans, decorating tools, etc
  • Cookbooks
  • Bread Machine
  • Dehydrator
  • Large Counter Roaster Oven
  • Stool (to reach items on top shelves)
  • Canning Supplies (jars, etc)

Now it’s time to start sorting and grouping the items we have out on our counters and kitchen table that we removed from the pantry.  First let’s start grouping like items together.  As we go through sorting the items, be sure to double check and make sure that you have written the expiration date with your Sharpie marker on each item.  This is how I’m sorting my items:

  • canned food — canned vegetables, canned meats, canned soups, canned fruits, spaghetti sauce, etc
  • condiments — peanut butter, unopened mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickles, olives, jelly, etc
  • baking & dry food items — flour, sugar, corn meal, dry milk, rice, noodles/pasta, dried beans, mashed potato mixes, mac-n-cheese, pasta mixes, muffin & cookie mixes
  • breakfast cereals and other breakfast items
  • packets — gravy mixes, spaghetti & sauce mixes, salad dressing mixes, onion soup mix packets, KoolAid
  • teas/coffees & related condiments
  • spices
  • crackers & snack items
  • Jello

As I’m sorting through everything, I’m just amazed how much food we have that we need to eat!  And I’m asking myself why we are still going to the grocery store every 2 weeks to buy more food LOL!  Sounds like another CHALLENGE will be coming up after we finish the “Organize Your Pantry” challenge!

When you’re finished sorting the food items on your kitchen counters and table, we will begin opening up the pantry and removing the visqueen and painters tape.  Make sure that your windows are still open to allow for ventilation and move your household fan so that it blows into the pantry.  What we are trying to accomplish here is to air out the pantry for several hours.   Fold up the visqueen and take it into your garage or outside for storage.  When you come back inside, be sure to wash  your hands just in case you got any of the bug spray residue on you.

For the rest of the day, and until this evening, just let the household fan blow into the pantry and completely air it out.  We will return to the challenge this evening for Part 2 of Day 4.

Day 3 of the “Organize Your Pantry” Challenge

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry

Good morning!  How did you sleep last night?  Don’t you feel good looking into your CLEAN pantry?  Everything is removed, everything is clean…  you should be feeling a sense of accomplishment!

If you are planning on spraying (bug) your pantry today, then this post is for you.  If you’re not planning on spraying, then you can either take the day off OR move on to the next step :-)

I hope that you set your alarm for about 30 minutes earlier than normal this morning because that’s about all the extra time you’re going to need to get ready to spray.  Did you get your visqueen (plastic), painters tape, scissors, a household fan, a couple of heavy towels and bug bomb out last night?  You’ll be needing all of these items for Day 3.  First, make sure that you have everything lined up to get everyone (including pets) out of the house today — at least for 8 hours.  This morning we will start with the “prep” work – you will not begin spraying until right before you’re ready to leave.

First, place your bug bomb on a shelf inside of the pantry – do not set it off just yet.  We’re just getting it ready.  Now, the next thing you are going to want to do is to start taping the visqueen on the wall over the door so that it will completely cover the door with extra all around.  If you are having trouble getting the tape to hold the visqueen, then use a couple of thumb tacks to secure the visqueen to the wall or to the moulding surrounding the pantry door.  Then use your painters tape around the edges of the visqueen to “seal it” to the wall.   You’ll want to do this around the top of the door and on one side (the hinged side) of the door.  Leave one side open – this is where you’ll need to go into the pantry right before you leave.

Now, you’ll need to wet the heavy towels and wring them out.  They will provide the “weight” to hold the visqueen to the floor.  OK, we’re all ready for DEPARTURE!  Get everyone out of the house (including the pets).  Oh, did you remember to move any live plants into a bedroom?  Look around the room now and double check….

READY?  Please read and re-read this next paragraph several times to make sure you follow the instructions.  You want to minimize any exposure that you have to the bug spray.  Please read the label on the bug spray for instructions as well.   Actually, read it several times.  Bug spray isn’t anything that you should use if you are not fully informed on HOW to use it.

  • Open a window in the room and position your household fan so that it will blow air OUT the window…. this will help to get any bug spray fumes that seep out of the pantry out of your house.
  • Position the bug spray bomb so that it will spray into the air…. you do not want it to spray onto a shelf above…..
  • Make sure the pantry light is OFF
  • As soon as you set the bug spray bomb off, immediately shut the pantry door.  Make sure that you do not get ANY of the bug spray on you or your clothing.
  • After the door is shut, pull the plastic over to cover the door and place the wet towels over the plastic at the base of the door to hold the plastic down to the floor.
  • Then you’ll need to start taping up the one open side of the visqueen to the wall with the painters tape.  You want to seal the bug spray into the pantry so that it doesn’t leak out.  This will do 2 things – first, it will maximize the bug spray’s ability to kill all of the bugs in your closet.  Second, it will minimize exposure to you, your family and your animals.
  • Now, the visqueen should be completely sealed around the door to the wall (2 sides and the top of the door) and the bottom of the visqueen should be weighted down to the floor with the wet heavy towels.
  • Now LEAVE!

Whew!  You’ll want to stay away from your home for the next 8 hours or so.  Perfect timing if you are going to work today, eh?  Also, it would be a good time to take the family out to eat tonight as well.

When you come back home tonight, when you first walk in, make sure that you do not smell heavy bug spray.   If so, keep the A/C vent off in that particular room and keep your children, yourself and your animals out of that room.  Keep open the windows in the room that has the pantry in it and keep your household fan on so that it will blow any bug spray fumes outside.  You and your family do not want to breathe bug spray fumes.  If you feel like the smell is too strong, then make good on those “just-in-case” arrangements that you made to sleep somewhere else tonight.

OK, we’re getting closer to having our clean, organized pantry.  Just a couple more steps to go!!!  Get a good night’s sleep tonight – you don’t have to set your alarm early for tomorrow morning :-)