During June, I decided to cut our shopping bills by eating the contents of our cupboards, fridge and freezer.
This store cupboard challenge provided an incentive to try and use assorted ingredients that had been sitting around for months, if not years.
I finally faced up to strange ingredients bought for specific recipes and abandoned, like artichoke hearts and soba noodles.
I experimented with the odds and ends left from an Approved Food order, such as unexpectedly large cous cous and Pizza Express Light Dressing.
I tackled long forgotten leftovers, like the remains of a bag of frozen mixed berries and the last remnants of brown lentils.
I even experimented with some budget ingredients bought with the best intentions and then ignored for lack of inspiration, from red lentils and pearl barley to tins of pilchards, pineapple and grapefruit.
Although I did replace some stuff when it ran out, especially cereal, jam and ketchup to avoid family mutiny, with other ingredients I switched to using a different kind of oil, or another kind of pasta, rather than replacing the original version automatically.
So after a whole month dedicated to trying to clear some space, here are the before and after shots from my kitchen:
|Main food cupboard before…
|Main food cupboard a month later.
Tins decimated, fewer carbs and condiments, still a lot of baking stuff
|Big fridge before
|Big fridge afterwards, with a “going on holiday” empty feeling
|Freezer afterwards: there really is more space
|Small fridge before
|Small fridge afterwards: fewer bottles, less chutney, more elderflower cordial and cauliflower
|Top of green cupboard before
|Top of green cupboard afterwards: Fewer jars and eggs, less fruit, different cereal.
Still shedloads of oats though
|Mantelpiece after tackling giant cous cous, raisins, sugar and noodles.
The spaghetti is my next target…
|Dry stores before
|Dry stores afterwards: Original shelf contents all gone, bar the last of some red wine,
and we did make a dent in the 12.5kg sack of potatoes I forgot to photograph at the start.
|Hidden snack stash before
|Hidden snack stash afterwards: down to a single box of oats
|Mug cupboard before
|Mug cupboard afterwards: little difference,
but some of the tea bags at the back have been used up
Week 1 spending summary
Cash spent on food: £52.24
Vouchers spent on food: £6
Week 2 spending summary
Cash spent on food: £6.65
Vouchers spent on food: £30
Week 3 spending summary
Cash spent on food: £70.21
Vouchers spent on food: £3
Week 4 spending summary
Cash spent on food: £41.14
Vouchers spent on food: £0
Final total after a month
Cash spent on food: £173.24
Vouchers spent on food: £39
Total value: £212.24, of which £20.48 has yet to be eaten (just under 10%)
Before I started the store cupboard challenge, our foods bills were running at £67 a week for a family of four.
During the challenge, I ended up spending just over £40 a week – down a hefty 40%.
Having £39 in vouchers to use definitely helped, but I do normally try and take advantage of money-off voucher anyway, so my normal food spending would include a certain amount.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty good result. I didn’t pare everything down to the bone but stuck to relatively normal meals for us, without stinting on fresh fruit and veg.
However, I made more effort to plans meals and minimise food waste, which definitely helped cut costs. I also continued taking advantage of yellow-stickered bargains, so long as they would actually get eaten rather than clogging up the freezer.
I did restock some store cupboard items during the challenge, like cereal, jam, coffee, ketchup, pesto, sugar, syrup, stork and flour, but there are still a bunch of staples I’m looking forward to replacing, like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, stock cubes and soy sauce. No doubt my food bills will go up again this month, but I’ll continue to monitor our food spending.
It was an interesting exercise, and there are still shelves I intend to tackle. I didn’t make any of my own bread for example, so the part-used bags of flour remain.
The best part is that I no longer feel guilty staring at abandoned ingredients, and now have space to stock up on stuff we actually eat regularly.
Can you see any advantage of a store cupboard challenge, eating the contents of your cupboards, fridge and freezer?