Thursday 1 September 2011

How Low Can You Go

My new Challenge......for September is 'How Low Can You Go'. 

This is a long post, make yourself a cup of coffee, draw your chair up close and I will begin.

The Storecupboard Challenge at the start of this year was a taster, to see how little money we could live on while eating our way through the contents of the cupboards, fridges and freezers.  Now it's nearing the end of the Summer and we are hoping to move to a smaller place soon. With this in mind I realise that I will not have the luxury of masses of cupboards like I have here in our huge farmhouse kitchen.

Supplies have built up again, for no matter how hard you say you will be strong and NOT fall for the 'Brilliant Offers', the Buy One Get One Free' and 'Must Have Bargains'....somehow they all end up in your trolley and before you know what you're doing you're cramming it all in already full cupboards,  and in my case feeling very guilty about it.  * see below

We don't need all this food, there's only two of us most of the time, we've grown so much of our own fresh foods over the summer that we've hardly touched the contents of the cupboards.

True some cupboards are emptier than this time last year, we have been trying.

We only have a couple of choices of cereals now, our eating habits have changed quite a bit with Lovely Hubby's diagnosis a couple of months ago.

Some of the things LH is not supposed to eat were given to Jason, our other super frugal younger son, who's been brilliant at getting his finances under control since student days and unemployment left him with a good appreciation of fending for himself cheaply.   He now works at Sainsburys and qualifies for staff discount, and is even better at keeping his living costs down. The rest (mostly the more unhealthy stuff) was sold at Car Boot sales....who knew food sold so well !!

The freezers are pretty full with a mixture of bought in things and lots and lots of homegrown goodies, blanched and frozen, or turned into meals and frozen to last us through the Autumn.

 The small freezer is full of day to day things, grated cheeses, tubs of breadcrumbs, ice and lots  of frozen tubs of leftovers, ready to be thawed and turned into quick suppers.

The large chest freezer is full under these baskets of bacon, sausages and all kind of cuts of pork for Lovely Hubby to sell to his regular clients that purchase our meat, and of course to eat himself.

The small day to day fridge is full of all the usual things, I could have tidied it to make it look good for the photo but I literally went round the kitchen flinging open doors and just snapping away, so it would be a real record of how we are starting this challenge today 1st September.

The bigger farm fridge used to be full of eggs waiting to be sold at the Farmers Markets and to our private clients, but now with the numbers of laying ladies drastically reduced by Mr Fox and old age, we can barely keep up with the private list, so we have sneaked a few of our own things in there.

This has been a tour of our supplies, how long will they last us, what are the rules of the Challenge, back tomorrow with more information.

* I have sat many times and psycho-analysed myself over this, and the reason for my obsession with keeping the cupboards full to bursting is very obvious. During my first marriage when my boys were young, we were extremely short of money, mostly due to to my ex's drinking habits. The housekeeping was always tight, extremely so, and I would feed a family of four and two cats on less than £15 a week most weeks (sometimes even lower than this). 

My elder son remembers clearly coming shopping with me with a calculator in my, (or sometimes his) hands working out how much we could get for our money down to the last few pence. When I got home I would sit and plan out the meals for the week and the treats I could make for the boys. Everything was cooked from scratch and made by me, vegetables were grown in a small patch of the back garden and everything was used. Simon learnt his lessons well and when a couple of years ago he was in deep financial trouble he survived for weeks on Mum's Potato-Peeling Soup recipe, I was so proud of him.

My parents were brilliant and would slip me some extra cash when we went to visit, and at Christmas there would always be a lovingly made up hamper of goodies for us. Putting these food items in my cupboard brought me so much happiness. I would open the cupboards every time I passed just to look at the rows and rows of tins and jars that had suddenly appeared.

My husband could have been supportive and praised my resourcefulness but he never was. One day when we were having a really bad week I had literally lined up the remaining foods from the cupboards and freezer, and was planning how many meals I could make it stretch to and he walked into the kitchen....his comment......"You're just doing that to make me feel bad"....he still went out drinking the following weekend!

So now, although I am married to Lovely Hubby who shares everything and is so generous in comparison, I still have an urge to see supplies lined up 'just in case' and no, there's nothing wrong in that, it's just something I feel a need to 'get over'. Now I have an urge to see space in my cupboards and lightness in my life and I am going to resolve this once and for all.

If you are still here (and reading rather than snoring) well done.

Sue xx


  1. I'll join you on this one. I haven't made jams or pickles, or soap this year as I'm still using what I made last year. I had a clear out of everything in date and gave it to the food bank. There are people out there whose partners drink the money still I'm afraid, so it was good to get rid of the high carb stuff, all the pasta and cereals went

  2. I think I will follow you with this one as much as I reasonably can. So sorry to read about your 'past life' - I grew up in a family with money problems and was sometimes hungry so have a similar habit of wanting to line the cupboards with everything 'just in case' - but I have a lovely hubby too and we both want to reduce our budget as we are going through some frugal times so this will be good for us and fun to be joining in with you. Betty

  3. This is a great idea, I can't imagine what it must have been like living like that, what a good job Lovely Hubby came along :) xxx

  4. Well speaking as someone who has experienced much the same with my ex drinking away our cash for nigh on 20 years, I salute a fellow sufferer and someone who has overcome and become a stronger woman for it. Fantastic idea and one I shall be attempting to do too. Thanks for the inspiration x

  5. as a single parent frugality was the name of the game and still (the boys are grown but still living at home) there is not that much spare money but cupboards full give a feeling of security. I am however guilty of hanging around the asda reduced section and have a freezer with lots of single items non of which will make a meal for 5. Time to pass on to friends..clear out and start afresh

  6. Thank you for all these lovely comments. It's so nice to know I'm not alone and that lots of you understand.

    Linda - you should have a 'buffet night'....cook all the single portion things and let the boys dip into anything they fancy :-)

    Sue xx

  7. I always like to have basics in the cupboard in case the weather is too bad for us to go out, or I am not feeling well. I cook from scratch so there is never anything bought 'ready' from a store. I think it may also be an 'instinct' thing...a fear of not having food.
    Jane x

  8. Thank you for food for thought Sue xxx

  9. I agree with Jane about the 'instinct' thing. My Mum always had three packets of tea and one of sugar hidden in her BEDROOM cupboard. Something to do with war years rationing, and always being able to provide a cuppa for lots of people in emergencies
    I confess to succumbing to BOGOFs on tinned tomatoes. The family made me stop when I had a dozen cans on the shlef an dtried to buy still more!

  10. My mother keeps a cupboard with tinned things, all relative to war years food storage. I keep tins in but not quite so many unless I get carried away. I do think people waste lots of food because of silly sell by dates etc and the youngsters don't have the knowledge to realise the difference and know instinctively and food life.

    I think it is hard to have had to struggle with money but do think it gives a very good 'for life' grounding on making the most of one's cash. Good luck with the challenge.

  11. Just lost entire contents of chest freezer and fridge/ freezer due to no electric for a week from hurricane, so I am sort of starting from scratch, too! Pantry could use a good sorting out next....sometimes I think if you get TOO much stored you can lose it all anyway....


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