We're Having An "Eat Down."

If your parents are divorced, than it's likely that you've weathered your share of your parent's boyfriends and girlfriends over the years. I know I have. Some are strange, some are great, and some give you things that you remember fondly. Once my mom dated a guy named Bob, and yes, that is his real name. He gave to us what we now know as "the eat down."

Bob was an Italian-American and a thrifty guy. He didn't like waste or overspending--a man after my own heart in these respects. And he would often say when we came over "we're having an eat down!" We would be like, "What's that?!" He would reply, "You don't go to the store to buy more food until you eat it all down!!"

My husband and I have, over the years, adopted this concept into our hearts and minds. It helps us stay on budget with groceries as well as to make sure that nothing goes to waste. Let me also say that sometimes when thing are tight and you can't go grocery shopping, this can seem a little...I don't know...obnoxious or frustrating. But the "eat down" makes it into a game. Suddenly we're like, "what do we have and what can we make with it!?"

We joke often that we could have a TV show called "Eat Down" where we go into people's homes and show them how to stretch their budgets and their food into more meals. Creativity people! Also? Pinterest. You knew that was coming, right? I'm addicted to Pinterest.

So, I wanted to share some eat down tips. In case you are thinking of cutting back on the budget, or you just want to try this as a fun game one month. Wanna know something amazing? After the holidays, things were a little tight, so we went nearly 1 month on $125 spent at the grocery store! Now, I will admit that was bolstered by the fact that I can food during the summer season, and we get venison from a hunter friend. Also, I pick crabs in season (I have a friend who owns a seafood place, so I get a good price) and I freeze the meat. It also doesn't hurt that we have chickens and therefore a basically endless supply of eggs.

Perfecting the eat down (steps for success): 

1. Make a meal plan
This is very important. I like to make a plan for at least 15 meals. Generally, I'll make about 20 or so from the stuff I get because inevitably there will be other things I can make. Making a meal plan helps you see exactly what you need to buy, but it also lays out a plan for the upcoming weeks, ensuring you use what you get from the store and don't forget about items.

I get TONS of ideas from Pinterest for my meal plans, but also I like to ask my husband, "Any special requests for dinners you'd like to have?" If you have kids, you could ask them too. Get the whole family involved.

2. Make a corresponding grocery list 
Using the meal plan as your guide, make a grocery list. Now, when you shop, you've got to actually stick to the list. I am pretty good at that, as I go through the grocery with a calculator and keep track as I get my items. This helps me stick to my budget. If I'm under budget, I'll use remaining money for "splurge" items, which is really fun!

3. Keep track of what you made, what you didn't make, etc. 
I use the notes section of iPhone for this. I have my meal plan in there, and then below it, I keep track of what I made. The great thing about doing this is you see how creative you got as well as how well you stuck to the plan. It takes just a moment each day to do, and then, if you do it again the following month, you've got a guide map of what you already had, so you know how long it's been since you made that dinner.

4. Follow through and cook at home.
I think a lot of food waste has to do with people not buying to cook specific meals (going kamikaze at the grocery), not knowing what they actually have in their pantry/fridge, and going out to eat too much. If you want to be healthy, cook for yourself. REAL food, not packaged stuff. If you want to save money, this is also true!!

5. See how long you can go!
How long can you hold out in the eat down game? It's really fun, right?! I mark my calendar when I shopped, and then we try to see just how long we can go between shops. 

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