Thursday, August 27, 2009

14 Day No Shopping Challenge Results

Well, we've hit the end of our 14 days without going to the store and I learned a few things from the experience that I'll share, but I really suggest you try it for yourself and see what you learn as each of us has a little different situation, family size, taste preferences, preparedness level, etc. It really is best to try these things out while you can still correct mistakes and make changes and additions to your supplies!

The challenge went like this: Pick any 14 consecutive days in August and don't go to the store for any of your normal day-to-day things like food, toiletries, etc. See how you do.

We spent Aug 1st through the 10th on a camping trip in Colorado and I almost used that as the start of my 2 weeks, but there was no way I could get my family out there and back (10 hr drive each way) plus live out of a cooler for the whole time without at least restocking ice, so I opted to start when we got back. I did a standard shopping trip when I got home for things like milk, eggs, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary, and no crazy extra quantities of anything, then we started our 14 days of no shopping. Because I didn't think we'd have too much trouble with this challenge, I opted to throw a twist in for myself and do it without telling my family, just to see how "normal" I could keep things.

The first couple of days I started noticing items that were low like laundry soap and my favorite toothpaste and wondering if they would last the whole 2 weeks. Yeah, we have extra toothpaste, but it's sweet husband's favorite kind (it's cheaper, so I'm more inclined to buy extras of his than mine) and I could use it in a pinch, but you know how it is with your favorite toothpaste. I was not thrilled at the notion of running out and no, I didn't cut back on the amount of times I brushed my teeth to conserve!

I was also concerned with the milk and eggs supply as the chickens haven't started laying yet and I didn't think the amount of milk or eggs we had would be sufficient. We have powdered milk and powdered eggs, but I really didn't want to start using them unless it was entirely necessary. I cringed every time my kids asked for a glass of milk, thinking it would run out.

I had a few advantages going for me. We live in a crazy little town with one "greasy spoon" restaurant that I am not even tempted to go eat at, so I'm used to making dinner instead of picking up a rotisserie chicken or pizza (they just don't exist here). We also have a decent garden that helped with fresh produce, although not fruit.

We ran out of fresh fruit after about a week, so we ate canned fruit after that and nobody cared. The eggs lasted until day 12 and the milk actually lasted to the morning of day 15. The trick to getting the milk to last was making powdered drinks like lemonade, koolaid, etc that my kids wanted to drink instead of the milk. I also substituted powdered milk for fresh milk when I baked--just add the milk powder to your dry ingredients and then add water instead of milk with the wet ingredients. Like 1 cup of milk=3 T dry milk (non instant) mixed in with the flour/baking powder/etc., plus 1 cup of water mixed in with the oil, egg, etc. Make sense? It's really easy because you never have to actually reconstitute the milk. I could have made the eggs last longer if I had started substituting for them in the baking also (1 egg=1 TB gelatin dissolved in 3 TB hot water, stir it up a bit, then add to the recipe as an egg). I did end up doing a gelatin/egg substitution on the night of day 12 to make the cornbread muffins to go with our chili--worked great.

At the end of the 14 days we were still eating "regular" food. No crazy food storage substitutions (aside from the egg thing), soaking and cooking beans, wheat meat, etc. Our weaker area was toiletries and cleaners. The laundry soap lasted fine, but now I have the ingredients to make laundry soap in the event I run out. Toothpaste lasted also and I picked up a few extra at the store on day 15. I did run out of conditioner (day 12 also) which I thought I had more of in the food room, but alas it was only shampoo in there, so I borrowed from the camping gear and then found a bottle under the bathroom sink on day 15 that had been there all along. Still, one extra bottle will only go so long. I also ran out of dishsoap, so borrowed that from the camping gear also.

I noticed that I wanted sweets like I usually do, but had to get creative so I didn't use all the eggs baking cookies. Sometimes I just opted to do without, which is never a bad thing.

We had our anniversary dinner from the freezer (like I said, there's really no place to go out here anyway so me cooking our anniversary dinner is normal) and I made 2 birthday cakes during the course of the 2 weeks. Now, my son didn't get his first choice for his birthday dinner--I was missing an ingredient, but he did get his second choice and was perfectly happy.

Another thing that was interesting to note is that most of the "food storage" foods I have are raw ingredients that need prepared and put together to make a meal. This preparing of food takes time and effort. Figuring out substitutions also takes time and effort. I've often thought that during a real emergency, my schedule would be such that the kids wouldn't be going to piano, school, etc. and we'd have lots of time for preparing food, but would that really be the case? The more I thought, the more I decided I'd been deluding myself. In the event of an actual disaster type emergency, there will be so much to do to clean up/make the place safe/etc. plus the stress you'll be under that having at least a week's worth of EASY out-0f-a-can type meals that your family will eat would be very helpful. More would be better. An actual emergency will probably also bring with it loss of power, gas, and/or clean water, none of which I had to deal with during this experiment.

I think that's about it. It really worked out very well. Nobody suffered, in fact, nobody even noticed. But I learned a lot from doing it about some things I need to stock up on and some ways to make what I have last longer. So what's stopping you? Give it a try. 2 weeks of not shopping. See how it goes for you.


Chris W said...

Great going! We've never really made an attempt like that, but I imagine we would do just fine. When we see milk at a really good sale price, we usually buy 4-6 gallons and stock the freezer. A while back, the drugstore up the street marked theirs to 99 cents a gallon since it expired in 2 days. Expiration dates don't count in the freezer,lol. We ended up getting six gallons and it lasted us a month and a half.

Momnerd said...

Hmmm....yeah, maybe I'll try that. After I finish stocking up one of these days. We go through two gallons of milk in like 3 days. I definitely think my family would notice? Although I am totally not surprised that you did it so easily!! You totally rock! (of course, you already know that)

Peggy said...

Good job!! This isn't something most people ever think of doing or even manage!

We have actually do this each winter but for 30 days at a time. See we live in the interior of Alaska and I really hate driving an hour to go to the grocery store in the dead of winter (-40 or lower temperatures.) Milk is our only issue... During the warmer months the guys go through 4 gallons a week but for about 8 months out of the year we manage with two a week. That said I buy 4 gallons at a time and then transfer 1/2 a gallon into another jug. We fill it up the rest of the way with powdered milk. We did learn to make it taste like "real" milk it needs to set 24 hours. Our oldest has figured out the taste difference but he has unusual taste buds for a teenage boy!

Once again great job and keep up the great work! By the way I know what you mean by a greasy spoon. If we want to eat out, we drive 20 miles to the Air Base and eat at the dining facility. Great food, awesome price ($4.24 per person, all you can eat!)

marci357 said...

I did 5 weeks last summer - no problem - just to see if I could do it. But I think it makes a difference whether or not one has kids in the house, which I don't.

I don't keep milk in the house as I only use the powdered stuff for all my cooking/baking - have for years.... but then I like my oatmeal and cereal with water only, which some people don't.

I often say I could go a year on the food in the house - which I am sure I can - if not more. But I can probably only go 3 months on the TP in the house, and the laundry detergent.

Here I learned early that the economy gets rotten in the winter months, and one had best stock the cupboards before fall sets in to last 6 months til the economy picks up again - it's like this every year - farming area and tourist area - so I am very used to keeping the cupboards stocked up!

In case of emergency - there's the woodstove for heat, hot water, some light in the evening, as well as the cooking surface :)

Grace said...

I really appreciated this post. It made me think of how unprepared we really are. I've been stockpiling certain things but obviously to me anyway.. it's not enough. I have 14 month old twins who still eat baby food and also eat our food. I've been collecting coupons for their baby food, and decided to get two weeks of food at a time now instead of a week's worth. It does appear that I'm spending more each time we're at the store, but the peace of mind of having that storage at least for a little bit is good enough for me. If it came to it, all of their nutrition would be coming from our food only. That's okay. Thank you for your thoughts!

vlad said...

Hurricane Rita visited my area Sept '05. We had no power from early Saturday until late Wednesday. Many from the coast came to and through my area of East Texas. Long lines at gas stations. The stores sold out of lunch meat, bread etc.
We have 250 gal propane tank for cookstove and tankless water heater.
We were able to sleep as night temp got down to 75 or so.
My battery/windup radio with built-in flashlight was very handy. Some radio stations carried phone calls. Almost immediately after
Rita came ashore one caller was heard to demand, "Where FEMA? I needs ice and water."
We lacked only cold beer. We have stores of other necessities. Paranoia does not cost. It pays.

Country Cookin' Mama said...

What a great post! We've gone a week without shopping, and I thought that was hard! Not because we didn't have enouh, we could go probably 3 months eating normally and nearly a year eating a little less than normal. I just really like to shop the sales, so it's hard for me to not want to buy things when they go on sale! I'll have to try this soon, for the full two weeks... but if chicken or pasta go on sale SUPER cheap, like 50 cents a pound or less, you bet your butt I'd be at the store. lol.

Anonymous said...

Angela, Thanks for sharing all of these details. I'm curious what your family thought once they learned about the experiment?

TheSurvivalMom said...

I've been nervous about doing this challenge. It sounds so daunting, and, since our income has been down lately, I'm not crazy about using a lot of my stored food in case I don't have the funds any time soon to replace them. I'll make a note of this challenge, though, and will get to it by the end of the year. You're a brave one!

Emily said...

I probably wouldn't do too well in this challenge, although I don't really shop anyway. I go to the store for the normal eggs, milk and bread. I could make bread with stuff I have on hand, but eggs and milk are a necessity and the way my boys drink it they would notice in 2 or 3 days. I didn't know gelatin worked for eggs that jello you are talking? I might have to try that. You are wonder woman and I need to learn way more from you!