I am not a DIY kind of person. Sure, I can paint walls and hang pictures, but that’s the extent of my craftiness when it comes to home projects. If you need scrapbook pages beautifully done or want help writing something, I’m your girl. Start talking about wrenches and screws and my eyes will glaze over before you’re finished saying “Phillips.”

I know this isn’t true for everyone, though. I have an amazing friend who is, quite simply, the queen of DIY projects. She’s always posting pictures on Facebook of benches and dressers and tables that she’s redone. Once I get over my knee-jerk jealousy of her crafty skills, I can appreciate the beauty of what she’s able to do.

And then, several weeks ago, she posted a DIY project (of sorts…) that I finally thought, “Hmm…I could do that!”

It was a No-Spend Pantry Month from the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam blog (here’s the original post). The idea is that you catalog the items in your freezer and use them up over the course of the month, rather than buying more at the grocery store. You are allowed to buy fresh produce as well as limited dairy items (so “yes” to milk, “no” to the ice cream – a rule my husband conveniently forgot at one point).

We eat primarily organic food, my husband and daughter are both gluten-free, and a teenage friend who spends a lot of time at our house is dairy-free, so we spend a lot on groceries. I often buy in bulk or make things from scratch to offset the cost, but it still adds up. So I was entranced by the idea.

And I decided to start right away — on a Thursday, no less — because I knew if I waited until the next month started, I might chicken out.

Some other benefits:

  • It’s a great way to work on forming good meal-planning habits. I find that we have a lot less trips to the grocery store (and the impulse-buying that accompanies those trips) if we plan our week in advance.
  • It’s a great way to save money. As a family, we saved hundreds of dollars over the course of the month. I spent one-fourth the amount I usually spend on food. My husband was THRILLED to see my credit card statement. 🙂
  • I love the idea of not wasting food. In an August 2012 report by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American tosses about 25 percent of food and beverages purchased. Yikes! For a family of four, that adds up to somewhere between $1,365 and $2,275.

Here’s an idea of what my menu looked like:

  • Thursday: Low-boil on a stick (sausage, potatoes, carrots, shrimp seasoned with Old Bay – it’s a Southern thing).
  • Friday: Dinner out (Date night!)
  • Saturday – Buffalo blue cheese burgers, chips, cucumber-tomato salad
  • Sunday – Chicken fajitas
  • Monday – Roasted whole chicken and onion potatoes
  • Tuesday – Chicken salad sandwiches (I used leftover chicken from the day before)
  • Wednesday – Banana pancakes
  • Thursday – Leftovers night
  • Friday – Vegetable beef soup
  • Saturday – Dinner at my sister’s (Freebie night!)
  • Sunday – Hot dogs, chips, coleslaw
  • Monday – French toast bake (great for leftover/odds and ends of bread, burger buns, etc. that are going stale) and scrambled eggs
  • Tuesday – Steaks, corn on the cob, oven potatoes
  • Wednesday – Tomato basil soup
  • Thursday – PB&J (That’s what happens when my husband’s out of town.)
  • Friday – Banana pancakes
  • Saturday – Fajitas

You get the idea. My friend used up ketchup and soy sauce packets from a fast food place in her dinners (I told you she was the queen of DIY, right?!), and although I didn’t go that far, I did feel pretty proud of my family’s willingness to get creative and try new things while attempting to use up items in our freezer and pantry. In fact, we liked it so much that even though the month is over, we’re going to try to continue the challenge (modified a bit, however – I think we’ll incorporate one to two meals a week that use things from the store, the other nights we’ll continue using up items from the pantry and freezer). We’re also planning on doing a No-Spend Pantry month every six months or so.

Oh, and that money I saved? It’s now in the budget for a family vacation. Talk about a win-win situation!