Monday, January 9, 2017

January No Spend Month - Week One


January 2017 
No Spend Month
How our family is spending as little as possible this month.

Here are the glory details of Week One!

Yes, glory details. Because I'm clever.

I am surprised and delighted at how much interest people showed in how we're doing a No Spend Month for our January family challenge.

It's so nice to engage with readers and so inspiring to hear that people are interested!

No Spend Month Details

We set ourselves the challenge of spending only $20 a week on food, groceries, supplies, and fun for out family of four.

This means no treats, no eating from restaurants, no buying food on the run when we've forgotten or mis-prepared. It means using what we have and looking to the pantry, or the art drawer, or the storage bins when we need something.

We decided we were doing a No Spend Month two days before January 1st. We didn't prepare. We didn't stock up. We will be spending a lot more time making things from scratch, packing snacks and more lunches, and only having homemade treats.

We will still buy gas (fewer trips), pay all of our bills on time, and make our contributions to our savings and retirement accounts. 

Here's how we spent Week 1's $20:

Red onions - to start the second test of the EcoJarz Fermenter Kit before I post a full review

2lbs Yellow onions 
2/3lb Dried beans mix (reused container)
1lb Bulk cheese
1lb Bulk peanut butter (reused container)
1/2 Gallon of whole milk

On a separate solo (thanks dad!) trip I purchased:

12oz Can of tomatoes
3lb Bag of granny smith apples

Total cost: $20.84
Total cost out of pocket due to extra returned bottle deposit: $18.84

Highlights of Week 1:

This week we used a gift certificate for a $20 date on the town while my mum watched the girls. (Thanks mum!)  Over the years we've set ourselves the challenge of going on $20 dates. I'm working up a list of tips to share.

I hosted a reunion party for my '97 graduating class from The Hartsbrook School. I made a big pot of garden (veggie) chili, provided a big bowl of shredded cheese, and an even bigger bowl of buttered popcorn. 

From our grocery shop: Onions,  bulk dried beans, canned tomatoes, bulk cheese.
From our pantry: Canned tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, celery, sweet potato, spices, popcorn, butter.

We brought leftover chili, cheese, and bread from the freezer to visit grandparents the following day.

"Using up" egg whites leftover from the holidays

I was able to participate in a group craft-project gift for a beloved (extended) family member using materials I already had. I'm not posting details as it's a surprise.

Creative Solutions from Week 1:

Spiced Pumpkin Apple Nut-cakes

Due to my personal health goals, I wanted to make myself some snacks, or bread-like things to help make it between meals. I opened a jar of our spiced pumpkin apple butter to make myself some spiced pumpkin apple nut cakes - like biscuits or oat cakes but grain-free. As I was mixing them up, I ran out of almond meal. 

After a moment's thought, I grabbed a handful of walnuts and another of whole almonds and pulsed them for a few seconds in the food processor to create a course nut-meal. 

They turned out magnificently! 

If we hadn't run out of almond flour, I wouldn't have even tried making my own.

Finocchiona Stromboli

My mum and I often exchange little presents. This week I brought her some ham bone stock and some socks that were a little tight and she brought me some white bean and fennel soup and some of my step-dad's turkey stock.

To go with the white bean and fennel soup, HandsomeJoe wanted to try making a traditional-style Stromboli (not sauce and cheese) using the einkorn pizza dough recipe we've been playing with. 

I found a somewhat dried finocchiona (a salami-like fennel sausage), used some leftover ham and some sautéed onions. It was delish!

I think our Stromboli skills still need a little development, not that we had any trouble finishing it. More research is required.

Garden Chili

For the little reunion for my Hartsbrook Class of '97, I made a big pot of garden chili.

I used dried beans - soaking them over night and cooking them most of the day. I usually buy canned beans for convenience. Even though the canned beans are only a dollar or so they're more than twice as much per pound as you're also buying the can, the water the beans are in, as well as pre-cooking and handling. Cooking from dried beans was quite easy, although even with soaking, took a little longer than I'd expected.

I used an old tube of tomato past from the back of the cupboard, a grated sweet potato, and a jar of frozen grated zucchini from our 2016 farm share at New Dawn Farm in NH.


Final Thoughts

This type of artificial scarcity is such a good exercise in self-reliance. It challenges us mentally to make the best decisions available

In this age of over-abundance, where you can get just about anything delivered to your door in a day or two, it's so good to slow down, take stock of what you have and how you do things. There are so many habits we have of which we are completely aware. 

As we go through our stores in the pantry, the cupboards, and the freezer, the challenge of making delicious food will increase but so will the level of satisfaction and the creative solutions. Special treats aren't special if you have them every day. 

The only downside I've come across thus far is not taking advantage of items that are on sale. Usually if there's a really good deal on an item we would normally buy, I'll by quite a bit of it. This week the tinned tomatoes we like were on sale for about 1/3rd of the price. Instead of stocking up on them, I opted to buy apples and still stay within our budget. I figured I'd have a hard time selling tomato mush with peanut butter for the girls' snack. ;) 

What are your experiences with choosing not to spend? Ever done a No Spend Month yourself? 

Share your tips! 

Want to try a No Spend Month but have a nagging question? Curious about something? Post your questions in the comment section below. Let's get talking people!


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