Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January No Spend Month - Week Four and Final


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

We spent $20 a week on food, fun, and frivolities. We used up what we had, bought few essentials, and lived well.

Here are the glory details of Week Four and Four and a half!
Yes, glory details. Because I'm (still) clever.

Here's how we spent the final Week and a half's $30:

Bulk Peanut Butter
Bulk French Lentils
$2 to contribute to the tip for a special luncheon (Thanks GrandmaB!)

Total Cost: $27.59

Because we have used up all the rendered bacon fat, duck fat, and goose fat we had in jars in the fridge, and were almost out of olive oil, I "splurged" and bought two pounds of butter. I like cooking with butter but I don't like putting bacon fat on my toast in its place.

Highlights and Creative Solutions of Week 4 and 4.5:

After last week's slump, I recommitted myself and we have finished strong.

I got into a kick of making flat round things - starting with crepes and our own apple butter.

Searching for something to go with refried beans (from last week's shop ) and a jar of salsa in the cupboard, I tried my hand at making flour tortillas. (Based on the recipe here)

Another day I tried for all corn tortillas, without a recipe.

Leftover tortillas got turned into chips which went down easily with the last of the salsa.

After a couple of breakfasts of pancakes, I stopped making round flat things. Instead we had Will-It-Waffle-Saturday. Inspired by a blog WillItWaffle I read years ago. After making fluffy breakfast waffles, we made waffled hash browns

The trick is to par-bake the potatoes before grating them. We also froze some potato shreds to waffle another time.

I'll admit I'm not particularly excited about potatoes. They're fine. Even pretty good sometimes. But these? Amazing. I'm already looking forward to having them again.

And later for a big treat, we added a couple eggs to an almond flour cookie mix we got from the scratch and dent bin and cooked them up in the waffle iron.

What goes really well with waffled cookies and only uses ingredients we already have?

Naturally sweetened strawberry ice (coconut) cream.

We did it!

Here we are on the last day of the month. We have spent a grand total of $86.83 on food, fun, and frivolities this month, instead of an estimated $1,200 on groceries, eating out, emergency lunches, or snacks on the go. That number goes even higher without any other kinds of impulse buys, clothing purchases, admission fees  etc.

What do we have left? 

Other than leftovers, there's a little bit of frozen fruit and flour left in the freezer. In the cupboards there's pretty much just home-canned pickles and jams, and the dried herbs and spices we buy in bulk once or twice a year.

There's a few other things we didn't eat: a couple of flavored rice mixes and come tinned smoked fish. If we never wanted to eat them even when only spending $20 a week on food, we don't need them taking up any more time or space in our life.

What we've learned and how this challenge will shape our lives going forward:

Doing this exercise in voluntary frugality brought to light what we really need, how we use it, and how we can do better. Buying things to stay within such a tight budget meant we weren't able to take advantage of sales, stock up, or even have a backup in reserve.

While you really can get a lot of food for $20, every week I paid more money for a smaller package of something to stay within our budget. Buying items in bulk (or even just larger packages) saves a significant amount of money. One week peanut butter was on sale. Instead of getting to take advantage of the lower price and buying even just one month's worth of peanut butter, I stayed within our challenge and simply spend a dollar less that week. I can only imagine what it must be like to live stretched to the edge every week.

Other times, paying less per item or pound meant buying something in a plastic bag, instead of getting Closer To Zero Waste by using my own reusable bags.

We are fortunate enough to have ability to make better choices - buy high quality ingredients, create the least amount of waste, make delicious nutrient-dense foods in our own kitchen. We have the time and the land to raise chickens and grow some of our own food.

I'm very much looking forward to stocking back up on the basics (the ones you saw in our purchases each week this month) and having extras on hand. These basic ingredients come together for form a wide variety of delicious and nutrient-dense meals.

Final Thoughts:

I asked HandsomeJoe what his takeaways from the month were and he responded that he is relieved to know that we're a lot more capable and better set (in case of any of the impending dooms) than he'd thought. And that he was surprised that eating out really wasn't adding anything to our life.

Over the years we have continued to expand our skills in the kitchen. There are very few restaurant meals that we can't make just as well, for a fraction of the cost, here at home. Especially with children, we figured out that it takes less time to cook, eat, and clean up at home, than it would take to get all of us in the car, drive, order, eat, and then drive home from a restaurant.

 If we're simply trading time working together at home (while teaching our children) for driving and waiting, it hardly seems worth the added expense of having someone else cook. To think of it another way, we can host several friends at our house for dinner for the same price as just our family going out.

While this challenge was definitely a challenge, and I'm looking forward to adding back in a couple of the little luxuries (like an occasional glass of wine), I feel more prepared to face whatever life may bring.

I feel more aware and more in control of our money, health, and home management goals. I'm also looking forward to moving on to the next challenge while slightly loosening the restrictions at the grocery store.

Now I think I'll go an pull our last supper out of the freezer - frozen leftover Christmas dinner, including a little bit of plum pudding to light on fire as we celebrate a month well lived.

See you in February for our relationship challenge month!



  1. I love how you kept things vibrant and nutritious throughout the month and then ended it with a bang! You're amazing and inspiring.

  2. I Just read through the Jan. 2017 challenge again. Incredible! Looking forward to this year's slightly different January challenge.