We are once again kicking off an annual family tradition of designating February “No Spend Month.” I originally read about this creative family challenge on the now-defunct (but highly missed) site, Small Notebook, and was instantly intrigued. We did it, and loved it – and have been doing it every February (or occasionally another month) since 2009.
It’s just day two of this year’s challenge, and we’ve already gotten pretty creative. For lunch today, since it was just Nick and I working from home, I broke up 4 lasagna noodles that had been hanging out in an unfinished box for way too long, cooked them, and then added two Lean Cuisine frozen lunch meals of chicken, broccoli and some sort of cheese sauce, mixed it all up, and divided it in half. These are the sorts of unglamorous, but economical, choices we make this month – using what we’ve got on hand as much as possible and trying not to make purchases just for convenience, instead of for real need.
This weekend’s meal planning will use up a box of curry mix that’s been sitting around, spring roll wrappers, a head of romaine that needs to be eaten, and all sorts of odds and ends. We did treat ourselves to a quick trip to Target, where my husband’s flu shot earned us a little piece of mind (paid for by his insurance), and also gave us a bonus $5 to spend at Target (they were running a promotion to encourage flu shots). I actually had a $10 skirt to return that didn’t work out after I tried it at home with a couple of tops, so we used our $15 in store credit to buy pork chops (which we will use for a curry, stuffed pork chops and pork schnitzel – three meals for $10), a bag of pretzel sticks that was on sale, two potatoes (to add to the curry) and a bag of baby carrots. We’ll be set through mid-week next week, at least (well, we hope). I never like to spend any money the first week or two if we can help it, because by the end of the month we are really in dire pantry straights, and that’s the time it makes the most sense to dip into the kitty.
A key component to this whole thing is always meal planning. Yesterday I made a yummy turkey meat loaf (though only 1/3 of the size of Ina’s portions) and rounded it out with roasted Brussel sprouts and pretzel bread; today we will have the other half on buns for meatloaf sandwiches, and I will roast some sweet potatoes for the side. As the week stretches on, I tend to move away from very defined menus into more flexible fare that you can dump just about any leftover bits and bobs into – frittatas are great for this, but so are salads and soups.
Of course, we did this for many years out of necessity, but now that we are more comfortably financially, I still look forward to reminding ourselves that we don’t need to buy much to be happy or have a good life. Life lessons like budgeting, being creative with what you’ve got, and simply not focusing on what you don’t are things we want to instill in our boys, and setting aside this month every year gives us a chance to show them a holistic picture of how to live frugally and creatively.
Do you challenge yourself to limit your spending, or use up the food and supplies you have on hand? If not, why not?
Getting Frugal With It,