We are having a no-spend month this month. We are sort of mixing up Buy Nothing New month with the Simply Savings $21 challenge (spend $21 on food for a week - only we are doing it for 4 weeks), and coincidentally doing it at the same time as Erica's no-spend month October.
We actually started just before the end of September, aligning it with our last pay day, which was also the day I paid last month's credit card bills - and there, combined with two car regos due this month - is our inspiration! We paid off the credit cards (we usually put everything on credit card and pay it off at the end of the month), but there wasn't much money left in the bank!
"Time for a no-spend month," I said.
So how are we going so far?
Well, not too bad, but not fabulously. We had about $100 in cash between us, so we decided to see if we could make that last all month for our food bills.The $21 challenge is theorically for a family of 4, so that works out about right.
We'd still have to pay for petrol, bills, the mortgage etc, but we're doing 'buy nothing new' anyway (and nothing second-hand either), and then just trying to eat out of what's already in the house as much as we could.
We had to buy toilet paper and cat food the first week, which in retrospect shouldn't really have come out of the cash, but then again, we really don't have a lot of other money to spare this month!
So what are we eating?
From the garden: We have lots of greens growing (3 different kinds of silverbeet, a few pick-and-come again lettuces, and beetroot leaves), though some of them are starting to go to seed, plus Spring onions and lots of herbs, and of course plenty of eggs.
I picked and ate my first (ever) baby beet yesterday, and there are lots more to come, but they mostly have a ways to go. Ditto the leaks and garlic. We have a few snap peas, but the kids eat the pods as soon as they are half way ready. Elli, mostly.
Grains: We've been eating a lot of rice, but unfortunately I can see it running out within the next 1-2 weeks at best. However, we do still have a fair bit of spaghetti and a bag of quinoa. We also have a fair bit of spelt flour and bakers flour left, so I see plenty of muffins and other snacks being baked in the next few weeks. We have still been buying bread, however I may make some too. I think I have only about three 5g sachets of yeast, but buying more of that will be cheaper than the bread.
Ready-meals & meat: we've already eaten just about all the meals we had frozen, though we may still have a container of chilli and one of soup I think. Ditto frozen meat, but we do still have about 4 chicken carcasses and some slightly manky carrots and celery I will be turning into chicken noodle soup this week.
Other protein: we still have quite a lot of dried beans and lentils. I made a lot of hommus and froze some of it a few days ago, plus some 'savory chickpeas' (pressure cooked for 40 minutes with a bay leaf, garlic, half a lemon and some salt - came out really yum!), but of course only Eliane & I really liked them, though Mikaela did eat some. And of course there are eggs.
Tomorrow night we'll be having dahl and rice for dinner, but since NONE of my kids will eat the dahl, there'll need to be a lot of rice and yoghurt.
Yoghurt: I make this so we have still been eating plenty, but whereas usually I used cartons of milk plus some milk powder, I have switched back to using all milk powder, since I had an un-opened packet in the cupboard. I've been using the powder to stretch our drinking milk budget too.
What we are spending (grocery) money on:
Is mostly milk, bread, fruit and some vegetables. Oh, and we did buy a 1kg block of cheese. Usually we spend at least $50/week on milk & bread (we go through a lot of milk, and we won't buy the cheap dairy-bankrupting brands), and easily spend $100/week on fruit and veg. Maybe more.
We've also bought tortillas, sugar (the kefir can't live without sugar...), a pack of 'for quick sale' organic mince, and a few other items I've forgetten no doubt.
So the fact that we still have some of our $100 left a week & a half in is an achievement I reckon. We have, however, been using up the powdered milk at a great rate. It won't last another week.
It's not really the greatest time to be doing the 21 dollar challenge for us, with Spring just underway, so not all that much in the garden or left in the larder, plus school holidays began two days after we started. Chris took the kids to Floriade last week and got a lot of whinging about the 'torture' of not being able to buy an ice cream!
But with two car regos to pay this month (that is, nearly $2000 worth) plus a $1000 gas bill that arrived the 2nd day of the challenge, we really don't have any choice.
We did also get around a $500 credit on the electricity bill from our solar panels, but we vowed any money we made there would go straight to paying off the money we took off the mortgage to pay for them in the first place.
What we should be doing and are not:
Is a proper audit of what we do have in our pantry, fridge and freezer, and menu planning. So far we've just been doing what we normally do, figuring out each meal's menu as close as possible to the time it needs to be served. Not so good for being organised and using up food we have.
So that's my goal for this week: a proper food audit, and at least a casual menu plan.
My challenge for the week is having 3 other kids at my house on Friday, for potentially the whole day, PLUS they're all sleeping over.
Snacks I can do okay (muffins, oat slice, and oh yes, I bought some more popping corn too, and fruit), lunch is pretty easy if I buy or make bread, but can I do a dinner meal they will all eat some of, without spending?
Maybe that will be the chicken noodle soup night.
And I think I have enough rhubarb in the garden to make a pie for our Friday night dessert night, though that pretty much requires ice cream, or at the very least cream... Maybe sweetened yoghurt?
(Totally off-topic, but I posted an article I've been working on for a few weeks over at Sustainable Suburbia today, on building sustainable & resilient local communities.)