Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weeks Three and Four of Nospend Month

Some of you have been wondering how this adventure wrapped up for us. Well, in the third week, we passed up our goal of $200 total by a little bit. This sort of took the wind out of our sails for the rest of the month, and we coasted through the last week with a more typical household expenditure. Not extravagant, but...we weren't really holding ourselves to the goal anymore. (Homemade fried rice cakes at right, terrific use for leftover brown rice.)

It is so true that in this sort of project, there seems to be a fatigue and lagging attitude that sets around week 3. We didn't succumb to key lime pie particularly, but maybe cookies and cream ice cream. (Tee-hee.) A subtle, indignant little voice kept insisting that we should have more spending power than we were allowing ourselves, and led to an uncalculating trip to the grocery store or two. (Bits of bread stuck in the freezer made for a savoury bread pudding. It's like a delicious, more hearty version of a soufflé.)

This is not to say we didn't learn or benefit from the experience. On the contrary! Thanks to the faithful record we kept on the side of the fridge of everything we spent and on what, we now have a very useful map for plotting our purchases on a regular basis. For us, we do spend more (than we would in small trips) at the supermarket when we go once a week. I call this EFS - Empty Fridge Syndrome. You feel a little desperate, and buy three kinds of cheese, when you might only need 1 or 2.

Secondly, the Minneapolis Farmer's market is infinitely more economical that the grocery store for vegetables, even Cub Foods. Plus, it is SO FUN. The only hard part is developing the routine of going there, but once that's established...a full produce drawer is yours for a pittance. (Watermelon sorbet at left a great way to use the fruit that's gotten a little grainy...)

For the record, $200 is way too optimistic a figure for us, even for a slim no-spend month. Next year, we'll aim for $250. However, I do believe the budget lines in our regular food budget are overinflated by a bit, and this experience was helpful for determining that.

Sitting down to a meal on our patio one night, Karl remarked that "if this is no-spend month, sign me up!" Before us was a feast of steak, tasty veg from the market, homebaked bread, cheese, and two glasses of red wine. You might be thinking: maybe this is why you overshot your budget...? Nope. That meal was one of the best buys of the month: bread is pennies for me to make at home, the steaks were drastically reduced in price and lovingly tended to by Karl on our little barbecue, the veg was about a dollar, and the wine from a boxed table wine we like, carefully apportioned out. Oh, and the cheese a gift from a family friend who owns a local goat farm....mmm. Fresh chevre on warm bread. Delicious morsels are to be had.

In the wake of moving from France to Minnesota, it has been a fascinating experiment to redraw our patterns of eating, cooking, and living, inscribing them on our new/old geography. There are some habits we can "import" - drinking wine at most meals - for a reasonable price. Other things, like bread and yogurt, we've learned we have to make by hand to be satisfied with the quality to price ratio. Yes, these things are worth our precious time (Have you every had homemade yogurt from raw goat's milk, simmering at left? To DIE for.)

We are busy people (more about that in blogs to come), but no one should be too overextended so as to miss out on the joys of dining together as a family, at least one meal of the day. That's my my philosophy. It doesn't have to be steak. More often, it's "just" an omelette, side salad, and a glass of wine, but...oh so sweet when shared with a loved one. Oh, then there was the night when I made homemade pizza and Karl insisted (he is so stubborn when it comes to having fun!) on throwing it on a cutting board and carrying it to the picnic tables in Loring Park. As we hoofed it across the busy street, we got not a few envious glances (including from a cop in his squad car cruising by!). Settling down with the pond reflecting great swaths of redwing blackbirds preparing for the migration to come, we downed our savoury slices and thanked God for the mild, waning light of summer. It's the simple things in life.

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred. (Proverbs 15:17)

Go and find someone you love, and share a meal with them!


Joyfulartist said...

Thanks for sharing your experiment in thriftiness. It's so easy to let spending get out of control and an attempt at reigning in our spending habits is always worthy trial.

rmdc said...

Wow Abbey - you guys are an inspiration for Bud and I right now as we have embarked on our own financial overhaul. Good job! you may recall...cow's milk is not my friend. I've been missing yogurt so could you send me the homemade goat's milk yogurt recipe? I am more than glad to go to a co-op to pick up "real" goat's milk if I can make some yogurt at home - yum! My email address is:

Thanks lady!