Starting off cheap

NOTE: This story was written at the end of January 2022 but was derailed due to our dog’s deterioration.

Our household continued the annual tradition of “no spend January.” This means we try to spend no money. Nada. Zero. Zilch. This is practically impossible considering we’re a family of three with two dogs and a 5-year-old. But we tried our best. Want to know why and more importantly how it worked out?

This whole thing starts when we look at our chest freezer in the basement. The formerly frozen breastmilk stash storage is jam-packed with food. And some good stuff, too! Frozen pizzas, homemade lasagnas, tomato sauce, macaroons, mac and cheese, brats, ice cream bars, Bertolli meals – you name it, we likely had one or two in the freezer. Same thing goes when you open the pantry. It’s overflowing with boxes of pasta, popcorn, cans of green beans, bags of lentils, granola bars and cookie mixes. I hate the idea of wasting food. So we bunker down determined to eat meals from food we already have instead of going out to buy more.

It’s become a fun challenge to see what kind of meals we can pull together. Leigh would happily eat a frozen Home Run Inn pizza every night. My favorite has been Asian dumplings with some sort of Trader Joe’s stir fry. TJs is a freezer’s demise.

Reaping the rewards of eating the food we already bought at home is sweet. We spent more than $1,300 on food in December. Besides for a couple of $50 Walmart pick-up orders for fresh produce, the only thing we put on our credit card this month was gas — man, gas is expensive!

We also cut back on any spending. Loaded with new toys from Christmas, Leigh was content with exploring his new things this month. We used gift cards when we felt the itch to shop, keeping our credit cards in our wallets. This helps us conserve after a typically long list of purchases in December.

Besides the side effect of obsessively checking our bank accounts to see if somehow we absentmindedly spent money, this was a good thing for our family. Leigh learns that so many things cost money and he understood why it’s important to take a break from constantly asking for more. We became resourceful, using supplies we had to make crafts and cookie mix hidden away to go on baking adventures.

And after all this, we still have so much food to eat through. Amidst a pandemic, it feels good to know we could be locked down at home and still survive without DoorDash.

I’d also like to add that I cannot wait until we go back to Vegas Cafe in Antioch for breakfast. I miss seeing familiar friendly faces and giving to small businesses.

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