No Spend Month Update: Week 3

tomato-vine
Waiting for the Juliet tomatoes to ripen.

In the third week of No Spend Month, I spent $50 on groceries. With 21 days down and 10 days left to go, we’ve spent $90 of our $250 budget.

I don’t expect to have any leftover money by the end of the month, I’ve just been holding out on grocery shopping in case something unexpected happens. Plus the longer I wait, the longer we make do and come up with just one more meal from the pantry.

Doug looks for a snack, and he settles on a can of pears. “These pears aren’t very good,” he says, and I answer, “I know, that’s why we still have them.”

We’ve been finishing the canned and boxed food that we were never going to eat as long as better choices were available. Random ingredients for recipes we don’t make anymore. New foods we tried but didn’t care for. It’s pantry clutter.

Pantry clutter can happen to anyone. It’s when you look at a shelf full of food and think, “There’s nothing to eat.”

  1. Most people underestimate just how much food they’re storing.
  2. Most people would prefer to eat something fresh from the fridge rather than something canned from the pantry.

I’ve become much better at making dinner from the assortment of remainders. What do you make with rice, frozen broccoli from the bottom of the freezer, and two lonely chicken tenders? Stiry fry of course! You can add anything to rice in a skillet and call it stir fry. (Update: No, no you can’t, and last night’s dinner disaster proves it. I’ll be at the grocery store this morning!)

I’m paying special attention to what we still have in our pantry so I can know what not to buy next time. This week I started restocking some of the pantry foods that we will actually use. I bought a litre of olive oil, flour, baking powder, tea, and coffee. I also bought some of our favorite foods to enjoy on the weekend, to keep our spirits up while we ate the foods we didn’t want to.

Some of our meals and snacks this week: banana muffins, broccoli salad, beans and rice, stir fry, eggs and salsa.

This month has been easier in a way than past No Spend Challenges. Maybe we’re more practiced at it, but I believe the main reason is that I’m more home-centric than I was before. It’s easier not to spend money when you keep busy at home. We’re also grateful that a few months ago when we decided to move, we chose an apartment surrounded by fountains and parks, instead of the glamorous one that was surrounded by restaurants and stores. This one suits us better.

For those who are cutting back your spending this month, how is it going? Any new insights or habits? Any surprises?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Your comments about making do with your pantry remind me of what is possibly my favorite tv show ever: Frontier House on PBS. They took a few different families and plunged them into freedom country in Montana and had them live out the homesteading of the 1800s.

    I was particularly enamored with how the wives cooked, cleaned, preserved and rationed out their food stores. They would only go to the “grocery store” every 6 months or so!

    Shannon´s last post…The Benefits of Fermented Food: Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

    • I KNOW THIS IS AN OLD POST BUT I HAD TO COMMENT ABOUT THAT SHOW. I LOVED IT TOO..SO INTERESTING I WISH THEY WOULDN DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT AGAIN.

  2. I’m sure we also have quite a bit of “pantry clutter” that could be used up. We’re not doing the ‘No-Spend Challenge’ this time, but I’m so rooting for you guys – you’re going to feel so victorious afterward!

    Jamie

  3. Our No Spend Challenge has made me realize that I need to get better at pantry stocking. We really don’t keep much in the pantry or freezer. If we buy in bulk, we eat plan our meals so we can eat it within a week or two. In a way, this is a good thing because we waste very little food. But I’d like to get a good stockpile going so I can take advantage of sale prices when they come up!

    Karen´s last post…Should we pay off all debt before buying a home?

  4. Such a good reminder about how much we store in our pantries. I am looking at my neglected food right now and thinking I should make some stuff out of there instead. I always learn so much from your challenges!!

  5. I’ve enjoyed following your posts about your No-Spend Challenge. I’m right there with you, but it’s because I HAVE to be right now. I’ve also gotten much better at planning our meals to use up what’s in the pantry.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Damsel´s last post…Ready.

  6. I have really enjoyed your blog posts. My husband is away for work for 2 weeks. I am mainly trying to use items that are in the pantry and freezer for the next two weeks while he is gone. While he isn’t picky, it is still easier to use up the pantry items with just the girls and I. I have lots of rice in the pantry, so I am thinking about trying to whip up some stir fry this week. Thanks for the inspirations. :)

    Jenny´s last post…Jaidyn Poppins

  7. I didn’t realize how many bags of macaroni noodles we have. We’re doing a financial crunch down/limited spend month, so getting creative with our noodles is the game this month.

  8. Do you have a use for stale chips? I seem to always have a half bag of corn chips. They were great with salsa originally, but now they sit there glaring at me.

    I am so impressed by your spending! I would probably be splurging on coffee about now. (Kind of defeats your purpose doesn’t it?!)

    I’m not doing no spend, but I am cutting back each month and saving a bit more. It is amazing how much I don’t need. You’ve really opened my eyes!! And your priorities are so much healthier…family and home!

    mrs. e´s last post…Blurring the Edges

    • My Mom puts stale chips in the oven to crisp them up. They don’t have the original crispness, but they are much better than the stale taste.

    • One of my fave snacks with chips is to put them on a plate, cover them in salsa, sprinkle with cheese and microwave. Since the chips become soggy you may not realize they are stale. You can also make it in the oven, so maybe they will crisp up a bit like Bonnie said.

      Simplelivin’´s last post…Day 21 of LSM: July 21st

    • You can make a kind of casserole with them if you have ground beef (or turkey), taco seasoning, black beans, cheese, and maybe some salsa. Just throw it all together and bake it in the oven. It’s pretty tasty.

    • Tortilla chips can be used in a Mexican style casserole. Other chips make good toppings for casseroles. Crush, sprinkle on top and bake in the oven…the chips get crunch, toasty.

      Nancy´s last post…Strawberries::Waste Not, Want Not

    • Have you ever had Mexican-style scrambled eggs? We called them chiliquias growing up, but they also appear on restaurant menus as migas. Anyway, you basically add crushed tortilla chips, stale or fresh, to your scrambled egg mixture w/ a little cheese, salsa, and sauteed onions and veggies if you prefer. I usually don’t like scrambled eggs, but love them with tortilla strips in them.

      Life from the Roof´s last post…On vacation

  9. I try to plan out my meals and buy things accordingly so I don’t end up hoarding food in my pantry and never using it. :-)

  10. I just want you to know that your posts have been such an inspiration to me. I am so unorganized at home that I spend way too much on groceries. My husband and I are really trying to cut back and I have really been resisting it. I am going to try to no spend in August. I hope I can have the same success as you have had. I am sure this first time around there will be a few bumps, but we have to start somewhere.

    Thanks again!

    Amy´s last post…Wisdom in the Waterfall

  11. I really admire your efforts to live on what you “have”. I think it is a reality check for all of us. The old adage of “store what you eat & eat what you store” is true…..

  12. I’ve had the best intentions of doing a no spend month at least three or four times the past couple of years! But that’s all it’s been – intentions. I hope to be able to do this soon – it sounds so great. I don’t spend much money as it is, but the pantry could use a good cleaning. :)

    Tsoniki Crazy Bull´s last post…Getting Into Writing

  13. Thanks so much for documenting your No-Spend Month. It’s always inspiring!

    marisa´s last post…you’ll never know dear, how much I love you…

  14. Great thoughts in this post! Because we move several times a year, we’ve become really conscious of the things in our cupboards. It’s one of the few benefits of packing up so often. I like your perspective as a family that isn’t moving and is trying to look at these things. Way to go with the far less than $250 so far! My sister will love this post.
    Katie

    Katie at makingthishome.com´s last post…Dispersing A Childhood Collection

  15. Although we are not doing no spend month, I have been following along and am so inspired by what you’re doing! We may even try it one of these months that we don’t have to travel. Because we ARE traveling a lot, though, when we are home I have also been trying to clean out the foods we have stored in our pantry. It is amazing how much food accumulates that would probably be there FOREVER if we didn’t do this once in a while!

  16. This is such a timely post for me. I’m having a major house declutter and I’m doing the kitchen cupboards at the moment. I have just FREECYCLED a load of food because I thought I would never get through it!

    One of my goals is to become more organised and that means taking an inventory of all the food in the house so that I know at a glance what we have,

    Your line about a shelf full of food, yet nothing to eat reminds me of my husband’s wardrobe of clothes LOL!

    I think it’s great you are getting creative with using up stocks. so rewarding and saving you some money too.

    I’ll be joining in with this over the next couple of weeks when the majority of the kitchen cleaning is done.

    I also have a fabby resource to share on our site later in the week that can really help with ‘nothing to eat’ syndrome! Well done and keep up the great work; I love reading your posts.

    Mrs Green´s last post…What’s under your fridge?

  17. For us to go to work and back it costs us $40/week in gas so that has really eaten up our budget. We’ve been good to eat what we have–but with only two of us and limited space we don’t have as much “pantry clutter” as the normal family. I did eat a two-year-old Easy Mac for lunch one day, found a really old gift of scone flour to make a dessert and we had omelettes and fried potatoes for dinner last night–we’re getting creative! Thanks for the inspiration…I think we’re going to make it!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Crap Crackers

  18. I decided to skip the grocery this week and “make do”. We really have tons of stuff, but if I don’t have the exact thing I want I’ll usually just scoot off to Publix. We had a pasta with fresh mozarella and italian sausage on Monday night with a fresh tomato salad from the garden (even had a guest over). I decided to go ahead with the leftovers last night and tonight we are having Lemon Rosemary Chicken w/Brown Rice and Roasted Asparagus. Also got crazy yesterday and baked Blondies. My husband was shell shocked. I never bake and he loves sweets! I used up some of the chocolate chips in the freezer from Christmas cookies never made. I may continue next week with a minor run for dairy, bread, and some fruit.

    • Kim ~ I’m impressed! I think that sometimes the “nothing to eat” syndrome is because we feel pressed for time: hurry up and cook, hurry up and eat, move on to the next thing on our schedule. But really good meals [even simple ones] require some thought, planning, and time to prepare. The food is in our pantries, we just need to spend some creative time in preparing it. I’ve amazed myself on occasion with what I could create for supper with the things I found in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.

  19. I am not officially doing a no-spend month, but our first “budgeted month” See the Getting to Debt Free post…is going okay. I find that there are so many things I can make at home for the fraction of the price it costs to buy it at the store. I have made cupcakes, waffles, corn tortillas, bread, croissant rolls, and coffeecake in the past few weeks. (I am going to make noodles–not very good at this yet–and flour tortillas soon.) Now to find a place I can get quality flours in bulk…Thanks for the wonderful inspiration to be a little resourceful. Abbie

    Abbie´s last post…Save MORE Money In Your Freezer

  20. Great job on the spending!! I can’t do a no spend month till winter since we spend our weekends at my dads place it is really hard during the summer, but I have been cutting back.

    I have been going through my pantry and freezer also, I have to be creative with this because it is hard to sell this to the rest of my family. You are so right when we keep buying because we rather have something else. I find that throwing the store adds before looking at them helps me not spend. I don’t even look at them just throw it, so I am not tempted.

    In regards to the drinking tap water, and finding better alternatives to the store drinks. My cart was filled with drinks also, pop, flavored water, juices ect… I am finding out it is not killing me to go without my Diet Pepsi which I have been so addicted to. Not only does it empty out my wallet, it is not good for me either. And the worst of it is that now my kids are wanting pop also, so I know it has to start with me. My bad habits are brushing off on my kids.

  21. One of my favorite and easy recipes is to get a roaster chicken at the store. Cut off the meat right away. I can usually get three different dishes out of it. Stir fry (just add frozen veggies, rice and your favorite sauce), encihladas (again add frozen or fresh veggies, seasoning, cheese and tortillas) and lastly I make smashed potatoes or squash, some gracy and chicken meat with veggies.

  22. Sigh . . . you know you’ve been bitten by the frugal bug when you read people’s “No spend experiment” updates and wish you could have a no spend month too. I did my first one last year, and learned so much from it. I gained a lot of “non-consumer confidence” in realizing how much I could live without, and still be okay, and also how much fun it could be at times to be creative with what we have on hand. I also realized how much better our food tasted if we ate at home, and for a fraction of the cost. We’ve been on vacation this week, and it’s been surprising how little I’ve been tempted to eat out, because I’ve cooked so much from scratch over the past year and like what we eat at home better. The occasional restaurant trip is nice, though, especially if you don’t want to spend time cleaning up.

    Life from the Roof´s last post…On vacation

  23. This is such a great idea. My husband keeps talking about trying to go for a set period of time without buying anything new. I like the idea of doing something like this too, because it will be a challenge and something we can do together. (we don’t exactly agree on how to be thrifty). I know he would like the challenge of creating meals out of the food in the pantry, and I would like the idea of trying not to spend money.

    Krista´s last post…Great Grandma Cowan

  24. I didn’t try No Spend Month this time but did last year when my spending on craft supplies was way off the charts. I saved quite a bit (only spent $50) and still use those constraints and controls today. Same concept as you speak of. Use what I have. Make do. Be creative. Only buy what I absolutely need, such as glue, thread.

    I love your blog. It is a daily stop to see what you and family are doing.

    don_mae´s last post…Fabric Bowl #2, Fall Leaves

  25. Hello there!! I just ran across your ‘No Spend’ blog (first time visitor) and am interested to read more of your ideas. I’ve gone through short periods of cutting back with a ‘No Spend’ timeframe, but have not tried it for a whole month long period. This sounds like a great idea as we waste so much food that has gone bad or expired because we ignore our ‘pantry clutter’. It was disheartening recently to do a clean through of the cupboards and fridge only to find I had lots of stuff way past its expiration date. I filled an entire trash bin full of expired food. Sounds like we need to keep a closer eye on this and use up more of what’s in stock prior to shopping. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Thanks for blogging,
    Doreen
    http://sewartfullyminded.blogspot.com/

    Doreen Baros´s last post…Passing It On

  26. I love reading about your progress. I like to try this experiment in September with my husband.

  27. We did ours with a $300 budget and I don’t think we’ll make it. I’m out of gas and money in the budget and have a few commitments that will require me to drive this week. We also had a few unexpected events which let to eating out a couple of times…if not for those we’d have enough gas money to make it.
    Groceries have not been too hard, except for milk. This week I’ve been making my own bread, and it is amazing how the kids love the homemade bread with homemade jam!
    It has been a nice exercise in restraint for us overall, and I learned some better ways to meal plan and budget. I think I’ll continue trying to plan meals for a whole month rather than just a week.

    Holly´s last post…No Spend Month: Week 3 Summary

  28. You are doing so good on your no spend month! That is awesome! I just looked in my freezer and you are right. There is quite a bit of food in there. Lots of half bags of veggies and stuff. I think I’ll find something creative to fix with those this weekend and save myself a trip to the store.

    Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last post…My Creative Entrepreneur