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No-Spend Month

2011 August 11
by Alice

I know how to make a budget. I know how to take a fridge inventory and write a grocery list. I can create meal plans like a pro, and I lack no skills in using up left-overs. I can cook beans from scratch, make my own bread, and own scads of left-over containers.

I even have the knowledge and equipment to mill my own flour.

milling flour

So, you’d think I’d be good at cooking my own food at home, right? You’d think I’d have noooo problem taking lunch to work daily, right? Feeding myself and my household while being smart about costs must be a snap, eh?

(Mama, you should probably stop reading now.)


After a childhood of thorough lessons in thriftiness, frugality, and from-scratch cooking, when I hit college and realized that food was cheaper at the Chinese restaurant on the Ave than in the dining hall of my no-kitchen dormitory, I fell off the food frugality wagon. We ate out maybe once a year growing up, and now it has become utterly commonplace for me.

It’s not that I’m against restaurants. I love inhaling burgers at Gather, and tasting new cocktails at Revival. A plate of Pad Kee Mow from Thaiger Room or Plearn sends me into a blissful food coma every time.

The issue with eating out so much, for me, is that it is SO. DAMN. EXPENSIVE. Each instance never feels that bad (unless you’re at Gather, and then, yowza), but going through the monthly spending and seeing that I spent $300 (or $400, or $600) on eating out is painful. Especially when the hubs & I just threw a damn big party with splurges that aren’t part of our daily life. It’s like when I got back from China, though, and realized that I’d gained 15 lbs because the food was the only thing I liked, and while the food was amazing, maybe it was time to detox for a while to find my equilibrium.

That story continues with me deciding to go vegan for a quarter, and ends with realizing that I’d been surviving on pickles, Oriental Top Ramen, and coffee for a month, and calling it quits, so maybe it’s not the best model for this endeavor.

Then again, maybe it is.

I was trolling the interwebs a few weeks before, and came across the concept of No Spend Month on Erica’s inspiring blog, Northwest Edible Life (miss you, PNW!).


The idea is, you pick some arbitrary small amount of money, and choose to spend only that much that month. I knew that this is what I wanted to do to money-detox after the wedding. Russell was down, ’cause he’s awesome like that, and off we have gone. We picked $300 to cover all non-bill expenses (anything not on a contract, including food, gas, and all entertainment), and have embarked on this challenge with gusto. Our freezer is filled with pork (more on that later), the plum tree is laden with ripe plums, and our pantry has an assortment of half-filled bags of flour begging to be used up (or just thrown out, in the case of that sad, sad whole wheat pastry flour). We’re adding to the challenge to not eat out, and to not go to grocery stores. This is the month for sitting around, being reflective, and eating good, solid, home-cooked meals with the fam.

tranquilo Alice

I’ll check back in half-way through to report on how it’s going. Wish us luck, and fortitude.

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. August 11, 2011

    Is that you in Paraguay? Even if it’s not, that place might supply some useful models for pulling this off.

    • Alice permalink*
      August 11, 2011

      Yes, that’s me in PY. That was the most tranquil period of my life for years. The lack of availability of things to spend money on certainly made it easier to keep my expenses down. Ro’s the real expert on that though.

  2. Mama permalink
    September 13, 2011

    So how did the no-spend month go, now that it’s over?

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