Sunday, November 15, 2015

Slow, Simple & So Blessed...

We are now 1/2 of the way through our month of no spending! Hooray!
While I will not pretend that it's easy, I will say that it's amazing how much I'm learning daily and how living frugally permeates all areas of life.
I find myself driving slower on the freeway (going only 5 miles over the speed limit instead of 15 - just being real y'all!) and boy! Have I conserved gas! I used only 1 tank in 2 weeks!
I'm taking full advantage of our slow cooker and have found that prepping for dinner in the morning works best for our family. Especially since the little ones seem to melt down just before dinnertime. ;)
Our meals have become much simpler. It's amazing how most recipes in my cookbooks are quite complicated and require tons of ingredients. And while I truly enjoy creating fancy meals, simple is better and stretches farther when you are living off limited resources.
Evermore we are seeing how incredibly blessed we are.
I have never been more excited to receive our farm box on our front porch as I was this past Wednesday morning! To find bananas, an assortment of squash, apples, pears, broccoli and so on was a true delight to me as we were running low on produce.

I realized how much we take for granted and how so many in this world don't get even this much.
We have a freezer containing fish & chicken, a pantry stocked with an assortment of items and we get fresh eggs and produce weekly. And yet I'm anxious about whether we'll have enough food?
This process has made me truly appreciate how blessed we are. And has softened my heart for those in this world that have not.
That whole deal about us being in the elite 1% in our world is so true..and we take it for granted.
Another big lesson learned is how quickly our children pick up on our plenty and get used to the luxury of choices. Our 4 year old has had a bit of time getting used to eating only what we make for her. And she's not really picky! She's just used to having options. Now she eats what I make or goes hungry. It's tough, but it's what I grew up with! I didn't even realize it had come to this point with our children, but I think they are learning to appreciate what we have as well.

We looked at our bank account yesterday and we have already saved $1000! And no, that's not simply on food.
You don't realize it until you freeze much we spend!
An Amazon order here, a Shutterfly photo deal there, a stop at the Dollar Tree or Starbucks or the grocery store for items we run out of. Don't even get me started on extras that catch our eyes while walking through Costco!
Now I want to be real and share that we did need to spend this weekend on an unexpected project for our house (to keep our toddler out of the cat poop that our neighborhood cat prefers to deposit in our sideyard - gross!). My husband has weekly work meetings at a restaurant that he needs to buy lunch for. He also is going hunting for our Thanksgiving turkey this coming weekend, so will have some cost for that. There are definitely a few things that have come up that we didn't plan for. No one is perfect and I certainly don't pretend to be.
But we are changing our mindset about spending - we don't HAVE to!
And that's the lesson we want to learn. Can we live with what we have and can we save some extra in the meantime.
Yes we'll need to purchase some things at the end of this month. We've run out of maple syrup & beer and are running low on many things, but we can press through. We can get creative and make some of our own, for example I just made bone broth with leftover chicken bones & can now make soup this week!
Our meals over the next two weeks are bound to be interested and I'll keep updating my Instagram feed with photos of our creations. Stick along for the ride!  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Speding Zer0 - It's a mindset!

As we've completed our first week of the spending zero challenge from Living Well Spending Less we've reflected on what we've learned so far.
The site has daily assignments, which have been awesome and helped me to stay on course and daily reset my mind. From cleaning our pantry (awesome!) to meal planning (which I'm not so great at) it has been fun.
Our assignment for today is to reflection and answer some questions, like any "AHA" moments, what our biggest struggle was, where were we tempted to cheat and so on.

So I'll dive right in!
The scariest thing about starting this challenge was not stocking up beforehand. In fact Ruth specifically addresses this as you commit to the challenge. *Deep Breath
We are really good at stocking up, especially as Costco members, and the idea of simply using what we already have on hand - YIKES! A little scary! But we've survived one week so far!
The biggest things we hope to get out of this challenge I've already shared, but to sum up is money savings and changing our mindset and habits.
The biggest struggle has been establishing what is "essential" with my spouse! Who knew that we'd consider different things as "essential"?! But seriously, after a few arguments and throwing myself a pity party, again, we survived the week. haha ;)
Surprisingly I was most tempted to cheat on entertainment! With a SmartTV it's become much to easy to say, "Oh! The latest episode of Once Upon A Time is only $2.99! Let's just order it" and having the TV linked to our Amazon account which is linked to our debit card - HELLO DANGER!!!
But overall this has led us to really open our eyes to how lazy and wasteful we've become with convenience! Holy cow! This is our big AHA moment that has bled into almost every area of our lives as we evaluate our spending. It creeps in and pretty soon you're not only wasting by grabbing a paper towel for every spill instead of a dish towel, grabbing a water bottle as you run out the door instead of filling up with fridge water, but you're frivolously driving around town, unaware of the gas your vehicle is consuming, using more toilet paper than needed (some of which your toddler tries to eat! so wasteful haha), you're eating more than is simply satisfying, and shall I go on?!
This challenge is opening our eyes and causing us to ask "Are we being intentional?"
And more than anything we realize how much this is a first-world problem! In third world countries they don't have to ask these questions as most are barely scraping by and yet so satisfied and grateful for what they have.
My biggest worry has been "Will our food last until month's end" where now it's more along the lines of "How can we teach our children about gratitude and being good stewards this month" (and hope that my spouse and I can agree on essentials throughout our remaining freeze!)
This month is more about changing our mindset. We have activities in a nearby town 3 days a week and I didn't realize that every time I'm there I run through a list in my head, "Do we need anything from...
The Dollar Tree
the grocery store

My brain does a little checklist and I felt odd this week driving back home without stopping to shop anywhere.
My phone apps alert me DAILY that Shutterfly has a 50% off deal or FREE 8x8 Print if only I pay for shipping. ThredUp has 20% off if I order today! Zulily has daily deals that only last a few days so get it NOW!
It is crazy how the world screams at us to spend spend spend.
We walked around our neighborhood today and saw garage sales and I had to fight the urge to "just go browse and see if there's anything we need" (ahem! want)
There is such urgency placed on us for immediate gratification to get the "best deal NOW"
To take a time out and a step back is allowing us to truly see these things.
So a lightbulb goes out in our guest bedroom. Do we need to replace it right this instant? Or can it wait?
We are learning a ton and it's only week one!

Stick around to see what else we learn through this spending freeze and thanks for joining!
I'd love to hear if you've done something of this sort and what lessons you learned?

P.S. A few delights this week: we've been so blessed by friends, not only supporting us, but treating us!
One good friend brought me a coffee treat from Starbucks <3
While another friend brought me a can of pumpkin since she'd heard we only had one and were saving until Thanksgiving. She said "No one should have to ration pumpkin during November!" LOL
These two were just a glimpse of the amazing community we have here. We love our "Framily" 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What I've learned so far...Day 3 of Spending Zer0

My family has embarked on a challenge from the lovely Ruth Soukup at in which you freeze your spending for 31 days - YIKES!!!!
Ruth just featured the 31 days of Living Well Spending Zero (#31daysLWSZ) on her blog during the month of October, but since I caught on a little late we decided to do it in November.
I know what you're thinking "How can you stop spending money for an entire month?! It's impossible!"
Well here are the ground rules:
#1 You don't freeze ALL your spending - you DO still pay your bills. Delinquency is not encouraged.
#2 You cut out all excess spending. This will mean slightly different things for each family, but overall you cut out things like: entertainment, eating out, coffee out (ouch), alcohol, toys, home decor, excess food, etc.
#3 Most importantly you must decide AS A FAMILY (or at least as a couple) to accept the challenge. If my husband wasn't on board, it would be kinda pointless. But he is, so I'm excited!

What do we hope to learn?
We hope to get a microscope on our negative spending habits, thus making us bad stewards of the resources God's given us. We know that we aren't great in this area & are excessive spenders, so this will help!
We hope to save close to $1000 this month! Lofty? Maybe. But we're aiming high!
And I personally hope to get better at planning meals with what I have rather than going out for exotic ingredients to make fancy meals (which I love to do!)

So there are a few items we have budgeted for this month.
1 - we will continue to get our 3 dozen free range eggs from the farm weekly.
2 - we will continue to get our weekly farm produce delivery to our house.
3 - we *might purchase a turkey for Thanksgiving (although I'm hoping we can get ourselves invited to a meal at someone else's house & we can bring a side)

So what could I have possible learned in only our first 3 days?!
The answer. Water & paper towels.

We have become much too accustomed to grabbing a water bottle when thirsty instead of filling up a cup with water out of the refrigerator spout or using our Zero water filter (which is awesome and I highly recommend!) Wasteful? I know!
Every time we wash our hands or wipe down the kitchen counter, etc. etc. we grab a paper towel! We use them as napkins during dinner when we have perfectly good cloth napkins that I can simply throw in the laundry. We have dish towels and rags to use that are reusable! So, since we are down to 4 paper towel rolls in our pantry, we're aiming to use 1 each week of this challenge. I don't even want to consider how many we've gone through in a week previously!

Last but not least, going into this challenge we purposely did not "stock up" on items, so we're going with what we've got! I did not take into account that I had to bring a potluck item to share to my moms group yesterday (where we have at least 30 moms), so I scrounged around and ended up roasting potatoes with beets in thyme, olive oil, salt & pepper. It was delicious & I had some left over to use for our breakfast this morning! Score!
This coming weekend I'm getting together with girlfriends for a retreat day & I'm making some trail mix since I have tons of almonds, walnuts, pecans, raisins, chocolate chips & dried cranberries. Satisfy those snacky urges while not stealing from what my family needs to survive on this month ;)

I'm excited and still a bit nervous but we can do this! I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've ever done a spending freeze or are excellent at cooking from your pantry, etc. Or even if you think we're crazy! Haha!
Hope y'all have a blessed November and I will keep updating as we journey through! One thing's for sure, this challenge is already making me more grateful for what we have!