August 22, 2011

Back to 30 Days of Nothing

30-Days of Nothing Challenge

Remember when Anton and I went on our January 2009 30-Days of Nothing and Empty Pantry kick???  Anyone?  Crickets chirping??  Very challenging but highly productive in many ways – not only did we save money, but we got a firsthand TRUE look at how much we spend, how often, and how our impulses and schedule affect our choices. 

Well, with the economy in the tank and no end in sight - we’ve been feeling the motivation build up to have another go at it. 

So we’ve chosen SEPTEMBER as the month.  Yes, that’s about ten days away.  Who’s with us?  Anyone?  Crickets chirping??

Think of it this way – it’s before the holidays, it won’t affect your festivities, and back-to-school is a great time to get focused and hammer out your Fall schedule.  What a great time to clean the pantry, save some cash for the upcoming season, and get your family back around the dining room table.  Eh?  Anyone?  Crickets….nevermind.

If you’re interested – a couple things will be happening.  I’ll be opening up Comments (gasp!) for the month of September.  That gives you the chance to let us and other readers know that you’re participating as well as ask questions, etc.  If you leave questions in the comments, I will answer each of them in the following post.

Let’s get the basic premise down for a refresher and I’ll steel this content (with some revisions) from my previous 30-Day Challenge:

First of all - let me explain 30 Days of Nuttin, honey. If you're anything like us, then you will relate to eating out too much, shopping too much (even at Wal-Mart/Target - maybe especially so?) and overall just spending when you don't really need to. This challenge forces you to forgo all that extra spending and only spend money on absolute necessity items, such as milk, diapers, gas, etc. It motivates you to see just how much money you would actually have left over at the end of a month if you're spending was reduced dramatically. In addition, and let's face it – many of us need a reality check for how and why and where we spend our hard earned cash and how it affects our families in real dollars.

Much like the purging of too much stuff we did this past week - it might be time to look at purging poor spending habits and take a solid month to look at just how bad the habits have permeated our lifestyle. It's not extravagant living, I assure you. It's here and there and the dollar bins at Target and the this and that and the quick trip into Starbucks here and there (or everyday, if that’s your thing).  It's all the little stuff that just adds up and up and up. Before we know it, hundreds of dollars have mysteriously turned into picture frames, sodas, candles, jeans, and on too many occasions - dinner and lunch out.

I must give credit again to Mary at Owlhaven for the great idea. She did this with her family and with only a mere 10 children (yes ten, cough sputter hats off), how hard could it be? I thought, if she can do it on a razor sharp budget and make it thirty days with ten kids then surely AB and CB could do it with two little ones. Right?!? I mean, we could, couldn't we?!? Cough again. You can read about her challenge HERE. Make sure you scour through and read all the posts from that month so that you can appreciate all she did to stay up on her challenge. And you can get to know her and her amazing family HERE.

So, in addition to that challenge I have tagged on a little sumpin' I call the "Empty Pantry". This will only work if you spend lots of time and money grocery shopping and not actually eating or using what you buy. If you're throwing out more than you eat because of overdue expiration dates, etc. - then this is the tag-on challenge for you. Or maybe you'd prefer to do just this one instead. Maybe you're a saver and not a spender, so this will be more applicable.

The idea behind "Empty Pantry" is to literally avoid shopping for more than just the basics at the grocery store for a month. Your goal is to challenge yourself to quite literally empty the fridge, freezer and pantry by being creative and using everything you have. If you don't keep a lot at home in the pantry (and some do not, though my hips cannot relate to those types of people) then again, probably not for you. But for those of us who'd consider a fun date night a trip to Sam's Club - and you know who you are - then we can really have fun with this. I for one, am tired of throwing out food because we couldn't be bothered to make it and instead opted to spend 7 times as much to let someone else make our food.

So this is a temporary, at least, lifestyle challenge - combined. You're avoiding spending for 30 days of your life to see what's left over and in that process, you're getting creative and using up all those frozen chicken breasts, rice packets, and canned veggies.

The good news is that I created two things to help with the project. First, I took an inventory of everything we had. I mean, everything - food and drink wise. So I created a spreadsheet to help me organize that. Second, using my inventory sheet, I created a meal planner to help me set up meals for our family on a weekly basis. As items were used to create a meal, I removed them from the inventory. This way, I always knew what was left to create the next meal plan. I then hung the meal plan for that week on the fridge and we always knew what to expect on any given day. It took the stress out of trying to figure it out at the last minute ("I don't know, what do you want? I don't know, what do you want") Ugh. It also helped to avoid the frustration of not having anything thawed in time and then leading us to just "eat out" to avoid the delay and hassle.

If I knew we had plans on a certain night, I just listed that instead of a meal. We are flexible as well - if we want to switch a couple nights up because our taste buds aren't cooperating - we go for it. Whatever works to empty the pantry. We realized quickly after the inventory was done that we could literally eat for weeks with very little shopping. Aside from milk, eggs, and some fresh veggies - we would be self-sufficient living off our pantry for a while.

If you would like me send you the templates I have for the meal planner and the Inventory - keeping in mind you can change them to whatever works for you and that they are simple spreadsheets - I'll be happy to send them to you. E-mail me HERE.

So, that's the gist.  Wanna try?

We’re starting Thursday the 1st of September – and I’ll be blogging our way through the challenge – with daily menus, pictures of our food creations, and I’m QUITE SURE – blathering on and on about how much I miss Chipotle.  Though I will tell you right now – it is highly unlikely we will not eat out at all during the month.  It’s just our life.  Sad but true.  More so, the goal is that we will drastically decrease the occurrence rate of eating out, save wherever we can – including groceries, coupon when possible, and be more aware of how to cut corners.  Should be nothing if not interesting!  Julia vs. Julia move ova’!

Don’t be afraid!  I’ve survived it, and so can you.  You will be AMAZED how much you can spend on frivolity.  And you will stand shocked at what you have left at the end of the month.  Shocked, I tell you. 

It's all about making your best effort and seeing how much you can accomplish with it. What can it hurt? (sob...Chipotle...)

I’d like to feature other bloggers who give it a go – so please do LEAVE A COMMENT (yes, I’m actually encouraging it) if you’re up for the challenge and want to partner alongside us.  Even if you don't have a blog - chime in and let us know you're on the ride with us!  The more the merrier…

Ten days and counting to get ready…

On your mark, get set, go make a meal plan and check your pantry!

*More to come about how to prepare for the month without breaking the rules/being counter-productive to the challenge*


Kayce said...

I'm SO tempted to join you guys on this....actually I'm going to tell the family tonight that we need to give this a shot. Thanks for the encouragement Christie! You're always inspiring me!

Ms P said...

Not a blogger but a long-time reader and first time posting here. Looking forward to the 30 days of nothing and empty pantry challenge - I'm up for it : )

Christie said...

Yay Kayce! You can do it! Let me know if you decide to make it official and blog about it with those great photo skills. You can grab the 30-Days Tag image with a right-click.

Ms P - let's go girl!

Cate said...

Want to talk to the hubs, but I love this idea. We're struggling with the thought of me going back to work after the birth of Miss Emily, and if we can find a way to trim just a bit more from the budget, I may be able to stay home.

Christie said...

Cate - let me know if you decide to do it and your blog info, so I can feature you as go through the challenge!

Christy said...

Im in!!!! We are starting Dave Ramsey on Sept 1 and while hubby and #2 son are in Haiti on a missions trip right now I have been going through everything and creating these amazing budgets with the envelope system and speaking to "Dave Cretified" financial planners and have been going through everything. We are bound and determined to be out of debt including student loans and the house!! We are changing out lives right now and I could not be more excited and more at peace about our decision!! Totally Gods leading. Not sure if you know becuase I didnt post it on the blog but Kevin had hip replacement surgery in May and his police department decided to retire him becuase of the hip replacement. They are a small department and dont have light duty so they retired him. It is a great retirement - 50% of his salary tax free until we die- but it was still about a $2500 decrease in income and it has hurt. It went into effect June 20 so we have been trying to make it work without much sucess beucase we cant control our spending. WE SUCK!!! BUT, I have seen our church pushing the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and I have known many people who have gone through it and it has changed their lives. When we had the huge decrease in income we finally said enough is enough and we decided to do this. FINALLY, for the first time in our lives, we are going to live on a very tight budget and we are going to stop our spending. We are going to put every extra penny to our debt and we are going to be debt free in no time!!!!! WHOOOO HOOOOOO!!!! I am so motivated so your 30 day plan-- on the first month of us living on a budget for the first time in our lives-- is a perfect combination. I would love the support of my blogging community beucase i know this is going to be hard as heck--- but I know 100% without a doubt that this is what God wants us to do and I have such peace about this decision!!!!!!! So, count me in!!!!

Kath said...

Like impulse buying, i going with impulse signing up! I need this for some structure, I'm struggling with self-discipline in a big way lately. I'd love to link up with a bunch of folks trying to understand what drives us to spend. Even though, we live in Germany working for US govt, we struggle with bad exchange rates and high costs on shipping. Oh the mistakes I have made lately. Just a few minutes ago, I look at my bank activity this weekend, we spent $48 for dinner at Pizza Hut. That was one appetizer, one pitcher of soda, one entree, one reg pizza (2 tops) and two kids meals. Fifty bucks that is without any tipping that is another $5 b/c in Europe tips are not necessary but we, most Americans, can't help ourselves, generosity is a hallmark. $50 for carbs, fat, artery clogging chemicals disguised as food and entertainment.
I'm trying to reintegrate to SAHM, after working for 18 months to get out of a delibatating debt. I'm burnt out and spent most the summer wondering where my drive and motivation went. It's slowly coming back but I am ready to re-invent my daily life, routine, habits and find some bliss in creating a new reality. SIGN ME UP!!! THANKS FOR MOTIVATING OTHERS AND joining together.

Kath said...
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shelley said...

I am freakin' IN.....I will inform the fam at dinner tonite and we will be ready with bells on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will take the button and post on my blog. GREAT IDEA

Valerie said...

Guurrl; you so cute. I was impressed the first time you did this. I'm doubly impressed this time; as you know, I could benefit from this challenge very mucho; but since my pantry is one of those filled with a lot of...shall we say antique food items, I don't think I'd have a month of anything to make.

This is my first week with NO cymbalta and I'm floating all over the house. I can only quit so many things in a month...but you are welcome to come over and reap what you can from my pantry and whip it up for the gang ;-)

Maybe I'll give up E-bay....I'm sure they'll send a search and rescue team to find me.

Love your spirit and ideas.


Christie said...

Christy, Kath, Shelley: Glad you're on board! Love it!

Val - it was time to give up E-bay anyhow, right? :o)


Anna said...

This is a fabulous idea! I sooooo want to do this since it would give me great blogging topica, BUT I am not good with coming up with creative meals with whatever we have left. I didn't get that creative cooking gene from my mexican grandmother. She could make a meal for an army out of leftovers! Miss her food so much!

Jen said...
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sweet momma luv u said...

Hi Christie!

You can count me in!! I am such an impulse buyer and love to get stuff for the kids. I am trying to figure out how we are going to pay for Jon Jon's preschool this yr. We have so many bills and that darn Adoption tax refund is still pending! ARGggg.....
I am so looking forward to this and will blog about it! I am so happy I can post on your blog until Sept. I think you are awesome and I love visiting.
Adorable kids!!!

Christie said...

Awww, thanks Jody! Glad to have you along for the challenge!