The Crumbs family is on a challenge to go 30 days without spending money. Today’s post is an update as of day 21 (yesterday). You can read the rules of the challenge, and what inspired us to take such extreme action, here. Get caught up on the first 10 days of the challenge here.
Wow – are we at day 20 already? Not that this challenge has been easy – HAH! – but I’m surprised that we’re two-thirds of the way through and still chugging along. There was a part of me that thought we would have caved by now… although all bets are off when I can no longer make couscous.
I’m saving that very special meal for one of the last few days when Mr. Crumbs can’t possibly stand this for another day, lol.
It’s easy to come up with a grandiose plan of not spending any money when the idea is floating around your own head, but it’s entirely different to carry it out. That’s why I’m letting Mr. Crumbs take over the commentary of today’s update. I’ll go first with the menu, what the pantry is looking like and where there will likely be some hiccups. Then he’ll take over with his thoughts, since I’m sure you wives (and men) are wondering how The Husband is managing with the challenge too.
What We’ve Eaten
(B) creamy buckwheat w/frozen blueberries
(L) PB&J tortilla wraps w/pickles
(D) garden salad w/spicy peanut chicken vinaigrette (2-3 Tbsp peanut butter + 1-2 Tbsp liquid aminos + 1 Tbsp olive oil + 1-2 Tbsp rice vinegar + salt/pepper); no-knead artisan bread; pickles
Dessert: 1/2 batch snickerdoodle cookies with shredded coconut and coconut sugar
(B) zucchini bread (subbed extra egg for apple); smoothies
(L) PB&J tortilla wraps w/pickles
(D) gnocchi w/homemade simple spaghetti sauce; smoothies; cheese and crackers; pickles
(B) zucchini bread; smoothies
(L) leftover gnocchi; baked chicken; rice; green beans
(D) homemade fettuccine w/homemade simple spaghetti sauce
(B) zucchini bread; smoothies
(L) real food lunchables: carrots, apple, strawberries & cheese
(D) homemade pizza
(B) bacon and biscuits; smoothies
(L) real food lunchables: smoothie, zucchini bread, carrots, celery & peanut butter
(D) grilled BBQ chicken legs, grilled corn on the cob, grilled sweet potatoes, garden salad, potato buttermilk bread
(B) creamy buckwheat w/frozen blueberries, banana and honey; smoothies
(D) dinner with family
(B) toast with butter & honey; smoothies
(L) PB&J sandwiches
(D) pan-fried pork chops, buttered corn, steamed green beans, mashed (leftover) potatoes
(B) toast with butter & honey; smoothies
(L) leftover corn & potato chowder; real food lunchables: carrots, apples, cranberries & peanut butter
(D) chicken tacos with butter lettuce cups
(B) carrot bread; smoothies
(L) leftover corn & potato chowder
(D) chicken & spinach enchiladas
(B) carrot bread; smoothies
(L) caprese salad; tortilla roll-ups; mixed dehydrated fruits
(D) chicken salad; birthday cake & ice cream
Did We Cheat?
We had just 64¢ leftover after the first 10 days. We got a $4.60 refund from Costco (that I mentioned here) and no joke, I found a dollar bill on the ground while walking back from the mailbox this week!
We took this cash ($6.24) and went to Savemart to buy a few essentials. After calculating the math – literally down to the pennies – and walking back and forth between the dairy and produce aisles a few times, we ended up buying a bag of marked down bananas ($1.49), a quart of milk ($1.79) and ice cream ($3). We thought the bananas were a great deal, since our fresh fruit in very limited, and the quart of milk would see us through another week for coffee.
Is the fact that the money spent on one half gallon of ice cream could have bought another TWO bags of bananas lost on me? On Mr. Crumbs? Nope. He knew ice cream would mean a sacrifice elsewhere, and was willing to take any heat that came down the pipes as the result of that. Brave man.
A few days later, Mr. Crumbs sold an old bike rack on Craiglist for $23. Then, we got a rebate check in the mail from Ebates for $50. Finally, we also sold a high-ticket item on Craiglist for $150!
Now, to keep true to the challenge, we set aside the $200 from Ebates and the high-ticket item. We didn’t think it would be very fair – to us or you – to essentially quit the challenge simply because we sold a few items. Instead, we took the same $6 to Savemart and bought another half gallon of ice cream ($3) and a half-gallon of milk ($2.79).
Note to wives – be mentally prepared to spend any earned income on treats for the husband!
We now have enough milk to get us through the challenge, but we’re low on fresh fruit again. I really wanted to buy yogurt, either a bigger portion or a small amount plus milk to make more, but there wasn’t enough money to cover it all.
Total left to spend for the challenge: $17.21. This is what is left from our sales on Craiglist. Granted, we don’t intend to use it, but sticking to the rules, it’s there if we decide to “need” it for ice cream, lol.
Problems, In Order of Appearance
1. I Melted the Slow Cooker
Thanks to my super brilliant memory (insert sarcasm here), I mistakenly thought that the last time we baked no-knead artisan bread, it was in the slow cooker. Confidently, I placed the bread, in the slow cooker, with the lid, in the oven. As it turns out, plastic melts in the oven.
Please don’t repeat my mistakes. Doing so will cause you no less than two days worth of scrubbing melted plastic off the inside of the oven and a pizza stone, plus enduring a “what’s that awful smell… it smells like melting plastic” scent in your nose for at least three days.
Fun times, let me tell you. Thank you Day 11.
Fortunately, the no-knead artisan bread was not harmed in this incident.
2. Failed Gnocchi.
I have no idea what went wrong here, but this dinner was a complete and utter failure. These were more like dumplings than gnocchi and not a single person in the family liked them. On top of a failed dinner, it happened on a Wednesday – our busiest night of the week.
By the time everyone’s taste buds said no, there was only enough time to whip up a smoothie. In my panicked frenzie of oh-my-gosh-dinner-is-awful-and-we-have-to-leave-in-five-minutes-what-am-I-going-to-do-to-feed-the-three-of-you, I packed the blender with too many pieces of frozen fruit that were too big and not nearly enough liquid, therefore lodging the huge frozen chunks against the container and causing only the bottom half of the mixture to blend.
After which, there was just two minutes left to make and eat dinner and get our shoes on and pack up the car and leave.
Care to guess what waited until after we got home?
Nearly three hours later, the frozen fruit had thawed enough to blend. We saved that for the next day and Mr. Crumbs made a plate of cheese & crackers for dinner instead, finishing off what was left from our picnics. I ate pickles for dinner. There will not be a retry of dinner on Day 12. Ever.
3. We’re running out of produce, and fast.
When the challenge started, we had remnants of produce from my dad and shopping trips. Now, our only produce is from the weekly CSA box and the single bag of marked down bananas referenced above. We go through the box of produce faster and faster with each passing week. Last week’s box was gone Tuesday night, leaving a full 1 1/2 days with little fresh produce to eat. We’ve officially brought down the dehydrated bananas, blueberries and grapes from the cabinet. The dried strawberries are long gone, and the frozen fruit is slowly being consumed in smoothies. There’s plenty of tomatoes, and we’d eat more of them, if there wasn’t so much work involved turning them into a meal. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Mis-matched pantry items.
- We’ve got tomato sauce galore… and no pasta.
- We have plenty of meat… but little produce.
- Lots of grains… but no red wheat. (Fellow bread bakers can sympathize.)
- Lots of toppings for oatmeal… but no oats.
If we want to eat anything, it has to be made completely and utterly from scratch. Which is totally cool when you’ve planned those types of meals on days when you have extra time. Not so cool when every meal requires hours of prep, and your homeschool days are short enough as it is.
I don’t want to sound like a whiner, because I’m thankful we still have food to eat, but it’s certainly a realization as to what types of food are handy to have in times like this… and which ones aren’t.
Our SUV is down to just 2 ticks of gas. We’re reserving it for trip back and forth to my parents house on Sunday only, since they’re just 1 mile away and there are three gas stations in between here and there. There is 3/4 of a tank left in the sedan, with roughly 120 committed miles to drive before the challenge is over. This should get us through the end, so long as there aren’t any unexpected trips that are too far out of the way.
New Recipes & Foodie Inspirations
- Homemade Simple Spaghetti Sauce: fresh tomatoes cooked down until they become a thick sauce; blend with an immersion blender; season with dried herbs, salt and pepper
- Carrot Bread: sub shredded carrots for all of the zucchini, double spices, keep the shredded apple (or sub applesauce)
- Green carrot tops blend in smoothies without anyone noticing.
- So do yellow beets.
- And beet greens.
- We have a new found love for enchiladas, so expect a recipe for that coming this fall.
- The dehydrated blackberries taste burned, but the kids love them. Win.
5 Things I’ve Missed During This Challenge (from Mr. Crumbs)
Hot coffee, after a bike commute in the morning, is the best – especially when it rains. Not just that, but when we run out shopping on a Saturday morning, grabbing a cup to go is one of our favorite things to do. We don’t even splurge on huge latte’s or mochacchino’s. It’s usually two small plain coffees or we might even split one. Still, it’s a small luxury we definitely miss.
We ended up missing a birthday party for one of our good friends because if we had gone, we wouldn’t have had enough gas to make it through the end of the month. Our choice became either driving 20 miles to pick up the CSA box, or drive 20 miles for a party. The few odds and ends we’ve sold on Craigslist was fine to cover milk and bananas, but filling up the gas tank was not possible.
I usually buy cycling-related products for myself every 3-4 months. I’m a big bike nut, ride for fun and as my primary mode of transportation. I watch the sales and be sure to take advantage when wear and tear items like tires and chains are on sale… plus the occasional fun t-shirt. But with no spending allowed, it’s a bit difficult to watch the sales comes and go and not be able to do anything about it.
Being the dad, I like sweets. Not being able to run to the store for the occasional container of ice cream or crunchy snack like pretzels is downright difficult. Mostly though, it’s not because I can’t go. It’s because everything at home must be made entirely from scratch. Eating certain meals are now conditional on the following:
- We may or may not have the ingredients on hand.
- Mrs. Crumbs needs several hours, or more than a day, to prepare certain foods.
It’s even more so challenging for Mrs. Crumbs though. We want bread, tortillas, pretzels or pasta? Grind the flour, make the dough, roll it out, let it rise. Maybe do something else with another rise too. Everything takes her twice as long in the kitchen.
Every 2-3 months, I try to pick up some good reading material. It’s always nice (and comforting) to have solid Biblical material to use and glean from so that you can share with others. In a few weeks, I’m teaching at our evening service at church. Not being able purchase books has forced me to be creative, and use other free, online, reputable sources for the lesson instead.
4 Things I love About This Challenge (from Mr. Crumbs)
We now have to be more creative with family time. No longer can we hop in the vehicle without thinking about the gas needle and aimlessly wandering to the mall, down the coast, or to a summer concert.
Our first Friday night, we spent 2-3 hours in the backyard having a picnic. Mind you, it was overcast, cool and slightly windy! So, we bundled up and set up shop below the fence line and made the most of our afternoon. The children loved it, and it helped us parents unwind from the week.
That Saturday morning we went for an 8 mile walk while the kids rode bikes. Normally we’d have driven, but the kids LOVED being on the bike path for such a long period of time. We suffered a few meltdowns and a scuffed knee, but it was time well spent.
Living without money has forced us to be more intentional with our time and our resources. Every trip in the car IS intentional, and every meal is too.
Additionally, taking all of those onesie/twosie trips out of your day helps clean up your schedule. You are forced to make due with what you have, and are stuck with the decisions that you’ve made in the past. This has made us more intentional with our future time as well, forcing us to plan better instead of waiting to react.
Since one of the challenge rules was that we could not spend anything unless we brought in income outside of the normal salary, we’ve posted a few odds and ends on Craigslist.
We now have one less bike rack, less scrap-booking supplies and even one less coffee grinder. And $178 in our pocket (minus the $12 we’ve spent).
Mrs. Crumbs and I have been blessed with good communication in our marriage, and this has stretched us even further. Communicating meal preferences days in advance is not something I’m entirely used to, since the store is right around the corner.
We’ve also been challenged in agreeing on how we spend our time. Without the unlimited freedom of being able to hop in the car and take a day trip, agreeing on how we are going to spend our time very locally has stretched our marriage and forced us to plan in advance.
Coming up is the last stretch of this challenge and I think we’re all looking forward to it being over. I find myself mentally making a grocery list already, wishing I had more cinnamon, oats and pasta. However, I want to make sure that even when the challenge IS over, that we’re still intentional with our spending, time and other resources.
I’ve got a few tricks hidden up my sleeve that I might pull out this last week. There’s enough ingredients to make couscous, and that right there could feed Mr. Crumbs for the whole week. The garden is bursting with red tomatoes and I’m looking forward to pizza night with garden sauce. There’s still a whole chicken in the freezer, some potatoes and onions in the garage and a fresh CSA box sitting on the counter. I’ve got lentils in the pantry and enough butter to cover a batch or two of biscuits. A package of frozen spinach is calling my name for a stab at homemade spinach-flavored pasta too, which would be delicious with all those tomatoes.
Yes, this challenge has been hard, but it’s all in the mindset. By concentrating on what we have, it drowns out what we don’t. Which was the whole point of this crazy experiment anyway, right? 🙂