Confessing my sins

Garage Sale find: a crock for Sauerkraut
Garage Sale find: a crock for Sauerkraut

Well, today was the Great Glebe Garage Sale, and I definitely took a holiday from my no spending month. Here is my list of sins:

We got our bike for our girl, $30 for a Dora 2-wheeler with training wheels. It was more than I wanted to spend, and it weighs a TON, but hey, now we have it. Some better deals were some red Tommy Hilfiger running shoes for her for $1, a few dolls for $1, an old school red bandanna for $1, a Joan Didion book for 50 cents, and a crock for making sauerkraut for $2. Besides that was a plate of cookies for $10 (proceeds going to charity) and a sandwich mid-day for $5. Oh, plus one extremely packed bus ride home.

Overall, the yard sale itself was exhausting, but I’m fairly happy with what I brought home. Afterwards, my friend hosted an amazing brunch.

And now I’m home–both kids melting down and feet aching–it was a huge effort to not just go with the flow of my spendy day and get pizza. No, I chopped and whisked and grated together a little omelette for supper. Can I count that as a savings of $20 that would have been spent on pizza? Does that help atone for my spending sins???

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Week in Review–no-spend week #3

It’s now three weeks down in my no-spend month, and this week was the best so far. I don’t think I cheated once this week, except for a bus ride back from the Experimental Farm where we went for the sheep shearing festival yesterday. I have a membership so we didn’t have to pay admission.

I’m really enjoying this no-spend month, and I’m almost tempted to keep it up for the summer. I might have to get a haircut at some point, and we will be doing some travelling at some point, but other than those little things, I’m feeling good about the no spending.

One great thing is that weekends haven’t been about shopping. Too often I’ll make some grand plans for a bus expedition out to Canadian Tire on a Saturday afternoon because I can’t make it there during the week. That takes up my whole day, and nothing gets done. This weekend we spent two whole days together as a family, going to the Nature Museum on Saturday (and beating the crowds with our membership card!) and the farm on Sunday. Then today I organized a corner of our dining room that’s been needing attention–a major accomplishment!

Of course tomorrow I’ll have to do a big-ish grocery shop, but I’m happy to confirm that one of the fringe benefits of not buying anything apart from groceries is that I’ve been able to spend a lot more weekend time with the fam. And that, my friends, is priceless!

The miracle of life–a sourdough starter

I started my new starter three days ago, according to Peter Reinhart’s new “Artisan Breads Every Day”:

Day 1: combine 1 oz flour with 2 oz pineapple juice. Stir together and leave at room temperature for 2 days, stirring three times per day.

Day 3: add 1 oz flour and 1 oz pineapple juice to the Day 1 mixture. Stir together, and leave at room temperature until it becomes frothy and bubbly, stirring three times per day.

The idea is that the pineapple juice prevents the bacteria leuconostoc from taking over, and the stirring  prevents the mixture from getting moldy. The next step is adding 2 oz flour and 1 oz water, leaving for 1-2 days and stirring intermittently. Then adding 3 oz flour and 1 oz water to 4 oz of the previous culture, at which point you let it ferment and then it is ready to become your Mother Starter.

So today is day 4 and I am delighted to report that my goop is starting to bubble! It is delightful to be bringing a new starter to life. It holds the promise of amazing tasting bread to feed my family. The promise of not having to go out and buy bread because I’ve just baked up a couple loaves. Just the smell of sour yeasty goodness makes me verklempt. (Really. I get choked up very easily).

Now, if only I had thought of doing this at the beginning of winter instead of the beginning of summer!

No-Spend Update

So, with two weeks into my no-spend month, I figure it’s time for an update. So far, I’ve only splurged on food items: a lemonade with a friend, some chocolate almonds, pizza lunch at playgroup, a box of Pocky and some Smarties. While technically food is allowed, I’ve been avoiding buying non-essentials, or trying to!

The thing I love about a no-spend month is that it makes me pause and think each time I feel the urge to buy something. I think, “Can I live without it? Can I use something else in its place? Do I really need it right now? Can I get it for free somewhere else?” These are the questions I suppose “should” be automatic when I think of buying something, but I often forget and whip out the debit card.

The benefits of my no-spend month have been:

– a healthier bank balance. For some reason we started creeping into the red last month. Not sure why that was, but in any case this no-spend month comes at a good time.

– feeling good about myself when I come up with creative alternatives.

– teaching my daughter about restraint and waiting. I’ve told her, “We’ll have to wait till June to buy that,” and she understands, because she knows we’re not buying anything in May.

TricycleOne thing I might allow myself to buy this month is a two-wheeler for my girl. She has been dedicatedly “practicing” on her tricycle to get ready for a two-wheeler. She is very determined, and I admire her so much for it. So, I will go to the Great Glebe Garage Sale after all, and I will go early, and I will look for a bike for my girl because I think she’s ready for one.

Back to Frugality

A hand-made doll

As I’ve mentioned on here, I haven’t been feeling very frugal these last several months, mostly since my son was born in October, and also during Christmas and our March/April birthday madness (five family birthdays from March 21st to April 5th!). But those seasons are past, summer simplicity is here, so I feel it’s time to bring back the frugal.

In light of this, I’m making May a No Buying Month, with the following omissions:

– groceries (though I will endeavour to stick to my budget)

– gardening equipment and supplies

– some glass freezer containers so I can start making my partner some microwavable frozen lunches

I’ll try otherwise to hand-make gifts, make do with what we have, and avoid the Great Glebe Garage Sale (though that one will be really hard!). I’ll try to focus on gardening, cooking for the freezer before the hot weather sets in, and sewing some gifts.

What do you think? Is May a good time to do a No Spend month for you?

Ottawa Freecycle Weekend

giveaway

I’ve written before about how much I love curb shopping–a lot! I love finding useful and beautiful things in the trash and giving them a new useful life at my house.

Well, this weekend is a curb shopper’s dream come true: an “official” Ottawa Freecycle Weekend. Or as the City of Ottawa is calling it, the “Give Away Weekend“, coming at the end of Waste Reduction Week. The idea is simple: the city is encouraging people to put their unwanted items out on the curb with a “Free” sign on them, so neighbours can “shop” the streets, bringing home anything that looks appealing.

I think this is a fabulous idea: the city encouraging people to re-purpose and reduce waste. Do you curb shop? Do you have any great curb shopping triumphs to share? Does your city have an official Freecycle weekend? Let me know in the comments!

Happy curb shopping everyone 🙂

Reflecting on my “Buy-Nothing” Month

Last month I participated in Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing Challenge. The challenge was simple, to not buy anything other than groceries for a whole month. That meant no meals out, no new clothes, etc. but also no haircuts or other salon services, no makeup, and no entertainment expenses either.

There were a few exceptions: necessary things like school supplies or other purchases, and also “items used for canning and food storage”. This was explicitely spelled out as jars and pectin for canning, which I did purchase during the month.

I did, however, extend this definition somewhat with my first and most major breach of the month, to buy a small chest freezer. Yikes! But let me explain: as many of my readers know, I’m expecting a baby very soon–2 weeks and 5 days to be exact (well, as exact as “due dates” are anyway!)–and I figure one of the most important things I can do right now is to stock up on prepared food that I can rely on for our dinners once the baby arrives and things are turned upside-down. I also bought some zip-lock baggies to store food in the freezer.

I remember two and a half years ago when our daughter was born, we were not prepared food-wise and we ended up getting a lot of convenience items. Take-out pizza, grocery store barbecued chickens, frozen lasagne, etc. Since I got my freezer in early August, I’ve been slowly filling it with yummy food like spaghetti sauce, chili, pesto made with local organic basil, and a variety of creamy soups. It’s so great to know I won’t have to spend the extra money for lower-quality additive-rich food later on.

I made other purchases as well during the month, such as my weekly cookie purchase at a cafe where I meet friends to knit. This is a sanity-saver, as it’s just about the only time I get away from the house and my toddler. Don’t get me wrong–I love spending time with her–but it’s great to be able to escape once a week and not be a mom for about 90 minutes!

Some other things I bought were perhaps less excusable: one lunch out for myself, plus at least two lunches at the farmer’s market when I was not organized enough to pack one up before leaving. Replacement batteries for my kitchen scale (an absolute necessity!!), a stupid $10 sippy cup (in a desperate, failed attempt to night wean my 2 1/2-year old off the boob and onto the bottle . . . didn’t work!), a gift for some friends, and a bunch of second-hand baby stuff, which we got an AMAZING deal on. I’m probably forgetting something, but I do feel I did pretty good . . . until the last couple of days.

For some reason, buying nothing felt pretty easy for most of the month. I had lots of energy to prepare lunches and snacks, and I was okay delaying or redirecting my desires for new fun stuff. We went to the park, brought our lunches, met friends at the park, avoided the mall, ate well at home instead of going out to restaurants, made gifts by hand and gave away jam. For entertainment we went to the library and hung out in our building’s back yard. We watched downloaded TV shows and used our membership to go to the museum. We had fun, and life really didn’t change in any way!

But for some reason toward the end of the month I started to suffer from buy-nothing burn-out. I started to want. I started to NEED! So on August 31st when my mother-in-law came visiting in her Mazda Protegée, I took advantage and went . . . to Ikea.

Utility Cart
Utility Cart

Oh my, but it was satisfying. After a full month (almost!) of not indulging in “retail therapy” I broke down and bought: some new bibs, a “park” potty and a baking kit for my little girl, a children’s rug with roads drawn on it to put in the living room for the coming baby, some light bulbs for our hall light that’s been burnt out for over 2 months, and a tray to serve as the top of my “utility cart” so I can pretend to be a hotel chambermaid as I move through the apartment tidying up. Overall, $100 damage. Way to go out with a bang!


So, what did I learn from my “Buy-Nothing” Month? The first thing I noticed was that our bank account was much healthier than usual (before the Ikea trip in any case!) . The second thing I noticed was that I do have a bit of a retail addiction that works against my otherwise frugal lifestyle. In times of stress I react by buying things. Not for myself (as in makeup or clothes) but for my daughter, or more likely, for the house.

If I can keep a watch out for my triggers, and work through these desires in a less spendy way, that will help me to maintain my frugal lifestyle. For the moment, I’m thinking about doing a buy-nothing week once a month, just to keep myself trained and practice being better organized.