It’s Halloween! That means tomorrow is November 1st. How is it that it is already November!? That means No Spend November is here! It is a biannual way to clear out the pantry, ensure items in the corners of the freezer are used and is a nice way to help out the pocketbook during a very expensive time.
No Spend November doesn’t mean we aren’t spending any money at all. In this military home, there is spending involved for the military ball – gown, hair, make-up, sitter, updated uniform, ball tickets – all purchased in the preceding months. We also make an allowance for purchasing fresh produce throughout the month, because our home goes through two bunches of bananas a week and I won’t say no to fruit or veg for snack. There is also the Thanksgiving holiday meal for which we will buy a turkey or a ham and the dressings that go with it. The idea behind a No Spend period is being intentional in our purchases, forcing us to get creative in the kitchen and use our resources.
How do we do it?
Stock up: When Fryer Chickens or ground beef goes on sale (like buy one get one or at least 50% off), we buy two. Spend the same amount we would anyway but get two! When Costco has a coupon for pork loin, we get the smallest one (get the biggest bang for your buck) and slice it up once home to freeze the extras. Stocking up with forethought can save you money in the long run.
Breakfast for dinner: Using eggs as a base for anything is a great way to stretch what you have. Have fancy eggs with the extra fresh asparagus. Need to use up the dried mango in the pantry? Put them into pancakes! Breakfast foods are flexible, making it an easy way to use what you have and affordably.
Chopped Nights: In case you haven’t seen Chopped, this Food Network show provides 4-5 seemingly unassociated ingredients to chefs in a basket and asks them to make an appetizer, dinner or dessert with them. They have the use of their pantry to add ingredients as needed. I have had the kids pick out ingredients or challenge my spouse, and then we have an hour or two to make dinner. It’s a fun and funny family evening that has the added bonus of being a family date in addition to saving money.
Myfridgefood.com: This FREE website is seriously amazing. You input what you have in your fridge or freezer and it gives you recipe ideas. I was recommended this website by a fellow military spouse two PCS’s ago as a way to clear out the fridge and pantry prior to the move, and now I use it at least monthly. Spaghetti Fritatta and Crepes – bet you already have the ingredients to make it – have a delicious dinner without going out to shop!
Once a month meals: Meal prepping. When in the infant stage of our life, I did this. I spent two Saturdays making bags of crockpot meals to go in the freezer so I could easily pop them in the crockpot during those busy days. This prevented fast food runs and helped us all eat healthy during a busy and schedule altering time. Meal prepping prior to the month means you don’t have to think about it – just grab the freezer meal, put it in a crock pot, and viola!
Plan ahead: Whether you meal prep or not, schedule out the meals on the calendar. This will take some time but plan a week or two in advance of what you are going to make. Ensuring you are aware of what you have in the pantry and freezer allows you to purchase only what you need.
Why do we do it?
Utilize: The nomadic lifestyle of the military moving, means the pantry starts over every time. To counteract the waste or overbuying that can happen, we aim for a pantry clean out or assessment annually. Clean out every shelf. Use that BBQ spice mix that we bought at the Farmers Market and forgot about.
Assess: A clean out means assessing our flour and sugar sources before the holiday baking marathon begins. And check how many frosting tubes or sprinkle containers we have for cookie making 🙂
Reorganize: A clearer pantry, fridge and freezer means I can gauge what we actually eat and what is a smart investment on stock up times. If I bought a corned beef at an after St Patrick’s Day sale and it has sat in the freezer for the last seven months, then perhaps use that same money to buy a fryer chicken on sale if that will actually be used and eaten.
Save Money: I think it goes without saying that a No Spend time period is a time of saving money, especially before the winter holidays. In 2017, the average American family spent over $900 on Christmas per The National Retail Federation. We like going on Adventures. While we seek out low or no cost activities, we also go to Disneyland which isn’t no cost. No spend periods mean some of that money can be saved for that Jungle Julep or Ice Cream Sundae.
That all being said, if diapers are needed, or we are out of milk – we still go get it. Part of a no-spend period is to get a better feel for the rhythm for how items are used, how to plan shopping trips based on needs to prevent waste and get creative in general. It is a fun challenge making cleaning enjoyable!
Have you done a family version of a Chopped Night? Try it! If you do, let us know what you make?!