No Spend August
We did it.
NoSpend August is officially over (or it will be after tonight).
We started the beginning of the month with a plan to not spend any money.
Of course we made a few exceptions.
We could still buy beer and wine.
We're not idiots!
But everything else was a no go. The goal was to eat our pantries down and live off our land.
When I say us, I mean our family (Matthew, myself, the kids, and occasionally Uncle Leo) and Annie and Johnny (plus their four year old). That's a core village. We eat family dinners tonight almost every night of the week (they live just around the corner from us). And then there is my mom and Matthew's mom who pop in and out. We also had occasional family visits. I think on our biggest night we fed twelve people for dinner.
And guess what!?
Not only did we survive. We feasted! It's SUPER helpful we live on a goat dairy and had unrestricted access to all our goat cheese products. We also have access to chicken eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs, and the occasional peacock egg. Plus we were finishing up the last random cuts from our winter pig and Annie and Johnny had about 10 pounds of hamburger from the cow they got last year. We also had some lamb from gosh I don't know when and some roosters we had processed earlier this Fall.
Many of the nights we didn't even touch our pantries. We harvested kale, and chard, and lettuce from the garden, and made salad dressings from pepper jelly and vinegar (before it ran out). We topped it with Halloumi or our Thai Garlic Chevre and we felt like kings.
Which goes to show you.
A few amazing ingredients (I'm looking at you Halloumi and Chevre) can really carry an entire meal.
Of course it wasn't all fun and games. We ran out of flour pretty early on so fried green tomatoes weren't quite as delicious, and I started having to mix tempura batter in with the zucchini fritters our kids have been living off of (grate zucchini, mix with eggs and flour, fry in a pan in little pancake shapes...amazing!) We ran out of plain white rice earlier than I would have guessed too (but then I'm a really good Asian and I always have hot rice in the rice cooker so we went through it fast). We made what I call "party rice" by mixing all the random rices into one bag and cooking them up that way. Jasmine, Brown Rice, Mixed Rice, Basmati...it was not my favorite (I'm a rice snob, obvi) but we did it. I also ran out of my mint tea halfway through the month. Matthew harvested a bunch of our mint from the garden and made me tea but it wasn't exactly the same and I'm kind of a creature of habit with things like tea.
Throughout the entire month we've been joking about who was going to win "No Spend" August. Matthew, hilariously enough, lost on the second day, when he went to deliver cheese to The Mouse Trap Cheese Shoppe downtown and came home with more cheese than a man who lives on a goat dairy, that actually makes cheese, should ever buy. He called it market research. I immediately texted Austin, the owner, and squawked at him, "NO SPEND AUGUST!!! NO SPEND AUGUST!!!" Later that week when we went to deliver cheese to the PCC Markets he bought more cheese! This went on all month. Last night we were all talking about how our habits have changed and Matthew nonchalantly said, "I didn't change anything." And he's right. He didn't. That man has a cheese budget and he meets it every month. I guess he chose the right occupation as a cheesemaker! And I guess I should feel happy that the only thing he ever spends money on is cheese (and the occasional surprise treat for the kids and me...and of course I don't want to squelch that!)
I lost NoSpend August when I went to Target to get school supplies for a young man who is like a son to us. Although he has no biological relation to Matthew, Matthew has helped raise him since he was a toddler. He's twelve now which means binders and calculators and protractors and compasses and erasers and lunch boxes...I was in heaven. I love school supplies shopping.
But Target man. They get you every time.
I bought Gizmo a pair of leggings with the solar system on them and a shirt with cats reading books.
Such a sucker.
Also. Totally worth it.
The kids however, did great! Normally when I take them on cheese deliveries they ask if they can get a "treat." A pack of gum, a piece of candy...but because of NoSpend August they didn't even ask. They really wanted to win!
And my pantry...we really made a dent. It's not even that big and there's still food left in it. So we're going to move forward and instead of NoSpend August we'll be doing Minimalist September. Just the essentials.
What did we learn?
Sometimes we buy things out of habit, not because we need them. Every time I go to the grocery store I pick up a children's toothpaste (or two). NoSpend August didn't even place a dent in the amount of children's toothpaste options I have available. Also, black beans. I still have so many black beans. On that same note, sometimes just going to the store is habit. We joked that Johnny was suffering withdrawal from not going on his weekly Costco run.
Cooking with incredible ingredients can elevate any meal. This was pretty much the case every night for us. As farmers we have access to the most pure ingredients in the world. Sometimes our whole plate was filled with a feast from the farm, veggies, berries, eggs, cheese, and meat...but other nights we loaded up on veggies and let the cheese be the star of the show. Those were my favorite nights. Our meal with all the farm represented, if bought in the store, would have been expensive to buy, I get that. But our meals where we showcased the cheese and everything else supplemented it, that meal would not have been that expensive in a store. Beautiful ingredients make beautiful meals.
Most importantly, we saved money. At the beginning of the month I had a grocery list of things I needed but, as the month has gone on, I've crossed off things I thought I needed. In fact, in order to start September there's just a few things on my list: Ovaltine (for chocolate milk in the morning), tea, flour, butter, and syrup. (Can you tell we're having pancakes this weekend!?)
The money thing is important. We just shelled out $2,500 for alfalfa yesterday, that will likely last 6 weeks, and will buy about $6,000 more before the New Year. We bought new labels for our cheese ($600) that will hopefully last through the end of the year. And of course we had all the monthly operating costs of the dairy, which costs about $4,000 a month run (including the alfalfa).
Most importantly, we did it as a family. Everyone was on board. We helped keep each other in check, made about 100 jokes a week using the phrase, "NoSpend August!", showed our kids the real beauty of eating off our land, and had a lot of important conversations with them about the difference between need and want.
And just for clarity, I didn't NEED to buy solar system pants for Giz. But I wanted to. And because my budget allowed for it, I did. And it made both of us so happy. Even if it meant I lost.
We are so lucky that we live in a privileged environment where we can choose to be creative with how we manage our monthly income...this is not lost on me. I understand that many families are forced to do this every month out of necessity. And in that spirit, we donated cheese this month to a local church group and our food bank. Our hope is that it brought a little bit of joy to their meal, as it did to ours, and, our goal, is to continue to grow so that, as a thriving business, we can expand our charity and give back to our community in many more ways.
Because even though we haven't been to the grocery store in a month...our cup runneth over.