My journey through 31 days of Living Well & Spending Zero: Week 2

Week Two

A lot of this week was focused on food, and while I’m sure it’s great for most people it just doesn’t seem to work really well for my family. I still have some thoughts on everything though, so I’ll walk through it and how our week is going.

Before we start, one thing that can be very helpful if you’re feeling a little bored with your pantry and want some change, is couponing. Over at thekrazycouponlady.com, under her Walmart section there are always freebies and they change every week. Sometimes there’s not much for food, but sometimes you can find some deals that’ll help spice up your meals and the best part is after coupons you’re not spending any money! They also have a section on $1 or less, so I always scan these sections weekly to see if there’s anything I’d like that interests me. Even if it doesn’t go over well, it didn’t cost much so there’s no worry! If you’re running low on any toiletries it’s a great place to check for that as well, but be warned: Not every Walmart carries the same inventories or rolls back the same items, so don’t get your heart too set on it. While you’re on the site, look into other grocery stores in your area too, you never know what deals you might find.

Day 3

This day was all about meal planning, which I already outlined our issues with above, but it was still good for me to go through my fridge, freezer and pantry just to remind myself of how many options I really have! In my situation I was able to look at the various starches, meats and sauces/sides we have that I could potentially put together in any number of meals. They gave a great list of meals that you can typically make out of pantry staples, but my pantry isn’t like most people’s! One of my favorite meal stretchers are eggs: You can make frittatas or omelettes by throwing in all those veggies that will go bad soon, do a breakfast for dinner, make Shakshuka (one of my favorites) by spicing up a can of diced tomatoes, add some spaghetti, bacon and parmesan and you have spaghetti carbonara, a really inexpensive meal that I adore.

Day 4

This day was all about meal swapping, a great idea but we’re fairly new to our area and don’t have a ton of friends. Most of our friends live far away or have much larger family sizes and the idea of a meal swap just doesn’t quite work. Someday though I would love to do something like this, I always cook big meals and the idea of giving those extras to someone else and having their extras a few nights a week without having to cook makes me very happy, and when I do I’ll be sure to share with you how it all went. They had a ton of great resources to get yourself started such as 5 Steps to a Successful Dinner Swap, and How to Organize a Freezer Meal Swap. Has anyone ever done something like this before? If so let me know how it worked!

Day 5

This day was about “eating out” at home. A great concept and something I’ve definitely done before when wanting to cut down on our budget. Olive garden is one of my weaknesses, I just can’t get enough of their soups so I’ve made chicken gnocchi and zuppa toscana many times from home. We also love going out to a chinese buffet but sometimes I’ll just make up a ton of chinese food at home and we’ll eat in for that. Fried rice is a great way to use up any veggies going bad (and more eggs!) and it’s really not too difficult to make, and you can make a homemade pizza on flatbread with very few ingredients. Though, if you’re really craving that greasy pizza hut pizza you can always try this recipe I’m partial to. It’s not 100% the same, but it’s still really tasty and got my youngest sisters stamp of approval. So remember, if you’re craving something (like I’m currently craving a Big Mac) before going out and breaking your resolve, try and google how to make it at home! There are recipes out there for most things, and while you probably can’t exactly replicate McDonald’s french fries, or make homemade soft serve, it’s worth a try.

Another option is looking at the freebies you can pick up from restaurants. If you’re lucky enough to have a birthday in this month then you can sign up for a large number of birthday freebies, and a lot of restaurants offer freebies just for signing up for their birthday club, so look into that too! I have a post on those freebies you can check out here. Also, did you know that some restaurants offer freebies for halloween? At IHOP between 7 and 10 am, your kid can get a free scary face pancake if they come in costume! Now you still do need to pay just a little bit to tip your server, but if you have enough kids you could feed them all breakfast for just a couple dollars. If doughnuts are your weakness, the good news is that Krispy Kreme is giving away a free doughnut to anyone in costume! A great way to treat your family for free, and no tip is required! Note: They WERE doing this last year, no guarantees they’re still doing it this year but most restaurants repeat these sorts of deals. There are lots of other buy one get one deals, but as that requires spending money it doesn’t really fit with the theme of this month.

Day 6

This day is all about freezer cooking. I’ve done freezer cooking before, it can definitely come in handy when you’re busy and want to avoid eating out when you know you won’t have time to cook that night. I plan on putting together some freezer meals for when the baby comes so that we can take a break from cooking for a while, but one of the problems I’ve always run into is most freezer meals go in a crock pot and come out as a one texture mush. Most of the stuff I end up freezing now are things like soups or casseroles that thaw and reheat alright without losing texture. I’ll also put together meatloaves with raw meat and freeze them in portions so that when it comes down to it all I have to do is pop it in the oven. However, I’m always willing to try something new, so I picked out what looked like the best recipes from there to share with you here that I’ll be testing out during the month. It’ll let me figure out whether or not they’ll be good to do again once the baby gets here. They are: Crockpot Lettuce WrapsTomato Chicken ParmesanHoney Sesame ChickenChicken Satay and Creamy Italian Chicken. I’ll let you know how they are once I try them out, but I picked these partly from having the ingredients to make them, and also because I know I have items I can make into sides for them to complete a whole meal.

Day 7

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It seems like this challenge has fit in a few days for reflection, which are always a great thing to take the time to do. Looking at what was the hardest, learning from your mistakes and celebrating your victories is a great thing to do, so I’m going to be totally honest here with how it’s been going so far for us. We had a few expenses come up that we just had to spend money on, mostly gas and car parts (yay for having an old car), and a few expenses that we didn’t NEED like wood chips for the smoker and cake pans, but these are things that helped us make the delicious foods we ate and things we’d need to buy eventually anyways. Finally, we also had our hearts melt when we saw a disabled kitten up for adoption at our local shelter, and we just knew we needed to add him to our family (yes, in our hearts it was a need!) He came with a hefty price tag ($140) but he is the perfect addition to our family and just look at that face. Definitely worth it. I am really proud of how my fiance has been doing with the month and how on board he is, he’s typically the kind of person to stop at a gas station at least once a day to pick up soda or tobacco or snacks, but so far he’s been doing great skipping all of that! I haven’t done any grocery shopping either so far and only really need to go pick up a gallon of milk sometime soon. The one definite want purchase we made was a video game for him, originally it was $50 but we were able to cash in tons of reward points and got it for $7.50 after taxes and I got one happy fiance after that. So no, we haven’t successfully spent NOTHING this month, but I can guarantee we’ve saved a good bit on unnecessary purchases and I am proud of us. So it’s a good time to ask, how is it going with you so far? What has been the hardest part for you, or what have you learned? Comment below and share your reflections!

Day 8

This day was all about preparing to clean. A really strange concept to me, but in reality, don’t we all wish that every day could be “preparing to clean” day? Don’t be fooled by the title though, because you do actually do some cleaning today, simple things like clearing out the clutter, working through that overflowing pile of dishes in the sink (or is that just me?) and making sure you have all the cleaning supplies you need to really get down and clean. If you don’t, luckily there are ways to make cleaning supplies with things you probably already have around the house like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, etc. The email today had some great printables, as well as some great articles to read on ways to help keep up a clean house throughout the week after your deep cleaning days. Maybe some of you are thinking “What on earth does cleaning have to do with spending nothing?” well, besides the fact that spending nothing can sometimes give you extra time, having a clean, clutter-free house will also help you find things easier so you don’t end up with 3 things of scotch tape in your junk drawer!

Day 9

Now is the day we REALLY deep clean. If you signed up for the emails you got an awesome checklist to help you stay on top of the things to work on for the day, and I really love me a good checklist. If your rooms don’t fit the checklist then don’t worry, just change out dining room for another area of the house, or focus on deep cleaning the rooms you do have on the list. I’d love to say my house sparkled when I was done, but with 2 cats and 2 dogs in the rainy season nothing really stays clean for THAT long. However, I was really happy with myself and my house when I was done. There’s not really much more to add here, and if you’re joining me on this journey you can probably relate to how tired I am right now, especially at 31 weeks pregnant!

All in all it was a pretty good week, and I’m really looking forward to where they go next with it (as long as the next few weeks aren’t all cleaning. Ewwww I’ve had enough of that now I think). How’d this week go for you if you’re following along? What were your most challenging moments and your best successes? If you’re just seeing this now, feel free to start with me from the beginning at week 1.

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2 thoughts on “My journey through 31 days of Living Well & Spending Zero: Week 2

  1. Gina says:

    I admire your ambition and ability to stick to a plan. Straying from it shouldn’t discourage you, and it’s great that it doesn’t. Do you think meatloaf is better frozen raw? I have made meatloaf in large meatballs in a muffin pan and frozen them precooked. I think they thaw pretty well. Btw, your kitty is adorable!

    Like

    • mylifesdesigns says:

      I prefer it that way if you have time, when you precook and freeze meat it tends to be a lot tougher, and with ground meat a lot more dense. It might not be too noticeable with meatballs but I feel on the larger scale of meatloaf it would be worse. Also with meatloaf, the freezing and thawing time allows the flavors to marry a bit more. (This is just in my experience)
      In the expert’s explanation: When you cook food, you loosen the molecules up and that’s what releases and enhances flavor. If you’re going to cook it and then freeze it, let it rest until it hits room temperature before freezing it as it’ll allow it to retain more of the flavor than popping it directly into the freezer. However, any food that is frozen after cooking will never be as flavorful as when it was first cooked, so if you have the time to fully cook it the day you eat it, it will taste much better.

      Like

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