Let me run you through a normal week in my eating life:
- Saturday: Glance through cooking magazines, cookbooks and notebooks to try to decide what to make this week. Ignore all of it and make a rudimentary meal plan … write a grocery list, trying to remember everything I need. Go grocery shopping with the kids and fail to buy everything on the list (thought process: “Eh, we don’t really need that.”) Inevitably forget a key ingredient (or two … or three).
- Sunday: Cook 3-4 recipes, mostly testing new recipes for work. Share with family and friends. Things are off to a good start.
- Monday: Defrost appropriate meat per meal plan. Decide at 5:30 that I am too busy to cook dinner and order a pizza instead.
- Tuesday: Don’t feel like cooking dinner, but force myself too so the meat from Monday doesn’t go bad.
- Wednesday: Stick to the meal plan. Feel good about it.
- Thursday: Forget (ok, maybe it’s a semi-conscious decision) to defrost ingredients for dinner. Make a quick pasta in a pinch after going to the grocery store for the ingredients.
- Friday: Decide that I am so stressed out over food and need a pick me up. Buy a sandwich at the deli and feel better. Remember to defrost everything for dinner but realize that I never bought the ingredient I forgot on Saturday. Hit the grocery store too, and am ultimately seduced by things we don’t need. Make the dinner that was supposed to be eaten on Tuesday. Realize that I skipped two days of planned meals.
- Saturday: Feel awful about the fresh ingredients that I didn’t use during the week. Wonder how I can use them. Some end up going to waste. Start the whole process over.
It’s stressful, since I rarely stick to the plan and often change my mind. But those things are unnecessary. I make last minute menu adjustments because I can … That doesn’t mean I should. So, I decided to do something about it. I decided to go on a Spending Diet. As a result, this week was 100 percent different.
The Plan: No spending from Saturday until the following Saturday. Cash in wallet can only be used in a true emergency.
What Happened: In any given week, I go to the grocery store at least three times. By the third run, I hate it and think how absurd it is that I can’t consolidate all the shopping into one trip. But until now I haven’t really done anything to shop the cycle.
This week I did. After several trips into the city last week for work and a dinner party on Saturday, I felt like any more spending this week would be way too much. I needed a spending break … so I took one. I haven’t stepped foot into any stores all week and although I have done some heavily online window browsing, I haven’t bought anything. This week was a $0 output week.
I described it to a friend in an email how this week was turning out to be awful and wonderful all at once. It really was. My house is always pretty well-stocked with food, so we did have everything we needed on hand. Plus, by following the meal plan I wrote, I actually was never left dreading a decision about dinner. Also, since I knew that the grocery store wasn’t an option, I didn’t forget to defrost anything.
Ultimately, we ended up being a lot more efficient and I got a little more creative. It was really a great experience.
Challenges: The biggest trouble came yesterday when hamburgers were planned for dinner. Originally when I planned for this week, I intended to hit the grocery store for the rolls so they would be fresh, but once the spending diet kicked in I couldn’t. That’s how I ended up making rolls. And you know what? It was totally worth the effort — not only did I save $3, but they really tasted great.
There were other spots of imperfection too. Since I didn’t make the plan to stop spending until after my last grocery shopping trip, we did run out of a few things: peanut butter, bread, milk … but Shawn picked up some milk to supplement. Obviously, I need to work on the planning aspect of things, which I have been. I started a running list of all the things we need and I feel like my shop tomorrow will be way more successful than any other one.
- We used pretty much everything we bought/purchased for the week. Leftovers became lunches. Pantry items supplemented for convenience items.
- We used up several perishables (like the sundried tomatoes in the pasta above) that would have otherwise gone to waste after being forgotten.
- We were able to get a clearer picture of what we really need to buy. It’s easy to overlook needs when you make a bunch of mini trips to the store.
- The money in my wallet has stayed there. My bank account has grown.
- I, personally, ate fewer calories. Also, instead of losing hours to trips to the store, we spent more time outside this week (which the good weather clearly helped with).
Tomorrow is Saturday – the day when I can officially shop again. I plan to take my list and meal plan and pick up all the things we need, get some gas (I am down to about a half tank — which is fine, but this is about curbing mid-week spending) and do any other errands that involve money. On Sunday, I will start week two of my Spending Diet.
I am considering this somewhat of a spending detox. Next week, I will take a look at how things went and decide if I want to continue or allow a little more flexibility.
Have you ever gone on a spending diet? Why? How did it work for you?