For everyone that knows us, the way our family functioned until recently was very clear.
Wife doesn’t cook often, but when she does it’s not bad. Husband – doesn’t eat much, even when there’s something cooked. Kid – too small to care, but he gets his servings on time, so he’s privileged. Fast-food, sandwiches and other on-the-go treats make their day. Dinner never happens.
Well, it’s quite clear that something had to change, right? 🙂
The Living Well Spending Zero (LWSZ) challenge happened just on time. And it was our free ticket to organizing our life along with our finances. So we grabbed it. Well, I grabbed it and my husband didn’t complain much. He actually went along pretty well, which was a pleasant surprise for me. I admit I expected him to laugh at the idea and declare me crazy.
Now that the first week of the Living Well Spending Zero Challenge is over I would love to share with you how it affected me and my family. Those were 7 very intensive days, during which we tried (and keep trying) to manage our finances better without (over)spending on things we could live well without.
I can’t say that our first week was a great success. No, I definitely can’t say that. But it changed our way of thinking about things. It showed us that there are other possibilities too. Not that we didn’t know about them, but it feels so much better doing it as a community (over 60 000 people in the world do the challenge). And Ruth is amazing! She really manages to inspire you for your daily tasks and to provide great tips and tricks for fulfilling them.
So, for those of you that aren’t familiar with the LWSZ Challenge, I’ve roughly outlined how each day went during the first week. If you are familiar with the Challenge you can skip the next few paragraphs and scroll down to Day 7 in which I share our overall reflections.
Before I started the challenge I was completely aware that we overspend on many things – eating out being one of the main ones. I knew we should do something about it, but kept procrastinating, because it was just so much easier the other way. When we went out as a family (which happens almost every evening and most of the weekends as well), we used to always spend money for eating out. Not necessarily in a restaurant, but even a sandwich and a drink everyday can add up pretty fast. So, something had to be done!
Thank God, I found out about the Living Well Spending Zero Challenge and I saw it as a great opportunity to freeze our spending and to try to live more frugally for at least a month. Thankfully, my husband joined in at the idea and we started the Challenge full with enthusiasm and decisiveness to not overspend on groceries and to stop eating out for a month. Here’s how the first week went for us.
The first day of the challenge was great! 🙂 No spending! Excitement on the thought that we will manage the month with no unnecessary expenditures. There was a Commitment form to sign up and it was great, because we really felt committed to the Challenge and that way it was much easier to follow through each day. We put it on our fridge to constantly remind us that we’re on a spending freeze and should manage to live by what we already have. We also set some Ground Rules where we outlined what we can buy this month; what we’re committed to paying for and what we may absolutely not purchase. That was the task for the first day and it was a success. No problems this far 🙂
The second day was easy for me. We had to make an inventory of our pantry and freezer. Since we recently moved to a new place, we still haven’t stocked up and have just a few things which were pretty easy to arrange and account for. We made a list of what we have and realized that it definitely wouldn’t be enough for the whole month. So we will have to do groceries, but we’ll try to keep them to the bare minimum that we need. No overspending. No unnecessary items.
Brainstorming recipes. Not really my favorite thing in the world 🙂 Even though I enjoy cooking from time to time, I definitely can’t say that I have a whole list of cooking ideas ready to pop out of my head whenever I need them. Anyway, I put down some that we liked and realized that I’ll have to dive deeper into the cooking world and dig up more ideas if I want to make it through the month. I put on the list every recipe that I could think of, as well as some that I had found on the internet and was willing to try out.
Then I outlined the weekly meal plan. Yup, weekly. I couldn’t do the whole month. Depending on how well the recipes turn out during this first week, I will arrange the second one, then the third…. And so on. I didn’t have all the ingredients for most of the recipes so I made a list and we went grocery shopping only for those few things that we missed. And this has been a success! I didn’t always follow the daily plan, but it worked for me anyway. On Monday, for example, I cooked the menu I had put down for Tuesday, because when I looked at the list, I just didn’t feel like cooking the Monday menu. I did cook it though, on Wednesday 🙂 So everything got pretty mixed up, but I’m satisfied, because it’s so much easier to just look at the meal plan and know what your options are. I highlighted in different colors the meals I cooked on different days, so next week I will know how to rearrange them in a better way. I also know that a couple of the recipes won’t make it into the meal plan again 🙂
Meal swapping. As I mentioned earlier, we moved recently so currently there’s no one with whom to organize a meal swap, so I decided to instead focus on trying out some new cooking ideas. Not very successfully…
Eating “out” at home. We love doing that. Well, I do kind of prefer to eat out for real, but since we’re on a spending freeze, I won’t complain 🙂 Asian food is one of our favorites so we’ll be working on copying some recipes, as Teriyaki Chicken, for example. We love that one!
Freezer cooking. Brrr. I’ll need some more practice for that one. That was the day I totally failed. I read about freezer cooking all the time but can’t get myself to start. I always miss an ingredient or I get overwhelmed of the whole mass assembly thing. But Ruth gives some great ideas for creating ten freezer meals in about one hour which sounds so amazing!! Some day I’ll try them. I will. I promise, I will. But no, not today. Please, not today 🙂 … I think I have a freezer-cooking panic to overcome.
Day 7 is one for reflection on our first week. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I can’t say we did pretty well, but what I can say is that we really try. And that’s good, because I know that soon we will be able to change our way of life for good.
The biggest challenge for me this week was all the cooking. There were days when I felt I have spent all day in the kitchen but yet I’m starving in the evening. Why’s that? What happened? Bad organization and planning, that’s what happened. I need to do my meal plans more thoroughly and I need more dinner ideas. For that to happen, I need to stop procrastinating and start cooking. I need to start experimenting with recipes and ingredients. And I will. Because I see that it works. It works very well.
I feel that I’m about to change my whole life for the better. I’m happier when I know that I’m the one controlling my finances (not the fast food restaurant across the street). I just need more time and experience in the kitchen 🙂 When I find a good recipe which is also easy to put together, I love making it over and over again. But often, when I try new things, they don’t turn out as they’re supposed to and that isn’t very motivating. I’m sure that with time everything will come into place. I will continue making meal plans even after the month is over, because I see how much easier they make my daily cooking decisions.
Some of the most motivating factors for me during this Challenge are the Periscope sessions that Ruth makes every day and the Instagram community where I’ve found great support, encouragement and ideas.
If you haven’t subscribed for the Living Well Spending Zero Challenge, but wish to do so, you can still do it HERE. It’s FREE. And it’s definitely worth it! 🙂
What do you find most challenging in your daily life? What would you like to change? Share with me in the comments below.