Thursday, February 23, 2012

8 Weeks Down

We are 8 weeks into the 11 Month Project!!!

First I have to apologize for being MIA for the last few weeks.  Computer problems and the start of Spring Football have had me over my head in work. have you guys done?  I can tell you we had one little slip BUT it was so little it was MAJOR. For our family The 11 Month Project is about living with our blessings, enjoying what we own and not adding more "stuff" to an already crowded apartment.  January was going along perfectly with everyone on board, even the 9 year old was reminding us and herself that we are not buying "things" this year.  One trip to LA for Chinese New Year was our Achilles heel, it happened without even any thought....we had found the perfect spot to sit and watch the parade but we were about an hour early so that left lots of time to wander the shops.  Shops in Los Angeles' China Town are much like shops in any town in China, small and packed with everything you can imagine.  So the husband and the 9 year old left me, quite literally, on the curb and went out exploring.  When they returned they had in hand 2 confetti poppers (giant cardboard tubes - think the tubes that wrapping paper comes on - filled with streamers and confetti that "explode" out when you twist the tube)....OK, while not necessary they still fit in with our Project rules as they won't be returning to the house and are consumables.  They also had those noise makers that explode when you throw them on the ground...again, consumables, won't be returning to the house....a complete waste of money....but still fit in our Project rules.  Then I saw it....the deal breaker....a small plastic drum...$ broke EVERY RULE.  Most importantly it was one of those thoughtless purchases that doesn't cost a lot but adds to "junk" in the house.

That slip aside January was a stellar month and that $3.00 purchase actually served as a great reminder of easy it is to slip back into the purchasing trap.

This weekend I'll share with you the very best pancake mix recipe in the world!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Unpaper Towels

One of the followers of The 11 Month Project recently shared a story she had read about a frugal living family who used cloth toilet paper.  I have to admit there is NO WAY I am EVER going to do that…..E V E R!!  I don’t even like camping because of the whole TP situation. 

Sunday night I watched a show about the same family on TLC.  This is a Mom of 6 who actually shops at a food outlet store that sells expired food.  Now, I’m not opposed to eating foods a bit past their “sell by” or “best by” dates…a BIT PAST…but this Mom actually bought cheese what was well past it’s date and said “Well, I don’t see any mold” and a package of dry pizza sauce that was best by some date in 2009….SERIOUSLY?  OK, so assuming this show was shot sometime in 2011 that package was at least a year plus out of date.  That’s not frugal, that’s disgusting.  I watched this show to get some ideas but what I got was an upset stomach.  I will not be dumpster diving for gifts, singing for discounts (you’re welcome), or asking random strangers if I can take their half eaten meals home from a restaurant.  Ooooo, and if my husband takes me out to a “nice” meal on our 25th wedding anniversary I do not expect to have a number placed on the table, a paper cup to drink from OR dead roses you gathered from a dumpster….call me a snob if you must.

BUT if you want to be frugal AND smart you have to check this out….


Cottontail Babies ( made these GREAT kitchen towels.  They are double sided, simple to make, will match your kitchen perfectly (because you make them) and with the help of small plastic snaps they will nicely roll up on your existing paper towel dispenser.  THIS is the kind of thoughtful frugality I can get behind.  Go to for the full tutorial on how to make these unpaper towels.

This project is FIRST on my list…you know as soon as I find the presser foot for my sewing machine.

Meanwhile, next week I’ll share my recipe for spaghetti sauce seasoning mix and you can skip the bag of mix that is two years out of date.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Not Perfect But Close….

Another week down and still things are going fairly well in our neck of the woods. 

For us the main goal of The 11 Month Project was to live with the “stuff” we have without adding one single thing.  The project has morphed a bit since the conception to also sticking to a very strict food budget and not just grabbing food out.

We never really set a food budget in the past.  I have always menu planned for at least a week or two in advance, but we never really paid attention to what we spent at the grocery store.  It is too easy to grab a drink or bite while out enjoying the amazing San Diego weather or a day at the amusement park.  This year I set a goal to spend no more than $300 a month on food….all food….fast food….restaurant food….even, gasp…..Starbuck.   Ummm, I could easily, and I mean with ZERO effort  and no thought at all, spend 1/3 or more of our current budget on Starbucks alone.  My coffee was a habit that I didn’t even think about.  So in an effort to be more thoughtful in our spending I am keeping track of my Starbucks spending.  So far this month…$2.65 NOT A TYPO.  I have been to Starbucks exactly ONE TIME.  Now Kelly stop laughing, it’s true.

We are TIGHT on the food budget  and frankly WILL go over, I know that for a fact.  As of this moment I have spent all but $25.00 of the $300 budget.  I have to admit that sounds worse than it is because I have all the protein and starches already purchased for the rest of the month.  The only thing I need to purchase is fresh fruits and veggies for the next two weeks.  Still it is the first month of paying attention to our food costs so going over a bit doesn’t bother me at all and I know we can do better next month.  Also we are going to LA for Chinese New Year at the end of the month so there will be some additional food spending then.

Now as for the “stuff” we have been spot on with that goal.  Nothing new has entered our home.  Not a single bag walked through the front door that did not get unpacked into the kitchen with printer ink being the sole exception.  Sadly, that too will change next week as our school celebrates Teacher Appreciation week starting on January 30th.  The little one and I are making gifts for her teacher based on Alice In Wonderland.  Most everything will be homemade but we do need to buy a few supplies….like a tea cup…..  We will be purchasing things but they will not be staying in our house soooo it still fits in our family’s 11 Month goal of handmade gifts for each other and purchased gifts for others.  Teacher appreciation gifts will be a combination of both.

What goals did you guys set for yourself or your family?  Have they morphed at all since the start of the project? 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week One….

So, it’s been a week since the official start of The 11 Month Project.  How’d you do?

I do my grocery shopping on Sunday and do the bulk of my shopping at Costco…pun intended.  I find that even for just the three of us things are much cheaper there BUT I get drawn in like some sort of freaky side show by the non-food related items.  There is always something that I am just sure would make life so much easier.  Sunday was no different.

Coscto now carries this magic soda machine….pour in water, add a C02 canister and POW carbonated water…conveniently they also sell the flavored syrup.  No more lugging cans or bottles of soda.  You can make your drinks, your own flavors, just have plain seltzer water……a dream!!  Well it has sucked my daughter right in with its magical fizzy powers and even, in a moment of weakness, had me thinking “Wow, that would be great”.  Anyone who knows me knows how silly the idea of this is…..FIRST the 11 Month Project has just started so buying it is out of the question but SECOND, and perhaps the most important….I HAVEN’T HAD A SIP OF SODA IN 10 YEARS.  In those 10 years the only carbonated beverage that has even crossed my lips has been of an “adult” nature.  My daughter and husband DO drink soda but in such a limited amount it would take more than a year for this “must have” item to save us a single dime and by then we’d surely be bored with this new toy.

Soooo, I walked away and continued on with grocery shopping.  What did you walk away from this week?

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Are you ready to set sail for 11 months of voluntary simplicity?  Have you made your mind up to live in the abundance you have for a year with out adding a single new item?  Have you talked to the kids?  The spouse? 

I have read a lot lately of people who eschew modern conveniences.  They are giving up their homes, cars, well paying jobs, they are perusing simpler lives.  That is NOT what we are talking about here.  We are only talking about 11 months of not being driven by consumption.  11 Months of living with only what we have, not necessarily giving up what we have.

For me personally I will be using the next 11 months to declutter my life as well.  Part of living in thankfulness for what we have is also placing a value on those things and those things that are not adding value to our lives are going to be donated so that they may add value to the life of someone else.

If decluttering sounds like a big task take a moment to check out this downloadable calendar that provides you with just one simple task to complete each day.

Tonight enjoy your New Year’s Eve activities what ever they may be, remember to be safe, don’t drink and drive, have fun and remember to spread the word about The 11 Month Project to all of your friends so they can join you or at least help you practice voluntary simplicity in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Establishing A Family Plan


Last night over dinner we established our family’s ground rules for The 11 Month Project.  I think the KEY to truly making this a success is getting the kids on board.  If they are willing participants they can also be a big asset in keeping you on the straight and narrow.  I know my 9 year old daughter is a great ENFORCER. 

If your kids are not on board then The 11 Month Project may be exactly what they need.  Our kids have to learn that they truly have EVERYTHING they NEED.  Review “wants” vs “needs” with the kids.  I am sure we all can create a list of things we really really really want or would like to have, but those things are not needs.  If you think your kids simply could not handle 11 months without a single purchase of an unnecessary item, maybe your goal for the next 11 months is just for the kids to be complete THIS Ask Why Before You Buy worksheet (created by iMom) before making a purchase.  Again though I have to say, if your kids are very averse to The 11 Month Project it really is something that they NEED. 

For our family the rules are simple:

No purchasing of anything that is not consumable.  If you run out of it, you can replace it.  No one wants anyone walking around with out deodorant, greasy hair or sans make-up.  BUT in replacing an item we are going to look for the best value. 

Birthday gifts for family are going to be made by hand primarily from materials we already own.

Birthday gifts for friends can be store bought.  However we will not be stockpiling a “gift closet”.  Too many times I look in there, shake my head and wonder “what the heck was I thinking when I bought that”.

Clothing – this is a gray area for sure.  My daughter is 9 and is growing like a week….she will need clothes so if she outgrows an item we will replace it.  My husband is notorious for spilling coffee on his shirts…he will NEED new shirts but luckily he has no problem at all buying second hand dress shirts.

There are areas that will be harder – we will not be buying the hot new Wii or DS games.  The cool souvenir from where ever we happen to be visiting will stay in the gift shop.  The “it” purse I must have will simply have to wait as will that adorable pair or shoes.  The new kitchen appliance, gadget or tool that I can’t “live without” with be lived without.

A little trickier is the everyday items – for some reason our family has been breaking dishes like we were at Greek wedding lately.  Our service for 8 is now a service for 4 and half…maybe.  So this may be the year of the eclectic, mix and match table settings.

As I look at our bath towel I know that they have seen their better days but they are just fine for us and will serve us well for another 11 months.  Kitchen towels….I hope they make it – I am not a fan of stained towels in the kitchen I know that they are clean and perfectly functional but still the look is just bad.  I will cross this bridge when I come to it.

We are also using this opportunity to get a handle on our food and dining out budget by being more diligent in menu planning so every night is not a game of Chopped… have 1 pound of hamburger, a handful of peanuts, miso and beets……now COOK.  We will be packing snacks when we hit the amusement parks, and having a couple of meals in the freezer ready to go on nights that I’m just not feeling the cooking vibe.  I will NOT be a rabid couponer for a couple of reason but the biggest one is that we are embarking on The 11 Month Project to cut the amount of stuff and clutter we have.  For couponing to work well you MUST have large stock piles of things you purchase on sale.  Our little apartment is not designed for stock piling things like paper towels.  We do keep a supply of food basics on hand.  How much you want to stockpile is up to you but for us we keep about 8 weeks of food on hand.  At the end of the 8 weeks we may be eating meatless high carb meals but we will be eating.

So if you haven’t already done so I want to encourage you to talk to your family about how you plan to implement The 11 Month Project.  What kind of things do you plan to include and or exclude from your family’s 11 month plan?