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Slow Month: Revisited

As you know I did a slow month which started on February 4th. In my original declaration, I stated that I was not going to grocery shop for the entire month.  My consumerism side of my personality had just gotten way out of control. I needed to reality check. A lock down on my carte bleue .  I just needed to stop. The first day, I realized we didn't have bread. I didn't have yeast to make bread and this was one thing my husband was going to have a hard time being without. Riana has pointed out to me the electricity that would have been used to make the bread would have cost more than the baguette we could buy at our local boulangerie.  This got me thinking about our electricity consumption and I started to realize that I have  a bad habit of leaving the lights on. Our electricity bill came and it was over 200 euros. I was floored. 

As I became more aware of our consumption habits, I made an effort to change.  I am trying to cut the number of loads of laundry I do by 1/4.  I wear my clothes for another week or two. I still have the habit of throwing them in the wash after only wearing them a couple times. I'm really not that messy of a person unlike my son who spends his day crawling around on the floor.  But cutting my laundry down only afforded me to do more loads of my son's cloth diapers.  I do a load every other day. In the end, are we saving money? This month's bills will tell us.  But for the first time in my life, I am aware of these things and that's a good thing, right?

As we ran out of fresh foods, I dove deep into our freezers to make meals. I found some interesting things that I had forgotten about. I made a list of everything we had and went through it little by little. One of our freezers is almost completely empty.  But after nearly a week of eating from the freezer and panty, I craved fresh food. By now we had not grocery shopped for two weeks. We were out of yogurt, cheese,  and had only two eggs left and one bottle of milk.  I decided that on Sunday we'd go to the market and we'd only spend 20 euros.  That first weekend market trip was hard. We got fresh veggie and fruits, cheeses, cream and eggs but also came home with pork ribs and a chicken which bumped us over our budget by 15 euros. The ribs and the chicken were too much. I made the best of the chicken. We ate it for three days and I used the bones to make a nice broth with I later turned into a nice hearty vegetable soup using that huge cabbage I had at the beginning of the month. That soup lasted us three more days until it was again market day.  The second week at the market we did much better to sticking to our budget.  And also, we went to market at the end of the day when you can bargain  and almost every kiosk owner threw in an extra this or that because they needed to move their produce.

Doing this slow month taught me to change the way I shop for our food. Instead of doing two massive trips tot he grocery store every month, we do one little trip every week and only buy what we need.  I take the hand basket and if I can't carry it home then I've bought too much! I looked at the receipt from the last massive grocery trip I made and I was embarrassed at all the crap I bought.  My mind must go into auto pilot, walking up and down the isles just throwing things in the cart. I go to the caisse and then hand over my carte bleue and an hour later it would all show up at my door step all neatly packaged.  It has gotten easier and easier to consume these days and I've fallen into the trap.

Well, no more! We spent half of what we usually do last month and we did really well. Our freezers are empty now and I will defrost them and clean them out to prepare them for the freezing of yummy spring/summer fruits and veggies. Because of this slow month and all the cooking I've done, we've eaten better.  And I've actually lost some weight. For those of you who did the a slow month, how did it go for you?

A Slow Month: Day 8

Update time. We're pretty much exhausted all our fresh food.  The organic basket we received last week, lasted us a week. No basket this week so we'll see... the freezers have lots of food to eat.  Last night I made thai style rice and steamed up some leek and tofu mondu (korean potstickers) that I had made and frozen a few months ago.  I whipped up a sweet, garlicy  fish sauce to dip them in.   They were gone before I could take any pictures, that's how good they were. Our freezer is still over flowing with potential meals...

I've had a bag of blood oranges sitting in the basket for a week now. Unsure of what to do with them I let them sit and get nice and juicy until yesterday. I spent the better half of the day juicing, and separating the pulp to make fruit leather, then slicing the peels and boiling them (4 times!) to get the bitter taste out and then letting them simmer in a syrup bath (equal parts of water and sugar) until they became little candies.  I dipped half in chocolate and saved the other half for future baking endeavors. This morning, I made 6 mini loaves of orange-cranberry bread and I mixed in the candied peels with the cranberries.

Blood orange goodies

I made all that with 8 blood oranges.  Pretty amazing, huh?

We have been buying our bread at the boulangerie.  And I am fine with that. What we usually do it buy a bunch of bread and cut it up and put it in the freezer and toast it as we want to eat. A little trick that I learned from my husband the first winter I lived in Paris with him. He said, "keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and you'll never be without."

We are using our last roll of toilet paper as I type this entry. I don't know what we will do. I will discuss with Julien tonight to see if he'll accept an alternative to toilet paper.  A few weeks ago, we installed a water nose with a spraying unit to the toilet. It has made cloth diapering even easier for us. For the stubborn poop that won't shake off we just squirt a little water on it and hop!, it's gone.  My husband has taken to using the spray for himself. We have a toilet/bidet now. The alternative to toilet paper would be to use reusable wipes. We already use those for Max so why not for us. Just throw them in the wash with max's diapers. But we'll see how he reacts when I propose this. 

Like I said earlier we are out of fresh vegetables. I froze a few to use next week but this week we are freezer diving for dinners.  I have to say that I am a bit sad about not having any fresh food on hand.

So, my slow month to me hasn't been as slow as I intended it to be. I was all gun-ho about not grocery shopping at all but I am realizing that is really hard to do because we eat a lot of fresh foods.  Max's cheese is  running out and I will have to go to the store this week to get some more. I think deciding to be slower this month has shown me what we really need each week.  Instead of shopping for a two weeks period. I am going to shop on a weekly basis.  And like my friend, Libby, I think I need to set myself a limit each week of how much I can spend instead of spending easily 200 euros ever other week for two adults and a baby! Can you believe that? 20 euros a week for fresh foods which include veggies, fruits, milk, cheese and yogurt. And supplement all the meals from our freezer and pantry.

What do you do when you're in the midst of a slow month and friends come into town and want to go out to eat? I would have hosted them for lunch at our house but there were too many of them and we don't have the space for big dinner parties like that. Hello? small Parisian apartment. So, we ended up going out to lunch and spending 44 euros.  44 euros I could have spent on fresh veggies for the rest of the month! For the first time in my life, I was really regretting that we spent that much at the restaurant. 

Euros spent so far this month: 53 euros.

I am off to make some breakfast bread with some ripe bananas and our tiny kiwis from the organic basket will become some more fruit leather. Use it all! That is what I keep telling myself. Use it all.

Slow Month: Day 3

It's only day three but I thought I'd give a little update on how the Slow Month is going.  It's going pretty easy because we have a house full of fresh food right now. Let's see how the update is in a week or so.   Tonight for dinner I made a hearty vegtable soup, I puree'd a portion for Max and will save that for him to eat next week.  I am going to freeze a couple bowls for myself for quick lunches as well. 

Knowing that I can not go grocery shopping this month really makes me think about what ingredients I am going to use for each meal. I have realized that we eat a lot of onions and garlic. I will not have enough onions to get through the month.  I have chopped an onion and put it in the freezer. Out of sight, out of mind. Sort of... I started a list that is on the back of the pantry door keeping track of what is exactly in my freezers. Yes, I have two. One decent sized one attached to our refrigerator and a dorm sized fridge that really is all freezer. 

My goal this month is get through everything that in my freezers and to better understand how I need to start shopping for my family.  I have a lot of stuff that just doesn't make sense. But at the same time those things that seem to not match with anything else could come in handy when in one week I am going to have to really start improvising with my cooking. 

I am freezing tonight two chicken breasts to be eaten sometime at the end of the month.  My husband likes to eat meat as his meals and if I serve him too many vegetarian meals he complains that he turning into a rabbit and starts doing his Bugs Bunny imitation and I try to avoid that if I can as I find it highly annoying.

Total euros spent so far?  1, 10e. On a nice big pain campagne. It turns out that I did not have the right yeast to make bread. I have levure chimique but I need levure boulanger. A friend of mine said she might have some levure she could spare so maybe if I get lucky I may still get to  try my hand at making some bread this month.

Yogurt is another thing we will soon run out of. I have read articles on making your own yogurt and frankly I am a bit intimidated.  And I would feel bad if I made a batch and it came out bad. We don't have a lot of milk to spare either. 

But this act of slowing down and really thinking about what to make each day and getting the most out of everything has been highly therapeutic for me.   I know I will come away from this experience a better grocery shopper. A more efficient grocery shopper. Because I'd rather spend more time in the kitchen cooking than cruising up and down the aisle filling my basket with things that I don't need.

As for the other aspect of the Slow Month, eliminating the influx of stuff into our apt , I have figured out the best plan. I go out without my bank card. No cash. Nothing but my keys, phone, and identification. The biggest temptation for me to shop is when I'm on my walks with Max. I went out on a walk with a friend today and it felt good to have that weight lifted off me. The only thing I could think about was getting home and creating my vegetable soup from scratch.   

I just realized we don't have any bread....

First day of my Slow Month and I realize that we don't have any bread!   I guess I'm going to try to make bread. *gulp*

I have some yeast. I have some flour. What else do I need?

Thank goodness for the internet.  While the boy naps,  I'm off to figure out the art of making bread.

*edit* Riana brought up a good point to me about making bread. It costs more to operate your oven than to go and buy a baguette (1 euro at our local boulangerie).  The little things like electricity consumption is something I never really pay attention to...until now. I may allow that we buy bread this month but I will still try to make a loaf myself. Just to see if I can do it....

So, I am going to try something called a Slow Month.

Our trip to the US has caught up with us, finacially speaking. In between the sleepless nights we spent our days going out to eat, seeing friends and shopping.  This always happens when we go home. Target, Walmart, shopping malls they all beckon to us... come and spend and spend a lot!  And with the Euro being so strong against the Dollar, everything was even cheaper for us.

But now my husband who is in charge of our finances comes to me at dinner tonight saying we need to be reasonable this month.  He says this to me after I went to the grocery store and had the half the store delivered to us. We needed a lot of things that we don't normally buy on a regular bases like laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, Max's milk (which is freakin' expensive!) and in all honesty, we were pretty bare bones and I needed to stock up on the staples again. As we sat eating chili dinner ( I made 4 meals worth, three meals are in the freezer now) and talking money, I thought about my friend, Riana and her amazing life living a Slow Year. Read the right side module of her blog where she explains what a Slow Year is. She is not spending money on anything. Just a small amount to get staples like her baby's milk each week. Every thing else she either barters at her local market, zwaggles with her mama friends or makes it herself.  She inspires me so much. So, while my husband is  explaining our financial situation I was thinking about a recent post Riana wrote about where to start a Slow Year? Getting you started on living a slower life without so much consumerism.

Since I've met Riana I've been adding a little slowness to my life, bit by bit.  Max wears only cloth diapers now. We no longer use sponges or paper towels. We take recycling seriously. We are trying to buy locally grown veggies and fruits.  This is a small part but I'm thinking I'm ready to step it up a bit and do a slow month. A month of no shopping. No going out to eat. No grocery shopping. No extra spending. Of course, if we need to go to the doctor, we will.

Two nights ago, Julien and I went through a mad cleaning fit because of all the stuff we had laying around. We have so. much. freaking. stuff! And it just makes our apt look cluttered and tired.  We must stop the influx of stuff into our lives and purge the clutter that is engulfing our apartment.  I think I will have enough to keep me busy this month. A photo project. My personal project. A slow month. Maximilien. And losing Le Muffin Maximus.

If we can get through one month of slowness, I think it will really show us we can live without all this stuff and hopefully change us and the way we live everyday.