Week 3: “I sure hope you bought enough coconut.”

1. I spent a whopping $83.47 on human food this week, and $33.34 on dog food. Most of the human haul was from Costco, and I can’t stand going there, so I tried to get as much stuff as possible during this one Sunday morning trip. A lot of it was baking supplies (oats, honey, shredded coconut, dates), and raw almonds because I am going to try making my own almond milk. I hope that this will end up saving me time, money, and gas in the coming weeks. I also downgraded our Costco membership from the Executive to the Gold Star. Does anyone buy enough to make Executive membership worthwhile? Tell me your secrets.

2. I took a chunk of time this weekend to clean out the fridge and freezer. This was not on my list, but I discovered that my chest freezer had defrosted and I lost everything in it, so it became necessary. I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m still processing the loss. Plus it was gross. But it was good, in a way, because now I know exactly what I have.

3. I made this great carrot and lentil soup that was recommended by my friend Alison. I didn’t have enough red lentils for the recipe, so I made do with green lentils. I also added a rubbery parsnip from the depths of my crisper. I have eaten it twice so far, and it tastes much better than my regular Compost Soup.

That’s all for now. I’m about to get on a plane for work in a few minutes. Stay tuned for Monique Makes Do In Montreal!


Making the Cut

I did it.

I canceled my first credit card since beginning this experiment.

This is not a huge accomplishment. I hadn’t used it yet. It’s a card I applied for because I thought I might use it to buy stuff and earn points which I could exchange for more stuff. Since I am not buying any more stuff, I no longer need the card.

Still, it felt good.


Stuff about Stuff – Related Reading

I don’t read enough, so it’s handy to have pals who do. Imagine my delight when one of them agreed to write me a guest post!

Monica is a reader of books, a maker of lists, and a sprouter of avocado seeds. I asked her to share how she’s been making do lately:

“I am making do (and have been for the past three years) with a hand-me-down slow cooker. I believe it was a gift my parents received for their wedding so it’s over 30 years old. It’s a huge pain to clean (no removable ‘pot’ like new ones have) and I complain about it every time, but it still works, I only use it about once a month, and it really only takes an extra five or ten minutes to clean.”

(My wedding-gift slow cooker had a removable crock which cracked after five years, so I say stick with what works.)

You can and should read more of Monica’s stuff here.



In true librarian fashion, when I heard about Monique’s buy-nothing experiment, I immediately thought of relevant blogs, books, and other related resources. So here it is – a list of related reading to inspire, inform, and entertain.

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine (book) – Although the reviews on Good Reads aren’t great, I still found this book to be a useful read, and reasonably enjoyable. The author is surely writing from an “over privileged” perspective and her project is not without fault, but I still think it’s worthwhile. Read with a critical-eye and you’ll be all set.

Buy Nothing Year (blog/website) – Okay, so Monique isn’t the first to do this type of experiment. The premise is similar, although they planned to take it to the extreme by ceasing to purchase services in the second ‘phase’ and not buying food in the third ‘phase’. No food? The website states that they would eat only what is stocked in the pantry, what their friends cook for them, edible things they grow, and what they recover from a dumpster. The website hasn’t been updated since the six month mark (January 2014). According to this article in Forbes magazine they weren’t able to complete the third phase of their challenge as they, unsurprisingly, weren’t able to grow or find enough food to feed themselves. The blog itself is a bit “meh”, so I’d recommend reading the article in Forbes, rather than the blog posts.

The Minimalists.com (blog/website) – Minimalism and not buying things go hand in hand. Although a lot of the focus of many minimalism blogs is on getting rid of stuff, the easiest way to start is by not adding new stuff to the equation. In 2011, Joshua Milburn from The Minimalists made a New Year resolution to not buy any physical items for the entire year. There’s a great summary of his experience here: http://www.theminimalists.com/failure/

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan (book) – Although the focus of No Impact Man is on environmental impact, the themes of simplification, making do, and trying not to over-consume all ring true to the spirit of the buy-nothing experiment. There’s also a No Impact Man documentary, if you’d rather watch than read.

Over Dressed by Elizabeth Cline (book) – Not directly related to not buying stuff, but learning about the ‘behind the scenes’ of items we purchase, such as clothing can really help inspire less consumption. While it can be overwhelming to try to put what you learn in this book into practice (how can I really know where this came from? what is ‘right’ to buy? where should I spend my money? how do I know that spending more is actually buying a better quality garment that will last?), one way to solve all of this is to just not buy. Or at the very least, buy less.

Mister Money Mustache (blog) – Okay, I admit, this particular blog is only vaguely related to the buy-nothing experiment, but underlying a lot of Mister Money Mustache’s philosophies is the importance of frugality and his posts often touch on the theme of re-assessing what we spend our money on and thinking about why we spend in the way we do. Might I suggest the article Frugality is the New Fanciness or perhaps Luxury Is the New Weakness? At the very least, Mister Money Mustache provides some good ideas of what to do with all the extra money you’ll have once you stop spending it on “stuff”(spoiler alert: invest it!).

The Spending Fast (website/finance program) – The focus of the ‘spending fast’ from And Then We Saved is on eliminating debt and saving money, but the idea of cutting out superfluous spending can be helpful for anyone trying to limit their consumerism/consumption.

The Compact (social movement) – So it seems The Compact social movement has been around for a while. The rules are different, with a focus more on not buying *new* stuff (ie. thrift shopping is okay), but the general premise is the same.

Story of Stuff (video) – I’m sure many of you have seen this, but it’s a good reminder about where stuff comes from and where it goes when we’re done with it.

Just a reminder – no need to go out and buy any of these books. They’re more than likely available at your local public library. Happy reading (and watching)!

Pack It Up, Pack It In

This has nothing to do with not buying anything, but I was on the news today!


(You can watch it before the stream disappears. I am at the 14-minute mark.)

I was interviewed for the CBC about packing for airline travel in a carry-on, since two out of our three national carriers now charge for a passenger’s first checked bag. People are ticked.

There are two distinct types of frequent travelers: those who check everything, and those who check nothing. Anthony Bourdain is the former. I am the latter. I will never, ever pay to check a bag if I can help it.


I have been packing in a carry-on for years, and am now (apparently) an Expert. I will have many more opportunities to talk about making do while I travel, but this is a good introduction to my packing philosophy.

When in doubt, leave it out.

Second Chances

Back at the end of August, before this fool’s errand began, you may remember reading something about me having gone on a buying bender. Essentially, I ordered a bunch of crap on sale that I didn’t need, but I convinced myself that I deserved because I was preparing to be good for a whole year and I love fall clothes and it was my birthday and blah blah blah.

One of my packages didn’t arrive when it should have, and after inquiring with the company, I discovered it had never shipped from the point of distribution and was returned to the warehouse. I was encouraged to hurry, hurry! and re-order everything while it was still in stock, and they would guarantee the sale prices from two weeks ago.

Not a bad offer.


But not that tempting.

I cancelled.

Aren’t you proud of me?

Now someone tell me I won’t regret not having this to wear with my caramel-coloured blazer.


Week 2: It’s Not That Easy

1. The adoption of our rescue dog, Fred, was made final this week! Fred’s adoption fee was $300 which covers all the vetting, transport, and fostering that brought him to us. Money well spent.

2. I spent $32.70 this week on food for people and dogs. It felt like a high-spend week, but I think it was maybe because I went shopping multiple times. There were definitely some impulse purchases (BOGO cheese) and I really had no concept of what high-quality dog treats cost. I will be looking into some homemade options.

3. I filled up my car for $45.26, and it got used every day. Hoping to do better next week.

4. The second batch of my whole wheat rolls turned out better, although my son and husband had no problem eating the first batch. Like exercise, I think I will see the most progress in this beginning phase of baking. I am still taking note of all your recipes and tips. Filling the flour cup measure with a spoon was a game-changer.

5. I went to a friend’s baby shower today and she got a bunch of great stuff. They did a cool thing where instead of cards, the couple asked for a book with an inscription to help build the baby’s library. I am pro. I don’t do cards if I can avoid them and I find this both smart and conscientious. The baby has a trans-Atlantic flight coming up over Christmas this year, so I chose a book from our own library that my son had loved on his plane rides when he was smaller. Gifts are on the no-buy list, so I made the baby a hat.


Saturday Slump

I think it’s important to start by saying that I did not fall off the wagon.

I have had the kind of day that, two short weeks ago, would have sent me to Target just for the peace and quiet. And I would have bought stuff there. And I wouldn’t have cared.

The dog hasn’t been well today, so I’ve been keeping a close eye on him, and my son must have decided upon waking this morning that he just wasn’t going to listen all day.

I started the day with a to-do list a mile long, and maybe one-tenth of it got done. Some days that wouldn’t bug me. I don’t know why it’s bugging me so much today.

I just don’t want to hear the sound of my own voice for at least the next eight hours.

This is the first day I have felt the desire to buy something. Anything, really, that would get me out of the house. Instead, I’m sitting on the couch with my laptop (I really hope this thing lasts the year), dwelling on my lousy day which really wasn’t all that bad, and wondering how in the world I am going to keep this up for 50 more weeks.