I challenged myself with a No Spend Week Challenge early in the year to push myself a little harder to see what happens if I try to not buy anything for a week. You can read about the rules and exceptions I've set for myself for this challenge.
Here's how the challenge went.
My No Spend Week Challenge Journal
Sunday: I woke up early as usual and made breakfast. I made a large burrito using some salami and cheese that I found in the fridge and topped off with scrambled eggs. Easy peasy! I spent the rest of the morning watching shows on Netflix while sipping some Pu'er tea. Lunch was instant noodles with frozen dumplings that I found in the freezer. I spent the rest of the afternoon strolling along Bishan Park. The weather was nice and breezy. I then returned home for dinner. First day completed with ease!
Monday: The first work day of the week went by faster than I expected. I skipped breakfast as I'm trying to fast intermittently in the early part of the day and have lunch as my first meal of the day. I found a can of cream of mushroom in the pantry that's been around for a long time and decided to cook that for lunch. I added chopped up bits of winter salami that I bought in Budapest during last year's vacation and the combination worked like a charm. I also toasted some garlic bread to go with the soup as well. When you have a fixed schedule like work, time goes by really quickly before it's time to go home. The only change I made today is that instead of going to the shopping mall after work, I headed home straight away to avoid being tempted to spend money.
Tuesday: Day 3 had a different challenge on its own. I found that we have way too many frozen dumplings (my mum seemed to love buying them) so I decided to make them for lunch. I purchased a bottle of Lao Gan Ma chilli because we ran out (so that didn't break any rules) and made a very basic version of Sichuan Spicy Wonton in Red Oil (红油抄手) for lunch. I also brought along the last 2 char siew pau (I don't think they would last very long in the fridge so best to eat them) just in case the dumplings don't fill me up. The real challenge was a meeting with a headhunter at Starbucks to discuss about some of the roles that she wanted to recruit me for. I decided not to order drinks since it was a No Spend Week and the headhunter did not order any drinks as well. Maybe it was because the queue was long and it would be awkward for her to have a drink while the candidate wasn't having one. This might just be one thing I would consider making an exception for in future challenges.
Wednesday: Today was a tough one. I wanted to get back on my morning bike rides so I hopped on my bike and went cycling with my usual crew at 5 am in the morning. We did about 40 km and that made me crave for food. I resisted buying drinks at the rest stop and I was glad the water I had with me was just enough to last the ride. Back home, I found a packet of frozen prata in the freezer (who knew right?) so I made one for breakfast, together with a hard boiled egg. I prepared my work lunch last night since I was going cycling in the morning. Essentially just some dried noodles with a spicy chill sauce (using Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce with vinegar and soy sauce) coupled with a few meatballs. They worked really well for a packed lunch. I even made some Vietnamese quick pickled carrots as a side dish. Yummy!
Thursday: I screwed up! The day went well with a simple egg and spam burrito for lunch as I was planning to attend a lunch event. That didn't happen due to a morning meeting that went longer than expected. What I forgot was that I had agreed to a meeting in the evening and won't be home for dinner. So that means I had to break rule #1 which was no eating out. To keep the expense low, I decided to eat at a hawker center. Bummer!
Friday: Thank god it's Friday! This was probably the easiest No Spend day by far. I didn't even have to cook anything for lunch as there were leftover fried rice and braised pork belly from last night's dinner. I decided to do some grocery shopping for this weekend and bought a roasted spring chicken and a packet of mozzarella cheese. A roasted spring chicken is always my favourite grocery purchase because I can usually creatively transform one into 4-5 meals.
Saturday: Last day and although it was a weekend, I had no plans so I stayed at home and relax. I toasted some garlic bread for breakfast while making early preparations for lunch. I placed the roasted chicken bones from the roasted spring chicken I bought last night in the slow cooker with cold water to make chicken broth. After a few hours in the pot, I added some vegetables into the broth to add more flavour. Once ready, I paired it with roasted chicken wings and a packet of udon. The day was spent catching up on China tv series while sipping Pu'er tea.
What I have learned in this challenge
I've learnt that it takes effort to truly excel in this challenge. In order to spend nothing on buying water, I had to remind myself to pack a bottle of water in my bag so that I could stay hydrated outdoors.
The ability to be creative with food ingredients and condiments plays a part as well because I had to be able to come up with 2-3 different dishes using similar ingredients so that I don't get sick of eating the same thing over and over again. However, I don't feel it's important to be a good cook because there are tons of recipes and cooking instructional videos online to follow.
Starting the challenge on Sunday made the challenge easier to follow through for beginners as opposed to starting the challenge on Monday and having the weekend together towards the end.
Would I do a No Spend Challenge again?
It really depends on the objectives.
If the goal of the challenge is to save money, I don't think I'd really save much since I've always been rather frugal with discretionary expenses.
But if the goal is to "eat down the pantry" and reduce the amount of food and ingredients in the pantry, I would deem the challenge worthy because it helps to reduce redundant foodstuff and wastage.
What do you think would be the biggest challenge for you if you were to challenge yourself with a No Spend Week Challenge?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below