Please, all bow your heads and pray for our humble family as we attempt to do the impossible: make it through the entire month of February without spending a penny. Or a dollar. Or anything in between.
The Red-Headed Girl of My Dreams came up with this idea after hearing about it from another family that does it every year. Presumably, February is the month of choice because it has the fewest days.
Leave it to our family, however, to pick the very February that has 29 days to launch into this experiment in absolute deprivation.
Now, before the folks over at Child Protective Services start raising an eyebrow, rest assured that the young children in our family will be fed on a regular basis. There is a full year’s supply of extra-chunky peanut butter in the pantry in case of emergency and several half-gallons of rocky road ice cream in the freezer in case we feel the need to party.
Yes, there was a certain degree of “stocking up” on Jan. 31. This wasn’t intended to be a 29-day fast on the desert. I mean, Lent is still several weeks away. But it is an attempt to cut down on discretionary spending, partly just to see if we can do it and partly out of dire necessity, the mother of all good ideas.
Before we agreed to this experiment, there could be all sorts of perfectly reasonable things to eat in the house, and yet off we’d go to our local gourmet grocer for a quart of milk or a loaf of French bread to complement the meal, and the next you know we’ve spent $161.77.
No more. At least not in February.
We started the month with a full tank of gas, with a vow to not get a refill until March rolls around. That means the van sits idly in the driveway, wondering if it’s being punished for some unknown transgression. Walking to school has become the norm.
And while you can still get pizzas and groceries and Thai food delivered directly to your door without burning a drop of gas, that won’t work very well for us since the folks delivering the food expect to be paid. And, in case you forgot, we’re not spending any money in the month of February. (Tithing on Sunday mornings excepted.)
No popcorn and bon-bons at the movies. Oops, I forgot. No movies, period. No stopping at Target for a dispenser of Scotch tape or a tube of toothpaste. Sadly, no more Happy Meals.
If I could figure out a way to get to Costco without burning any gas, there are enough free samples offered to cover breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire family. Plus dessert.
If you can make it to Blue Diamond in Sacramento, you’ll get a complimentary snack of high-calorie almonds, and the Jelly Belly tour in Fairfield is also an option is you wish to freely service your sweet tooth. Transportation, however, is again a problem.
Nugget will give each of the kids a free cookie — and mom and dad free samples of the Cheese of the Day — if you don’t feel awkward walking in and out of a store without buying anything.
And I’m sure before this month is over we’ll all be lining up at Baskin-Robbins downtown asking if we can have a “taste” of Jamocha Almond Fudge.
Friday night sleepovers are at someone else’s house this month, and hopefully the folks hosting our kids will fill them up with pancakes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch before depositing them back on our doorstep on Saturday morning.
I know that the Hallmark Inn serves a massive, made-to-order complimentary breakfast to its hotel guests, and I’m thinking of sauntering in there in my pajamas early one morning to see if the chef checks your room key before scrambling your eggs.
Hearing of our plight, our friend Don at the Redwood Barn, a renowned master nurseryman and all-around good guy, has sent a list titled “Edibles by Month.”
On the February list are all sorts of oranges, mandarins, limes, lemons, tangelos, tangerines and grapefruits — not to mention something called “calamondin” — but I’m not sure how to get any of those planted and bearing fruit before the end of the month.
Also listed are beets, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, spinach and turnips, all of which are odd, since the list claims to be of “edibles.”
We haven’t told our East Davis neighbors of our grand experiment, since we don’t want them eyeballing the kids for scurvy or leaving casseroles on the doorstep. As if any of them can cook.
Honestly, we haven’t told anyone at all what we’re doing, so if you’re reading this, please keep it to yourself.
And if you’re standing behind me in line at Jack in the Box as I order a double Outlaw Burger, curly fries and a chocolate shake, please, please, please don’t tell my sweetheart.
She’s serious about this. And so am I.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org