Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Buy February: The Rules

I jump started a discussion on My Folia (where I journal my gardening) and on my personal Facebook page, and discovered that there's a lot of anxiety about this idea of not buying stuff. "No Valentine's presents?" "Can I buy a heat mat for my seedlings?" "This is the one time of year when we splurge!" "Can I buy things that I use to make other things?" et cetera.

So on this first day of February (Imbolc or Candlemas in the celestial calendar, for those who keep track), I thought I'd try some clarifications.

1. What do you need? First and foremost, this is not about spending no money. It's about mindful spending. Don't buy what you don't need. If you have a major seed starting project for your summer garden, and you're out of fluorescent bulbs or starter mix, then this would be something you need, because February is seed starting month in a lot of places. If you're in Chicago and the sole comes off your boots, you need boots. Buy away!

2. When do you need it? I don't care if it's on sale, or you're afraid it won't be at the store in a month. You can't buy it if you don't need it now. So, no bathing suits unless you're heading to the Caribbean.

3. Do you already have it? Sole-less boots you can buy. A second pair of boots, no. If it's something you've been planning to replace, well, hold off for a month. Make it do, for now.

4. Can you make it? This is your Valentine's Day and February birthday category. Make a gorgeous dinner, a spectacular card, bake a cake, or paint a pot that you already have as a gift for the gardener in your life. You don't have to give up giving. You just have to give up buying what you (and your loved ones) don't need. For the cooks among you, or the really committed, I'll throw snacks in here. You can live for a month without buying potato chips.

5. Were you planning to buy it before you left the house? If not, then it's an impulse buy. Leave it on the shelf. Corollary to this, was it in the budget already. A completely self-serving rule, this would cover things like piano or, um, figure skating lessons for the kids. (Thanks, Gwen)

6. Is it from the Target Dollar Spot? Never buy anything from here again. Items from the Dollar Spot are unnecessary almost by definition.

7. Do you think you'll still be using it in 6 months (or if a seasonal item, at this time next year)? If not, then you don't need it.

In the end, you need to define this challenge for yourself. Don't let me tell you what you need. But that's the point. You shouldn't cede that power to the marketers, either.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf
Adapted from Orangette

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary, ground fine
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin purée (or cooked, puréed—until very smooth—winter squash, yams, or sweet potatoes), at room temperature
½ cup coarsely chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease (with butter or cooking spray) a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix water and flavor extracts. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add honey, and beat on medium speed until lightened in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add pumpkin purée, and beat on low speed until just blended. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the water-flavorings mixture in two parts, beating on low until smooth and just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Fold in almonds. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly across the top.

Bake about one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for five or ten minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.


  1. I'm rather proud to have walked away from some sale blueberries I almost mindlessly purchased today so thank you! I'm struggling but I hope to get through the month o.k.

    I'm going to definitely give those muffins a try! YUM!

  2. Julie-- exactly! Even at the grocery store, a perfectly acceptable place to shop, we mindlessly buy things because they are in front of us. I'm lucky to be of the last generation that sees fresh blueberries in February and goes, what the hell? You can't eat fresh blueberries in February!

  3. Xan, I just came across this post that had a more detailed examples of what to get or not get.

    I can see that I should have gone more homemade for the DH's moms B-day present, I did make the card and the bag that the presents are going in, plus knitted a pair of leg warmers but I could have gone the whole nine yards and made it all.

    On the other hand, that does answer the question I had about the buckets, yes they should both be in use in six months or a year from now so I think they were a good thing in the end.

    As we are not going off the farm tomorrow, week one by my count, I saved $ 107 compared to what I would have normally spent, i run a fairly tight budget, and so was able to make a list of things we didn't get this week. Will be interested to see if I can do better next week. The full report is up on my site if you want to read it.

  4. farmgal, that's amazing! One of the things I've been noticing is that I don't really buy anything that I don't eat, so I'm not laying away any extra money. Darn.