Year of Zero – third quarter review

Well accountability partners, it’s the end of September already and time for my 3rd quarter review of the Year of Zero. This year is simultaneously dragging on at a snail’s pace and flashing before our eyes like a racing car. COVID19 remains in the headlines and continues to cause massive disruption. 

It’s hard not to become complacent about hygiene and social distancing restrictions. However, it is obvious the impact will be long-lived and wide-ranging. 

My Year of Zero and the resultant frugality has given me some stability and a focus for my energies which have (as I have reported) been waning. I am on track to achieve my savings goal. 

3 old fridges being used as mailboxes!
Repurposing fridges as letter boxes

My self-report in the declared categories follows:

  1. No overseas travel

Once again nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! An easy win!

Score: 10/10

  1. No extended travel within Australia

I have had some short intrastate trips this quarter. 

  • Twice to visit family on the mid-North Coast,
  • An overnight stay on Cockatoo Island 
  • A weekend jaunt to Armidale with family 
  • When this post is published I will be in Broken Hill with a friend. 

These trips fit in with my allowed short adventures category and have been within the budget set. Plus I can add that I have been helping the economies of our struggling tourist sector.

The Old Leyland  P76!
The Old Leyland p76 in a scrap metal pile!

Score: 10/10

  1. No new stuff

My goal is to buy no new items and only replace things that have broken or worn out. I have done better this quarter than at the half-year review.

Allowed items: 

  • I did some more wardrobe decluttering and bought a couple of new-to-me items from the op shop.
  • I had to buy another new car seat for my Grandson because the other new one I got was not suitable and a bit uncomfortable.

Items not on the list:

  • I bought three new books. I did originally borrow them from the library but ended up deciding to buy them as reference books. 
  • Some silicone muffin cases to cut down on using single-use patty cases. 
  • A replacement for the travel cup I made before and then smashed 🙁

Score: 8/10

  1. Reduction in expenditure on groceries

After a big hit last quarter, I made some really good savings this time around. I was able to live from my pantry and freezer for another  6 weeks. I managed to use up everything this time and I did very little cooking. I bought some fruit and fresh green veggies and that was it. It wasn’t the most interesting menu BUT I feel good that I wasn’t wasting stuff. 

Score: 10/10

  1. Side Hustle Happenings

I may as well just copy what I wrote last time. Except for one course at the community college, all my earnings came from the day job.

Score: 2/10

  1. Only sign up for free courses

I only did one course this quarter. A Mindfulness in Schools course. It wasn’t free, but my school paid for it so, theoretically it was free for me. I didn’t sign up for any other courses, not even free online ones. I am not sure whether that means I should give myself 10/10 or 0/10 for not doing anything new?

On reflection one of the books I borrowed was about how to meditate so this was almost like a course….

As I wrote in some earlier posts, my motivation has been running pretty low. I watched a lot of Netflix this quarter.

Score: 6/10 (as a compromise)

  1. Sell some of my stuff

Once again not really possible. 

Score: 1/10

  1. Concentrate on free activities

If you count Netflix as a free activity I aced this one! I’ve watched SO much telly this quarter. Some new (to me) series like Schitt’s Creek, Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid Heat. (Amazing!!), Line of Duty Season 5. Crappy movies, re-watching some old favourites like Offspring and so much more I can’t remember.  I didn’t even have the energy to be inventive in the vein of my Hugh Grant Film Festival. I just vegged! 

Score: 10/10

  1. Rewrite/revisit my 60 for 60 goals

I can cross off Broken Hill road trip and astrophotography this quarter. Not free but it’s two more items off the list. 

Score: 6/10

  1. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

I am maintaining a steady course with this goal. My zero-waste kit has come in handy several times now. I have stopped using tea bags, and single-serve coffee mixes replacing them with loose leaf tea and ground coffee. A double win here as it tastes better as well as saving on waste. My goal is to continue to find more ways to reduce plastic packaging. I have found a way to recycle the plastic blister packs from my contact lenses locally.  

Score: 7/10

  1. Year of Zero Booze

Winner winner chicken dinner! Still going strong with no booze and on 30th September it will be 276 days. Kombucha, the occasional zero alcohol beer and herbal tea are still doing the trick. 

Score 10/10

This quarter my score on the frugal-o-meter is once again 67%! It certainly seems like I’m a glass three quarters full person!

Year of Zero – Half Yearly Review

Time for the half-yearly review already??? It’s hard to believe that I am halfway through my Year of Zero. 2020 has, so far, been a very challenging year for the planet and its peoples.  After fires and floods, we faced disease and now there are riots and civil unrest brought about by racism. What’s next? A second wave? An economic downturn for certain, after that who knows!

When I published my first quarter review back in March, the Coronavirus had just hit Australia and we were entering a period of lock-downs. Now, three months later things are returning to normal, or the new normal some of us are hoping for.

I have not been as focused on my savings goals as I would like to have been these last few months. There have been some legitimate distractions. I haven’t strayed too far, but I do feel like I have lost some traction.

Some of the slide has come about because I was not prepared (or able) to go from place to place to do my grocery shopping. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible which meant reverting to shopping in one place and that one place was Woollies. I had been trying to avoid Woolworths in favour of using smaller more independent outlets.

Despite this lack of focus, I have saved money simply because it was not possible to go anywhere anyway! So here is my self-report in the declared categories for the three months from April – June.

The itemised half-yearly review:

1. No overseas travel

Nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! Given the current ban on travel, I might not be travelling next year either!

Score: 10/10

2. No extended travel within Australia

Once again, easily achieved! The furthest I have been from my home in the last three months is 90 km into Sydney to drop my Grandson off, 3 times. Otherwise, I have stayed in sunny Wollongong. I was booked to go on a cruise to nowhere to celebrate a friend’s 50th, but I pulled out due to work commitments and then it was cancelled anyway.

Score 10/10

3. No new stuff.

I haven’t done so well in this area. I bought several items which did not fit into the categories I had set myself. (Essential, secondhand and only replacing broken or worn out items)

I bought some brand new items. (GASP!!)

  • Firstly, a plastic bread slicing guide. Apart from the fact that it was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be, it seemed like a reasonable purchase.  I have been doing lots of iso-baking (as has the rest of the world) but I can’t cut bread to save myself. I guess I could have just practised cutting the bread more carefully.
  • I designed a souvenir coffee mug, just for the fun of it.
  • A new book – on reducing kitchen waste
  • I paid for some custom made key rings to use as gifts.
  • And of course, I bought a few NEW things for my Grandson! (eg Lego)

coffee cup
You have to admit that’s pretty funny!

The items that did fit in the restricted category were,

  • A replacement iron after my old one shorted out the electricity. I had to call an electrician but thankfully I was able to re-set it myself after about an hour of unplugging everything and plugging it all back in one item at a time.
  • Some winter clothes to make up for the things I got rid of as part of another massive wardrobe cull.
  • A replacement phone case and screen protector,
  • Expensive socks,
  • A new booster seat for my grandson, he’s outgrown the old one and I need to keep him safe.
  • Fabric to make tea cosies.

Score: 4/10

4. Reduction in Expenditure on Groceries

This is the area that took the biggest hit. Returning to Woolies and the inability to use cash* meant that I did not keep such a tight reign on grocery expenditure. I went over my budget 4 out of 8 fortnights in this time period. On the other hand, for almost a full month, I was living out of my pantry and freezer and only bought a few fresh items. Perhaps with the swings and roundabouts, I broke even.

Score 5/10 

* most retailers were insisting on contactless payments.

5. Side Hustle Happenings

Not much happened here. The photography business, OCE generated no income and no apparent interest. I did sell a few of my postcards and A (single) tea cosy through Etsy but taking into account the cost of materials, I am still running at a loss there. The courses I had scheduled for the local Community College were cancelled. I pitched a few story ideas but had no luck. To be perfectly honest I don’t think this side of things will get off the ground till I am done with the day job.

Score: 5/10

6. Only sign up for free courses

I did for a free TAFE NSW course and completed it in a couple of days. I also signed up for three more courses through Future Learn. I finished 2 of them. One on Disaster Preparation was not relevant to Australian conditions so I didn’t bother completing it. The nutrition course was disappointing as it was quite outdated and I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. The third course on science writing was good but again not something I hadn’t already covered in a paid course a few years ago.

I did pay for an online gym membership BUT this was because I could not go to the gym. My gym provided a 60-day free trial to Les Mills on Demand, in lieu of access and after this expired, I paid for another 30 days as they were still not open. (They reopened on the 22nd June).  I have actually made a net gain here. ($40 so don’t get too excited!) The online classes were good and I enjoyed them, but being at the actual gym is better.

Score 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

Not possible. COVID restrictions meant you could not do this sort of stuff. I did sell one of the kombucha kits to someone at work.

Score: 1/10

8. Concentrate on free activities

This was easy!!! I couldn’t do much else! My trivia buddies and I tried a few virtual quiz nights, but everything else was cancelled. I did splurge on hiring and/or buying movies for the Hugh Grant Film Festival.  In total this was around $60 and I am counting these as experiences.

Score 7/10

9. Rewrite my 60 for 60 goal

My 60 for 60 list is a work in progress. I did do a big jigsaw. That’s one more ‘free’ item ticked off. When I look through the list now, many items seem irrelevant. Perhaps it’s time to admit the list was ill-conceived and start a new one altogether?

Score: 0/10

10. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

No new wins and no losses to report. I am doing OK here. I am continuing to reduce the amount of packaged food I buy and I am making more things from scratch. I have got better at bread making and have abandoned the automated breadmaker for fully hand prepared bread which tastes good! I have found an excellent recipe for focaccia. My freezer is well stocked with baked goods. I have been literally clearing out my fridge before I go shopping again and have only had to toss some food scraps that would not fit in the worm farm. I have switched tea bag tea for loose leaf tea.

My zero-waste kit did not get a work out as I did not eat anywhere that required them. I took lunch to work every day, ate at home every night up until 4 June when I went on my first ‘going out adventure’ to the pub!

Score: 6/10

11. Year of Zero Booze

By the time this is published it will be 184 days since I have had any alcohol. This has become a no effort resolution. I have switched kombucha for herbal tea as the weather has cooled down, and since I have not been out, its been easy to avoid social situations where drinking is the norm. I have genuinely enjoyed a few zero alcohol beers. A friend gave me some zero alcohol wine, which they had bought accidentally. It seems a waste of calories. I’d rather do without.

Score: 10/10 

So once again my total score on the very arbitrary scale is 67%. I didn’t even try to manufacture that! It just happened!

I am on track to make my year-end savings target but only just!  In previous years, travel has been by far my biggest expense and this is where I’ll make my biggest savings.  The remaining items are just tinkering around the edges, but still, with diligence, the savings will add up to few thousand dollars over the year.

Goals for next quarter.

  1. To return to a more focused approach to grocery shopping, once everything is reopened.
  2. Buy NOTHING that does not fit the criteria.
  3. Sell a few items. I have an idea, that may be too challenging, to raise $1000 in a month by selling some “stuff”. I’ll think about it….I will make it an action step and first make an inventory of sell-able items and get them onto the local buy-swap-sell site.
  4. Do the side hustle thing! Really really!
  5. Win the lottery!

 

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen – Book Review

As my Year of Zero approaches it’s halfway point, I must confess that I have bought a book! Yes, a brand new one! Not even second hand! It’s a bit of a Catch 22 really. I said I was not going to buy anything new but then this book will help me with one of my other goals, which is to be more of an eco-warrior princess. The book The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen, by Lindsay Miles was published this month by Hardie Grant. It is a common-sense, no-nonsense guide on how to cut down  or maybe even eliminate kitchen waste. (depending on how warrior-like you choose to be!)

I have been following Lindsay’s blog, Treading My Own Path, for a few months now and I found her advice there very sound and helpful, so thought the book would be a good way to help  keep me on track to achieve my “be less wasteful” goals.

Lindsay approaches the less waste issue with a huge dollop of realism. She is not into naming and shaming. She sets out her philosophy in her introduction:

“ [the] purpose [of this book] is to give you ideas and tools to make changes and feel positive about the things you can do and not guilty about the things you can’t do”.

Less Fuss No WasteThe 223-page softcover book is full of practical ideas. It is divided into five chapters. There are lovely pastel illustrations throughout and plenty of charts and tables to make things easy to understand.

Part 1 gives a recount of our modern industrial food system and why it is no longer sustainable. (If it ever was) Supermarkets are full of abundant and relatively cheap food which is available all year round. Fruits like cherries which were once only available at Christmas time are now shipped in thousands of kilometres from the Northern Hemisphere. Hardly sustainable! While there is a lot of food, our choices are limited to those species ‘selected’ for their high yields, durability and size not unfortunately for their flavour.

The next three chapters look at separate categories where the consumer can take planet-positive actions.

Part 2 looks at how to reduce or remove packaging and plastic, Part 3 introduces carbon-friendly food choices and finally, Part 4 shows how you can reduce your food waste by careful storage, and using as much of your food as possible. This incidentally will save you money as well.

The final section Part 5: Getting started in your (less waste no fuss) kitchen, gives the reader ideas on how to plan meals, how to avoid single-use items and simple recipes for things you can make yourself.

Lindsay does not suggest that you start with an all or nothing approach but rather tackle what you feel most comfortable with first. That may be as simple as remembering to take your own bags to the supermarket or buying from a bulk food store. As you master one thing you can move on to include something a little more robust like reducing your intake of animal foods or buying only plastic-free produce from the farmer’s market.

Lindsay categorises potential actions by ”fuss level” from Fuss Level + to Fuss Level +++.

For instance, if you want to concentrate on reducing plastic packaging, a Fuss + option would be to “Take a stand: pick one grocery item that only comes packaged in plastic and stop buying it altogether.” The Fuss +++ version would be to make the item, like crackers for example, from scratch.

It’s an easy, enjoyable read that I’d recommend dipping in and out of as often as you like. It’s a reference book rather than a novel. Keep it handy in your kitchen. Lindsay’s writing style is unpretentious, friendly and encouraging.

My goal is to make more from scratch and reduce the amount of food I throw out. To this end, I am planning my meals more carefully, sticking to a list and buying what I can in bulk. I’ll definitely be trying out some of Lindsay’s cracker recipes! My biggest stumbling block is reducing the amount of plastic packaging I have, even though I am making a conscious effort to reduce it. It’s everywhere! My next action will be to try a home delivered fruit and vegetable box. This should reduce my packaging a bit.

Go to Lindsay’s website to see where you can order your copy.