Fun Times, Freebies, and Food Waste

On Work-Free-Wednesday we went to Nashville for yet another Freebie Fun Date. This one began with free bagels from Panera. I’m not sure how I lucked into an entire month of free bagels, but nevertheless, we cashed in on our good fortune.


Shortly after breakfast, we made our way downtown to the Nashville Public Library for Thinking Out of the (Lunch) Box, a series of free “lunch and learn” discussions hosted by Vanderbilt University. This one happened to be on a topic near to our heart – food waste – and particularly what the Nashville community is doing to curb it.

We met a lot of interesting folks doing a lot of great work, including Tallu Quinn of the Nashville Food Project and Matthew Beadlecomb from Compost Nashville. Compost Nashville is a great program for people who want to compost but lack the space to do it. For $35/month, they will pick up your compostable waste once a week and in return they will bring you compost soil twice a year (about 75 pounds of soil per visit). If you can’t use the soil, they will donate it to a community garden project.

Right now, only 24% of waste is recycled or composted in Nashville but initiatives are underway in city government and with various nonprofits, like Resource Capture, to increase that number. ReCap will be breaking ground on an anaerobic digester this year that will create both energy and soil amendments from food scraps. The Nashville Food Waste Initiative is helping restaurants reduce their waste by providing software tools that track waste and its associated costs. And for home composters like us, Nashville Public Works sells kitchen bins and backyard composters at a discount price.

Along with the great information, we got a free box lunch, which included half of a turkey or veggie sandwich, chips, a cookie, and a bottle of water. Ever the observers of human behavior, Angie and I watched the room while we ate to see just how many people would toss out some portion of their lunch at a food waste discussion. There were some, including the couple in front of us, but thankfully, not many (since Angie was ready to dig through the trash for any discarded oatmeal raisin cookies).

fristcenterAfter lunch, we walked to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on Broadway. They are offering free admission until February 9th since they are transitioning their exhibits. We were able to see the 2016 Young Tennessee Artists exhibit and Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors, a multi-screen video installation of musicians performing together from various rooms in a large mansion – including the bathtub. It was…interesting (???). I’m not very good at interpreting artistic expression but I am always open to expanding my horizons…especially when it’s free.

Our Freebie Fun Date cost $19. We gave a $10 donation to the library for the “lunch and learn” and paid $9 in parking. On the way home though, we stopped by Sam’s Club to pick up some creamer for my mom and once again lucked into a paid pop-up survey from Surveys On the Go and an Easy Shift, for which we earned a total of $8.25 – making our cost for the day only $10.75.

On a similar but different note, I wanted to give a shout-out to our friends at Decluttering the Stuff who are hosting a Super Lean Spending Month Challenge. There’s still time to get in on the game. We’re in. Are you?

January Recap

January is always one of my favorite months of the year. It’s a time of new beginnings and birthdays – mine, my mom’s, Angie’s mom’s, and a lot of our very good friends.

After focusing only on our finances for an entire year, it’s kind of refreshing to talk about something else in our recap for a change. Improving happiness – that’s our goal this year – and to do that we’re working our Happiness Project Bucket List. Here are some of the highlights of our first month.

The Good

  • Bullet journaling is going great. I love it!
  • Our decluttering efforts have really paid off. We’ve removed 150 items from our home. Some we gave to the kids, who are moving into their new house next week, some we sold on Ebay (resulting in $55 to put toward our upcoming vacation), and the rest we donated to charity.
  • We each read 3 books. Check out my page or Angie’s page on Goodreads for more details.
  • I posted 10 articles to the blog and kept up with our Instagram and Facebook pages.
  • We walked 59.6 miles and hiked 3.6 miles.
  • We came up with Work-Free Wednesdays and Freebie Fun Dates as a way to focus on taking time out for ourselves and each other. We spent a total of $21.58 on 4 weekly dates that each included lunch at a restaurant and an activity like bowling, hiking, or playing board games.
  • We watched 2 documentaries this month: Minimalism: A Documentary and Food Choices.
  • csa-basketAngie tried sweet potato fries for the first time (she didn’t like them) and I tried dried kiwi (I wasn’t a fan). Together we enjoyed 15.5 totally meatless days. We also signed up for our Spring/Summer CSA share, which we’re really excited about. One of my high-school classmates and her husband operate a small family farm nearby. They are offering their first CSA this year, with pick-up at the Farmer’s Market. Though we loved our CSA partner last year, this one is nearly 1/2 the price for the same amount of produce. And we already know that we love their veggies. They were our back-up supplier last year.
  • We planned our first trip of the year – a week in Florida in March to visit our friends and take in a Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training game. This trip will be almost completely funded by reward points and easy side hustles…but more on that later.
  • Speaking of side hustles, we gave up our regular merchandising hustle this month. We decided it was one of the things interfering with our happiness so we bid them adieu. Instead, we completed a few Easy Shifts and Field Agent assignments at our leisure, earning $98.95.
  • I reinstated the Mom-velope and managed to stay within budget ($20) for those one-off grocery trips for my mom.

The Not-so-Good

  • Learning to say “no” is still a very active process and we’ve had a lot of practice this month. To help, I took some steps to make it harder for me to just give money to certain family members when they ask, including cancelling the card we were using for transfers and printing out a list of free services in our area where they could turn for help. However, we said “yes” on one occasion where we both felt the better answer was “no” and we had a pretty rough evening because of it.
  • The ground was too wet and muddy for most of the month so we didn’t get to go on as many hikes as we would have liked.

The Budget 

We went back to basics with our budget this month. As I mentioned in a post last week, we didn’t try to give every dollar a name or a job this time around. Instead, we took out our grocery money and cash on the first and, with the exception of 2 gas purchases, left our account alone for the next 30 days. Our bills, savings, and investments are all automatically withdrawn. The results were phenomenal. We came in $192 under budget!

We also enjoyed 19 “no spend days”. In looking at our spending for January though, we only had 2 purchases that were not groceries or experiences. Because of this, I may rethink how we’re counting our “no spend days” for the coming months. Those 2 non-essential purchases – a board game for our newly instituted “game night” ($14.68) and a 16-pack of gel pens for bullet journaling ($4.94).

How was your January?