J. and I are not, by nature, extravagant people.  We don’t spend lots of money on the usual things — cars, clothes, gadgets, vacations.  We own both of our modest cars outright (and both have well over 100,000 miles to their credit); we barely have a working cell phone, and it hasn’t been replaced since we were given the “free” model in 2005; we each own one pair of jeans.  So we try not to spend a whole ton of money on Christmas, either.

It’s hard, with kids.  You want to give them the world, and while we know of course that lots of presents won’t necessarily make their lives better, there is something to the fun of shopping for them and watching them open up all those packages on Christmas morning that just pushes the little parenting buttons deep inside and makes you feel…well…kind of awesome.  We don’t skimp on the gifts.  But we DO bargain-hunt, set priorities, and keep to a strict budget that allows each of the boys a generously stuffed stocking and a few decent quality gifts to unwrap beneath the tree.  We also decided, years ago, that the two of us didn’t need to exchange gifts, so we each take $50 and try to stuff the BEST STOCKING EVER for the other one with the budget we’ve got.  That helps keep Christmas costs low, too (besides being a lot of fun).

Still, each year it seems that despite the fact that we’ve done what we feel is reasonable to keep things in check, the money spent is…Blech.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s spent, and that’s that.  This year, as I was hunting down deals for the things on the boys’ lists, I started running through a mental checklist of our expenses and realized that the one always-variable major expense in our household happens to be the grocery bill.  And suddenly, I knew what we needed to do to feel less…blech…about the Christmas shopping.

We’re just not going to shop.

No, seriously.  *Deep breath*  For the entire first week of December, J. and I are not going to buy any groceries.  We are going to live on what we have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer, and it’s going to be…interesting.  But GREAT.  And stressful, maybe.  But SUPER GREAT.  More importantly, one week of grocery shopping abstention should very nearly equal out to what we spend on one of the children.  Then, at the end of the month when we’re visiting family for the holidays, we’ll have another week of natural shopping hiatus… hopefully leaving us very close to dead-even by the time the New Year hits.  At least, that’s the goal.

So pardon, friends, the lack of fully fleshed-out “plan” here.  I’ve done what I can for the middle of the month; the rest will be a learning experience, which I’ll obviously report on as soon as it’s over!

Saturday, 12/1 THROUGH Friday, 12/7: Pantry/Freezer Challenge

Good thing I prepped and froze all those tomatoes and vegetables this summer…

Saturday, 12/8: I’ve got rehearsal all afternoon and a performance in the evening, so I’ll be leaving homemade chicken fingers and some roasted vegetables for the family.
Sunday, 12/9: Porchetta, salad, and vegetables
Monday, 12/10: Whole wheat pasta with sweet potatoes and red peppers
Tuesday, 12/11: Slow cooker — “Midwest” Chicken and lentil soup, cornbread
Wednesday, 12/12: Weekend warmup — Chicken parmigiana, salad
Thursday, 12/13: Panini and fruit cobbler

Friday, 12/14: Fend night
Saturday, 12/15: Cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries
Sunday, 12/16: Sunday Roast Chicken dinner
Monday, 12/17: Minestrone soup and chicken pesto wraps

Quick Minestrone Soup and Wheat Breadsticks

Tuesday, 12/18: Quick chicken stir-fry over brown rice noodles
Wednesday, 12/19: Weekend warm-up — Turkey tacos
Thursday, 12/20: Breakfast for dinner
Friday, 12/21: We’re planning a special surprise for the kids that will require a picnic dinner in the car.  I’m thinking Thermoses of roasted tomato soup, roast beef sandwiches on crusty bread, homemade cinnamon applesauce, and sliced vegetables.
Saturday, 12/22 THROUGH Friday, 12/28: Holiday Hiatus!
Saturday, 12/29:
Spaghetti and salad
Sunday, 12/30: Meatloaf and crispy potatoes, vegetables
Monday, 12/31: New Year’s Eve!  It’ll be kids’ choice for their dinner, and I’ll dream up something extra-special to make for me and J. after the boys are in bed.