The Power of a Good Cleanse

I got a bit trigger-happy this morning and published TWO posts, so be sure to also check out What I Learned at the Holiday Bazaar and we’ll hopefully back to our regular posting schedule on Monday! 🙂

Every January, after the holiday treat-eating, Mr. T and I go on a two-week food cleanse. Don’t worry, we’re not crazy. Let me explain what that means for us. We don’t juice. We don’t starve. Mainly, we focus on eating just fruits and vegetables. We condense Whole Living’s 28-day cleanses (there are several years available online, so we use all those resources for recipes) into just two weeks. We mainly do it to jumpstart our bodies. We eat so much wheat and so many carbs (cracked 7-grain oatmeal for breakfast, sandwich with homemade whole wheat bread for lunch, rice or pasta for dinner, etc.), so we take two weeks to give our body a break from processing the usual stuff. We cut out all meat, dairy, grains, eggs etc. After the first five days, we add back eggs and gluten-free grains. Also in January, we go on a spending cleanse. We pay for our cleanse produce and other food for the month and nothing more at the grocery store.

The point of the food cleanse is to re-think eating. Although it’s as close to dieting as I have ever come, there is no limit on our cleanse. I can eat fruits and vegetables all day long. We even allow ourselves delicacies we don’t often buy (kiwis! pineapples!). But because the cleanse has strict rules as to what we can eat, for two weeks we have to think about it before we open the cabinet to grab a snack in the afternoon or during a movie. The cleanse reveals our negative eating habits. Our spending cleanse does the same thing. Knowing that we can’t spend money, we see where we are about to pull out our credit cards and have to stop ourselves. These habits are re-examined when they are “not allowed” for a period of time.

Two weeks for us is just the right amount of time on the food cleanse. (Honestly, even that is quite difficult for a non-dieter like myself that really, thoroughly enjoys her carbs… with peanut butter, thankyouverymuch!) The spending cleanse lasts for the month. Nicola tracks No Spend Days. How many per month do you have? In January, other than our average bills, we try to get this as close to 31 as possible. Setting a specific, short time limit stops us from cheating but is enough to jump-start our year with conscious thinking about what we eat and how we spend. 

December is often a month of excess in both spend and food. I love a fresh start and starting every year with a cleanse turns January even more into a month of re-examination, goal-setting, and future-planning. Doing something different makes us get creative. Instead of finding a treat to eat during our movie nights, Mr. T and I pick two differently-shaped kiwis, slice each in half, and critique its flavor. In just two weeks, we have become kiwi connoisseurs. We also have to get creative with finances. We do spend money. But we have to go through rigorous review before the spending is allowed and even then, we get as creative as possible.

One example: Lui has been sleeping in a pack-n-play because Florin is in the toddler bed (which also turns into the crib). Just before Hawaii, Lui figured out how to get out of the pack-n-play (luckily I heard his bedroom doorknob jiggling!). This meant as soon as we got back, the crib had to be assembled and Florin needed a new bed (a simple one just enough to get her mattress off the heating vent and allow small storage boxes underneath). We examined the wood we had in the garage and used what we could there. For the extra wood and screws we would need, we used a Lowes gift card on which we had a few dollars. For the mattress, we picked up a thick foam pad from Fred Meyer’s for $20 with another gift card we got for Christmas. We looked at the resources (and gift cards) we already had and planned our project with those in mind. Though the project would have passed our review for money spending, we spent no actual money because we were in the mindset of thinking creatively. Starting the year with the spending cleanse helps us think creatively the rest of the year to reduce our spending. At the end of the cleanse, we are able to assess what we didn’t actually miss and the things we did (peanut butter on bread! waffles!) and plan our menu and our budget around those things.

One drastic move at the beginning of the year sets up our health and finances for the year ahead. We know how we feel after eating wholesome foods and ignoring junk and we know how we feel when we see more of our money going to our savings goals. Forcing ourselves to experience that again at the beginning of each year reminds us how much better it feels to eat right and save money. Here’s to a healthy, wealthy year for all of us!



What I Learned at the Holiday Bazaar


Martin Luther King, Jr.: To the Dream


  1. That is an amazing idea. I know we sure could benefit from a food cleanse this month. I’m not sure I have the willpower to only eat fruits and veggies, though. I’m a junk foodaholic. ugh. I also love the idea of a no-spend January. We are definitely watching every dollar after the holidays. Another year of saving has us excited. 🙂

    Nice job with the bed!
    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks. It feels great both physically and financially and is the perfect kickstart to a year!

  2. Nice idea with cleanse now, after all these holidays! I followed the youtube documentary “Fat, sick and almost dead” and I was impressed how a big difference is to change from carbs to vegetables and fruits. O have friends who switched for 2-3 weeks and finally decided the grains are not for their (they suppose they have a type of intolerance/alergy at gluten, or something).

    I am not using so much carbs (our family eats 10-20kg of fresh vegetable weekly) but in my periods with no carbs/no animal products I feel better, energised etc! and it is not going more expensive (if you use what is for season).

    • MaggieBanks

      I agree with you… though I am a total breadhead and couldn’t ever give up carbs entirely. I do find that it helps jumpstart my body when I cut them out periodically.

  3. Great job with the bed! We waited a while to purchase new furniture after the new baby arrived back in April. We knew he would be sleeping in a bassinet in our room for six months, so there was no need to have a nursery ready. As for his clothes? I cut out of the front of a couple diaper boxes and stacked them up to make a temporary dresser.

    • MaggieBanks

      Very creative dresser! I think two years in a pack n’ play may have been a bit much for Lui… but since our girls never figured out how to escape, we figured it would last for awhile longer. 🙂 Adaptability is the key with kids. They don’t need a fancy nursery. Just a safe place to sleep and a play to store their clothes.

  4. I love the idea of cleanses, both physical (food and money) and non-physical (spiritual and perceptive, which can be a cleanse for negative or stressful thoughts lurking in your head). There’s so much clutter in our lives, we just get lost among all the noise sometimes and it’s important to step back to the basics every few months. Thanks for posting.

    • MaggieBanks

      A jumpstart. A reboot. I agree. Any habit needs reconsidering by changing things up, going back to the basics, and re-evaluating.

  5. I agree with the kids and needing to be adaptable.
    Our oldest started trying to climb out of his crib a little before he was 2. We couldn’t convert it into a toddler bed, because our youngest was going to need it so it would be a short term fix. We got a mattress at one of those labor day big discount sales and put that on the floor. A year later we found a good deal on a bed frame and he loved it. For about 6 months. Then he decided his frame was “too pointy”, umm I still have no clue what he meant by it, but he started sleeping on the floor instead of his bed. So we took the frame down and he used the bed again. Until a few months ago when he wanted his frame back so he could be a big boy again… Fortunately, I only took it apart as little as I needed to get it out of his room, but still… Now he’s gotten back to sleeping on the floor with his new sleeping bag.
    Go figure…

  6. My wife and I actually juice every day. Our breakfast consists of a veggie juice or smoothie and it, at least for us, is the perfect way to start the day. It has made noticeable changes in our energy levels, for the better. We cook mostly vegan at home and it’s amazing – I don’t miss meat a bit, and the weight loss and energy increases are a nice side effect.

    Great way to start the year! 🙂

  7. Yes! The power of a good cleanse is definitely incredible. What’s great is when you reset at the beginning of the year, it’s much easier to keep that creativity & conscious meal choices fairly consistent. About a year back, we chose to cut a lot of grains and sugars out of our diet. Also – prepare as many meals with meats, proteins, and raw fruits & veggies. We have our moments (yum, cake!), but there very few and far between. After keeping it up for quite some time – it just becomes second nature! Kind of like automating finances. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes! That’s exactly how it works for us for the year! (And yes, I still eat cake and brownies. Mr. T knows that any stress or craziness on my part can be diffused by a box of Trader Joe’s brownies.)

  8. Thanks for sharing this! I feel the same about bread. I would die for a good scone! Was it easier than you thought it would be? At first glance, I’d think it would be difficult. But then again, having strict rules for what you can and cannot eat takes some of the choice away. Too much choice with food can be a bad thing, at least for me. I’m much better if I stick with a routine.

    • MaggieBanks

      It’s probably the 7th or 8th time we’ve done the cleanse and it’s definitely easier now. When we first did it, we felt obligated to do it exactly as they had it. But the smoothie recipes weren’t that good and the portions were WAY too big on a lot of them. So we actually felt a bit tortured. Now, we just make our own delicious smoothies using just fruits and vegetables and coconut water or soy milk and we find recipes we actually enjoy based on the rules the Whole Foods cleanse sets out and we eat however much we want. In that way, we’ve tailored it to ourselves and made it actually doable and not nearly as hard (though I do miss my bread when we’re cleansing!)

  9. I love being able to push the “reset” button to reexamine old habits and try something new. These are great ideas, and I’m especially fond of the focus on no-spend days. I’ve been reading Nicolia’s blog for awhile but hadn’t thought about counting my own NSDs–will have to put NSDs on a calendar and report back in February!

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