Yet I feel profoundly grateful. Only one utility is past due and I’ll be able to pay it in just a few days. Sure, I’d love to be behind on nothing, but being not terribly behind on one thing isn’t too bad.
The new job saved me by the skin of my teeth. I am barely able to pay my health insurance on time and buy just enough food to cross over into November. If not for that one utility bill, I would be doing a happy dance.
I had a moment of complete panic earlier this week. I ran out of flour. Costco stopped carrying my safe brand and the price is significantly higher everywhere else. Not to mention the sizes just don’t work. Walk out of Costco with 40lbs of flour and nobody bats an eye. Walk out of Target with 40lbs of flour and you’ve cleared a shelf.
Money was so tight that I didn’t buy any. I thought it would be alright because I had already purchased extra meat for a dinner with my father. I roasted it at his house and portioned it off into a few days’ worth of planned leftovers. Afterward, I went home. Flourless and meatless! I forgot much of this week’s food at his house. That’s when panic set it. No flour and a lot of missing meat. We were gonna have sandwiches and fried rice and stew and…well, you get the picture.
Did I mention he lives a little drive away and I work two jobs? I couldn’t have run back for it even if gas money wasn’t an issue. <sigh>
Fortunately, he was happy to freeze everything up for when I can come back. This week’s fright will turn into another week’s boon. Meanwhile, I hit up pretty much the last of everything I had at home. Boy was I happy to discover pork chops I thought I’d already used and a nicely sized turkey breast that fit almost perfectly into the slow cooker. The freezer is pretty bare, but there is food in it. At least enough to get by for a few days, albeit very creatively.
So, I made it and I’m grateful to have done so. Off to figure out November.
I’m pretty sure I’ll beat the grocery goal. Mostly because I have no choice. One of the kids has to have a procedure ASAP and a hefty chunk is due upfront. And the car is getting pretty damned sick of me limping it along with promises of a trip to the mechanic sometime “soon.” At least two utilities are getting skipped in July and I’m trying to keep enough in the bank to cover a tow just in case.
I was careful with my last grocery trip and definitely have enough food to get through the coming week. Unfortunately, I may only be able to squeeze pennies out of my next check to put toward groceries and child support has been taking longer and longer lately. I’m mentally gearing up to make what I’ve got last 2 weeks instead of one. I’m also trying not to grind my teeth into dust while I sleep.
Tonight, I roasted a chicken for dinner and served it up alongside reheated mashed potatoes, grapes and strawberries. I was beating myself up for not making breadsticks or a salad and wishing I had some corn. (Only two mini ears in the freezer and no kernel corn to be found.) I could have roasted carrots with the chicken, but I didn’t. So, I’m wandering back and forth from the stove, mentally browbeating my many shortcomings as a mother, when my oldest child made a comment about having a “simple” meal. Not simple as in lazy or too easy (it was easy, LOL), but simple as in everything was identifiable and being consumed in a recognizable form.
The chicken was seasoned and roasted. The potatoes are cooked in water, drained, and mashed – with nothing added. And they are fantastic. The strawberries are pitted and “shaved” (we don’t like the seeds). The grapes are whole. The loaf of bread and biscuits on the table were handmade using ingredients I can recite from memory without getting winded. For as broke as we are and as much as I felt I had failed the family, my child pointed out that there was plenty of quality food for us to eat tonight.
I decided to take a break from feeling inadequate and let myself enjoy dinner, and my child’s appreciation tonight.
For some time, I have prided myself on my ability to feed my household on a strict budget. For years, actually. It’s been more of a battle lately. We have some dietary restrictions that I thought I was working around reasonably well.
While I was thinking that, I realized that money seemed to be slipping away. No matter how many expenses I have cut, I am still coming up short every month.
The other day, after a shopping trip, I realized I spent a full third of my monthly budget and did not have enough food for the week.
Seriously, I did not have enough to feed my family for a full week, but I had spent more than a week’s budget. As I loaded up the car, I started mentally going backward with my grocery spending. And I did not like what I was coming up with.
I decided to sit down and complete an audit of my food spending. It was eye-opening, er, eye-popping. I am literally spending over twice as much as I have allocated for food! Twice as much.
I don’t have any lines of credit. Living beyond my means in one area means hurting myself in another. This is why my car is past due for an oil change. This is why I only shop thrift stores on half price days. This is why I haven’t been able to do so much of what I have budgeted for because the money just isn’t there when I need it.
So, dear readers, I am humbled. I am not the grocery maven I thought I was. I am, however, going to get my shit together and get my food expenses down to the amount I have budgeted. I am going to cut my spending in half. And I’m going to hold myself accountable right here.
Get your popcorn.
I’d like to say that this post touches on the broke part of my theme, but it really illustrates it.
It’s the end of the school year and one of the kids needed about $75 worth of materials for big projects. It’s also the end of the month and not one of the months that left anything for extras. This is a recipe for difficult choices. My child needs these materials, but the only money we have was already slated for not quite enough food.
There are options, of course. Go drop the $75 and figure food out later. Borrow the money. Ask for the materials. I didn’t really find any of these options palatable.
The first thing I did was go coupon hunting. Most of these items were coming from a specific store which happens to post online coupons and mail print copies to regular customers. I combined both and went hunting. It took two trips (so that I could take advantage of online coupons twice), but I managed to get everything for under $40.
I still had to spend food money on these materials, but a $40 hit is easier to absorb than a $75 hit any day. I’ll just stretch what I do have a little farther and try to be a little more creative. It will work out.