Friday, February 29, 2008

Update from Living on $100 per week

Well, we are into week four of living on $100 per week. Since Lent began on Ash Wednesday, Wednesdays are our beginning point of each week. To date we are more than $100 over budget. Of the first $400 or so spent in the first three weeks, $163 was for food and $174 was for gas.

We don't even commute anywhere! The church office is only 5 miles from home. The $163 for food in three weeks averages $54 per week. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Special credit goes to church food and good use of leftovers. And still we are over budget. We did spend $20 on a babysitter to go to a church gathering, and included it in our budget... does that really count? Hard to say.

At the grocery store, it was an interesting exercise to determine what I absolutely couldn't live without and what I could put off. While shopping, the sale items did not get doubled in my cart, as would usually be the case. Not in the budget. I decided to forgo:
+replacing the spray butter...we can use regular
+the mini chocolate chips that I like so much for homemade waffles...we can use regular size we already own
+ the grape jelly...we can use up the blackberry and strawberry before buying more
+ the bagels... we may not have our three favorite varieties on hand all together, but we have a few bagels left
+ the cereal bars... we can use up other snack items first

Interesting that most of the savings comes from packaged foods. Cooking from scratch has definitely proven the most budget friendly.

This week I made lentil soup. My plan was to use half a pound of bacon for the soup, and the other half to make my daughter especially happy for breakfast one morning. She loves bacon. I used a plastic spoon and left it in the pan while the bacon was rendering. The spoon melted in the bacon. I had to throw it all away, start over, and use the bacon I was looking forward to sharing with Shannon. I was truly disappointed. I was also grateful that Shannon didn't know anything about the bacon, so she would not be disappointed.

I got to thinking about how often parents living on minimum must feel this way. I tried to tell myself that bacon for Shannon is not a necessity, and there is really no reason to want it. But it was the fact that I was looking forward to treating her, and then couldn't, that really got me.

On the flip side of disappointment, I am also discovering again a truth Marva Dawn wrote about in her book on Sabbath. When she talks about feasting on the Sabbath, she makes the point that we don't know how to enjoy a good feast because we don't how to fast. If every day is a day when we can have whatever we want, then there is no chance of having special days.

In this midst of this fast of a sort, I am finding that I appreciate all that I have. I savor every meal, and appreciate every indulgence. This week on Tuesday, I took some of the lentil soup to a meeting. Someone else brought the bread. At the end, I got to bring home the leftover loaf of fresh Italian bread. I was ridiculously pleased to bring home this treat!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    Reading your post brought back memories of the days when I was a recent immigrant to USAmerica and was living on a minimum salary. I know what it feels like not being able to afford a lunch at McDonalds (all the food that I ate back then had to be bought on sale and cooked from scratch, we could only afford to buy "day-old" bread and we loved dammaged canned goods).

    It also brought a flood of memories about making choices: do I buy food this week or do I pay my utilities first and then see what I can do with the moneis that are left...

    Reading your post made me want to do something meaningful next lent (in 2009): I might even “plagiarize” your idea and ask my family to live on a minimum salary for 46 days…