Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cheaps Eats

A very frugal dinner that I am grateful we even had the fixings for:

Ramen Noodle soup with grilled cheese sandwiches (last of the bread without any mold), canned Mandarin oranges.

I was behind a woman at ALDI with her cart overflowing and couldn't wait to see what her total cost was - only $103.00. She had enough to feed an army. Being able to go into ALDI and spending $100.00 remains my #1 fantasy. Continue to obsess about food. New fantasy involves eating at a buffet or all-you-can-eat place and I used to despise them. Now the thought of being able to stuff myself to abandon holds some appeal. Maybe that is how those restaurants started, when the economy was down and there were a lot of hungry people around.

I stood behind the woman with one item - a package of margarine for 60 cents which I needed to make the grilled cheese.

Ironic that I received a letter campaign plea to donate to a boxed Thanksgiving food drive when we are so in need ourselves. Maybe I'll call the number and ask how we can receive a box ourselves!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pedicures and Shoes

Yes, it is official now - I have gone over a year without a pedicure! I didn't think I'd make it through the summer but I just kept my toe nails short and no one ever pointed at my feet or made fun of them. There were a few times that I looked at other women's polished toes and feet a little envious. I was surprised to find myself admiring black and dark blue polish colors. I guess the important thing to note here is that I survived not having what was once a regular part of my beauty routine. Not that I didn't miss it - I did. But $25.00 buys a bag of groceries and food has become more important to me than my vanity. Thank goodness, the weather is getting cooler and it is time to start wearing closed-toe shoes again.

Over two years now without buying one item of clothing, jewelry, shoes, bra, panties, perfume, etc. for myself. I think women do need little pretties in their lives but I get a small amount of pleasure every day I'm still able to keep using what I already own. Little luxuries perk up our lives and make us feel good about ourselves. So I'm not against treating myself to luxuries when I can afford them. Just now I can't.

While I'm on the subject of pedicures and feet I should mention that my sons have duck taped their shoes together. A couple of summers ago my youngest went through the whole baseball season with a duck taped pair of spikes. He did it to help save the money. The day the season ended, I so gladly tossed those cleats into the trash!

Even now, my oldest showed me how his bottom sole is uplifted and there is a hole along the side of his shoe. I saw some decent looking tennis shoes at WalMart for $12.00 but he refuses to wear those. We wants sports/running shoes that you get at Sport's Authority for $70.00. So I guess he can break out the duck tape if he needs to because we don't have that kind of money right now for shoes.

Not to say that there aren't shoes everywhere I look on the floor in our home - I'm always tripping over them and they look wearable to me. And then we have football, baseball. indoor, outdoor track and volleyball shoes in the mix too.

I'll provide a shoe update in the coming months in regard to my oldest son wanting an expensive pairs of sports shoes and not agreeing to considering the WalMart ones. Maybe I'll force him to take a look at them. This summer, my youngest was a dear and wore a pair of canvas slip-on shoes from Payless Shoes that only cost me $12.00!

To conclude however, pretty lame of me lamenting not being able to afford a pedicure when my sons have used duck tape on their shoes. I have nothing to complain about!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tuna Helper

Son -"Mom, what's for dinner?"

Me -"We don't have much here... I can make Tuna Helper."

Son -"It's better than nothing."

Food Pantry Fixin's were very slim this week. Between the two pantries I go to I received five boxes of Tuna Helper but no cans of tuna! I had one can left of my own that I could use. Added to that we had the one can of vegetables I received from this week's pantry visits - a can of cut green beans. Again, between both pantries, I only received one can of vegetables! We had toast with our meal - a nice loaf of wheat whole grain bread, which along with a loaf of raisin bread were the best items I took home from the pantries.

It is funny, but this is one of the exact meals I'd make anyway, regardless of our living under financial distress - Tuna Helper, beans (although usually frozen) and toast. I've been making it for years.

Anyway, the point of this post is that food pantries serve a short-term purpose, to get a family or individual through a month or two of crisis. They're not set up to provide for people who can't find work and need to rely on them for months at a time.

For one thing, the food provided is not nutritious, fresh or enough of a variety. It is the same limited selection of food each visit - rice, pasta, mac n' cheese, soup (tomato and chicken noodle), a small can of spaghetti sauce, pancake mix and peanut butter and jelly. You can only eat so much of those items without never ever wanting to look at another box of mac n' cheese!

The only way I continue to be able to come up with halfway decent meals is relying on the ethnic grocery store that I found sells big assorted packages of slightly bruised fruit for either 99 cents or $1.29. But it is hit or miss going in there. I wanted bananas yesterday, which they didn't have. But they did have a great package of smaller and fresh apples that I snapped up, perfect for the boys' lunches.

Sadly, they got a new butcher at the other grocery store I go to for 99 cent meat specials and he has cut down on the offerings there. I am still able to find a few once in awhile but not to the extent that I used to. He will give me a discount if I find a package of meat that is up for code that day, but again it is a hit or miss process. Some days I'm lucky and strike some deals, most other days I'm not.

Last night, I made a big pot of vegetarian chili soup from two dry mixes from ALDI. I served it over spaghetti AND rice topped with cheddar cheese (from a prior pantry visit). There is a ton left for this weekend! Filling and tasty. The same ethnic grocery store also sells special bakery items for $1.29 a package and I've been able to get some donuts and cookies for the boys, which is a nice treat. The donuts I got with the apples had Halloween sprinkles on them, and my younger son is very fond of that type. Nice to get something seasonal and fun.

I just continue to find that so much of my focus revolves around food and my fantasy wish is to be able to go into ALDI and spend $100.00 without having to count up all the items in my head. The way I shop now is to go in more frequently to try and find deals - it takes up extra time and energy to have to hunt down milk deals or to scope around in the sale bins.

I have to keep telling myself that we do have food and with my resourcefulness, probably eating better than others. But it is a daily challenge and worrisome. And I don't like that my thoughts are so consumed and focused on food all the time. I do start to crave things and obsess about meals and that can't be good. There are other things I'd rather be concentrating on.