Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Food for thought

I know a lot of people are wondering about that $100 a week for “everything”. How on earth do you feed six people on $100 a week, and fill up your gas tank, and, well, leave the house?!

Well, for at least a couple weeks, I’m not leaving the house much. I’m not going to the mall, or Starbucks, or anywhere else that I’m going to feel tempted. Fortunately for me, the kids’ extracurricular activities are not in or near any of those places; I can’t buy a cup of coffee even if I wanted to while they’re at gymnastics.

I’m not planning to keep to $100 a week forever. It’s for a few weeks, to improve our overall cash flow. I think a good analogy here is that we have really, really hurt ourselves with our spending last year. This isn’t a bump or a bruise – this is a gushing flow of blood(money) pouring into the street.

What’s the first thing you do when faced with a gashing wound spewing blood every-which-way? Apply direct, firm pressure.

That’s what this excessively tight budget for these two-three weeks is about. Direct, firm pressure. I’m attempting to clamp off the flow of blood(money) into the street. Not only does it immediately save me money, it gives me a psychological leg-up into the whole thing. Like the detox at the start of a diet or the ceremonial Flushing of the Cigarettes, it alerts my psyche to the fact that something is different, here.

The psyche that is accustomed to going through the supermarket like a cow on a field, grazing the aisles as though the word ‘restraint’ has never been uttered in its presence, now has to learn to stick tightly to that list – or said psyche will be walking everywhere for the next five days when it runs out of gas.

So, what are we eating?

Simple. We’re eating what we already have. Which is more than the average household, I will grant you: I’m a bulk-buyer from waaaaaay back. It is very, very rare that I don’t have at least a month’s food on hand; I have a heavily-used upright freezer out in the garage that I keep stocked with all kinds of meats, vegetables and home-cooked meals. I had a rare moment of clarity a couple days after Christmas and made myself do a huge cooking day, filling up the freezer with 45 full dinners – heat them up, add a simple side dish and bang. Dinner’s on the table, in about half an hour and with minimal cleaning up to do. Nice!!

Resisting the urge to drive out to the mall because I’m out of {fill in something I don’t really NEED but which I ran out of and am too lazy to find a substitute for right now} will help greatly with the gasoline costs – as it is I only fill up every other week and even then it isn’t a FULL fill-up, so with a little restraint I may well find I can go three whole weeks. I’ve got half a tank now – let’s see how long I can go before I need to fill-er-up.

I suspect that this $100 a week will actually be pretty easy…until February. We’ll be out of pre-made dinners and probably will have gone through most of the staples as well. We’ll still have plenty of meats in the freezer, but everything else will look like a swarm of locusts descended on the pantry and had a little party.

Whiiiiiiiiich really only adds another dimension to the game. Let’s say I get to Sunday, and I’ve still got that $60 in my pocket. Does this mean that I can now rush out to the mall and buy all those things I thought of throughout the week?

No. It means, “Yay, I’m a little bit ahead! I’m going to hold onto this money against the coming Big Buy at Costco!”

Then, when we inevitably chew our way what we already have on hand, I can look at what we still have in the freezer, put together another big cooking day, get my staples at Costco (usually around $200) and my “other” at the supermarket (around $50), spend a Saturday filling up the freezer with meals again and then settle back to cruise through February as well.

And yes. You better believe I’ll blog particulars when I get there.


'M' said...

I wasn't curious at all about the $100 you are giving yourself. I totally agree and sometimes do the same thing. On the average I spend about $50 a week in gas (both cars), $120 week groceries and $15 in "other stuff" like school lunches, etc. I am an avid coupon user, saving 25% to 75% EVERY week. I have gone weeks without spending a dime (other than gas)....it feels good to use up my surplus and it feels good to see the money stay in the bank. I am on board with your living below our means until October, it's an excellent idea. Oh, I didn't mention, I have 4 kids (ages 15, 12, 9 and 4....oldest 3 are boys).

sunshinewalks said...

can i ask what kinds of meals you're freezing? i love to have big cooking days and prep meals but what i've done is pretty limited, as i'm unsure of how things will reheat. my staples are quiche, lasagna, pot pies, and soup. what do you freeze?