Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse” contains the famous lines, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men/Gang aft agley.” Most of us know it better as “The best laid plans of mice and men…” with the ellipsis implying just as much as the brogue spells out: plans get messed up. Such was the case with my lovey and me at the end of October. We are trying to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice from Financial Peace University. (We call it FPU for short; you can find out more about it here.) Dave makes financial planning accessible and fun–no, really! We enjoy laughing when he wisecracks about things like “too much month at the end of the money.” Except the funny evaporated quickly when we realized we’d walked right into that joke.
For some of our expenses, we’ve been using the cash envelope system that came with our FPU kit. At the beginning of October we stocked it with the amount we normally budget for a month’s groceries. However, we failed to account for the fact that October had five Sundays (our grocery day), meaning we should have included the cash for the first week of November groceries too.
Paychecks in the future and expenses in the present, we made the most of our situation. It meant trying to feed two adults for a week on $22. I had to put on my thinking cap. This is the menu I devised for the week, based on already-frozen homemade meals/ingredients and inexpensive supplements.
We started with leftover chili from the previous week–but no homemade bread because I was out of yeast. Bummer. We had Crock-Pot pork roast, potatoes, and carrots for my lovey’s birthday dinner. We had grilled cheese and tomato soup…
…Egg & Goldenrod (a so-easy recipe handed down from my paternal grandmother)…
…and something I chose not to name but which Hubby called “mystery meat pie.” It was pretty tasty, if not 100% photogenic.
It consisted of frozen puff pastry wrapped around an admittedly slapdash filling: leftover sweet potato cakes with mint and feta, corn and jalapenos frozen fresh this summer, ground beef, onion, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper, salsa, and a smidge of Ranch dressing. Does it sound like a disgusting Hot Pocket? For me it lay between that and something that could pass as intentional. There was enough Tex-Mex going on to convince me this dish was sincere. Not that I would (or could) duplicate it.
The week ended before we had to make goulash. I don’t have anything against goulash, but we had already eaten a big pot of it the previous week so I stalled repeating on the chance that it wouldn’t be necessary. Which, happily, turned out to be the case. All told, here’s our result:
Yeah, that’s right: we made it through the week having spent only $20.77 on groceries. There’s no way we could make a habit of this–the fridge held nothing but condiments and a few containers of leftovers when we left to shop this week. We relied heavily on stored food–frozen vegetables, the pastry I just happened to have leftover from a baking endeavor–and mercifully didn’t need to replenish many staples. This week was a different story; we needed almost everything: milk, eggs, butter, meat, cereal, and so on. But we stuck with our financial plan and didn’t make excuses to deviate. That feels good.
Know what else felt good? Somehow having money left after that grand petite total to treat ourselves to an indulgent weekend breakfast:
Mmm, donuts…a sinful pleasure. But we ate enough creative cooking this week to merit a little treat. Hooray for the serendipities of budgeting. Have you had any close calls lately? Creative solutions? Victories to celebrate with a sweet reward? I’d love to hear details!