12 January 2012

Dining On a Dollar Without Despair

Dear Lissy,

We've been economizing for the last few weeks, and I've been working hard to feed our family of five on about 1/3 of what the government considers a moderate food budget. I have an "only ingredients" in the shopping cart rule.  I try to buy pre-frozen or marked down meat , clearance fruits & veggies, or day old bread to stretch the budget, too  By far the biggest challenge is keeping up morale during lean times.  We'll return to a normal budget in February, and when we start harvesting our garden in late spring, grocery shopping will be a breeze.

A few tricks from my mom and our depression-era grandparents I use to keep morale high...

~ Once a week (usually Sunday) I allow for a substantial serving of meat and a regular dessert.   Having one big meal a week keeps us from feeling "pinched".
~There is a little something sweet every night after dinner.  It might be as simple as a graham cracker and a cup of hot chocolate, but it makes a big difference!
~I replace expensive meals  (fajitas) with similar, less expensive options (beef & rice burritos)
~ I make hot meals three times a day.  Yes, it's a ton of work, but the cost difference is enormous.  Polenta & scrambled eggs are a quarter of the cost of cold cereal with milk, and warm homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing cost less than a box of Poptarts.  Grilled cheese, a cup of homemade soup, a bowl of air popped popcorn, and half an apple chunked into slices costs about 50 cents, less than 1/3 of the cost of a typical school lunch, and ten times cheaper than the average "Value Meal" at a fast food restaurant.
~We've trained you to expect water.  Juice and soda is a rare treat at our house.  When times are tight, I appreciate the fact that even a glass of iced tea is extra special.
~I look to foreign cuisines for inexpensive main dishes, and to old cookbooks for baking recipes.  Stir fry, risottos, and curries are hardly a sacrifice!  The original Betty Crocker cookbook has good recipes that use a minimum of ingredients.  They're not bakery quality, but they're tasty and nutritious.
~ I'll accommodate an occasional dislike in order to keep mealtimes positive.  Nate hates hot cereal for breakfast, so he gets a slice or two of homemade toast instead. I abhor beans in any form, and Dad doesn't like the cracker crust pizza the rest of us adore.  You only like potatoes with sour cream. We should probably pay Matt:  he likes everything.

The other half of this equation is teaching gratefulness and trust.
We're reading George Mueller's autobiography as a family.  We've tried to teach you by example all your life to look for the good, and thank God, even when it's hard.  One of our favorite family moments was when Nate was two years old and exclaimed:  "Oh, goody!  A big pile of warm fish!"  He loves fish now, but that took a lot of courage for him when he was a toddler.
We trust that the sacrifices we are making now so that I can be home full time to educate you according to a Psalms 1 model will produce eternal fruit not just in your lives, but in future generations as well.  

And my sweet thing,  less you think that we're subsisting on a diet of rice and kidney beans, we're enjoying pulled pork sliders on sweet potato buns with coleslaw and oven fries tonight for just under $1.15 per plate.  Imagination & creativity are king and queen when dollars are tight!

Love you every minute!

1 comment:

  1. For those of you who read along with Lissy's letters, the concept of a low-budget month and tons of support is available at owlhaven.net. Mary Ostyn has also written a book, Family Feasts for $75 a Week.