Well, the first week of my month-long $21 Challenge is underway and until yesterday I had spent just $9.77. Unfortunately it has now gone up to $16.63 and I still have three days to go - eek, the pressure's on! I can see I'm going to have to think very carefully as to what I can spend my last $4.37 on. My friends think it's wonderful what I'm doing. They also think I'm completely bonkers. They can't imagine how I'm going to get through the month but I'm determined to show them we can eat properly. They also think I must be very organised (the poor misguided souls) which has always been the case when doing past Challenges but because this one was more out of necessity than fun, there was no time for any of that, I'm just winging it!
The first item out of the freezer this week was a huge pack of bacon. I asked Noel to pick one up for me on special last week and usually I divide it into portions before freezing it but I wasn't thinking and just threw the whole pack in the freezer. Hence when I took it out to defrost, I had no choice but to use up the whole lot. The first night we had a family favourite, Sophie Gray's Chicken Pie with Herby Cobbler Topping. This recipe makes a miniscule amount of chicken go an awful long way and was perfect for using up the scraps of roast chicken from the night before. It also contains bacon. I don't eat the meat but I love the scone dough topping! The next night I made a big bacon and egg pie, using home made pastry to keep the costs down. I could see the huge pack of bacon just wasn't going down fast enough so gave half a dozen rashers to my mum! Last night I tried out a recipe from Sophie Gray's new book called 'Friary Lentil Soup', which as well as lentils also contains - you guessed it - bacon! It is also absolutely divine and was so filling that there is a huge bowl leftover for my lunch today, I can't wait! Being a non-squeamish vegetarian I just pull the bacon out but I don't think it would make a lot of difference if you left it out totally, the key to the flavour is the fresh rosemary, which I plucked proudly from my little herb garden. To accompany the soup I popped into the local bakery just before closing time and asked if they had any crusty loaves left. They did and disappeared out the back before returning with a large cheesy Vienna loaf, still fresh. Because it was the end of the day, I got it for $1.25 instead of $3.50!
Liam is getting right into the Challenge too. 'Is that a Simple Savings trick, Mum?' he asked the other day when he saw me pouring salt into the dishwasher. 'Yep!' I replied. Mind you, he thinks Simple Savings is wonderful ever since we used a Vault tip to get rid of an invincible wart on his finger. We had been trying since Christmas to get rid of the blasted thing without success - even fortnightly visits to the doctor for painful liquid nitrogen treatments hadn't done any good. In the end, Liam got so fed up he insisted we just leave it alone and he would put up with it. That logic didn't last long however, it soon grew so rapidly that he was too embarrassed to leave the house without covering it up! So when a hint appeared in the Vault a couple of months ago called 'Kill off warts with cider vinegar' I encouraged him to give it a go and he reluctantly agreed. We followed the instructions to the letter and three days later, the wart was history as promised - neither of us could believe it! No pain, no fuss, no cost. That was weeks ago now and his finger shows not a single trace of ever having anything there! So not surprisingly Liam is very grateful for Simple Savings at the moment and not least due to another big favourite of his, Fran Sheffield. Not only is Fran keeping his worries and anxiety under control with her magic remedies, she is also keeping him running around on the rugby field at the moment. Ever since Liam copped a mighty tackle three weeks ago he has been limping around like an old man - so badly in fact that the other rugby mums demanded I take him to the doctor to find out what was wrong as it was upsetting them seeing him in such a state! So off we went to the medical centre where a doctor examined him and said nothing seemed to be broken but she couldn't find out what was actually wrong, other than a possible torn quadricep but she was obviously clutching at straws as the problem was with his knee. She prescribed a bottle of Ibuprofen, referred him for physio twice a week and told him he couldn't play rugby. Liam was devastated but knew he had no choice as he simply couldn't run without falling over in a heap. On returning home I was about to slap some Deep Heat on him as instructed but instead decided to call Fran. On explaining the situation and vagueness of the problem, she asked me if I had any Arnica in my homeopathic first aid kit. I did, and she told me to try giving him one pilule for three days and see how he went. I popped one in his mouth there and then and not half an hour had passed before he informed me he was already feeling better - in fact his sore back was feeling better too! After another two days of Arnica he was back running around like mad on the rugby field again yesterday, with no trace of soreness afterwards and I have been able to cancel his physio appointment for this afternoon. No travelling, no nasty Ibuprofen and no more cost, yay for Fran!
Ali however, is not enjoying Challenge week at all. Ever since his memorable meeting with the Brumbies, it has been customary on rugby days to fuel up on Powerade and jelly snakes, just like his heroes do before and after a game. 'Can we go and get a Powerade now?' a puffed Ali asked yesterday after training. 'Nope, sorry buddy - it's $21 week!' I reminded him. 'You can have a can of Golden Circle for a dollar instead!' Afterwards I was cursing myself for using up a valuable dollar, I should have anticipated his question and brought a drink from home. After grumbling in the back seat about the injustice of it all as he guzzled his Golden Pash, he piped up 'What if I score a try on Saturday then, huh? What about the $21 thingy then?' Ah yes, the McDonalds deal. Thank you for reminding me about that Ali, I shall come prepared with something to eat from home! I'm not sure what I'm going to do for dinner on Saturday night though - with Maxine and her family coming there will be an extra four mouths to feed. It's just as well they're used to my SS behaviour! I do wish the vegetable garden was a bit more productive at the moment though - we've been so overloaded with vegetables this last six months but just about everything in the garden at the moment is at 'baby stage' - beetroot, radishes, brussels sprouts, carrots and broccoli among other things. Actually, we all loathe beetroot, radishes and brussels sprouts but Noel loves growing things so much that he is convinced that if we harvest them ourselves from his beloved garden we will all be magically transformed into beetroot fanatics. I'm not convinced but I daresay we'll find out soon enough!
So tonight we have Sophie Gray's 'Devilled Meatballs' on the menu and I don't have to buy a thing. I also came across a recipe for Pumpkin and Feta Fritters in an old recipe book (for Kiwis it's from 'Pearls from Jo Seagar's Kitchen') I've never made them before and I have no idea if they go with Devilled Meatballs but I don't have to dip into any of my precious $4.37 for those either, so that's what we're having. I'm almost out of bread but remembered to my delight that I also asked Noel to pick me up a bag of 20 crusty rolls on special last week which I also flung into the freezer with the bacon so these will see us through for the rest of the week. I don't have any potatoes and I'm actually thinking of bartering for some in exchange for some eggs but I'm holding off for now. Goodness only knows what Mr Patel is going to think when I eventually have to go into his store in order to buy one measly potato or carrot but one does what one must for the sake of the Challenge!