The Too Hard Basket

Posted February 17th, 2008 by Penny Wise

There's no getting away from it - I've been absolutely rubbish at this No Spend lark over the past week. *Sigh* - it started off so well! It's all been down to lack of organisation on my part. Lately it just feels like life is getting in the way and I'm wondering what else it's going to throw at me. Knowing that I'm just throwing money away is SO not a good feeling, especially when it's all going in the same place - our stomachs. While our usual grocery bill has been next to nothing, our takeaway bill has been dreadful. Every time I go to visit Mum in hospital it ends up coinciding with either lunch or dinner time and while I could have taken a few minutes to pack a sandwich or drink to take with me, it just hasn't happened and I've ended up getting Burger King on the way home. Burger King (Hungry Jacks to you Aussies) are my very favourite takeaway in the world and as the nearest one is an hour away from us they are a very occasional treat when we happen to be passing. Unfortunately, it's also unavoidable that I have to pass it on the way to the hospital so instead of having it about three times a year, I've had it three times in the past week alone! Then there's been a couple of mornings when I've been in too much of a rush to even eat breakfast, so I've grabbed a pie at the bakery on the way to wherever I'm going. Not only is that very bad for the wallet and waistline, it's also very bad for my car, which is currently smothered in flaky pastry crumbs. The boys and I have also taken it in turns to 'tag' one another with back-to-school bugs. Yup, it didn't take long to pick up the first virus of the new term and this immediately blew the No Spend budget out of the window. How could I begrudge the kids ice cream and lemonade for their poor, angry sore throats when I was craving just the same? Then my mate Jase came to stay and in the space of 24 hours we powered through filled rolls from the bakery, fish and chips from the takeaway, quiche from the cafe and yet another Burger King. I was adamant we weren't going to have another Burger King but following Ali's near-death experience just a few hours before I was still counting my lucky stars and told him indulgently he could have whatever the heck he liked.

Then there was the weekend. Noel had been away on a five-day game fishing trip with 'the blokes' and the plan was that the kids and I would join him at the weekend at our friend's beach house. Based on our super cheap holiday just a week or two before, the idea was that we would once again bring all our food from home in order to save money. Which I did - a bit. Half a loaf of bread and some fruit. I was shattered, the kids were both sick and it was all too hard, I was beyond caring and figured we would just grab food when we were there. What a plonker. $67 at the supermarket later I had enough to make us dinner, breakfast and lunch for the following day. Egads, that's more than I'd normally spend in a whole week! The next night was Noel's prizegiving 'do' and an 'all you can eat' buffet was provided but there wasn't a blasted thing that Liam could eat, so I ended up trawling the town for restaurants until we found somewhere that could do a wheat-free dinner for him and then we went back to the prizegiving. 'Why is it every time I REALLY want to make a big difference to our budget I end up getting sick and spending even more than usual?' I wailed to Noel, who had to agree sympathetically. I spent most of the week kicking myself for making crap decisions. With Jason also being vegetarian I had been keen to show off my frugal culinary skills in the kitchen too but in my infinite wisdom I figured in the end it was easier to go and buy something - but of course it's never easier in the long run, is it? I had everything there I needed to produce something wonderful and homegrown but like many things last week, my vege lasagne went in the 'too hard' basket.

There are several things which have inspired me to pull my socks up this week though. The first was Jason, who lives his entire life the SS way. Takes public transport wherever possible and doesn't drive or fly unless absolutely necessary. He hardly ever sets foot in a shop, he purchases all his food from farmer's markets or organic co-ops and anything else he needs is purchased online. He grows his own food and has even set up a vegetable garden for himself and his flatmates. We went to school together in England and he's been travelling round NZ for 14 months, camping wherever he pleases and shunning pricey tourist spots in favour of paying a farmer $10 a night to pitch his tent in a picturesque looking paddock. Travelling round an entire country this way means you have to be organised and I was amazed to be in the company of someone so consistently prepared for anything. He wastes nothing, eats only natural, healthy food and only ever uses what is necessary. While he looked the picture of health after all these years, I felt like a hippo. I was mortified to discover as we munched on vegeburgers and chips that I had dragged him off to his first takeaway since he left England. It made me feel like a right Sad Sally I can tell you - if only I had stuck to the lasagne! I can't wait for him to return so I can show him how wonderfully frugal and domesticated I really am!

Inspirational source number two is a book I'm about to start, 'Animal Vegetable Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver. Recommended by fellow members, it's the story of a family who vow to buy only food raised in their own neighbourhood, grow it themselves, or live without it. I can't wait to get started! Inspirational source number three is actually a group - they're the group of ladies who have been blogging their very first $21 Challenges in the Forum and they have done the most fantastic job. As soon as we're all better I'm going to definitely do a $21 Challenge week again myself; at least that will help me claw back some savings after all my guilt-filled food splurges. If you haven't read the thread, read it here and be totally inspired! Thank you ladies for giving the Challenge a go and showing how well it can be done.

Mind you, ill health isn't the only stumbling block to the $21 Challenge at the moment. It's my freezer. It's so chock-full I just can't get into it! It's made menu planning impossible at the moment, as all I can do is use what's at the top and work my way through it, which is going to be a slow process. Noel caught a striped marlin weighing 122kg a few days ago. It's away being smoked at the moment but I have absolutely no idea where we're going to put it once it returns. That's a massive amount of fish! In fact, we have so little storage space now that Noel is talking about picking up another chest freezer second hand. While I don't want to part with the money, I can see it's going to be a worthwhile investment in the long run. Imagine how many $21 Challenges I'll be able to do then!

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