The $26 Challenge

Posted April 29th, 2013 by Penny Wise

Sorry for sounding a bit 'woe is me' but why is it that every time you're feeling good and in control of your life, the powers that be see fit to throw you a curve ball? OK so it might not be a massive curve ball in the big scheme of things; it's only the flu but when its school holidays and you have extra kids to feed you need to be on top of your game. And when the fridge and pantry are looking perilously bare, you can't get out of bed and your head is full of cotton wool it's almost impossible to think of a solution. Frustrated? Just slightly. But I have oft been known to say that I love a challenge and this week's is a goodie so I had better get that pesky cotton wool out of my head quick smart!

For the next 10 days ahead the kids and I have the grand total of $26 to live on. Well, we will on Wednesday; at the moment we don't even have that! But at least on Wednesday we will have $26 because that's the amount I get in accommodation assistance from Work and Income NZ each week. It's supposed to help me pay the mortgage but it is glaringly obvious that I need to put it in our tummies this week. I know I can make it through - despite the flu I'm feeling as tough as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill - but I don't think it's going to be easy. I'm out of rice and all sorts of other things, am on my last loaf of bread and am almost out of milk, as well as dog food. Still, there are a few positives - my mum came to visit last week and brought me a huge capsicum and some beans from her garden. Ali is working four nights this week and his dinner is provided by his workplace so that's a big help and I found some dubious looking offal-like stuff in the freezer that the dogs will no doubt enjoy. And, thank heavens it is school holidays so at least I don't have to worry about filling the boys' lunchboxes. Mind you, Master Ali has been doing a sterling job of that lately!

Yes, not content with battling the elements in the great outdoors to keep us fed, he has taken up a new indoor hobby - baking. Turns out he's very good at it! The first time he gave it a go I was two hours' drive away and was more than a little perturbed when I received the text 'Am doing some baking. What do I turn the dial on the oven to for baking things?' 'Umm, I think it's a few horizontal lines?' I texted cautiously back, none too sure. 'Cool, thanks!' came the reply. Reassured slightly by the fact I hadn't received any frantic phone calls that the house had burnt down, I returned that evening to a batch of beautifully made Melting Moments, sandwiched together with berry jam. And a shopping list for butter, cornflour, sugar and icing sugar so he could make some more. Mainly because Liam was scoffing them so fast there would soon be none left. Ali was flattered but quite miffed 'They took me ages!' He had my sympathy, like many mothers I know the feeling all too well!

Nonetheless, having acquired instant hero status in his big brother's eyes, Ali got up early the next morning and went and bought his own baking supplies so that he could make another batch, this time experimenting with caramel icing. These were such a big hit that he was forced to hide the biscuits from Liam. Unfortunately his plan backfired - in his efforts to stash the baking tin on top of the highest kitchen cupboard, he shoved it too far and it fell behind the cupboard. The only one tall enough to be able to reach it and pull it out was Liam! Still, I couldn't be prouder of my little man. He really was a big help, not least because our recently acquired kitten destroyed the batch of brownies I had made the day before by eating them straight out of the tin while they were still cooling on the bench. How did we know it was her? By the kitten shaped face plant in the middle and the dent in the shape of a tiny paw on the side!

Anyway I digress. This week's challenge. As I type it is 3.30pm, I'm still sick in bed and I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to make for dinner. One thing I do know for certain is that I can't buy anything until Wednesday so it can't be anything with milk in it! But I will find something. In fact I'm going to write down everything we eat this week for future reference. It will be interesting to see what I can come up with. Just as SS member Denise quoted in the $21 Challenge book 'it's a chance to prove to yourself what you're capable of'. This week is just like a $21 Challenge week - except every time I've ever done it before it has been for fun or out of choice. This time I don't have a choice. I think it's going to be a pretty special week. Either that or a total disaster!

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