Education and calculations

Posted December 5th, 2013 by Penny Wise

I wouldn't say having no money is fun, but it can be! Sure there have been days when I've felt really down but every little triumph is wonderful. My garden is growing, I've got cauliflower coming out of my ears and my lovely mum has also been visiting every couple of weeks with home grown vegetables from her garden and new seeds and seedlings to plant in mine. One week she even brought us a food parcel, which was extremely humbling but so very much appreciated and was such a massive help - unpacking all the goodies was like Christmas!

The boys know now that when Mum goes food shopping that any grocery money we have is going to be spent on staples such as eggs, milk, bread, cheese and potatoes rather than treats. But when you have those things in the house you'll never go hungry as there are so many things we can make from them, including treats too! Even when we've really been down to our very last morsel I don't think we have eaten badly or gone hungry. I'm pretty proud of being able to keep us well fed and to be honest, I think the boys are too now!

The last couple of times I've been food shopping have been eventful. The first time was back in October and unfortunately I can't remember what my budget was now but it wasn't huge and I needed a lot of things. I didn't use a calculator or anything but shopped as smartly as I could and stood with bated breath at the checkout, chatting with the young staff as we watched the tally go up and up on the screen. Finally the checkout girl pressed 'subtotal' - and I had made it within budget with just 7c to spare! I don't know who was more excited, me or the lad packing my groceries! 'That's unbelievable! I've never known anyone get it that close!' he laughed in amazement. Me either, but boy was I relieved and as I left the supermarket I felt like the most fabulous shopper on the planet!

That was the last decent sized shop I did. The last two weeks however we had just $80 to last us the fortnight. While that might sound a lot to the super frugal, when you have absolutely nothing - not even the bare essentials to start with, as well as four pets to feed for 14 days, it doesn't go very far! I decided this time I needed help and enlisted Ali to come with me to help me keep track of our spending with a calculator. OK so I was too embarrassed to be the one with the calculator - I mean, even after years of Simple Savings I've always thought that shopping with a calculator was for the real regimented and extreme savers! But needs must and so off we went, with me yelling out prices and Ali dutifully tapping them into his phone as we went around. It proved to be quite an education!

'Right matey, we need to make sure we have something for dinner every night this week!' I told him. First on the menu was fish which we try to have when we can. A $5.00 or $6.00 pack of snapper feeds the three of us well. 'Mum', Ali said concerned, 'We're only on the second aisle and already we've spent $20!' 'Well we'll just have to see how we go I guess!' I replied. We grabbed a tin of spaghetti as we went past, thinking of the easy scone dough pizza recipe we hadn't made in ages. That would make a cheap meal! 'What else can we have?' 'Oh can we pleeeease have roast pork?' said Ali. He loves roast pork - but at over $30 each it wasn't an option! However there was one piece of pork belly just our size for $11. A big extravagance but we do love our roasts! Plus it would be handy for sandwiches too. So we agreed we would put it in the trolley and if we had to take it out again, so be it. We also decided on bacon and egg pie for later in the week and Ali went and grabbed a huge pack of bacon for $9.99. 'I don't think we're going to be able to keep that mate, you might want to go and change it', I told him. 'No, it'll be alright', came the reply but sure enough by the time we had almost reached the end he reluctantly agreed to go and swap it for a smaller $3.99 pack, enough to serve the purpose.

We also bought a pack of dried lasagne noodles as I was thinking of some of the sad vegies that needed using up in the fridge and I remembered the hint 'No More Wasted Vegies!' that I had seen a few weeks before and thought was a great and yummy sounding idea, not to mention a way to get more vegies into the super picky Liam. We were almost there! Just the dogs and cats to go - and oh. Their usual cat food was $3.89 for a tin - and we needed quite a few tins! 'What are we going to do?' asked Ali. 'We're just going to have to go with the cheapest brand and hope to goodness they eat it!', I said, grabbing a few cans of Budget brand at $1.99. We finally reached the end, we had made it within budget (even with Ali's roast pork!) and I was feeling good. 'Well, that was quite educational wasn't it? Very productive!' I smiled, pleased with our efforts. 'I found it quite depressing actually!' Ali said drily.

The second week wasn't so easy but Liam was away at a friend's for most of it so Ali and I kept ourselves fed with smoked fish pie (still getting through his marlin!), stir fries and one night we got home from cricket so late we could only be bothered having fish fingers and hash browns. With no money left for things like dishwashing liquid, shampoo and conditioner and shower gel we had to go back to some of the very earliest SS tricks I had learned, watering everything down. Much as the kids scoffed they had to admit it worked just as well. I did struggle to keep a straight face when Ali told me we had run out of shower gel and I pointed to the bar of soap I had just put in the shower. 'What are we supposed to do with that?!' he frowned. 'Wash with it! What do you think people used to use before shower gel was invented?' I laughed. I ended up using it to wash my hair too, when we finally ran out of watered down shampoo! We may have had a few fraught moments but we got there and wonder of wonders, our fussy cats LOVED their budget food. Even the pets have turned into Simple Savers!

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