Apologies to the wonderful Ian Grant for stealing one of his book titles for my blog but it was the most appropriate thing I could think of! Our $21 Challenge week has begun; we are currently on Day Two and finding it a piece of cake, having spent nothing at all so far. It's been a long while since we last did one and what I'm already discovering is that you forget how blooming brilliant it is. You forget how much food you really have. I told myself that because we had only been here eight months we wouldn't have much to fall back on, especially with such a small pantry, a not-particularly-productive vege garden and no chickens or livestock but I was wrong. We still have heaps of food! The boys received the news that this week was a $21 Challenge week with their usual enthusiasm (as in 'oh heck, not again!) . Liam in particular was mortified as he had just informed us that we badly needed to go food shopping, so we took great delight in informing him that this would be a no-go. 'But we have no food!' he wailed, then followed up with a cocky 'You'll never be able to do it' before walking out of the kitchen in disgust.
It seems the boys have also forgotten how good the $21 Challenge is and the fact that a) we have never starved yet and b) we always eat so much better during a Challenge week! As it turned out, Mother Nature gave us a helping hand on Sunday when Noel and a friend went out fishing and caught enough snapper to feed us for two nights, so last night's dinner was easy! Noel and I both have the flu and are having soup cravings so we decided tonight's dinner would be smoked fish chowder, which is so cheap and easy to make, super filling, uses the most basic of ingredients and the boys absolutely love it too. I'm pretty sure I posted this recipe in a blog many moons ago but if anyone would like it feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will happily share it!
This morning was funny. 'MUUUUUM!' Liam shouted indignantly from the kitchen. 'We have absolutely NO food. How are we supposed to make our lunch boxes?' 'We have plenty of food!', I told him confidently. 'Prove it!' came the reply. 'And um - while you're proving it to Liam could you please help me with my lunch box too?' Ali asked gingerly. I opened the fridge and straight away found two pots of yoghurt, so popped one into each lunch box and remembered the two Easiyo sachets sitting in the pantry for the rest of the week. I also found a stash of muesli bars and an unopened family sized pack of rice crackers. 'You didn't look very hard!' I told them. The boys always have fruit in their lunch boxes but all that was in the fruit bowl this morning was a couple of squishy bananas and some sad looking apples so I sent Ali out to the garage for a tin of peaches in natural juice and divided them up between the two boys. Whilst Ali eats sandwiches, Liam doesn't and is the hardest to fill so I quickly defrosted a packet of sausages and cooked them up. Ali had a sausage and salad sandwich, using some leftover salad from last night's dinner and Liam went off with three sausages to enjoy cold for lunch, complete with a separate container of tomato sauce for dipping. To finish I used the squishy bananas to make banana and chocolate chip muffins. All this was done in the space of half an hour and the boys were out the door, bang on time with lunch boxes full to bursting. 'Wow, that's an impressive lunch!' Liam's mate said when he called round for him. 'All I've got is two packets of chips!'
So at the moment things are looking very positive for the week. We have plenty of meat in the freezer, including two whole chickens - and we learned this morning that Liam has a school fishing trip on Friday and they are allowed to bring whatever they catch home! If we're not all fished out by then! His Outdoor Education class is going to be learning how to catch fish, then how to fillet and cook them themselves. How cool! Liam is really looking forward to it; not least because he has a head start. He not only knows how to cook it, but how to make a batter to coat it with too! Noel and I decided recently that it was high time the boys learned to become more self sufficient. It's a scary thought but in just 18 months Liam will be old enough to leave school if he wants to and, left to his own devices he would survive on a diet existing solely of potatoes and ice cream. Ali is slightly better, being a dab hand at cooking fish fingers and will eat just about anything but I don't want my kids to be duds in the kitchen, it's too important a skill not to learn. So we decided to bring some structure to our chaotic mealtimes and struck a deal with the boys. One night a week they help us cook dinner. Our kitchen is too small to have them both help at the same time but Liam does Monday nights and Ali does Friday nights as they are the only nights we don't have sports. They love it and really look forward to it. They are so proud of the skills they are learning and Liam put a wonderful dinner on the table last night of freshly cooked battered fish, boiled potatoes with butter and salad, all made by him under Noel's watchful eye. This comes with the added bonus that he now sees the leftover food he has cooked in the fridge and heats it up for breakfast and lunches, rather than just reaching for packets or junk. No more ingredient blindness! Although we obviously still have some work to do on the lunch boxes...
And it seems that I have just stumbled across a rather large 'minor hurdle' - I've run out of Diet Coke! Normally I get through a box of 18 cans a week but I've just finished the last can and at around $14 a box there's no way I can buy any more this week! Eeeek! Be strong Penny, be strong!