I did one of the most dangerous acts of our household yesterday: I balanced the checkbook. I’ll be honest: We ended the month with $32 and change. And then I saw that JJ had given $14 of it to the band.
After previously noticing an increase in our spending, I proposed this week we do a major cut so my grocery store run included only essentials: bananas, spinach, grapes, a package of ground beef (a splurge because it was on sale) and our contributions to the upcoming birthday party. I walked out of Meijer $42 proud.
Which means the kitchen required a bit of creativity and a lot of freezer raiding. I found myself rationing my 2 onions. Seriously. I checked my menu plans twice to make sure nothing was coming up that would require an onion. When trying to figure out what to make for lunch, I looked in my fridge and freezer and made something from it – specifically, vegetable soup. I had made a batch of broth last week, had tomatoes from the garden in the freezer (because I’d used all the tomato sauce in an earlier soup), had carrots and frozen vegetables and potatoes abounded. Voila. Lunch. (And it’s one of the kids’ favorites, so double word score).
As I carefully allocated my onions, I realized that I had a stash of garden onions in my makeshift root cellar downstairs. No rationing needed! And when the kids wanted a snack, not only did I have a gazillion fresh bell peppers in the fridge (thanks, last chance cart!) but I had 2 ziplock bags full of slices in the freezer thanks to an earlier stock up session.
We didn’t go hungry at all this week. I even made granola as a snack. The only thing we really missed were eggs (to be purchased tomorrow).
And though the checking account said $32, in all honesty we have another savings account full of options. There is money – it’s just not earmarked for our day-to-day life and I’m a hardcore rule-follower. We’re trying to live within our means, so exercises like this remind us of our careless spending. (Because nothing causes you to ask yourself “do you really need those 3 bottles of wine that are on sale?” like when you can’t have sour cream on on a taco after it didn’t make the short list.)
We have more than enough. And in the little that we had, we didn’t go hungry. At all. We snacked, we ate 3 meals. And good meals! A taco dish, chili, oven fried chicken with mashed potatoes & gravy, vegetable soups, pasta e fagoli soup (total winner! H Boy slurped from his bowl)… and the cupboards aren’t even bare. I’d venture to guess we could go 2 more weeks, as long as no one complained about the hodge-podge nature of the meals as we went. And if “beans” counted as a meal. We have a lot of beans, I noticed.
So while we ended October victorious over the checkbook, my perspective also grew. Sometimes you don’t know how lucky you are until you scale back severely and see that you still have more than enough. We can enter into a season of Thanksgiving truly thankful that our “little” still put us in a pretty blessed situation.
And next week, the cart will be filled to the brim.
That part of the story brings me to my knees every time. I know that I know that I know we’re okay. This was an exercise in restraint, a reminder that we control our finances and not the other way around. We’re not loosing the house or avoiding phone calls, we just want to be good stewards. Folks live this way week in and week out, without the promise of a refill later. I must remember this when I start to get ungrateful or feel “deprived” when we don’t eat out on a whim.
We have more than enough.