Thursday, July 24, 2008

Can you live on $100/week?

First, I have to show off my closet. I'm sure some of you won't be impressed; there's likely much more work that I could do. But, I think we can all agree that my closet now looks much better:

(I know that Ryan is never going to use those weights in the corner,but he'd have been pissed if I got rid of them. Plus, they're heavy. I was too lazy to move them.)

(I have way more toilet paper than that. Honestly, I've probablygot enough for about 6 months. But the rest of it is underLeah's crib. And in the interest of full disclosure, that white box on the left is filled with junk. I need to sort it eventually, but the closet was more important.)

(See those blocks up there on the right? That's one less Christmas present I have to buy this year. Goodwill, $3.00. With the $20.00 Kmart tag still attached.)

It is SO nice to be able to walk in the closet again. Now the challenge is to keep it that way :)

Of course, thanks to everyone who offered to be my personal Monica Gellar. (I'll try not to be cynical and note that both of you live far from me.)


So did anyone see this article on MSN today:

Can a family eat on $100 a week?

The author has a family of four: herself, her husband, and two children, 4 and 2, I think. Similar enough to mine. So of course I think, "Well sure you can. We usually do." And then I read the article. My Lord.

Issue #1:
"No cleaning products or paper goods. There wasn't enough room in the budget."
I know that she's in a different area of the country, and the cost of living is probably higher. Even so, I have a hard time hard time believing this. Last week, I bought food, diapers, and Kleenex, and spent $93.00 ($70 was on food). And for that matter, let's be realistic here: paper towels are NOT a necessity of life.

Issue #2:
"A $100 budget gave us $1.19 a meal per person, obviously not enough for dinners or coffees out and barely enough to put decent meat on our plates. "
Maybe I'm the only one, but dinners and coffees out are not the norm around here. Dinners out are a special treat. It is really the end of the world that you were "forced" to put a home-cooked meal on the table? And barely enough for decent meat? Give me a break. Granted, I do tend to stock up when meat goes on sale, but there is no reason to not have decent meat if you so choose. No, you're not going to be eating filet mingon on $100/week, but you're not going to be relegated to ox-tails, either.

Issue #3:
"With a $100 budget, there's no room for error. Every meal and snack has to be meticulously planned, and the whole family has to eat it. In my case, with two adults, a toddler and a 4-year-old, that's a pretty wide swing."
Yes, staying within a budget does take some planning. But again, I'm not seeing why this is catastrophic. Even if I had an unlimited budget, I would still plan a weekly menu. Not planning ahead is what results in takeout. And maybe I'm the only "mean mom" out there, but I make one meal, and the whole family has to eat it. I'm a mom and a wife. I am not a short order cook. I make one meal. If you don't like it, you have two options: make something else, or go hungry. And this may shock you, but no child (or husband, for that matter) is going to starve himself. If he's hungry enough, he will eat.

Issue #4:
"Instead of a steak, I should buy extra-lean beef stew meat and cook it in a soup or stew."
There are no words. Just an eye roll.

Issue #5:
"[M]y son missed his waffles sorely."
Heaven's to Betsy. Eggos didn't fit in the budget? Hey lady, what do you think people did before the advent of toaster pastries? Get on your computer and find a waffle recipe.

Issue #6:
"Lunches were a bit harder to scrape together. They consisted of dinner leftovers, bean and cheese burritos, or sandwiches of luncheon meat or peanut butter and jelly. "
Am I the only one who doesn't see a problem with leftovers for lunch?

Issue #7:
"Dinners were tasty but required a lot more preparation than I was used to."
Yes, it does take more work to cook from scratch than it does to make Hamburger Helper or call Pizza Hut. However, it also tastes better and is healthier. I work full-time, too lady. If I can cook a meal from scratch 95% of the time, I think you can swing it for a week.

Issue #8:
"With such a tiny budget, if I wanted dessert I had to make it myself [...]"
Egads! The horrors! Oh, that I may always be wealthy enough to feed my children store-bought cake and cookies!

Issue #9:
"No family members were harmed in the writing of this story, but was it a healthful diet? Yes and no. Most of the dinners were relatively healthful, with plenty of protein and a vegetable. But we padded out our meals with a lot of starches, including potatoes and rice. And I don't think grilled cheese night was a nutritional home run. My family didn't eat as much fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables as we usually do. My toddler and I missed avocadoes a great deal. And we missed having at least one dinner out as a family."
Look lady, if your dinners weren't healthy, it wasn't because you lacked money, it was because you lacked ingenuity. As for the "one dinner out", you're not going to get any sympathy from me. I'm sure you'd be horrified if you knew the number of families who eat out less frequently than once a month.

I was horribly disappointed in this article. Perhaps they should have found a family that routinely spends $100 (or less) per week on food. I strongly suspect the article would not have sounded nearly so much like a country song ("poor, poor, pitiful me"....).

Honestly, I'm a bit flabbergasted by the whole thing. I'm at a loss for words.

My husband grew up in a home where they eat out at least once, if not twice a week. I promise you, they spend much more than $100/week on groceries. Yes, they do have more people in the family (2 adults, one high schooler, one grade schooler), but most of that budget is not spent on fresh produce--it's spend on PopTarts, Eggos, and frozen pizza. In short, they have all the "luxury" stuff that I, and the author of the article, are not afforded on a $100 budget. But does my husband miss that "luxurious" life style. Not a bit. He tells me regularly that he likes all the homecooked meals and that eating out gets old after a while. Has he ever complained about subsisting entirely on "beans and rice"? Not once. He regularly tells me that he likes the variety of foods I make. And I promise, our diet is much more balanced than his was before we were married.

I guess all I have to say is: Welcome to the real world, Mrs. Fulmer. If you're expecting sympathy and martyrdom, you're looking in the wrong place.