I'm really glad when Fiona and I wrote the $21 Challenge book many moons ago that we remembered to include the following: 'Sometimes it feels as though the entire universe is trying to put the cobblers on your Challenge. Don't panic! You haven't failed. Try again when things have settled down'. Because that's exactly what happened to me last week. Despite my best intentions we had everything thrown at us from coughs and colds, to lengthy power cuts and even a dislocated shoulder thrown in for good measure and the outcome was whilst it wasn't bad budget-wise, it was incredibly bad food-wise to the extent I didn't manage to have an evening meal at all for at least four nights out of the week. I know, not ideal is it? If nothing else it was a good wake up call that I really need to look after myself better. But on this occasion at least it really was circumstantial and I can assure any concerned fellow parents that my darling son WAS provided for throughout!
In fact that was how the first disaster arose. The first morning of the Challenge Ali awoke with a nasty cold. He looked like crap and sounded even worse so being the indulgent and sympathetic mum I am, I decided to make him a huge pot of comforting soup to help him feel better and hopefully speed up his recovery. There was however a bit of an obstacle here in that for once I had nothing really in the house to make soup from in the form of meat and vegetables - and it was a $21 Challenge week too! So I went to the supermarket, spent $1 on a piece of beef schnitzel and carefully selected one carrot, one parsnip and two potatoes to go with the couple of wilted celery stalks I had at home. I threw everything into the pot along with the last of my packet of soup mix (you know, the ones with lentils and split peas and pearl barley and so on), brought it up to the boil, then turned the heat down and left it to do its thing.
Unfortunately despite making this soup at least 100 times and being on the lowest possible heat setting, it decided on this occasion to do its thing too much and before long I was alerted to an awful burning smell. To my absolute distress the whole enormous potful was ruined to the extent I couldn't even feed it to the dogs. Whilst once upon a time I would have just been a bit peeved at a pot of soup gone wrong, I was absolutely heartbroken. We couldn't afford to lose all this food! But we had and that was just the way the week went. Fortunately I didn't ruin the sausages we had for dinner that night, which was just as well because the whole town experienced a power cut the following night and all we were able to have for dinner was bread and butter and a cold sausage!
Still, it wasn't all bad. We still saved enough out of our grocery bill to pay two other bills and that was my goal so we did achieve that. And this week is a brand new week! So let's give it another go. Tonight is easy, as Ali is having dinner with his dad so I only have me to worry about. That's a good thing as I can't afford to buy any food until tomorrow! I'll do a proper food inventory then and I'm under no illusions that this $21 Challenge will be the toughest one I have ever done. But I'll bloody well do it and I'm going to do it well because Lord knows I need some decent food! If I never eat cheese on toast again it will be too soon. At least it won't be for a while now because I've run out of cheese!
So. Goals this week:
1. Complete a SUCCESSFUL $21 Challenge. With dinners and proper food like a normal person.
2. Sell some more stuff. This is tomorrow's job and a very important one because I don't know when I'm going to be able to get enough work to pay the bills so I have to pay them somehow.
3. Keep trying to find work. An ongoing mission and a whole other blog. As it is I have no work for the foreseeable future. Quite frankly I'm bricking it. But something will come up. Even if I have to take a leaf out of Forrest Gump's book and start going to church and singing to the Lord at the top of my voice every Sunday in the hope he smiles down on me I will do it.
4. Stay positive. I'll admit, I've been losing my mojo the last couple of weeks. I'm feeling perilously close to giving in. But the amount I will gain compared with what I will lose is at this stage so little that selling my home would be a really bad and irreversible move. Fortunately I don't give in easily.
And it ain't all bad. I managed to shave another $266 off the monthly bills today, that's not to be sneezed at! People are so lovely - even people on the end of the Telecom - sorry SPARK line. It just goes to show you can always make a few savings here and there. It doesn't matter that I only rang them a couple of months ago and asked how I could get my bill down, I still did it again today and they slashed off another $60 a month! Plus my power bill is $170 in credit! Yes, CREDIT! Woohoo! Long story, I don't know if you saw on my Facebook page but a few weeks ago I was talked into cancelling my power supply with Nova in favour of trying out Globug; a 'prepay your power' initiative which is currently being offered to families on limited budgets and low incomes. They crunched some numbers and estimated that our enormous household of Ali and me would save between $400 and $500 a year on electricity. What a crock. They sent us a traffic light style monitor thing which glared at us ominously from the kitchen bench and within 24 hours it had turned both of us into nervous wrecks, checking every five minutes whether we had used up any credit and if it was still green or had turned to orange (meaning a top up of our account was required within 24 hours) or red (which meant disconnection was imminent).
On the positive side, it made the two of us completely OCD about saving power, rushing around constantly shutting doors and windows and switching lights off. But it soon became apparent that Globug was NOT saving us money when we chewed through our first $50 credit in just five days. Bearing in mind we don't have a dishwasher, or a dryer and don't even watch TV this was pretty unbelievable but most ludicrous of all was the fact that we weren't even home for three of those days and when we were, we were so paranoid about using up our precious credit we were almost sitting in the dark! Yet we were already spending more than before? There was no way I was giving them any more of my money and as if by magic a lovely man from Nova rang out of the blue and said (in as many words) 'What the hell are you doing?! These guys won't save you money!' I had absolutely no hesitation in running back into their welcoming arms with promises of no hard feelings, cancellation of disconnection fees and promises of further discounts. So at least I don't have to worry about the power bill for the foreseeable future, yippee!