I still have to work out the final tally but either way we've done bloody well. Even before the challenge our weekly food bill was low. We usually get a $20 vegie box from the local greengrocer each week, as well as a $25 meat pack from the butcher, who does a different range each week. Not only does this give us plenty of variety and makes us try new dishes and cook new things, it also means we get all our meat and vegetables for just $45 a week and half the time we can stretch our vegie box to last two weeks. I think that's pretty good value already so the fact that we went without BOTH these things this week AND spent less than the price of just one of them is not a bad effort at all!
It's nice to know I haven't lost the knack, in fact quite the opposite. It was interesting to note too, how many of our week's meals came from the $21 Challenge book and the fact that these were by no means just dragged out for the Challenge but even after all these years all of them still feature regularly at our family table. I also made it through the week without laundry powder, dishwashing liquid, pet food and even electricity! Yes, I am still cooking in the dark every night. I hope the inconvenience of having no kitchen lights makes itself apparent in the next power bill! I also learned that when you think you only have enough toothpaste to last one day, there's actually another whole week left in there!
Most of all however I learned how kind people are. As soon as I announced on Facebook last Friday that I was doing a $21 Challenge out of necessity, I immediately received a lovely message from a friend I haven't seen in years, which said 'I have some spare cash this week, let me help you out. Doing something good makes the soul feel nice'. Of course I declined her offer but was truly touched, especially as we haven't seen each other in such a very long time. That night I also received a message from a local chap who I had ordered a load of firewood from for $50. 'I've decided to give you that firewood for free. After all, you've helped me out in the past', it read. 'Nooo, I can't do that! I'm more than happy to pay, I budgeted for it!' I said. 'Tell you what, do you have any fruit in that garden of yours? How about we do a swap?' came the reply. Now I can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure he must have read my post in our local 'Pay It Forward' page on Facebook, offering free oranges, lemons and mandarins! 'Yes, I do! you can have as much as you like!' I typed back. 'Sounds like a fair trade to me!' he said. Then Sunday morning my phone beeped with a message from another friend. 'I see you're living on $20 this week. You can double that at least if you come round to my place this morning and do some cleaning - today only, mind!' That was one offer I did accept!
All in all, I ended up making another $130 through that cleaning job and selling stuff on our Buy and Sell Facebook page. But I still stuck to my $21 Challenge principles and didn't use that money. For one thing, I had already announced I was doing a $21 Challenge and I was committed to seeing it through - but it made me feel even better knowing that I did have money there I COULD fall back on but still didn't need to resort to using it. The only rule we did bend was on the very first night of the Challenge. Gareth and I had already planned a movie night that night, with a DVD and treats. That was, until I realised we only had $20 for the whole week. Taking it out of our food budget was not an option and not being big spenders or extravagant romantics we had been looking forward to it. There was only one thing we could do - raid the coin jar! Not that there was much in it anyway but we managed to scrape together enough for a $3.50 DVD rental, a bar of chocolate and a bag of popcorn. Doesn't cost much to make us happy!
One very sorry looking freezer!
It's almost time to cook my final Challenge dinner and one of the best things about it is that it is so quick and easy. As a rule I don't miss eating meat but I will tonight, as I watch the others while tucking into my Pumpkin and Chickpea Casserole! I must say, I'm not looking forward to tomorrow though, when we have to do one heck of a grocery shop. I could really do with that $30 transaction fee the bank took off me! We don't even have flour any more and we're almost out of butter and cheese, both of which will get used up tonight. But still, we've used up a whole lot of things this week which wouldn't have got used otherwise and I'm really proud of both our efforts and our resolve. You can bet I won't be celebrating with a glass of wine though, the only glass of bubbles I'm looking forward to is Diet Coke!