I’ve finally done it!
I scrimped, saved, stockpiled, and couponed my way to overflowing cabinets. The freezer is full. The canned goods shelves are groaning. If I stopped grocery shopping right now, we could survive for weeks, maybe months, on what’s in the “pantry”.
Did the pioneers feel like this with their root cellars and salted pork? I can’t claim to have any shanks of porkers hanging in the basement but I do have 10lbs of potatoes, 8lbs of yams, 5lbs of onions, and a bushel basket of assorted squash tucked away in a cold corner.
My goal this year was to build in some breathing room.
I’m a contractor, you see, and my job can go away at any time. The company I work for commits in 6 month intervals, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be released tomorrow. I’m not guaranteed work. My job is disposable and I know that. But my position is paid very well and my work is done 90% from home. I’m willing to take the risk for the higher salary and increased flexibility.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get scared.
Enter the breathing room. Food in the fridge, emergency fund in the bank. Now I feel like I could survive a prolonged job search. Sure, I’d wait tables to stretch my reserves, but my situation is no longer dire. What a difference a year makes…
The key is long range planning.
You see, I started scouring my local grocery ads and stocked up on goods that were at rock bottom prices. Things like broth, rice, pasta, sauces, canned fruits, frozen vegetables, packaged tuna, and frozen chicken. Anything that was on sale (and having a coupon or two didn’t hurt either). But before I stepped foot in a grocery store, I figured out 4 week’s worth of menus. Nothing exotic, just basic meals like casseroles, slow-cooker stews, and pasta dishes that could be made using my basic staples and lots of vegetables and minimal meats. Like my 6 serving Creamy Crock Pot Chicken which I load up with more mixed veggies and only two large chicken breasts and lots of $1 per package egg noodles. If you read the recipe, it says 3 chicken breasts and 2 cups of vegetables… well, I modified it to use less high cost meat and more low cost mixed vegetables.
Did anyone notice? Nope. Did anyone complain that we had chopped up apples for a side dish? Nope. I was the only one who kept track and finally brought my grocery bills down to $200/month… and then $150/month… and now $100/month.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not eating super healthy, 100% organic food for this low sum. There are 20 boxes of macaroni & cheese, cans of New England clam chowder, and about a dozen boxes of cold cereal floating around this place. I do have teens and they tend to eat a lot. I am not some pure as the driven snow mom. I’m a realist. There are Pop Tarts in the dining room and I’m OK with that.
My stockpile gives me breathing room for splurging. And for singing.
Just this month I received two bonuses from work. Totally unexpected, completely out of the blue, extra money that dropped out of the sky. It’s not a huge sum, but it makes me happy. So I jumped in the car, turned up the radio and sang, “Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake. I shake it off, I shake it off,” as I went to the craft store with my friend.
I could splurge and shake it off. For once, I didn’t have any bills that I had to pay with this money. I bought a couple of items for making Christmas gifts and then I put the rest of the bonuses in the emergency fund.
Which makes me very, very happy. I like having breathing room. No matter what happens, I can shake it off.