Many of you know that I'm a bit cheap. But it's been worse. Oh, yes.
When I was first married four years ago, my husband was still in college, and we were poor. Being the type that likes to live well under my means, I was even cheaper than I needed to be. The thermostat was low in the winter. No air conditioning in the summer (not that our apartment had it, anyway). We spent next to nothing on entertainment. And my grocery budget was $25 a week.
I was very proud of feeding us on so little, although looking back, it would have been much harder without the stash of food our parents gave us to help us start out. Also, poor Mr. Mordecai hardly had anything fun to snack on! I was a bit ridiculous.
Being done with college myself, I had the time to take a university extension cooking class that was offered near our apartment. I enjoyed the tips on healthy eating, but when we got to the budget cooking part of the class, I wasn't impressed. Some of the meals they suggested cost (gasp) five whole dollars!
I eventually revealed to the class that my grocery budget averaged out to just over a dollar a meal. The room went silent very quickly. What, I thought? It worked for us. Oatmeal and eggs for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, beans and rice for dinner . . . make your own bread, buy whole chickens, choose generic brands. We were happy, and we weren't hungry, and we were living cheaply more out of choice than from necessity.
One evening a few weeks later there was a knock at our door; no one was there. Several bags of food stood on our doormat. Whoever chose it was very thoughtful. There were some convenience foods that I never bought, like cereal, frozen pizza, frozen bread dough, and boneless, skinless chicken. There were treats and staples.
We were touched, but confused. It was really nice of someone to leave us food, but why? Who? Our thoughts automatically strayed to the members of our church congregation, but most of them had less money than we did. A month or two later, the light came on. One of the teachers of the class let slip something that led me to believe that she was the one. I guess I shouldn't have bragged about my grocery budget. I was embarrassed to go back to the class after that!
The food lasted quite awhile, especially the frozen bread dough and the giant bag of cereal. We felt really humbled that another couple, about our age and in the same situation (newlywed college students), would think of us in that way. We still laugh about it, too, but we'll never forget it. In fact, we hope to be able to find another young couple to return the favor. Oh, and my current grocery budget? Much more than $25 a week. Sometimes I wonder how I did it.
Lesson learned: No need to tell people you're a cheapskate, and look out for those around you.