1/15/09

Too cheap?


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.

9 comments:

  1. lol. People can be incredibly kind. When my Dearest & I were first going out together we were very poor. I wasn't a big eater but Dearest was a manual labourer & *always* hungry! We'd go to this Italian place * order one meal, two plates & share. After the first time the Italian mama always gave us 2 meals for the price of one & we became favourites of hers. We appreciated her kindness no end.

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  2. I think that a food stash is an excellent wedding gift. So much more useful than what people usually give couples now.

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  3. LOL, that's great! sometimes people can really surprise you with their kindness, huh? i think it's wonderful that you two want to pay it forward!! thanks for sharing!!!

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  4. That is kinda funny.
    We did drop off a big box of food on someone's door when we were in college. It was a co-worker of my husbands but we're pretty sure they really needed it and weren't just being cheap. :-)

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  5. Our budget when i was in school was $20 a week, and up to $25 if necessary. When I told a classmate that, she was astounded, but not in a bad way. She wanted to know how I managed because she wanted to cut her food budget down.

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  6. We had a similar story when we were in college. Somebody left a bunch of groceries on our doorstep--and we were so grateful! We had just had our first baby who was so colicky and we were far away from family, and felt so alone. It was such a nice reminder that the Lord knows us each individually, our needs, our wants, etc.

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  7. That is a great story, on so many levels.

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  8. Those early college marriage days...it's so interesting to think back on them and wonder how it the world we made it through! Our budget was very low as well and we were also recipients of "doorbell ditch" boxes. I was so incredibly thankful for those gifts, especially when we were expecting Little One #1. Thanks for sharing...I think I should look around and see if I can return the favor in some way.

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  9. Oh that's too funny! My husband and I have had the same food budget - $300/mo - since we married. Now that includes 2 kids and I wonder what we spent all that money on when it was just 2 of us. :)

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