Never have I enjoyed a Wendy's classic double with fries and a Coke like I did Sunday at midnight. After semi-successfully making it through the week on our $2-a-day food budget, we rewarded our noble asceticism with some good old American fast food. Not that the fast food lifestyle is something I really want to fall back into, but it's a process. I really did learn a lot over the week about making better budgetary and dietary choices, but there's definitely a tough tradeoff between frugality and eating healthy. I'm certainly guilty of wasting a ridiculous amount of perfectly good food, simply due to buying things I don't even up eating, and I think that's the biggest thing I want to learn to work on: only buying things that I have a specific plan for.
Throughout the challenge of using the staples we were limited to, I did come across some recipes that I plan on using more often for quicker and/or cheaper meals. The closest to making my own pizza I think I have ever come before this week involved Boboli brand pizza shells and prepackaged Ragu pasta sauce. I was surprised to find that making our own dough really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, even if it did come out a little heavier than I would prefer. We started off with this pizza dough recipe and, after some experimentation and down-scaling for our smaller pizza pan, found it to be as good as anything store-bought, and definitely cheaper.
I was also relatively happy with the recipe we found for homemade flour tortillas. I think I kind of wussed out when it came to rolling them out, as they turned out as something in between true tortillas and the kind of shell Taco Bell gorditas come in, but they worked out really well with our cornucopia of refried beans. On the subject, I have to give a big thanks to Chalupa for his advice on the refried beans. I'm sure his recipe is fairly standard, but I've had his beans before and I knew he would be able to point us in the right direction. I'm sure he can reiterate any specific steps missing, but his directions more or less followed this recipe.
In the end, I think we ended up saving something in the neighborhood of $100, if you assume we would have eaten out a couple of time over the week. While I'm not anxious to start again right away, it was a worthwhile exercise and something that could end up being an annual or semi-annual routine. Try it out. If you think it may be too rigid of a challenge for you, at least consider trying it with some friends; The more people you get involved, the more money you have to pool for food, which will increase your meal options considerably. For more information and ideas, check out the main site at www.2dollars.org.
The longest I have ever lived in one place since college comes in at just under 18 months. I could have extended that record out at least another eight months if it hadn't been for the creeping death-mold infestation. At that point, in early 2006, January and I had been discussing our impending engagement, so it didn't seem like a great idea to get locked into a new lease. Instead, I did what anybody else would do: I moved into my office.
Technically, I wasn't living in my office; I was living in a small closet on the second floor of the apartment that Phil and I rent for our office space. It really wasn't even a closet as much as it was an access room to get to the HVAC system. Just big enough for a single person mattress and pile of clothes, and that's where I slept for close to four months. While it had the distinct advantage over my old apartment of not slowly killing me, it really wasn't a whole lot better. This was evidenced by the near-corpse of a bat we found the day we finally moved to new office space.
As I may have mentioned before, our current living situation isn't exactly stellar and we've been thinking a lot about what our future might be in the fair city of Columbus, and whether or not it might make sense to look into a housing situation a little more permanent. And by "permanent," I of course mean "scary and expensive."
For us, the process started about the same way the pet buying process works:
January: "Don't you just love little kittens?"
Andy: "Why yes, January. I do, in fact, love kittens."
January: "What about this kitten? Isn't she adorable?"
Andy: "She sure is, January. "
January: "We could go look at her. She's at the pet store right down the street."
Andy: "I don't know..."
January: "C'mon! She's cute, she's right down the street.... we don't have to buy her, just go over and pet her for a while!"
A five minute car ride later, and BAM! One more mouth to feed and nose to scratch. I'm trying to be a little less impulsive when it comes to the house shopping, but really I can see myself being quite content in almost any of the houses we've looked at online. But now that I'm an adult, I understand I'm supposed to do adulty things to get through this process. So here we go, into the wonderful, magical world of morgage applications, real estate brokers, third-party appraisals, offers, and counter-offers. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
We weren't particularly impressed with that answer, so we furthered our search by watching the pilot episode of ALF, which I think we can all agree is the gold standard by which all sitcoms should be compared.