Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Bare Essentials Challenge: Weekly Recap

First, I just want to say that I'm in a much better place today.  Which is definitely a good thing :).

As soon as my husband got home last night I used the, "We need to talk" line on him (which I HATE, but didn't know how else to say it).  I had thought for hours on what I needed to do to help my peace of mind and my sanity and finally decided what to do.  I told him that I just plain can't do the financial book end of things for a while.  I need a break.  I have gotten to an OCD point with trying so hard to save money that I'm obsessing about dollars and cents to an extreme.  I started realizing this was a problem when I sat down and figured out on paper how much money I'd save per cup of coffee if I switched from half and half to milk (8.2 cents for anyone interested).  My quality of sleep, what sleep I could get with my son in the house, sucked.  I was dreaming of money problems on top of living them in my daily life.  I was cracking after 15 years of being at constant war with our finances.  So, I told my husband that he had to take over for a while.

And he was okay with it, thank goodness.  It was such a relief that he's willing to do just the looking at the bank and figuring out how to make bills end of it.  I am just going to ask for a certain amount per week in an allowance and save money that way and then pay the bills as he tells me that we have the money to do it.  I just need relief from that added stress that much.

I slept better than I have in YEARS last night as a result and feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I know we're still broke, we still need to stretch every penny and have the same problems, but I don't feel like I'm going to be doing it alone now.  Honestly, this might work out well (I'm nervous, but hopeful) as my husband plays things WAY more tight when it comes to money than I do naturally as men, it seems, are more risk takers than women are, so who knows, having another set of eyes and a different mind set might get our bills paid down quicker.  Only time will tell.  And at least this way I won't be obsessing over every penny my husband is spending.  I've always been able to live within a budget if someone sets it for me, starting back from when I was a kid and my mom would let me do the grocery shopping because she knew she could give me a number and I'd make that budget work come anything and everything.  And hopefully, once we get the first set of bills out of the way at the beginning of the year right now I'll be able to start saving money with my little allowance and help to pay bills off that way, too.

So, anyway, the Bare Essentials living began this week as I was able to get bread flour on my regular grocery budget last week (and recharged my phone all according to plan...nice when things work out like that) and figured I might as well start as there is no time like the present.

So, here's a break down of some of the things I used from the pantry and freezer or as I like to call it, "Adventures in Frugality" (this sounds MUCH cooler if you imagine it said with an echo bar going in your head...just saying ;).

1.  First was enchilada night.  I only have so much cheddar cheese in the house right now and picking up more, unless cheese goes on sale cheap here in the next bit, could take up to 1/4 of my weekly grocery allotment, so I wanted to make the cheese stretch as much as I could.  So, I dug around the freezer, knowing that I had some blocks of cheese in there somewhere, and found cheese wayyyyyy in the back that had been moved from our previous house with us it turns out (I kept saving it in case we needed it and didn't realize exactly how much time had passed).  And was old...

It survived in it's original package alright though.  No freezer burn could be seen through the package, so I defrosted it to see what would happen.

I was a BIT worried as it shrank in the package a bit when it defrosted, but when I opened it no freezer funk smell met my nose and there wasn't any weird spots or anything on the cheese.  So, I cut off 1/2 the block and crumbled it as a base cheese layer for the enchiladas.

Here's a shot of the enchiladas before they went in the oven...

How did it taste?  Well, I can safely say that the cheese could stand in well for feta in dishes as it became REALLY sharp over time (which I'm wondering if a lot of that was due to the loss of moisture from being in the freezer for so long, but I'm not sure).  The enchiladas weren't bad and the cheese melted alright, but the cheese was potent.  I am thinking of using what is left of the cheese in pasta salad or something to use it up.  It's good, but sharp.

Oh and by the way, I've tried about fifteen different ways to store cheese where it wouldn't mold on me very quickly and this is the best method I've found.   I wrap the plastic from the cheese over the exposed end of cheese, take some plastic wrap and place over the exposed end too and then secure it with a large hair elastic.  I haven't had my cheese mold on me even when I have it stored for weeks at a time in the fridge this way and it does keep the end moist too.

2.  While digging through the freezer I looked through the breads that my sister-in-law had been nice enough to give us a while back and discovered a bag of hamburger buns.  I took them out, some whole wheat English muffins and some rye bread for different things, figuring that I'd give my son the hot dog buns for a meal.

Unfortunately I looked at the back of the bag and discovered the dreaded peanut cross contamination, but not before my son saw the hamburger buns.  He LOVES hotdog and hamburger buns, so I quickly had to think of a way to use them up that he would not want to touch.  The buns were freezer burned quite a bit too, so that added to the equation.  But, I didn't want to throw the buns away, so I sat down and thought for a moment.

Enter bread pudding...

My husband has been eating it for dessert all week happy as a clam while I ate the chocolate rice pudding just as happily *laugh*.

3.  I was planning on trying to make cinnamon rolls today (one of my happy foods), but looking at recipes and such and my stores I quickly realize that the amount of butter it takes to make cinnamon rolls was not going to work for me as I have four and a half pounds of butter left and didn't feel like wasting half a pound on cinnamon rolls.

 So, I decided to make cinnamon swirl bread instead.  This way I could use margarine in the bread instead of butter but still get a butter flavor and still get the cinnamon flavor I'm craving.  I accidentally used bread flour instead of AP flour in the recipe (luckily it still came out okay).

The recipe calls for milk, and I didn't want to use our fresh milk if I could help it to make the bread as I'm trying to stretch the milk as far as it will go during the week.  So, I went into the pantry and grabbed one of the boxes of milk I had in there instead....
The milk will be used for baking if it's in the box for the time being.  I'm planning on making pancakes for dinner tonight (flub up on pulling meat out of the freezer to defrost in time for fried chicken tonight), so the milk will be used for that as well.

I also pulled out a block of cream cheese from the freezer in case I got a hankering for cinnamon swirl bread with cream cheese on it.  The freezer changes the texture of cream cheese, just like any cheese, but I find it tastes just fine out of the freezer and it really isn't an issue for me.

So there you are folks.  Some of the things I've been going through on the culinary front this week.  Anything interesting happen on your end this week?


  1. Perhaps it will be good that your husband will realize just what the state of your finances are, and you won't have to be the "watch dog" anymore. The person who does the bookkeeping usually has a better grasp of the overall picture. With your son's problems you have a big load with that.

    1. I'm hoping that it will work just that way. No matter how much you explain to a spouse what kind of situation you are in, so long as bill collectors aren't calling or something I think they just kind of take for granted that things are fine. So, it might give him a much better perspective on what kind of shape we're in and hopefully help work out how to fix it.

  2. My husband and I had the same issue in our relationship. My husband felt like I was treating him like a child because of my tight grip on the finances, so I handed over the reins to him. I'm not sure it was a great decision, but at least he has learned a few lessons in responsibility from it.

    My husband now gives me a certain amount of money for a 2 week period, instead of just one. I find that is gives me some flexibility with my grocery budget. If there are good sales on one week, I am willing to use a bit more money to get stuff we use frequently on sale. I then know the next week that I need to be super careful on my spending. I am now in the habit of specifically saving a portion of the money, so that I know there will be some left over for basics the following week. I don't know if it would be helpful for you to work with a 2 week budget, but I thought I would suggest it.

    Your meals this week sound pretty good. I usually save the crusty ends of bread in a bag in the freezer so I can make things like bread pudding or stuffing. It's always a nice treat every once in a while. Your enchiladas sound pretty good too! I love sharp cheese, so I would have been in heaven eating it.

    I loved reading your "bare essentials" challenge update. Looking forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing, Erika!!!

    1. Good point on the every two week allowance. I'll need to think on that. Thanks!

  3. Sounds like you did well on this week of your challenge. I am the one who does the finances in our home as well. Sometimes it can be hard to communicate with my husband about the burdens of working a budget and I make him take a look. Fresh eyes and shared perspective is not a bad thing.

  4. Oh my, now I want enchiladas. lol. Looks yummy.

  5. Good save on the cheese and bread! I joined your challenge last week and was able to stay pretty close to the $50. ( I got some things from one store and sent my husband to another one, and we ended up around $51). We have decided to join in with you to bring down the amount of food storage we have and to set the extra money aside. We are going to move, so less will be better in that situation.

    We have tried many different things with money over the years. I have also let my husband take the role of the main financial person. Someone has to be in charge of it, even when we are doing it together. It does not come easily to either one of us. There have been lots of mistakes made by both of us, but there have been a lot of successes as well. After 33 years of marriage, we are just getting better and better at working together. So, take heart. It may end up bringing you guys closer. There have been times when I had to choose to let him do things "his" way, even if I would have done it differently or thought it cost too much, and times when he has had to forgive me silly adding mistakes that caused me to bounce my checkbook and I incurred a bunch of penalty fees (not my finest moment--I can still remember how mad I was at myself) The point is--neither one of us is perfect--and when we both give each other grace, we get through it. We were just talking today in the car about how (even with mistakes) we are in a much better position than many would be with a job loss because we already know how to reign in the expenses, and have made progress in building equity in our home so we have something to sell in this time of change. Loads are always lighter when 2 people carry them--I applaud your decision to share the load.

    1. Excellent that you were able to get so near 50.00 with the two of you hitting two stores. I don't know if I would have been able to do that *laugh*.

      Math mistakes happen to the best of us. Luckily the one time I made one I still had a cushion I kept in the checking account so the 40.00 mistake wasn't devastating, but it was close.

      And you're right. No one is perfect. So, here's hoping that my husband and I can find new strengths and support each others weaknesses as we switch things around :).