Last Sunday, I sent V a text to try and come with a challenge for this week and she responded with a few options, the one that stuck out most was “Go money free or set a strict, bare bones budget”. Challenge accepted! At first I set a twenty-dollar budget that I would adhere to no matter what! After thinking about it for a minute, I realized that may not be enough of a challenge, so I decided no money. No bills would be paid, no groceries, gas, or food would be purchased, no trips to the movies, and no on-line purchases. If an emergency came up, I would figure it out, or borrow money from someone else. This week I’m not spending shit, because for this week I ain’t got shit to spend!
The Plan: Take all the cash and credit cards out of my wallet, and don’t spend a single penny.
This week didn’t really intimidate me at all. I grew up poor as fuck, then I was still poor all through out college and grad school, my first year out of grad school I made $6,000 adjuncting, and then $8,000 the year after that. Seriously, my monetary goals in life while growing up were to be able to buy fancy mustard (I italicized fancy because it just seems fancy to do so), and that’s pretty much it. Once I finally got a full-time job teaching, I went out and bought so much mustard that by the time it was all gone, I just wanted to go back to Plochman’s yellow, and wallow in misery for setting such a ridiculous life goal. Mustard…give me a break, some kids hope for the day that they can afford a car, or a matching fridge and stove, or a giant TV, a jet, or a boat, and I set my sights on fancy mustard, that is a poor mother fucker who longs for the day they can buy mustard in a class jar. At least it can’t be said that I never met my goal! In case you care, Inglehoffer stone ground, and Inglehoffer sweet honey mustard take the cake, those are some tasty mustards. Maille whole grain is right there too.
If I were asked to explain where my longing for the day I could afford a $3.00 bottle of mustard came from, I guess it would be based on my favorite dinner/lunch growing up. When my mom worked days, we would have to fend for ourselves, my oldest sister would do her best to make sure me and my other sister ate something, and sometimes we would have macaroni and cheese, but on nights when there wasn’t much to cook, it was a delicious mustard sandwich. If you don’t know what a mustard sandwich is, it’s one piece of bread, with mustard squeezed on top of it, then you fold it in half. That’s it. It’s like a glowing golden heaven meandering between the pillowy softness of dry bread! I suppose I just never had the foresight to envision myself as not having a steady diet of mustard sandwich, so if I am going to dream big, I might as well have the best possible mustard. In reality I didn’t even know what fancy mustard tasted like, I just figured it was the mark of success. Maybe this had something to do with that lofty goal I set for myself as the benchmark of success. Advertisers…those brilliant fuckers!
For this challenge, time happened to be on my side. No bills were due this week, I had a half tank of gas (more than enough for my dinky little commute to and from school), and I had at least 5 days worth of normal food, as long as I rationed out the goods. It’s not even like starving while trapped in a cave after a landslide rations, it’s more like don’t be a slothy asshole rations. I got this covered!
Well by Wednesday I had finished an entire jar of peanuts, no worries, I can stretch out these carrots and the lemon cilantro hummus for a couple days, (I had such high hopes for lemon cilantro hummus, please do yourself a favor and never buy this, mixing three things you like doesn’t necessitate that the final product will be glorious. This mixture sucked, and I probably would have tossed it out if I weren’t on ‘don’t be a slothy asshole’ rations.) gone by Thursday, but at least I had an entire tub of dark cherry honey (now that is a stellar combo) Greek yogurt that was gone by Friday. I knew on Friday night that these last two days would be rough, all I had to do was ration things out, just a little, but nope, I couldn’t help myself, a slothy asshole I was, and by Saturday I was a little bit fucked.
Not fucked in the sense that I had no food, but fucked in the sense that I had exactly the following to spread out over 2 full days…
1 bucket of oatmeal
1 bag of frozen corn
1 frozen quinoa burger
1 can of carrots (I didn’t even know carrots came in a can, and I have no idea how long this can has been in my cupboard, or where it came from)
1 can of green hatch chilies
1 can of kidney beans
1 half box of penne
2 old oranges (old as in they looked like what I imagine Donald Trump’s balls to look like…soft, shriveled up, wrinkled, and bright orange, and now I am stuck here wondering if the hair on his crinkled old orange nut-sack, is as fucked as the hair on his crinkled old nut-sack head? I’m assuming his pubes must be similar to mold on an orange, that’s horrifying, thanks Tubbers, I blame you for this image…moving on…)
A shitload of condiments, that I think mysteriously arrived at the same time as the canned carrots. Including of course 1 jar of fancy mustard!
On Saturday, I actually made something that was entirely tasty; frozen corn mixed with the can of hatch green chilies, some honey, some Dijon mustard, some green Tabasco, with the quinoa patty cut up and added to the corn. It wasn’t exactly on the level of V’s Spam & Kimchi Fried Rice, but it was a solid 3 pinecones for sure.
Song 1: On My Block (Scarface)
Sunday morning I had a weird stomachache, I never ate that much corn in one sitting, and I would not recommend it! After a quick recovery it was on to oatmeal made with water and sweetened with honey, I had the same for lunch, but I decided to spread my newly formed culinary wings for dinner. There’s a TV show I saw called chopped, and they’re forced to make gourmet dishes with horrible foods, of course they have years of experience, and an entire panty of items to help, but I figured if they could make baked Alaska out of pop tarts, beet leaves, and a severed human toe, then surely I could summon my inner Mario Batali and make something from canned carrots, and kidney beans.
I’d love to tell you I crafted a 5 pinecone dinner which would have won me a golden meat cleaver, or whatever they give away on chopped, but sadly I cannot. When I went to open the carrots I just couldn’t do it, they have been hidden in the cupboard for some unknown amount of time, and it just wasn’t to be, they have become Mayor of the pantry, and it just wasn’t their day. When I can spend money again, I will buy them some googley eyes, and forever may they reign! I would end this day just as it began…Oatmeal!
The Take: I got to play poor for a week, but I remember what it was for my mom to have to decide between paying the water bill and buying groceries. I remember what it was like going to bed hungry and having no idea when or what my next meal would be. It’s one thing to fuck around with being broke for a week; it’s a completely different thing to have to do it week in and week out. This was a good challenge because although I’m not flying around in a luxury car, I am reminded how fortunate I am to be able to buy some fancy ass mustard. I’m also now well aware that 16oz of corn will literally fuck your shit up, that every pantry must have a mayor, and that oatmeal is not the flashiest of foods, but it will get you through!