Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Broke? Join the club - it's not that bad

Money can be a real drag, mostly when you don’t have any. But it’s amazing how you can get by when you think you’re broke.

I get paid once a month and it’s not always easy to parcel it out evenly over four weeks. There are always unexpected costs that invariably crop up, like the new tires you have to buy, right away, when your car fails inspection. Boom! There goes your walking around money for the next two months. Definitely no Starbucks for a while. Hopefully there is enough left over to make the minimum payments on your credit cards.

When you still need to put gas in the car, the one with the new tires, and might like to at least go see a movie, who wants to waste money buying food? It’s surprising what you can find to eat in your house when you’re low on cash. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

What used to look like an empty cupboard is now filled - with the box of Ritz crackers that has been in there forever - Everything sits on a Ritz! - the Ramen noodles that you brought home with you from college years ago, even the shredded mini-wheats you bought that week you were on a fiber kick. Way in the back, you can even see that old bag of coffee beans that you used before there was a Starbuck’s. How long ago was that? And of course there’s tuna fish. Whether you like tuna fish or not, for some reason, it’s always in the cupboard. As long as your almost empty fridge has at least some milk, eggs, cheese and a little mayo, you’ve got a smorgasbord!

For breakfast, it’s time to haul out the “unsweetened” mini-wheats. Hopefully there is some kind of sugar around to help out with that. Okay, so you can’t have Starbucks, but that’s what the coffee beans are for. Crank up the old coffee maker, add some milk and sugar to your coffee, shake it up and you’ve got a latte.

At lunch, it’s time to whip out the Ritz crackers and make a little plate of cheese and cracker sandwiches. Maybe you can find a tomato or cucumber from the fridge to slice up, and add a shmere of mayo on a couple of them for variety. Put them in the toaster oven and you’ve got mini grilled cheese sandwiches. Voila!

Dinner presents you with a choice - tuna fish or Ramen Noodles. You could just have tuna fish and mayo, or you could spice it up with all that jazz in the refrigerator door that you haven’t used in ages. Italian salad dressing instead of mayo is a calorie saver, and you can chop up some of that tomato or cucumber from lunch and toss it in. While you’re at it, why not get out those pearl onions that you bought during your short-lived martini, or rather Gibson, phase? A few of those chopped up in a tuna fish mix will give it a real zing. Who knew such bounties could be found in a seemingly foodless kitchen?

Don’t forget the Ramen noodles. Add the flavor packet, stir in an egg while it’s still boiling and then cover the finished product with shredded cheese. If there is any cucumber and tomato left, mix it with some of that salad dressing on the side and you have a balanced meal. Protein, dairy, vegetables, carbs and of course the indispensable flavor packet.

So when life causes you to pinch a few pennies, there are ways to handle it and not have to sacrifice everything. Who knows? You might even save enough to get your Starbucks!

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