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Shore Leave © Steve Henderson
Note from Kresha: We can never talk too much about how to be intentional with what we have. To that end, I've invited Carolyn Henderson of This Woman Writes to write a monthly column about frugality, intentional use of money, intentional homeschooling, and simple living.
Carolyn has been a homeschooling mom for more than 20 years and she and her husband have raised a family of six on one modest income, plus they own their home, property, car, and business completely debt-free. Needless to say, she has wonderful nuggets of wisdom to share on joyful, simple living and living debt-free.
Also, her posts are always accompanied by fine art works painted by her husband, Steve, and I know she'll give you wonderful food for thought each month. Thanks for joining us, Carolyn!
This weekend . . . we ate a lot.
And very, very well.
How well? I knew you'd ask, however laconically.
Our family of three enjoyed two gourmet dinners, averaging $125 per evening event. The meals were complete productions with entree, side dish, sauteed vegetables, dessert, and beverage — primarily organic ingredients, freshly put together by a professional chef. The fish and and shrimp were wild caught from Alaska.
And the amount we actually spent for the two evenings' dinners was . . . $10.
Did I get your attention?
I thought I would — this is one of those stories like the extreme couponers who walk into a store with a notebook stuffed full of cents-off papers and walk out with three full grocery carts and a total outlay of $6.74.
As a person who cooks from scratch with basic ingredients like produce, dairy products, flour, eggs — none of which you can get on coupons — I dislike stories like these, because I can't make them work in my own life. Not if I'm going to continue using fresh ingredients that aren't vacuum packed and sealed into a box with a caveat on the outside that “some settlement may have occurred during shipment,” resulting in a large air pocket at the top.
But if you're somebody like me, who is serious about good food well prepared, you can do a personalized imitation of my story:
- All of the produce in the meal was from our garden, which we don't spray. We also don't mind a few weeds, as long as what we want to grow isn't overwhelmed by what we don't want to grow. A messy garden is still a productive garden.
- We used what we had, readily available during the season: zucchini, chard, kale, Yukon Gold potatoes, green onions. If you have a garden, I'll bet you've got the zucchini; the other stuff, maybe yes, maybe no, but you've probably got something I don't. If you don't have a garden, do you have access to a Farmer's Market? If there's one in my itty bitty town, I'll bet there's one in yours.
- The beverage was Kombucha, which can retail $4 for 16 ounces. We make it ourselves, with 32 ounces running around 50 cents. Another night we had cheap, decent wine from Cost-Co (which is a great source of reasonably priced organic produce, by the way, when garden season ends). Because we've never tasted expensive wine, we don't know what we're missing.
- Dessert — homemade ice cream, made with milk from our goats and eggs from our chickens.
- The Alaskan fish? A gift from our Son and Heir, up in Alaska for the summer.
- The chef? 17-year-old Tired of Being Youngest, two-thirds of the way through culinary school, and recipient of her one-year professional chef credentials.
Okay, so you don't have a son up in Alaska, the daughter in culinary school, the goats (seriously? you don't WANT goats?) or the chickens, but you have your own unique circumstances, and if you figure out what they are and use them to your advantage, you will customize your own luxury experience — one that you could never afford if you had to buy it the “real” way — and live like a rich person on the resources you have.
No matter where you live or if you own chickens, you can do the one crucial thing that affects your life, three times a day: learn to cook. We all eat, and if eating were just something as boring and necessary as washing our face or doing the other activities that take place in the bathroom, there would be no restaurants.
But the reason that there are restaurants, and good ones, is because eating is an experience, and if we never make it to Thailand, we can at least try the food. And while eating out is less expensive than actually traveling, eating in — because we know how to cook — is the least expensive trip of them all.
Living well with what we have is a lifestyle, not a trick, and because each of us has unique resources, we will go about our luxury experience differently, and that's part of the fun.