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Making a Meal Stretch

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This past week our pantry has been a bit bare, but I’ve been making it a priority to eat what we have instead of making an extra trip to the grocery store. I divide our grocery money into the number of weeks in the month (4 or 5) and try to stick to that amount – no more. We had already used our week’s allotment of grocery money so I was going to have to get creative until the following week.

One night for dinner I decided to pull some enchiladas out of the freezer. Whenever I make enchiladas I always double the batch and freeze the extras, so this was the “extra batch.” Generally when I make dinner I try to make a little extra so I can have leftovers for lunch the next day, but this was a small batch – only 5 enchiladas. My husband ate two, I ate 1 ½, gave the girls ½ and we had sides – refried beans and a side-salad.

For lunch the next day I was totally stumped. We didn’t have enough leftovers to feed me and both girls (only 1 enchilada left), and we’d been eating grilled cheese or PB&Js for the past 3 lunches in a row. I desperately wanted to run to Chick-fil-A or call in some Chinese take-out. I debated it for awhile, but ultimately I decided I needed to figure out a way to make our leftover enchilada stretch into a meal for 3.

What did I do?

Well, although there was only a single enchilada, there was actually a good amount of beans leftover. So I made a little enchilada “pie.” On the bottom of our plates I put a hefty layer of beans, then I cut the enchilada in half (half for me, half shared by the girls), and put it on top. To beef it up, I added some avocado we had on-hand, a little extra grated cheese, and a small dollop of sour cream.

It wasn’t the best or most exciting meal. It was probably 70% beans with a little enchilada and other toppings. But it was a good source of protein (beans), fats (avocado) and dairy (cheese, sour cream). And it filled us up for free as opposed to spending money at the drive-through.

I’ll call that a “win” any day!

 

How do you make a meal stretch? What are some of your favorite budget recipes that you can make from mostly pantry staples?


Our Financial Relationship

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Our Financial Relationship

Chris and I met at the very beginning of my Freshman (his Sophomore) year of college – the end of August 2002.

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Obviously we had some similarities, lol!

We started dating shortly thereafter.

By 2005, we were moving into our first (TINY and BARE) apartment together. Remember? This was from our pre-debt days!

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From the beginning, I kind of took control of the financial aspect of our relationship. I am naturally drawn toward budgeting and saving and him….not so much. We made enough to survive just fine as long as I was in control, and I was even able to save up money so we were able to go on fancy vacations…

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Dominican Republic, All-inclusive resort, Circa 2006

 

…and do lots of fun things, all while paying cash!

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Floating the Guadalupe River one summer

 But then we moved away so I could go to graduate school and, well, we all know how well that went (read:  DEBT-CITY).

Fast-forward to present day.

My husband is the primary earner in our relationship right now. Unless I get a full time job sometime, it is likely to stay this way for awhile. However, he’s not great with money. So I am the primary money-spender in our relationship (in terms of budgeting, paying bills, etc.). The way we make this work is a little different than most people I know….

First, I don’t know exactly how much my husband makes. Don’t get me wrong – I’m involved in paying our taxes so I’m not completely out in the dark. But he has a variable income and on a week-to-week basis I don’t know exactly how much he has made.

How do we pay our bills?

Well, we have talked about and agreed on a budget so Chris always knows how much we need in order to survive and pay our debt obligations. If he’s having a particularly bad month (given that his income is variable), then he’ll give me as much as he possibly can – almost everything (post-tax) that he made. He does keep some money, but basically just enough to put gas in his work truck and have a little in his bank for business expenses (he does hard-wood floors, so he often has to buy supplies for a job prior to actually getting paid for the job).

On months that he does really well, he gives me above average of his “norm,” but I know he also keeps a little extra for himself. How much exactly? I don’t know.

I know many of my friends would hate this type of situation. They feel it is somehow dishonest or unfair for him to not share his exact earnings and give me every penny he makes so I can manage it.

But that would just never work for us. We have been together since 2002. There have been times in our relationship where I was the primary earner and, therefore, I was in control of almost all the money. It was a time of great stress and marital discord (well, we weren’t married yet, but you get the idea). Sure, we could pay off our debt a bit sooner if he were to give me 100% of his paycheck. But that would also, in a way, equate to castrating him (at least in his eyes). He can’t handle making all this money, giving it all to me, and then having to ask for some back and justify if he wants to buy fast food for lunch one day (as an example).

Writing this blog is a funny thing. I have already received SO MUCH great advice (thank you!!!). And, naturally, I go to my husband and talk about the things I have learned, as it impacts our family spending and budget. So in a way, “you” (the collective readers and commenters) have become a third person in our relationship. We discuss what you say, weigh the information, and try to make informed decisions as a result.

Prior to starting on this debt-reduction journey I discussed the potential ramifications with my husband. One think I thought you readers would push us on was revising this current financial situation. There are SO MANY different ways to handle finances. Why don’t we both get a small “allowance” or agree that he can keep “X” amount per week for blow money. But that number should be named, right?

Well, that’s great in theory, but it just hasn’t worked in real life.

And you know what????

I’m perfectly satisfied with our current financial relationship.

I know when he’s got a little extra money from a big job because he may show up with a new pair of shoes, but just as frequently he’ll use the money to spoil us by taking us out to eat, picking up a movie, or even running to the grocery store on his dime (rather than coming out of the budget).

I won’t argue that it might not be the best way to use our resources. If he gave me all his money, I would be able to allocate more toward debt each month and reach our goals sooner. But then my husband would be miserable. And you know the saying “happy wife, happy life”??? I think it equally well applies to husbands ; )

So I’m sure there will be many readers who will disagree with this type of relationship (like I said – I’m sure many of my own FRIENDS would disagree with it). But it works for us. And money remains one of the top reasons for divorce. So, as long as we are both comfortable and happy with our current relationship then I think that’s a really important factor. Even above the extra month or two that we could pay off debt early, had I been receiving 100% of his money. You can’t put a price on marital happiness.

 

Does anyone else have an interesting financial relationship? How do you and your partner handle finances?