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Frankly, I have heard enough doom and gloom about the economy. I realize it’s bad, but seriously, it has been worse. I haven’t seen one gas line yet, we are not rationing tires, and the price of milk has really gone down.
When things get out of control, there are natural forces that correct it. It may not be comfortable enough for our liking, but there are always opportunities even in the most dire circumstances, and, in fact, it seems the best opportunities come out of dire circumstances.
I don’t mean to sound crass or unfeeling. I’m going to miss stores like Circuit City and Linens ‘N Things. Everyday, it seems, holds news of another store closing or more people being laid off.
But this can be a time for new hope. No, not the kind manufactured by a politician– that’s a marketing ploy. I mean real hope. The stuff dreams are made of. Most of us don’t really change anything until we have to. So, now we have to.
Since our families can’t manufacture money nor can we look at bank accounts dripping in red ink and honestly think we can turn it into black ink by taking the family on a spending spree to Disney world. We have real choices to make; we can either join the circus of gloom the media and our esteemed leaders are perpetuating, or we can tighten our belt and get creative.
About fifteen years ago, my husband and I made a hard choice. It came just a few years after I closed my own business to be a stay-at-home mom and care for our growing family. Together, we decided he too needed a career change. He left a number one position after 13 years in a well-paying factory job and went into police work.
Entry level police work in a small town means several part time jobs. The truth is, even full time pay for police work in a rural farming area falls well below the poverty level. For years he worked one full-time job and two (or sometimes, three) part-time jobs in police departments all around Douglas County just to make ends meet. Without a doubt, we would have qualified for every government program offered. But the government should always be the last resort, as it is seldom the best answer to family problems.
One way we survived those years was to develop a meal planning system that saved us hundreds of dollars every month.
First, we cut out most convenient foods like cold cereal. For the price of a box of cereal (depending on where you shop) you can buy a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, and a pound of sausage. You may be surprised to know that oatmeal and other hot cereals are also cheaper alternatives to Lucky Charms.
Next, I figured out that the most cost effective way to plan meals was also a major time saver; grouping meals.
Take spaghetti for example– a basic family staple. Rather than buying a pre-made jar, look up an old family recipe. Or search online, the Internet is rich with recipes.
Once your sauce is made, you now have the basis for Lasagna, Manicotti, and several other meals. These usually freeze well, and, frankly, it takes just a little more time to throw them together and stick them in the freezer. Think of your own favorite recipes that share a major common ingredient like seasoned taco meat, for example, and apply the same principles. There is no waste because everything is used, and the second meal time preparation is cut by more than half.
There is a new twist to menu planning online at www.e-mealz.com. These folks have taken all the excuses out of menu planning. For about $1.50 a week, they give you a new menu plan based on the menu you want; you can choose by store, diet and family size. Each week there is a new menu plan that uses primarily products from the sale items from the store you chose complete with grocery list, and (the always appreciated) new recipes.
Innovation and hard work will see families through these turbulent economic times. Individual families will get creative and share their ideas. And, while it’s painful to watch now, a forest of new business will begin to sprout up among the ashes, like new growth after the devastating fire.