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My Frugal Life: The One Dollar Dinner

I've always been frugal, but I guess this one could be called "facing a challenge". My Frugal LifeTimes were very hard, my husband was out of a job, no money in the bank, no family to assist. It was hard enough trying to feed our family of four, two adults, two children, then I discovered my husband had invited a guest to dinner! I had precisely one dollar to provide a meal for five people!

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Okay, this is how it went. I spent the dollar on sausage meat, that was it. I babysat a neighbour's children which, in return, she gave me some pumpkin and potatoes. The sausage meat became a meat loaf which I baked in the oven with the pumpkin and potatoes. There were a couple of wild apple trees growing on a deserted property. So I sent the children to gather the best of the apples, and turned them into an apple pie. There was also some silver beet (spinach) growing wild in that garden, so I picked off the best leaves and that become our 'green'

Admittedly I did have a few store cupboard items: dry stuff, flour, salt, etc. Right at the back, I found a packet of mixed dried fruit. Was it still good? It was, so it became a boiled fruit cake, iced with lemon icing (one of the children found the lemon lying on the grass at the side of the road) Gravy for the meat loaf? Yes, there was also a packet of gravy mix in there.

So there was dinner for five, Baked meat loaf pumpkin and potatoes, a green, apple pie, and a fruit cake. The guest complimented me on the meal, never knowing how frugally it had come about, and my now adult children still laugh about my one dollar meal.

Ellie from Melbourne Australia

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 6, 20080 found this helpful

That is absolutely amazing!

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 7, 20080 found this helpful

Good grief! How resourceful can one get? This sounds like it would make a really good children's storybook tale! Good job!

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June 7, 20080 found this helpful

Sounds like a delicious meal!

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June 10, 20080 found this helpful

I love stories like this one. you improvised beyond imagination and made use of what was around you instead of complaining about what wasnt around you. The Almighty Creator blessed you and allowed you to laugh about it later in life. I agree with the other poster about turning your story into a childrens book as there are alot of good lessons in it.

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 15, 20080 found this helpful

Standing ovation! That is what it is all about! You go girl. I third the motion about turning your story into a children's book.

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 19, 20080 found this helpful

I was once in a contest to see who could make the most meals for $10.00. We had a week to plan, and we could use the newspaper and go to the grocery stores and everything. I made 3 or 4. But it took an immense amount of thought. I used a lot of canned goods from my cupboards and things I already had. I used coupons from the paper and went to three different stores. (they were all within a fair distance from my home). If I did that every week, I would save a lot of money. but food wouldn't be as good. lololol. i might be able to drastically cut down though. it takes A LOT of work though. A LOT.

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 19, 20080 found this helpful

I was once in a contest to see who could make the most meals for $10.00. We had a week to plan, and we could use the newspaper and go to the grocery stores and everything. I made 3 or 4. But it took an immense amount of thought. I used a lot of canned goods from my cupboards and things I already had. I used coupons from the paper and went to three different stores. (they were all within a fair distance from my home). If I did that every week, I would save a lot of money. but food wouldn't be as good. lololol. i might be able to drastically cut down though. it takes A LOT of work though. A LOT.

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December 31, 20080 found this helpful

My mother and I were driving to another state to visit her mother, who was ill. We had enough money if all went well -- but it didn't. A tire blew out, so we changed it (well, she changed it and I held the flashlight), but then the spare tire also blew out, so we walked about five miles to find a service station with a tire, and we got a ride back to our car from the nice gentleman who owned the service station. We paid for it, but that was almost the end of our money. We had enough for gasoline to get us to our family, but that was all we really had. Almost. I had ONE PENNY in my left shoe, because someone had told me it would bring me luck. What it brought me was a blister, but being three years old, I wouldn't listen to reason, and kept it in there. Goodness, was I glad!

Mother and I drove for another hour, and she thought aloud about what we had, what our assets were, and what we could do with them. We had a mess kit -- a pot with a collapsible handle, a pan with a collapsible handle inside that, a stirring spoon and spatula with screw-on/off handles, a can opener, two spoons, and one knife. That was the sum total of our assets, or so my mother thought. Now, remember, I'm three years old at the time, so I think a penny is a lot of money. I took it out of my shoe, sorry to have to sacrifice my riches, but glad to get to be the hero and save us from sure starvation, and offered it to my mother.

Mama's eyes lit up with mischief. "Let's see what we can get for a penny," she said, and pulled into the very next driveway we saw. She held my hand, knocked on the door, and explained our plight to the rather harried-looking old man who answered. "But we don't want to take something for nothing," she said with back-country pride. "All we ask is for something a LITTLE bit bigger or better than this one penny." The man gave us a nickel, and we thanked him with sincerity and went on our way.

At the next house, a young woman answered the door and offered us a carrot for the nickel. The next house traded us two onions for the carrot; we kept one, and traded the second for half a dozen mushrooms. We kept three mushrooms and traded three more for two carrots (yay! we replaced the first lost carrot! I loved carrots). One of the carrots was ours, then, but the other was traded for a pound of beans and enough water to soak them in. We put half the beans into the pot from our mess kit with the water, secured the lid so it wouldn't spill, and kept the other half of the beans for trading.

On and on, we went that morning, until a little after noon, when we finally had enough vegetables to fill our pot. At noon, we parked the car at a rest stop and started cooking our vegetables on a fire we made by collecting scrub wood from around the site.

We had no seasonings, not even salt, but we did have vegetables. I was so hungry, and I know Mama was just as badly off as I was, but it was another three hours before the soup smelled like it was close to done, and the beans were softened enough to be palatable. Someone came by with a bag of McDonald's food, which I'd never had, and offered us their salt and pepper packets in exchange for a taste of our soup when it was finished. Once the beans were soft, of course, all it needed was the salt and pepper and fifteen more minutes.

We enjoyed that soup like I haven't enjoyed any other meal before or since. My mother taught me, "You can't expect something for nothing. But every once in a while, if you have something, you can get something more, because people are basically generous if you let them be. Now, we can't pay back all the nice people who sold us our Penny Soup, but we can sure give a stranger food when they need it, can't we?" So now, even though I still won't eat at McDonald's, I do carry around McDonald's gift certificates in my purse. That way, if someone asks me for food, I have the ability to make sure they can get it.

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