Do I even have to expound on why money is tight? Everyone has their own story, mine is currently the story of a woman working an hourly wage at a temp job. The upside for me is that I have the option of working for paid overtime if and when I want. My client currently has more than enough work to go around, and would love to have me there on Saturdays chipping away at the immense amount of data currently pouring in.
My current job is entering, managing, and reporting on flu vaccinations, eventually to include H1N1 vaccinations, and eventually to include data concerning suspected and or confirmed cases of illness. It's not where I thought I would be if you asked me 6 months ago, but I love working with data and building reports. It speaks to my science background.
Unfortunately since I'm an hourly worker, I don't get paid if I don't work. The past 2 weeks have been really hard on me. I started getting sick on September 17th, and tried to push through it. That was a mistake. I ended up seriously sick, in bed, with what was diagnosed as sinusitis (when I finally decided it wasn't going away and I needed to see a doctor). I relented my anti-antibiotic stance and now after a full course of little pink pills I'm feeling more like myself.
The lesson here is two fold. First, if I don't work, I don't get paid, and it's harder to pay the bills let alone buy groceries. Second, If I'm sick with anything worse than a cough and sniffle, and especially with "flu-like symptoms", then I'm stuck at home and can't go to the store to buy the things I need. In fact that last one is an important reminder to anyone who isn't used to getting sick. For public safety you shouldn't be going around passing your disease along to other people. No one wants your swine flu. What this really means is that you should have at least 2 weeks of food and provisions (better to have a whole month just in case). I lucked out in that my husband was well and could go out and run errands for me. But it was still a burden for him as he was also trying to pick up shifts to cover our expenses.
Also if you are the primary cook in the house (like I am) or live alone, it's a good idea to have foods you don't have to work for. This is one area that I failed miserably at. We had lots of food in the house, but most of it was "challenging" foods that take more than a few minutes to prep and/or need constant stove-side tending. Think easy-prep crockpot or casseroles. Better yet, stockpile a few already assembled casseroles in your freezer, sort of like a mini-pregnancy without the fun party and gifts. Soup is good but after the first week I didn't want any more salty broth. Gatorade. I don't drink gatorade "recreationally" ie. when I'm not sick, so it's not something I tend to have around, but over the past couple years I've had a stomach bug and now this last round of sick that made it a challenge to keep myself hydrated. It also helps with calories and electrolytes when you can't bring yourself to cook or eat anything else. So buy some gatorade, put it in a closet, and forget about it.
Today was my first day out of the house since visiting the Dr. and my first trip to the store since I started getting sick. I bought at least a month's worth of food. I'll admit that I tend to stockpile anyway, in order to take advantage of sales, but I bought a lot of things that never go on sale and never have coupons like dried beans - which are cheaper per bean than canned, even when the canned are on sale. I'll cook and cool the beans in the crockpot, batch by batch. Once the beans have cooled in their cooking liquid I transfer them to 2 cup deli containers draining most of the liquid and freeze them. Each container is roughly equivalent to a can. Really it's a compromise between cost and convenience. Cooking them in the crockpot is a background task that takes no real work at all and frozen beans are almost as convenient as canned. Onions, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and winter squashes will keep well for a month or more if stored properly. Frozen veggies are convenient and a good bargain since they won't suffer if I don't use them right away. Tofu, tempeh, and soymilk keep well unopened in the refrigerator. And of course grains and pastas are always on the shelf. I think the only thing I added for flu season is my favorite bland cracker. Oh and maybe a frozen treat like popsicles, sorbet, or dairy-free icecream.
So I now have more than a month's worth of food in the house, especially if you consider that most recipes feed 4-6 and there are only 2 of us. I like leftovers for lunch and even breakfast, so I never cut the recipes down.
The following is a very rough sketch of a menu plan... really it's more like a list of options that we'll choose from depending on our moods day to day. The meals based on fresh and fragile ingredients are the starred at the top, and the rest are pantry meals. I feel pretty good about it.