“We didn’t always have food back then. Sometimes you got nothin’ and that was that.”
- Charlie Hum (my Grandpa), on the Depression
I think I’ve got it. Our tax return and a Hail Mary should get us back in the black within the first half of this year and I am so very happy about that. Until then, however, we must live very frugally.
But the thing is, we already live pretty darn frugally. We have no LAN line, we drive old cars, talk on free phones with no texting plans (gasp! I know!), we don’t go out, we don’t eat out and my clothes are, well – dated. The only room for wiggling is our grocery bill. But even then, how do you feed a family of five on $100 a week without resorting to Ramen noodles five out of those seven days? Oh really? Now factor in diapers.
I want to maintain a level of quality in my family’s food intake, so I realize I must sacrifice a little quantity. (Remember Monday? Life’s a seesaw, not a balance beam.) I have to let go of everything naturalists and foodies tell me on the internet. I do not need to hoard a zillion different sauces and condiments or buy 4 different kinds of cheese. I can go without fresh herbs and anything labeled “gourmet.” Really. We’ll be all right (see my Grandpa’s quote above, and he lived to be 91.) Besides, losing a few pounds before summer is a good thing.
I believe it is a myth that you cannot eat well on a broke-ass budget. When I saw Food, Inc. I was angry with it on many levels. But to stay on topic, the movie's insistence that a low-income family’s only options for sustenance were pop and fast food because of “Big Agri/Farming/Meat/Dairy/Supermarket” made me want to scream. The scenario was this: Poor Mexican family has to eat McDonalds every day and be subject to diabetes because it’s cheaper than the produce at the grocery store. The family walks by a head of broccoli and scoffs at the dollar and change price. “How is this going to be a meal?” they ask (more or less.) It’s not. Its a SIDE-DISH, dipshits. It is the equivalent of your 4 orders of french fries. One head of broccoli, which you take home, chop up and steam is cheaper than 4 orders of fries. Next up, they all commented on how pop is the cheapest beverage, therefore they are enslaved to it’s high-fructose corn-syrupy evil. Well, again, what is cheaper than pop? WATER. I drink water and coffee most days – both cheaper than a coke habit, and it they don’t taste like type 2 diabetes. Last but not least, I wanted to take the mom by her hair and yell, “Bitch you are MEXICAN. Can you not whip up some beans and rice? It has got to be one of the healthiest cheap meals you can eat.What is the matter with you, woman??”
I also don’t go for this “extreme couponing” fad for a number of reasons. First off, it takes dedication. Those women need expanding files and long hours to languish at the kitchen table, cutting coupons and surfing the net for deals. Half of them go on to buy 30 packs of dental floss or twelve cases of diapers even if they don’t have children. (‘Cause its FREE!) Well, I don’t need a garage full of Suave deodorant and off-brand contact solution (‘Cause it’s FREE!) And I certainly don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on shelving to house it all. Beyond that, the ladies who actually do end up buying food for their family have their carts chocked-full of Cap’n Crunch cereal, Hamburger Helper, Pasta-Roni and canned green beans. I think boxed delights and nasty kids’ cereals are fine once in awhile, but, at the risk of sounding like a snob, I refuse to let those kinds of things be everyday staples. To me, even if that kind of thing is cheap, it’s not a “deal.”
In this ongoing series, I am going to be exploring the healthiest meal plans I can figure on my broke-ass budget and providing tips on how to stretch your food, so it lasts just a little longer. There will be compromises made, because we are broke-ass, but this isn’t about simply gobbling up the most crap for a dollar. It’s about being honest with ourselves during this time of financial stress, going without the frills, and yet trying not to compromise our health in the process. Can we do it? Stay tuned and well see -