It’s only been four days since I started my second “no groceries challenge.” Today, my ever-prompt ex-husband’s support check arrived, as did a check from a client, so my financial situation is less immediately desperate. However, because I’m still so close to the edge, and because the benefits of not going to the grocery store (efficiency in the kitchen, healthier eating, less garbage) are so great, I’ll keep this up as long as it makes sense.
Today, though, I “cheated” and went to the grocery store. As I wrote in my Bangor Daily News column, “Let us eat junk,” junk food plays a role in my life, for better or worse. I returned cans—I accidentally gave up caffeine a few weeks ago and have found bubbly water a nice substitute when I want something that isn’t just water—and bought some junk food. I spent $3.28.
My shopping list for when I go back to the store for real food consists of: olive oil, iodized salt (I already have sea salt), carrots, and celery. The only area that will start to be a little more difficult is school snacks. My older daughter is, thankfully, not dependent on store-bought tiny-packages of processed snack foods. But, there are only so many times I can give her a little container of pickled mushrooms, a cheese stick, and an apple. The longer the no grocery-store time goes, the more difficult it is to provide variety. What a tolerable problem to have, right? It really is, when my life is less complicated and stressful. Getting creative with it can be fun, too.
While being so low on cash was scary (again) this week, it was different than it has been in the last couple years. This was an even smaller setback. Life overall has gotten more stable and this no groceries “challenge” is closer to an interesting intellectual pursuit and creative exercise than it is about survival. I’m grateful. I am already cycling out of those scariest times. With that tiny taste I had of real poverty I feel even more strongly than ever that it is our patriotic responsibility to provide real, practical, and effective support to people trying to escape the cycle of poverty. We need:
- much higher minimum income allowed for people to still qualify for assistance (food stamps and cash benefits);
- a graded system of assistance with much more at the start, for longer periods of time, a slow decrease over time, and no threat of a complete shut off without significant warning and, ideally, until real financial stability is in place;
- free healthcare for everyone paid for by our taxes.
It’s healthcare more than anything that will change people’s lives. Setting up a system where our doctors can care for us and only one organization (the Federal government) pays all the bills will save us money in the long-term and even in the shorter-term.
Now, I’m off to eat my nachos…