We made it by a fairly comfortable margin this month, not that I’m giving any credit to our Walmart trip for the achievement. On the contrary; as I mentioned at the time, it was actually more expensive to shop there than to do our usual routine. I found out later that it could have been even worse. The coffee we bought there was a big can of inexpensive ground coffee, mostly because I didn’t like the price/selection matrix of the whole beans available. I wound up comparing that in price to the bulk beans I had got the time before at Winco, and the Walmart coffee was cheaper. The next time I was at Winco, though, I happened to see the big can that I’d bought at Walmart selling for $2 less! That comparison would have tilted the scales even further away from the so-called “low-price leader.”
Our reward system is still intact, so I plan to buy a tin of delicious and locally-made Cougar Gold cheddar cheese when next we go grocery shopping.
With the Christian season of Lent coming up, I had an idea to do something different with the “budget bonus” as a symbolic gesture during that time of forbearance and reflection. My plan was to take any surplus in the account and buy some good food for the community food bank. My Dear Wife, on hearing of this idea, mentioned that she thought it against the rules to buy food for anyone outside of one’s own household. I have yet to confirm or refute this.
If true, it bothers me. I must admit to some resentment at the loss of autonomy with regard to the disposition of the funds; on the other hand, I see how a handout can come with strings attached, and I’m sure it could be worse. There are ideas floating around to limit what types of food, as well as how many calories, that food stamp recipients can purchase. What I find odd about those ideas is that they seem to come largely from the conservative end of the political spectrum, where the notions of personal liberty and freedom of choice are supposed to hold sway.
Another angle to this argument for limiting what foods are eligible comes under the “welfare queen” meme, where hardworking taxpayers complain about food stamp recipients buying lobster and T-bones-or chips and soda. Well, which is it? Are we splurging on luxuries, or slurping up junk? Frankly, having struggled so often to bring our monthly grocery purchases in under budget-and failed more than once or twice-I have a hard time seeing how that whole splurging thing could happen while still keeping everybody well-fed. Our monthly allotment comes to $4.27 per person per day. I don’t buy protein that’s more than $3 per pound; we scour the discount bin for damaged boxes of cereal; I am constantly searching for the best value for the money; and you all know that, from what I’ve posted here. I’ve saved my receipts for proof; if I had a scanner, I’d post them.
One big problem I have with the idea of limits, especially on pricier items, is that it would limit recipients’ ability to obtain some of the better, healthier foods available, whether that be grass-fed beef, fresh local produce, or cage-free eggs. Are poor people not entitled to good food? Or are they (we) only allowed to buy what the government and the corporations say we can buy, and we’re to trust them to provide better boxed and canned items? In a supposedly free society, that’s a disturbing trend.
I know this is just a temporary situation, due to our circumstances. The challenge of staying under budget while getting the best, most locally-sourced food has been an excellent learning experience, and will certainly continue. And if I decide to give some away to folks even less fortunate, then I’ll have to make sure that my left hand doesn’t know what my right hand is doing.