I thought it time for an update on our food budget/shopping situation, especially after some of the changes that have happened with our income and such. It all began in the spring, after I started working again. I can remember it as though it happened yesterday…(Cue flashback music and sepia lighting…)
Anyway, I was late in returning our SNAP benefit re-certification paperwork in April, so our funds got cut off for the month of May. This, after we went on that “madcap spending spree,” put us squarely behind the eight-ball. Then, as my income gyrated between nearly enough and not even close, My Dear Wife’s graduate stipend stopped for the summer.
As Rick Perry so eloquently put it, “Oops.”
We have trouble handling money; or rather, having it not handle us. I may delve more deeply into that topic sometime, but I’m headed somewhere else now.
By the time we finally got the paperwork in to The Agency, I had 30 days’ worth of fairly high income to report, due to the Easter/Mother’s Day/College Graduation season. Meanwhile, My Dear Wife, since she was neither attending class nor drawing any pay, was deemed an “ineligible student” and not counted in the household for benefit purposes. Our new benefits are to be $396 per month for a family of five, three of them between 11 and 15. That means teenage boys. Seriously. While we barely have income enough to keep the bills paid.
So, I went to the local food bank on Monday. I would have gone last week, but it is only open Monday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday evenings. The office was less crowded than I expected, with only two other clients there at 9 a.m. I filled out the requisite paperwork at the main desk, then went into the food pantry itself. I was allowed five bakery items, given two paper grocery sacks full of boxed and canned goods, and picked up a few onions, the only fresh produce available. Now this is for a family of five. Each family is allowed one visit per month. Here’s the whole take, laid out in our kitchen:
the muffins and cookies were gone within a day, as was the French bread. Notably absent are sandwich bread, dairy products, non-canned protein, and fresh produce beyond the aforementioned onions. I wondered about this until it occurred to me, as I was putting all the cans away in the cupboard, that none of this requires refrigeration. Most of it is heat-and-eat and could be prepared on a camp stove. The bread machine mix was a separate offer; they also had coffee and tea by request, though I had to ask for the peanut butter and jelly. This will definitely help fill the gaps left by our diminished resources, as will the $5-per-week CSA for produce we joined, but I don’t see how a family of five could stretch this for a month. It would be “just enough to starve on,” as Angela McCourt would say.