Beans, or Keeping Faith in Tough Times

Saying it’s tough right now may be the understatement of the year. Every day I am reminded of stories my grandparents told of the Great Depression. It’s rough out there. Everyone I know is struggling in some way.

My friend, Cara Schulz, and I were discussing how dismal the economy is the other night. We were expressing our worry and feelings of helplessness. What brought it up was Cara’s post on G+ that has garnered a lot of attention. Here is an excerpt:

I’ve been reducing meat and dairy in our household for my husband’s health concerns. We’ve switched to using beans and lentils and rice as a base for out diet. When I first started doing this, about a year ago, the canned and dried bean part of the aisles were deserted. The shelves were always full, but not many were buying. It’s been slowly changing, but what I saw today left me deeply worried. The canned beans were almost gone from the shelves. The aisle was crowded with people eying over the beans, hesitating, and then grabbing cans to put into their nearly empty cart. Same thing with the dried beans.

One younger lady looked so lost, staring and staring at the cans and bags, that I asked her if she was a fan of beans (ice breaker). She wasn’t. Had not much idea what to do with them. But money was so tight and the costs of all staples and gas and utilities had left them with $20 to spend for food for the week.

I told her, “We can do this. I can show you what to buy and give you some ideas on how to make it. Very simple and you’ll enjoy your meals.” And that’s what I did. Dried beans, split peas, lentils went into her bag. Bullion cubes. (Don’t judge) Garlic bulbs. Rice. A few cans of vegetables. Potatoes and that was it. She had some staples like salt and oil at home so that was good. While I was talking to her, showing her what to buy and writing down a few recipes on the back of a scrap of paper I had in my pocket, I noticed others listening in. As soon as she was on her way, they were asking me if I could help them, too.

I looked at 3 ladies and 1 guy, standing there, looking ashamed. Fucking ashamed. And I was very, very angry. Yeah, this is how it is, now. A very old lady that was looking at the dried peas turned around and said she’d help the guy if I would help the women. So that’s what we did.

Beans. It’s one of those foods that stick in my mind as a “poverty food.” Corn bread, homemade biscuits, veggie stew, and iced tea weren’t merely Southern delicacies, but the foods of tough times. In my adult life being able to afford pizza delivery was a sign of wealth. Making biscuits was a sign of poverty, because if I’m working full-time I shouldn’t have the time to bake.

I’ve been thinking about Cara’s post and how my own shopping habits have changed over the past few months. I’ve bought less meat. The meat I’ve bought has stretched farther, being immediately frozen in small portions to add flavor and protein to stews. I’ve invested in staples: flour, sugar, oil, butter, eggs. I spent a lot of money on discount spices because I knew I was going to be eating pretty bland for awhile.

Recently, in order to make my groceries stretch, I bought ramen. It was twice the price from the last time I bought it. Maybe $2 for twelve packs of cheap soup isn’t a bad deal, but the day I bought it that extra dollar made a big difference. But how can I complain? If I have a job and the ability to buy ramen, I’m actually doing pretty good.

Maybe making it through this year means making peace with beans. Maybe it means learning how to cook all over again. Maybe it means learning to garden. Maybe it means pooling resources with friends and family. Maybe it means asking for help, going to the food bank, donating to the food bank, creating opportunities to help others, putting unused items on Freecycle, teaching others how to cook and doing our best to make the most of a difficult situation.

I’m making a big change. I can’t afford to live alone anymore, and I truly love my apartment. So instead of getting myself into deep financial difficulty by trying to live a life I can’t afford, I’m moving in with friends who have some extra space and could use the extra cash. I’m not going to deny I feel a lot of shame over this. I’m about to turn 30 and this feels like a failure on my part. Surely I should be past this point in my life? It’s hard to see this as a matter of the economy when it affects my personal pride so deeply.

Yet, I also see hope in this opportunity. I get to be part of a real shared household. I get to cook a real family dinner, instead of a single serving of mac ‘n’ cheese. I have both time and a friend with whom to work on buying bulk, shopping sales and cooking good on the cheap. Living with them means all of our money will go a little farther and we’ll breathe a little easier.

2012 is going to be an amazing year but it’s certainly not going to be an easy one. To make it through this year we have to help each other, and we have to learn to live differently. We have to learn not merely to live with beans, but to appreciate them.

And you can’t get more Pagan than that.

I know I’m going to be revisiting Amy Dacyzyn’s Tightwad Gazette (and if you don’t know her you should) and reading up on preparedness blogs this year. So expect some of that in the future.

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If you’re in the Atlanta area and you need help, one good resource is Divine Resourcing. Julia Nelson is an awesome lady, they accept donations from many faiths, and they helped me when I was unemployed without ever asking me about my faith. They are good people, and if you need help please reach out to them. If you’re in the area and can afford to buy extra toilet paper, detergent or beans/rice/canned goods to donate, please consider them.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://www.120squarefeet.blogspot.com/ Laura M. LaVoie

    Thank you for sharing this. And thanks to Cara for being such a kind and wonderful person.  Since I am consciously making a transition to a simpler lifestyle this year, food has become a big topic in my life. Not only what we eat, but how we can prepare it. We are chosing to make that transition, but I do know that so many more people are not in a position to make any other choices. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I think one of the most difficult problems is that eating cheaply is often an investment in time and space, and that’s not something everyone has in abundance.

      • http://www.120squarefeet.blogspot.com/ Laura M. LaVoie

        I will have a lot more time, but a lot less space so we have to take that into consideration. On top of that we have to worry about our power consumption – everything is solar, propane or butane.  I will certainly be sharing my experiences over at Living in 120 Square Feet.

        • http://www.120squarefeet.blogspot.com/ Laura M. LaVoie

          I will admit, a lot of my perspective on food changed after we went to South Africa. When we bought food for the 20 kids living in the 2 bedroom house (if you can call it a house).  When we learned that the woman taking care of the kids hadn’t eaten in several days because she wanted to make sure the kids had the rest of the available food, it was gut wrenching. We told her she needed to take care of herself or those kids wouldn’t have her to care for them.  Intellectually I had always known there were people in “other countries” with less than we have here, but I didn’t have a frame of reference. 

          It is heartbreaking to read about the people in Cara’s grocery store who have never been in this position before feeling ashamed because they have to change the way they buy and prepare food.  No one – not Mildred in South Africa or the woman in the grocery store – should ever feel that way about food. 

  • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

    Economy of scale can be a good thing.  The two gallons of chili I made yesterday would sure take a LONG LONG time to eat if only one person was eating it!

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      It’s strange how more is cheaper. I have frozen stew as a single woman many times, to the point I dreaded opening my freezer to find yet more stew!

      • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

        BTW – while ramen cooks fast … it’s way less expensive to buy ‘Italian style’ pasta, generic or on sale. 

        I’m splurging today – instead of making tortillas myself from masa harina and then frying them, I’m having the Spawn buy some tortilla chips while he’s out today.  THAT is a luxury right now, and only being done because I’m working on 4th quarter ’11 taxes today.  We’re still eating only home-made bread, but I haven’t ground it from feed wheat this week, it’s generic while flour.

        OTOH, what I’m facing are still 1st world problems.  There is SOME meat in my chili.  And lentils with boiled potatoes, some chopped carrots/celery/onion, and splashed with home-made vinaigrette dressing rocks as a meal, hot or cold.

        Praise the Gods, and pass the arroz.

  • Peter Dybing

    As I travel I have have heard much from the community about Pagans loosing jobs, homes, businesses and the resulting vanishing of many from the community, Maslow I guess. It is this that is so important, when confronted with adversity will we seek to help and be helped by our community members?  Strange how I have heard almost nothing from these same people about the issues being debated by Pagans nationally. There is much to be said about individuals like Star who share openly and focus the community on what I suspect may be a blind spot.
    Thank You Star 

    • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

      There are Pagan food banks and clothing banks in parts of the US.  But much of the support that’s given to individual Pagans in need comes thru’ their coven or grove – and with so many Pagans being solitary, grove/coven support isn’t there.  And not a few of the respected elders here in the US begged for money to help pay their bills (medical or just living) during the last years of their lives. 

      Within the Trad I’m in, I asked that the directors consider starting a fund to help members in need back at our annual meeting two or three years ago. I don’t know if they followed up on that or not (since I haven’t been able to get to meetings and hear the directors’ reports for the past few years).

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      There is the Pagan Assistance Fund, which allows donors to make monthly contributions of as little as $1 per month. They don’t get nearly enough press for the work they’re attempting to do and I’d like to see more charities like them in the wood work. (I believe it was Star who introduced them to me).

      In a way, the internet community can be just as beneficial as any face to face one. I’ve witnessed a few pagans post that they needed help with paying bills or weathering some life change and while I couldn’t help them all, I did what I could. 

      http://paganassistancefund.com/

      It would be nice if there was a Kiva for the pagan community as well, especially to help small business owners. And, you only need 500 members to create a credit union- I’d definitely put my money behind these endeavors as well.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Great post.

    We’ve always eaten like this… Celt food is the quintessential poverty food!  Cabbage, onions, turnips, garlic, potatoes… my Mom told me that one year during the Depression, they ate nothing but potatoes.  For a year.  Compared to that, ain’t none of us poor yet.

    Gardening is a great suggestion.  A packet of seeds is two bucks, and if you get heirloom varieties, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  We’re still eating the dry beans and winter squash we harvested in Sept., and the tomato sauce we put up (canned and froze).  Even if someone lives in an apartment, you can do container gardening on the balcony, or ask the landlord if you might keep a small garden in the yard — less to mow.  Train the beans to climb a rail or up the wall.  Hang sauce tomatoes in a plastic soda-pop bottle and let them grow over the sides.  Let the squash grow up a tree.  Grow potatoes in a bucket of sandy soil.

    Another good idea is using a butcher shop, if you have one locally.  A pound of burger is usually much cheaper than the grocery store, and they can sell (or give away) soup bones, organ meats, and “waste” cuts that still have a lot of meat on ‘em.  Great in stew, and the fat can be laid on top of cooking beans or used to grease a skillet.  Make pot pies with bits of meat.

    For the donations, what is always needed is feminine supplies, diapers and wipes.  These items are out of the price range of many young families, so if you can afford it, that would be a swell gift to a pantry or shelter.

    • BHG

      Unfortunately,  the poorer you are, the more likely you’re in a ‘food desert, ‘  and that’s not where butcher shops have been able to stay afloat for a long while,  now.    Been eating a lot of beans,  myself,  but unfortunately,  metal scavengers recently dumped out and stole much of what garden capacity I had,   among other things, like my outdoor cooking capacity.  (A real factor when you’re trying to not have to stay cool where I live)      Eco-solutions don’t help much if others are so hungry they’ll destroy it the minute you turn your back.    

      It’s not really about some sense of pride so much as that others may need it worse,   but I’ve gone from supporting food banks to maybe needing one myself rather rapidly.     The system’s messed up. 

      • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

        Suggesting pickle buckets and lard buckets from fast food restaurants for container gardens. 

  • Allyson Szabo

    Last year, WalMart (yes I know, boo, hiss) was selling open germinated (but not organic) seeds for $0.89! They weren’t huge packets, but they were there. Enough for square foot and container gardening certainly. 

    Also, consider. If you’re purchasing organic fruits and veggies, you CAN harvest their seeds. It’s likely they will sprout up just fine and grow you delicious food. In the fall, a friend of sis’s gave us several weeks of her CSA share, because she was busy or had too much. Just three weeks of that, sprinkled over two months, was enough to let me do a bit of canning, make several dishes to freeze for winter, and I also harvested seeds. 

    I got delicata squash seeds, some melon, and a few others (I can’t remember what at the moment, and I have to pull the boxes down today lol). I processed them, dried them, and put them away for use in this year’s garden. To check if they’re vital, stick a wet cloth in a clear glass and slide a seed down between the two. Watch for at least two weeks, while keeping the seed damp and in sunlight (some seeds take that long to germiante). If it springs up to life, pop it in a bit of soil and let all its friends join it.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Star, if you’re nearly 30 and are having to move in with others for economic reasons, don’t feel at all bad; and, don’t let anyone else make you feel bad, either.

    I’m 35, I have a Ph.D., and am only partially employed–if I were running for President right now, I’d be very forthcoming about the fact that last year, my take-home pay was less than $5,000.  And no, I’m not just sitting on my ass all the time (or even a significant part of the time), I am applying for every possible job that I can do, and I’m getting no luck; it’s only by the sheerest of happenstances that started with a friendly e-mail that got me the job right now that’s (barely) paying the bills.  I’m not on food stamps now, but for a significant portion of the last five years, I was.  I’m lucky enough to be living rent-free with relatives at the moment who are willing to help me, and are in a position to do so, even though they’re not always happy to be doing so (but that they have room in their house and the money to spare for food, in return for me taking care of the dogs and the house while they’re gone and such, demonstrates that they’re in a position to be able to help others out, including struggling members of their own family).  Yes, it does suck, and as soon as I’m in a position to be elsewhere and to be more fortunate with my financial circumstances, I will most certainly be; but, this is where I’m at presently, and I’m dealing with it the best I can.If people judge you because of who you live with or what your economic situation is, screw ‘em–especially if they’re fortunate enough to not have to worry about some of these things (and almost all who would judge you in that way are).  I’m doing pretty poorly by most standards, and yet I know I’m lucky to be doing this poorly, and I’m grateful for what I’ve got, which is more than I can say for a lot of people who are doing far far better than I am.  (Like the guy who calls $375,000 a year in speaker’s fees “not very much money.”)

    • Nicole Youngman

      Ah, P., academia sucks sometimes don’t it? I’ve been adjuncting (teaching part-time, paid by the class) for a few years at a local university, but the odds of getting a “real” job there are slim despite my clearly demonstrated teaching skills because of the weird-ass way the academic job search process goes (that, and I’m not a criminologist and can’t teach stats!). My hubby has a good job with a salary that should be just fine, but now that I’ve gone and finished the damn doctorate I have insane student loans to pay back (at least the fed govt will let you consolidate them, and that helps lots with the monthly payments, but with the payback period stretched out it’s basically like having a mortgage), and we have the usual credit card debt and the rent is really high blah blah. And oh yeah, I’m 43. Shouldn’t *I* be doing better by now? Probably, but you know, our kid is in a really good school, and I just don’t want to put myself through “going on the market” when there are almost no jobs and if I found one it would be in the middle of nowhere and who knows if hubby could find a job and how the schools would be etc etc. I think an awful lot of academics feel like total failures when we don’t land that tenure track publish-or-perish job we’re all told in grad school that we should want and that we should be able to get if we’re just good enough….we need to stop beating ourselves up. And so does everyone else who’s not as well off as we’re somehow “supposed” to be. Our culture is so damned individualistic that it can make us feel like somehow we’re just not trying hard enough, never mind everything that we ARE doing to get by.

      Funny thing, I made beans and potatoes for dinner myself tonight. :) A few months back we were so broke I was selling books to make sure we had grocery money–luckily I had a few that people on ebay wanted!!–and I took a little part-time retail gig over the holidays to make damn sure kiddo could have a good xmas (then of course he comes home from school after going back and says “Mom, all my friends got iPads! I want an iPad too, they have apps!” I told him he was gonna have to deal, b/c there’s always gonna be *someone* who’s got cooler stuff than he does). We’re a bit better now, but sheesh. I, too, am gleefully watching Sir Mitt get burned over his tax return, needless to say.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Oh, indeed…

        I’ve been adjuncting since ’07, and have never had more than two classes a year.  The majority of my income goes to paying back a private student loan I had to get during my final doctoral year (for reasons I won’t go into that had to do with the difficulties of negotiating foreign requirements, etc.), while the federal loans are in deferral right now due to economic hardship–thank you, Obama, for allowing those of us with incomes below the poverty line not even have to attempt making payments on those!–though, of course, the interest is still compiling.  I had one semester-long sabbatical replacement guest professorship, and while it was great to have health insurance, the pay was still very low for the amount of work I was doing, and what it was costing me to live temporarily in a state far from my home.

        It would also be nice if the supposed respect for education that many Pagans–particularly recons–say they have would be more of an actuality than a platitude.  Yes, I do get respect for it sometimes, but I also get my opinion dismissed when it problematizes or questions a lot of dearly-held myths amongst modern Pagans of all stripes.  It would be nice if people saw relevant education in certain subjects as useful in building one’s practice, as opposed to something that in some way undermines it…but that’s a situation that occurs in many other religions as well.  Heavens forbid, some would say, that learning about the history of Christian scripture and theology might “destroy one’s faith”; as much as Pagans like to think they’re much freer of that sort of thing, many are not, and are actively opposed to some of the notions that emerge from serious academic study, especially if those results don’t agree with what they already want to believe.

        Some things never change, eh?

    • LezlieKinyon

      That’s a tale too often told in academia… I am so frustrated …! The stories I hear from colleagues are heartbreaking:  concerning overwork – “freeway warrior” adjunct teaching – “settling” for internet teaching – and, on and on and on – including changing one’s life goals entirely at 30-35- 40- 50 … (damn hard to do as you get older).   The speaker’s fees stories are hard to swallow when you are negotiating getting to work and skipping lunch (even a bag lunch) to fill the gas tank to get to that next class so you can make the rent.  Along with the general attitude of disdain from tenured colleagues – somehow, what you are doing is wrong, and, then, there is the endless, “have you tried…?” .

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Precisely…and, as I don’t even have a car (nor do I know how to drive!), and couldn’t afford one if I did, I do it on buses.  It takes a lot longer, but as I don’t have anywhere else to be, oh well…

        I’m not a fan of online teaching–I’ve done it once thus far, and if I can avoid it in the future as much as possible, I will, but I won’t be able to avoid it entirely, unfortunately.  It’s one of those “necessary evils,” I think; there are good and bad aspects to it, of course, but I’d rather be doing something because I want to rather than because I have to/am desperate for work.

        And, yes, the “have you tried” thing gets really old…Well-meaning friends and family really don’t understand these things quite often, and I don’t understand how it is that suddenly everyone who knows nothing about a subject becomes an “expert” on what I should be doing in a matter of seconds…

        Bleh.  Well, thanks for listening to the whinging and offering immoral support on this.  ;)

        • Nicole Youngman

          Hey, we underemployed academic Pagans have to stick together after all. :) What I love too is the assumption of a certain level of time/income from the tenured (or just plain full-time) folks…”are you going to conference X?” etc. Er, no, I can’t afford the gas or the childcare, thanks. Or “where are you going this summer?” Um, to the coffee shop if I can swing the lattes, otherwise, to the desk at home. I was chatting with a full-prof colleague the other day who’s maybe 10-15 years older than me about the difficulties of raising a kid who’s exposed to other kids who get all the iPads etc and he said something like “yeah, I really feel for you guys who are parents, we academics sure don’t make much, do we?” ARGH.

          I have a geologist friend who teaches a class online and it’s making her crazy–students blowing stuff off, not turning in assignments, etc. Not that students in conventional classes don’t do the same thing, but still, it’s easier when you can yell at them in person, I’d think!

          And yeah it’s SO hard to explain to people that you can’t “work your way up” at whatever university you’re adjuncting at–”but won’t they give you a better position if you do a good job?” Sigh.

          [apologies to other readers who are bored to tears by this conversation at this point ;) ]

          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            Yes, yes, a thousand times yes to all you’ve said here…

            The online class I taught last quarter was the worst one I’ve done yet.  Since it’s pretty much all based on reading, and no one reads the directions or understands them when they do these days, they don’t do anything right; and then when you mark them down for it, they complain.  “You shouldn’t be grading us on our written English because this isn’t an English class” is the worst excuse in the book, and yet that’s what came up innumerable times this last quarter, and on my student evaluations as well.  Nonsense!

            I heard about a starting lectureship at Trinity College in Dublin before I left Ireland after my Ph.D. (which I didn’t remotely qualify to apply for, so didn’t), and it was ninety thousand Euro a year…starting salary!  Oh, but non-adjunct professors don’t really make much.  (Yeah, I know that starting salary at many colleges in the U.S. is like $30K, but still, that’s ten times what I’m making now, literally!)

            I think there was a reason that back in the day, only upper class people became academics.  While I think that democratization of education is a very good thing, it would be nice of some of the social and economic realities that have likewise shifted in that would take effect for the people in the upper echelons of it.  “We’d love to have you at this conference in Wales next year…”  If you’re not paying for my trip, then I’m not going–sorry!

            In any case, I am in solidarity with you, sister!  ;)

          • Grimmorrigan

            YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES!! Thank you!

    • Grimmorrigan

      Thank you sir. This makes me feel much better about my post MA job.  I work a part time for a anti-fracking non-profit in the heart of Marcellus Shale country and pull a retail shift at a wine shop.  It is far from perfect…especially when I hear of fellows who are off to build up more debt with theri Ph.D’s.  Hearing this from seomone whose work I respect is comforting.  thank you for sharing.

      • Nicole Youngman

        One of these days I’m going to have to write something about people (or maybe Pagans specifically) who are managing to do creative and/or activist work they really care about despite lousy financial circumstances. We’re all so primed to want a “career” but it seems like more and more of the people I’m meeting (mostly Pagans, lately!) are somehow cobbling together a few different things to try to make ends meet and get some good work/art/music done in the process. There are LOTS of nonprofit jobs out there, it seems, but precious few with actual real salaries. I’ve done some volunteer work with a couple and it seems like everything is unpaid internships, part-time, or Americorps gigs that pay $800/mo. and leave you needing food stamps. Even so I suspect you’d have a better shot at a career in that sector than in academia right now–keep fighting those frackers!! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/dsalisbury David Salisbury

    Personally, I adore beans and dont consider them either a rich or poor food. If you know how to jazz them up, you can make some pretty rockin meals.
    More of my favorite low-cost “staples” that tend to be on my list when funds are tight are: quinoa, brown rice, bananas, grapes, frozen veggies of all kinds, firm tofu, potatos, nutritional yeast, chard and kale, lentils, and red cabbage. Oh and anything from a farmers market (one they open in the spring), as their produce is often way cheaper than any grocery store.

    • Nicole Youngman

      David, if you know any good quinoa recipes, please post…it’s great stuff but I have yet to figure out a really appealing way to cook it!

      • PhaedraHPS

        Try making tabouli with quinoa instead of couscous. No wheat, no gluten, and higher protein. I make this in the summer using tomatoes and parsley from the garden, and lemons or limes off the “old” produce rack.

        • Nicole Youngman

          Thanks Phaedra! I’ve thought about doing that with other couscous dishes too but wasn’t sure how well it would work. I actually do need to eat gluten-free so this will be very helpful!

  • http://www.blackpagan.com/ blackpagan

    You haven’t failed by moving in with people, Star. You’re creatively adapting to changing circumstances. That’s a virtue.

    This economy is a permanent game changer, IMO. You’re going to see a lot of people moving in with each other, whether that means with roommates or family. Multi-generational households might again become the norm. This whole 20th century thing where there’s the expectation that people in their 20s are supposed to be independent that way, and move far away from home, and everyone has to have their own house, their own car, and TV, etc. . . those days are over. Thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com is a great blog to read for putting a lot of the current economic contraction into perspective.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    Failure?  No. 

    Success is doing what you’re called to do while you do what you have to do.  Moving in with friends is what you have to do right now.  From what I can see here you’re doing what you were called to do.  That makes you a success. 

  • Varoom13

    There are different reasons people fall on hard times. This time it hits all of us to some degree or other. I was raised by a mother who grew up in the great depression so I was blessed to have been raised in a way to be able to “make meals out of air” as my brother calls it.  I’ve had to fall back on Mama’s teachings many times in my life.  My question would be are they ashamed for being in the situation or ashamed for not knowing how to make a dollar stretch? There is no reason for anyone to be ashamed. Some helpful tips that I can give right here: Don’t over look  your markets day old produce shelf…search the produce area for one if you don’t find one ask the produce mgr if they have one, if not why not? Don’t forget the day old bakery shelves I know WalMart has a good one. See something at a good price and you can afford more than one…buy it and freeze it. Don’t over look your local dollar store (Dollar Tree is the best) some in my area even  have freezer departments. You can find more than holiday decorations there…there are shelves of cleaning products, canned goods, pasta, one close to me even has a bakery department. and it’s all for $1 per item. Pasta used to be 2 for $1 not sure if it still is or not. Is there a thrift bread store in  your area (Wonder, Arnolds, Flowers) go and see what your local one offers and what days they “clean” their shelves for the new stuff. I’ve gotten shopping bags full of day old bread for $1.50….normally they have them for 3 loaves for $2 which is a steal if you buy it in the grocery store you know what the price of a loaf of bread is. If you learn the day that the drivers bring in the over stock from their trucks you can get stuff that’s simply that, just over stock no even day old. Anyway that’s my 2 cents for today. I hope it was helpful. I started writing a book a long time ago about this and lost it all when my hard drive kicked the bucket.
     I do have an email address if someone wants more tips on how to stretch a dollar…but I won’t post it without Star’s permission. Blessings on all of us who struggle, we will make it through.
    ps….I am a professional chef also if you need recipes to go with the tips. ;)

  • melissa

    i think that’s a great story…people are adapting to changing times, learning how to provide for themselves, and it shows how even when you’re down there are still good people out there willing to help out.  you don’t always find that.  there is never shame in making the best out of a rough situation or letting someone teach you something.  

    i’ve been in lots of living situations…on my own, with roommates, in and out of my families house, and now married and trying to support a new home…and it’s really just taught me to be thankful i always had somewhere to go, because i realize not everyone does. 

  • Windweaver

    I definitely understand What you’re talking about Star… My wife and I both had to quit our jobs due to scheduling problems. We have two sons, both autistic, and they corporate clone boss we had wasn’t willing to adjust our schedules so that we had the time needed to give the boy the needed attention.

    When we left we pulled the money out of the 401k that we had been putting into, and invested a large sum into silver and gold filled wire as well as stones to try to make a go of my jewelry business. It’s difficult getting a business going in the current economy, but it’s kind of nice being your own boss too.

    Anyway, one of the first things we did, when we got the money, was to invest in a used RV. It cost us about ten thousand dollars, but now we have an option for a place to live if things get impossible to handle. We have a booth at the local flea market, in Raleigh, and did alright during the early summer, but things slowed down in August and the flea market shuts down completely for the month of October, which left us in a bad position, big time.

    We’ve had to move my wife’s mother, and developmentally disabled brother in with us to take care of them, and this has helped our finances a bit, since they both get Social Security, but it’s still very hard. Raleigh has one of the best economies in the country, but you see a lot of people unemployed or extremely underemployed here too. We’ve had to go so far as to get food stamps, and I’ve had to sell two of my guitars to get by, but you have to do what you have to do…

    I see people struggling everywhere, and so many people are coming out of school with their degrees, having believed that it would ensure them jobs, to find out that there simply are no jobs to be found.

    It’s pretty bad when people with MBAs are working at the car wash, and fast food joints to make ends meet, and can’t make ends meet.

    I wonder if corporate America realizes that if they don’t employ people, then people can’t afford to buy their products…

  • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

    Don’t forget “ethnic” markets are your friend. If you happen to live in a predominantly Latino/Asian/Middle Eastern area or close by, the markets aimed at these communities are often packed with cheap produce and good eats. A jar of Kimchi can ferment and sit for a long time and is great for stew, as an immune system boosting side, or a main coursed heated, and served over rice with a small side of pugolgi.

    Gim/Kim (roasted seaweed) is cheap and filled with nutrients. Tofu can be purchased cheaply, and in bulk, to be added to stir fries and stews.  Overall, Korean, Indian, Ethiopian, and Lebanese/Moroccan food lend themselves to amazing, simple (read cheap), food.

    Indian grocery stores will often carry spices in bulk that would normally be exorbitant at a western market. Cardamom, Cayenne, Tumeric, Garam Masala, etc can cost as little as $2-$3 for half a pound. Same with ghee (clarified butter), coconut milk,  nuts, and lentils. 

    Indian lentil dishes are generally called “dhals” after the lentils they are made from. Naan is very easy to make and keeps for a good amount of time in the freezer/fridge. It also cooks quickly- just pat out a pinch of dough slap it in the pan with a bit of  ghee or oil and it cooks in a matter of minutes. 

    Take this time to be adventurous with cooking and the cheap eats might turn out to be  the best seats in the house.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Yeah, I plan to be stocking up at farmer’s markets and ethnic shops. We’re lucky to have thriving, multi-ethnic Atlanta just an hour away. Put a cooler in the car and make a big day trip out of shopping for groceries.

      • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

        Are you anywhere near the Super H-Mart in the Atlanta area? I LOVE that chain of stores! Usually great prices on fruits, veggies, tofu, specials on fish (really great quality sea food), excellent sushi….

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          I LOVE Super H-Mart! It’s where I get my Pocky fix!

    • Nicole Youngman

      So true! We have a big warehouse of an international market nearby–mostly Indian–and I am still using the gazillion spices I got there ages ago. It gives me a little more than air to work with! :) They also have every kind of daal in the world, etc, and in fact I need to make another pilgrimage over there soon for more. For me part of the challenge is finding stuff I can do quickly and that my guys will eat–I’d have Indian food (though I hesitate to call it that when I’m the one making it :)) every day, but they’d rather have tacos or frozen pizza, ya know? Plus on the days kiddo is in after-school-care for a while I need to get him fed as soon as we get home, and of course I’ve generally been at work up to that point, so as Star noted above I have issues with not having space/time to be at it all day and have something tasty done promptly at 6ish. I’m thinking I need to invest in a crock pot and figure out how those work!

      • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

        We have a farmer’s market where you can buy 1 cup of rosemary for 30 cents, and the same amount might run you $5 or more at a grocery store.

  • PhaedraHPS

    I have no problem with poor folks food. I’ve been cooking it for years.

    Don’t be ashamed at moving in with others. I’ve done it more than once in my life — in my 30s, 40s and now in my 60s — and it’s always been a good experience for me. Trying to keep up a middle-class lifestyle, especially by yourself, in today’s new reality is brutal.

    Since my husband died and it’s just me now, I’ve consciously decided to opt out. I can ruin my health and my nerves trying to play the game, or look for other solutions that make more sense for me. I live in my friends’ spare room. I collect a little bit of a Social Security widow’s pension that covers my COBRA and not much more. After that, it’s speaking engagements and eBay. But I am surviving and I am sane. At least I think I’m sane–my mother and my yuppie sisters think I’m nuts! But then, they always thought that ;-)

    Staying with friends is temporary as I’m looking to relocate later this year. Originally, I was going to find a small apartment, but the more I think about it, the dumber that sounds. I’ll do like I did before, ask around to see who’s got a room to spare. I found years ago that there is an underground network of widows and divorced women who have too much house but are happy to find a kindred soul to take up some of the slack. Got to be discrete, though, because sometimes you can come up against zoning regulations that limit the number of unrelated people who can share a home. It’s a ploy to keep out college students, really, but it also works against the informal communes of regular folks, too.

    Remember, multigenerational resource-sharing households were the norm up until WWII. We’re just going back to what makes sense.

    PS: My depression-era mom  told us of meals that often consisted of lard sandwiches. Lard, salt and bread. Hey, they had bread!

    • Nicole Youngman

      Phaedra, I hope you’ll do some more writing at some point too–we Pagans are always desperate for more good books to read!!

      Lard….? Egads, that sure makes blacks beans sound like gourmet food, doesn’t it? :)

  • http://ladyimbriumsholocron.wordpress.com/ ladyimbrium

    Great post. I remember eating like that as a kid and now I find myself eating like this again. I do have a significant advantage in that my family owns (and has owned for generations) a decent amount of arable land. Except for grain staples like flour or dried rice and similar, if we don’t grow it we can’t eat it. It’s gotten tough, especially when we are all having to work full time to afford the things we can’t grow. We can, freeze, and ferment a lot of veggies and fruits. We also raise goats. The time is coming I think when we will open our doors to anyone willing to give an honest day’s work in return for their share of that food. Better we all get used to the idea. That era may well be on its way back.


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