We’re having a Seed Party

The first thing my little one does when he wakes up in the morning is go to our “Seed Shelf”, a plastic yellow shelf my husband rescued from the garbage at a supermarket. It was an end-of-aisle display shelf for bug repellant. It’s been sitting  in a corner of the boys’ room, displaying lego creations and holding stacks of Pokemon cards. Now it’s been cleared off to store the random small containers and toilet paper tube pots we’ve gathered together from raiding recycle bins to start seeds in. The lack of a backing makes it a perfect seed starting shelf, placed in front of of one the few windows that actually lets light in our house.seed cups

This morning, my littlest peeked over the edge of a shelf , looking at the containers he helped me fill with soil and pushed seeds into with his tiny fingers . I could tell by the look on his face he was expecting to see more than just dirt. Disappointed,he said, “There’s nothing growing there. I think we need to have a seed party to make them pop up!”

Seed Parties, as it turns out, involve lots of water, spraying of water, and staring at DSC_0613the seed pots impatiently waiting for the magic to happen.

Time is hard for a three year old. Eventually, he gets tired of staring at dirt and goes off to play but he’ll come back later to check and make sure something exciting didn’t happen while he wasn’t standing watch. He doesn’t remember much of last year’s gardening experiences – it’s all new again this year. To me, that’s just so cool to see him experiencing things all over again, just like it’s new. There’s some things retained from last Spring. He remembers eating so many cucumbers and tomatoes off the vine ,straight from the garden but the seed starting business is fairly fuzzy in his memory.

This year he’ll be old enough to pick up new curse words if he hears me ranting at the woodchuck, the deer ,and the slugs who think my garden is an outdoor diner, so I’ll have to learn some new curse-worthy sentence enhancers to yell. Like maybe, “BY ST. BOOGAR AND ALL THE SAINTS AT THE BACKSIDE DOOR OF PURGATORY!”

The Seed Shelf. I was standing straight. It looks crooked because the floors in our house are sloped. No kidding.

The Seed Shelf. I was standing straight. It looks crooked because the floors in our house are sloped. No kidding.

Jenn’s Words: “Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis. “

words

Thank you to Jenn for sharing her personal story of living in poverty right now….

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Today, I did something I never thought I’d do. I yelled at my son for being hungry. Oh sure, there are many parents nodding in agreement because they’ve done the same thing. Many have yelled at their kids for asking for one more snack right before dinner was served or for wanting to eat junk food out of boredom. That’s not why I yelled. I yelled because I didn’t have extra food to give him and I was taking my frustration out on him. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He’s just a kid, a 7 year old who is full of energy and constantly growing. Of course he’s hungry often. That’s what kids do. However, I didn’t have enough food for anyone to have extras. Everything has to be rationed out over a week or more. Food stuff needs to be stretched. Already angry and frustrated with our situation, I lost my cool when my child asked a simple question – because I knew there was nothing I could do to change it in that moment. My anger turned to worry, another constant feeling in my daily life, as I wondered if this would create food issues in my child. Will he be afraid to eat, knowing that we might not have enough the next day?
I’m 35 years old. I am a mother and a wife. I am college educated, degreed, and I have held a professional license. I have been working since the age of 18. Until now. I live in poverty. I am poor. My family is poor.

When I say I am poor, I don’t mean that it’s going to take me two weeks to save for a new iPad or the next iWhatever. I don’t mean that I’ll need a coupon to shop at J.Crew. I mean that I have saved my kids Halloween candy for times when my blood sugar gets too low after a day of not eating because I can’t afford enough food for 3 square meals for the entire family. It means that having my heat set above 60 degrees is a luxury. It means that the needle on my gas gauge is constantly hovering at E. It means that we wear our clothes several times before laundering because we can’t afford the fees to use the washing machines. It means the thrift shop is damn expensive. It means so many more things that we don’t often think about unless we’re living in poverty. As a culture, we are disconnected to the idea of not having access to the most basic needs. Consumerism and materialism are supposedly signs of a healthy economy and successful nation, environment be damned, and a blind eye towards those less advantaged is a requirement.

Our story of poverty doesn’t come with credit card bills, expensive cable packages, luxury toys. It’s not that anyone should be judged for why they are poor, but people naturally ask, mostly out of curiosity and sometimes to find information to justify their lack of care for your position, for a way to blame you for your own situation. It makes it easier to detach. We have both been hard workers for over a decade. We have played by the rules. It still got us. I am currently unemployed – and that’s not for a lack of effort. My husband lost a fairly good job over a year ago and we’ve been pulled down a spiral ever since. His period of unemployment meant we burned through our savings and our emergency fund. While I am still unemployed (to be fair, I do walk dogs or babysit on occasion for some cash, but those times are few and far between), my husband is currently working three jobs. Three jobs. My husband is not college educated. He has worked on the warehouse/shipping/receiving side of retail for a very long time and is good at what he does. He’s very strong, enjoys physical labor, and is a hard worker. His three jobs are retail-based. Two of them pay exactly minimum wage. The third pays just above that. He is constantly applying for jobs on a weekly basis, as am I. With three jobs, you can imagine he works many hours. There have been weeks were he worked all three jobs back to back with maybe an hour or two in between. Thanksgiving to the New Year were brutal. He would often work nearly 30 hours in a row, come home to sleep for a few hours, then go back for another cycle of 30 hours. It’s been brutal on his health and our family.

Will someone stop for a moment and tell me in what world is it considered moral for a person to work three jobs and still be unable to support their family. It just isn’t right.
Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis. It’s pulling yourself out of a hole, only to fall over a cliff. Every step in the right direction is rewarded with a hearty push several steps back. The changes to one’s mental health when living in poverty can be astonishing. I suffered a miscarriage years ago and I knew anger and sadness then. I made my way through it and survived. I didn’t think I would feel such strong emotions again. I was wrong. The anger is back. Anger is for everything. I’m angry I am in this situation. I am angry I’m not good enough for proper employment. I’m angry my children are living through this. I am angry at my husband. I’m angry at Christians who preach against me, ignoring the words of Christ. I’m angry at politicians who vote against people like me. I’m angry at a society that views me as a leech, as a welfare queen, as someone who deserves the be on the bottom of humanity’s shoe.

There is jealousy. I’ve never been a materialistic person and neither has my husband. We have never felt the need to keep up with the joneses – no desire for brand name clothing, big screen TVs, or the latest electronic gadget. We’ve never had cable. I liked to shop when I genuinely needed things, but I wouldn’t overspend or buy things I couldn’t afford. I never owned a credit card. Fashion magazines were fun and I’d laugh at the implication that a woman should spend $200.00 on a pair of jeans. Now, I’m jealous at anyone who can afford to buy $15.00 jeans on sale at Old Navy. Friends post their “OMG! Kohl’s haul!” on Facebook, posting pictures of their new boots, sweaters, jeans, yoga pants, etc. Where I would once say, “oh, those boots are cute,” I am now filled with plain old bitter envy. I wish I could just look at my boots, the ones with the rip in them, decide it was time to buy new ones, and walk out the door to buy a new pair. I wish I could say, “Gee, I sure am sick of wearing the same two shirts day in and day out,” and go to a store a buy a few new shirts that actually fit. I can’t. I have clothes that are finally showing their age and their wear. Threads are falling lose, seams opening, little holes throughout fabric, buttons are disappearing. An acquaintance said to me recently, “You actually look like a poor person.” Gee, thanks. I didn’t know there is a certain look for poor people… My husband spent a few months with holes in his work pants. I sewed them up as best I could, but eventually the fabric would be worn down so much that there wasn’t much to sew. He took to wearing black shorts under his pants (also black) so the holes wouldn’t be a noticeable. Thankfully, he received a couple of new pairs for Christmas. He also spent months walking with holes in his shoes. His sneakers literally fell off his feet one day and he was left with boots that were no longer waterproof and had a hole or two. He’d walk to and from work in rain and snow in those boots. Forget socks. He doesn’t own a pair without holes. We were blessed by a couple of friends who chipped in to buy him and new pair of sturdy, waterproof work boots.

Jealousy isn’t limited to clothing. I’ve been jealous that friends can do wild and crazy things like buy a full tank of gas, get new brakes for their cars, buy a pack of toilet paper, eat. Food is a big one. In this age of social media, one can guarantee that at least 3 ultra-filtered Instagram photos of a friend’s lunch will scroll on by on their computer screen each day. Back in the day, I would just note that so-and-so had a bagel for lunch and I’d go on with my day. Now, I just sit there and wish it was me. I wish I had a plate full of good food to obnoxiously photograph, but I don’t. It’s the food that really drove the issue home for me not too long ago. I had taken my children to Ikea. We weren’t there to buy anything. It was damn cold, we were tired of being cooped up in the house, and there weren’t many options for a free place to play. Ikea has a play zone for my older child. My daughter is more than happy to walk around the store, sitting on sofas and chairs. I love Ikea because it’s fun to imagine having different furniture and organization. While there, I bought my kids lunch. They had one of their specials going and kiddie meals were free! My kids each had a meal, which included drinks. I didn’t get anything for me. As they ate, I would pick at their plates, stealing a bite here and there. I looked at everyone eating around me and that’s when the tears, which I fought very hard to hold back, started to flow. I wanted so badly to be able to order something for myself. I was starving and the little bites of steamed veggies and mac ‘n’ cheese weren’t very filling. I hadn’t eaten yet that day and found myself just staring at the plates of strangers, wishing I was free to get myself something to eat. I found myself glaring at people through my tears as they took plates and bowls half full of food to the trash center – what a waste of food! Never before had I been tempted to say, “hey, I’ll take that,” than I was on that day. My son noticed me wiping tears and asked what was wrong. I lied and told him I took a bite of his sister’s squash and it must have had some sort of spice on it and I was reacting to that. He believed me for a moment, taking a last bite of his mashed potatoes before pushing the plate over to me and telling me he was full. More tears to fight off.

That brings me to the hunger. The hunger is extraordinary. There is a constant gnawing in your stomach, an empty feeling that has taken up permanent residence. Even as you’re eating a meal, you feel the hunger. It never goes away because you don’t know when you’re going to eat again. You don’t know if your next meal will be something proper or if it’ll be half a fun-sized bag of M&M’s that you hoarded from your kids’ Halloween haul or nothing at all. It’s an ever-present gastric uncertainty. As food stamp benefits continue to be cut and food pantries struggle to feed communities, that uncertainty will just continue. I hate to think of my children feeling the same way. They get first dibs on all food that comes through this house. There are many days when my kids get their three meals and I get half of one and my husband….well, I never see him because he is working all the time, but he barely eats, too. This is obviously unhealthy. Our health has tanked over the last year. I’ve been told I constantly look tired. My eyes are more sunken, devoid of light. My skin is dry, blemished, and overall just blah. My hair is brittle and I lose a lot of it on a daily basis. I’m constantly weak. My husband is a very strong man, but he has lost an alarming amount of muscle and strength in the past year. The two of us are constantly exhausted. Part of that is the hunger, part of it is emotional.

The emotions certainly take their toll. Hopelessness is unbearable. I was once someone that my friends would always look to for a positive thought and encouraging words. I always managed to see the good in every situation. I try my best to hold onto that, but it’s been slipping away quickly. Fear is constant. You’re always afraid of what’s next. I’m afraid of opening my bills to find new late fees. I’m afraid of losing utilities. I’m afraid of being evicted because we can’t afford our rent. You want to think positive, but the idea of “what’s next” is always looming. Things that might seem minor to one person can spell disaster for a family in poverty. Last week, my husband told me my tail light was out. This is typically not a big deal for many people. To us, it’s terrifying. We don’t have the money for a new tail light. But, it’s illegal here to have one out. Our cops here are very good at pulling you over for broken lights, outdated stickers, etc. Obviously, it’s the law to keep your car in check. We know this. I’ve always been great at keeping my car well-maintained. My inspections were always done on time, lights would be replaced immediately, oil is always changed, I never drove on gas fumes at the needle hovered on E. It’s all different now. Small things are big things. Monumental things. The idea of needing a tail light, an inspection, or a new tire due to the 100’s of pot holes created by tons of snow this Winter is enough to send me into a panic. Weather is terrorizing these days. Two of my husbands jobs can be called off due to snow or ice because the trucks can’t get to them, so they tell staff to stay home. We’ve had storm after storm after storm this season. My husband has missed so much work, not by choice, due to snow and ice. We added it up and discovered that he missed enough to pay for nearly two months of rent. Same for me – no doggies to walk in this weather because people are staying home.

Poverty is isolating. Friends eventually fade away because they think you’re ignoring them when you constantly turn down their invites to dinner or events. They take it personal no matter how many times you insist it’s not. Your children’s social lives suffer for the same reason – you can’t afford to send them to many birthday parties or playdates. Trips to zoos, museums, and other fun places with admission fees are extremely limited. People eventually tire of you being unavailable to come out for fun and they stop calling and texting. And maybe I should say those people aren’t friends in the first place, but it doesn’t take the pain away. It doesn’t make me hurt less for my children. Conversely, you have friends who know you’re in poverty and they try to brainstorm, try to help you through it. You say thank you a million times, but it’s not enough. After a while, trying to save you is boring and when they realize they didn’t fix you, they get annoyed. I’ve been called everything by people who were supposed to be my friends. Because I can’t snap my fingers and make things work perfectly and because that fact depresses the fuck out of me, I’ve been called useless, manipulative, worthless, unmotivated. No one wants to hear that you have tried all the options that they suggested and they didn’t work out. No one wants to hear that you know exactly why a suggestion won’t work. They don’t understand why you can’t “just move” or “just declare bankruptcy” or just swing around a pole (note: no one ever suggests that my husband sell his body for cash…but quite a few people have presented it as an option for me). This isn’t to say they are not well-meaning – and they certainly are not under appreciated by me – but they eventually get exasperated when you explain time and time again why certain suggestions don’t work. They want to fix you, fix you now, get you to shut the fuck up about being poor. It’s hard for others to deal with the overwhelming depression and hopelessness that accompanies poverty. It’s hard for them to hear that you don’t want to get up in the morning anymore, that you just want to end it all. So, it’s sometimes easier to be angry at the poor person, to convince yourself that they just don’t want to work for it, and keep your distance from them. Many friendships have been strained by poverty.

However, no one can be as hard on you as you are on yourself. I spend hours per day telling myself how much I suck. If only I had done this or done that. I know our circumstances were beyond our control. I know how hard we try every single say. But, it doesn’t stop me from doubting myself, from putting myself down. It doesn’t stop the shame. I feel like a leech. I’m told by my friendly clergymen, my wonderful politicians, and by people I know and once called friends that I am a burden on society. I’m a taker. If only I worked harder. If only I wanted to stop being poor and getting handouts, then everything would turn around and I would be rich. If only I would pray harder, attend the correct church, and read an ancient book that I have read cover to cover many times in the past. Then God would just bestow His blessings upon me. Or, I should really just consider putting some positive energy out into the Universe. If I meditate and tell the Universe that I want money, money will come and everything will be fixed. The constant shouts from society’s peanut gallery telling me how the poor or worthless and damned help shape my inner dialogue and I begin to agree with them. I am worthless. I deserve the shame I feel.

It’s hard to accept help when your inner dialogue tells you that you are useless. People tell me to be willing to accept help, I’ll be able to pay it forward someday. Without friends and the kindness of strangers, we wouldn’t have had a Christmas for our kids. My car payment would not have been paid for a couple of months, my husband would still have holes in his boots, and my car would still be uninspected and I’d be in deep shit. And we’re still here, still in need.

I sit here now, writing this at my desk that is piled with overdue utility bills and a statement from my landlord telling us they are pursuing legal action against us because our rent is currently 17 days late. I have multiple windows open on my computer – several for job applications for me, several job applications for my husband to look at once he’s home from work, a few for charity searches, another for prayer requests, and another for a site that offers emotional support and solidarity for people like me. The future is more than uncertain and it feels that the ground under me can open at any moment and swallow me whole.

And so I do pray. I do hope. I work hard to get our family out of this hell hole and so does my husband. I am grateful in ways that I cannot fully express for all the help that has come to my family in recent months from both friends and strangers. It reminds us that even though life is pure shit right now, there are bright spots. The good exists. So, we continue to focus on that. I hope to eventually write about how we struggled, survived, and came out on top. Until then, be nice to the poor folk. You can have all the assumptions in the world about how they got there, how the feel, how much they “take,” but you can never really know their true story – humans deserve compassion.

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Jupiter here. The outpouring of support and people wanting to help has been incredible. I started a gofundme page to handle donations for those interested:
Donate to Jenn and her family here
 
For those who have asked about physical donations such as clothing,food,etc…. I am not comfortable  publishing Jenn’s address here publicly.  Bear with me…working on a solution.
I have a PO Box people can send small items and gift cards to, I guess? I couldn’t afford to ship heavy items to her,though. PO Box 905, Trumansburg NY 14886
I’ve talked to Jenn many time throughout the day and 1st of all, she’s immensely grateful. I’ve known Jenn for quite awhile and know that her gratitude is sincere and the generosity will be paid forward to others.
Secondly, her husband applied at Costco (in Pennsylvania). Jenn was wondering if anyone has connection w/ Costco in the northeast and could maybe help a little with this?
You can email me at jupitersinclair[at]gmail[dot]comJenn passed along a “Thank you”. You can read it here.

 

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Update…February 23rd
Hello,again. I just wanted to take a minute to address a couple things here that a very small number of people have concerns about. I’ve already mentioned a bit of this in Jenn’s Thanks and my pre-ramble before it (and please do go read that f you haven’t already!), but traffic seems to still be heavier for this post with not so many visit for the latter.

Ok,first… there wasn’t ever any point where anyone said that cash only donations would be accepted. As stated above, I was trying to figure out the logistics of that ,for one thing. I do have quite a bit of experience collecting and distributing goods that need to get to places they’re needed and I just know that many times it’s impractical. Not only is it pricey to ship a box of canned food but when you have a lot of people reaching in to their closets for things to donate to ONE family, what happens is a major overflow of goods that one family couldn’t possibly use but still has to figure out what to do with.
So, I suppose I would most definitely discourage physical items…but I can’t refuse enthusiastic help. I also know that Jenn would be able to pass along overflow to connections she has in her community, such as Catholic Charities.  As it stands right now, there IS a place to mail items if you really want to do that. (You can find that info in the thank you post).

There was tremendously weird discussion about the issue of PO Box. I have a PO Box. It’s up there. Like I said, people can send me small things I can forward them. As the theme of this blog implies, I’m kinda poor. I can’t afford to forward large boxes of things. I do not suggest anyone put their home  address on the Internet. I’ve learned to be cautious from experience. Why doesn’t Jenn get a PO Box “with all that money raised in gofundme” ? In case you’re unaware of how gofundme works, it takes 2-5 business days for the transfer to a bank account to begin. Not all the money is available at once. It’s transferred in increments. Meaning: the gofundme money is not even in Jenn’s bank account yet. When the first of it does arrive there, there are pressing needs such a dealing with eviction,court fees,broken taillight…
But the really cool thing about money is that you can buy food with it,too.

I know that some people who have never experienced poverty will still not understand a lot of narratives about poverty. Even if you grew up in poverty, you still only have the experience of being a child in poverty, not as an adult trying to keep their head above water for themselves and their kids. So, while that experience is your own, it is not the experience of a parent dealing with poverty, or even of other children who grew up poor. My point is, each person has their individual story to tell. You can learn from them and grow a better understanding & compassion , or you can sit in judgement and condemnation because the narrative doesn’t match the one you made up in your head. S’up to you.

 

Cloth Diapering & Low Income Families

Awhile back, I read about the results of a Yale study that examined low income women and how poverty affected their mental health. One of the neat tidbits that came out was that about 30% of these mothers stated that they could not afford diapers for their babies and admitted reusing diapers.

We didn’t need a study to tell us this, or that low income mother are stressed out and prone to depression. Like, duh.

When the study came out, cloth diapering advocates and parents posted the article time and time again on social media with head shaking and finger wagging. “If only they used cloth diapers.”

I’m a huge fan of cloth diapering. I’ve wrapped all of my babies butts in cloth ,and although I really,really like The Earth, my main motivator was the cost effectiveness of cloth diapering and not the environmental benefits. I have been incredibly fortunate when it comes to acquiring cloth diapers. I got many for gifts. Several times I was able to claim a nice stash on Freecycle, brand new. The parents had decided not to cloth diaper after all and decided to pass them on to someone who could use them. Also, I can sew and make my own.

I love cloth diapers and think they’re awesomesauce. I encourage everyone to use them….when and if they can.

I was amazed at some of the really stupid commentary from the cloth diapering community when that study came out. Some people did not understand why low income women wouldn’t just do the “smart thing” and use cloth diapers. Of course, when people don’t understand the reasons why someone does or doesn’t do something, then you get the inevitable judgement and even outright shaming that “those people” don’t know better or do better.

Ugh,right?

I have known quite a few families who would like to cloth diaper but they don’t have access to a place they can buy cloth diapers. Not everyone has a bricks & mortar store near them that sells cloth diapers. Not everyone has a credit or debit card to purchase them online,either. Accessibility can be an issue for some people,depending where they live & their situation. Then the initial start-up cost of diapers. Wowza. We’re talking about $50 for 12 diapers + covers .

Even if you point out that many people do not have washing machines in their home (or maybe they live in a region that has severe water restrictions) or maybe they can barely afford to do laundry at the laundromat and that JUST one extra load makes it even harder, know what the reply was from some?

“That’s no excuse. There’s always handwashing”
(Actual comment. Sadly, echoed by others)

I’ve done that before and I have no reservations about saying it outright: Handwashing sucks. At the time, I worked at home. If I had worked outside the home, there’s no way I would have added that stress to my day. Poor women are stressed and depressed already. Handwashing shitty diapers isn’t going to improve anything. I wasn’t even stressed (or poor) at the time but it didn’t do wonders for my psyche.

To people who have a profound disconnect with poverty, when some poor person doesn’t do something they can do, it’s an excuse or a poor choice they’re making.  If a parent who is not poor makes the same parenting decision, it’s just a choice they made , not a poor one.

Feels like this is just another post from me, asking others to try to wrap their brain around an aspect of someone else’s life they never considered before and find some compassion, so I’ll wrap this up with some ideas on how to help and links.

How To Help Low Income Families Cloth Diaper

  • My old washing machine sat in my driveway for awhile before I could have it hauled away. A couple knocked on the door one day asking if they could have it. I told them the drum was cracked and leaked. They still wanted it. This couple collects broken appliances and fixes them specifically to donate to low income families. If you’re handy and have some spare time (and a truck would be helpful), this would be a nice project that could help people in your community.
  • If you have sewing skills, consider sewing up some cloth diapers to give to a family OR even better, teach others to make them and make it a group project. Youth groups could easily get involved.
  • Pick up used sewing machines and sewing supplies to donate to families who are interested in making their own.
  • If there’s a cloth diaper bank program in your area, maybe work together to fundraise laundry expenses for families without a washer at home.

These are places you can donate diapers, both cloth and disposable, for low income families.

 

The National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit that has donated more than 15 million diapers to free distributers across the nation, helps connect struggling families with local diaper banks.

Baby Buggy reports that it has helped provide 6 million items, including diapers and bottles, to struggling families.

 

 

“Its hard being poor in America. When your kid is sick enough that you can’t work but disability doesn’t pay the bills, it is crushing. “

Today a reader shares their personal story of being judged for using food stamps while buying food for their severely ill child. Much gratitude to this contributor for sharing their perspective and putting this out there.

Its hard being poor in America. When your kid is sick enough that you can’t work but disability doesn’t pay the bills, it is crushing.Robbing from Peter to pay Paul is difficult but begging for extensions and requesting medical extensions is harder and more dehumanizing.

For me, life of late consists of medications, PICC line care and antibiotic delivery. It is doctors visits and home nurses and other care for her. We also have two other kids that also have special needs and doctors visits, home therapists etc.

When any kid is hospitalized, it sucks. When you are her only means of communication and can’t leave the hospital but “live too close” for the hospital to help, the only choice you have is to not eat. Last month, I did that for 11 days. Almost half of last month, I had one meal or less each day.

This month, my kid is neutropenic. This means she has very low white blood counts and can’t fight off illness. She has to wear masks and eat special food. She can’t have anything that is not prepackaged in an individual serving. She can’t have anything raw or undercooked including fruits and vegetables.

With those restrictions, I went to the store. I picked up a handful of items including peanut butter, fruit, vegetables, smoothies, applesauce, cookies and cereal. She lost 12 pounds last month. We need to get these higher calorie foods in her.

Items in the cart: 2 boxes of cookies, juice boxes, individual peanut butter (that was one of the things the woman screamed at me about while thrusting her jar in my face), applesauce and smoothie pouches, fruit and vegetable cups, and the only individual boxes of cereal the store carries.

Items in the cart: 2 boxes of cookies, juice boxes, individual peanut butter (that was one of the things the woman screamed at me about while thrusting her jar in my face), applesauce and smoothie pouches, fruit and vegetable cups, and the only individual boxes of cereal the store carries.

I already hate using food stamps. We even separated items into food and nonfood and paid for the nonfood separately, taking it to the car so that no one would notice that we bought dog food and socks and other “niceties.”

The lady behind me saw my wife hand me our direction card before she went to bring the van around. At first, I wasn’t sure I heard her comment.

“Glad I work so you can buy junk food” was quickly

followed with “greedy food stamp recipients buying individual peanut butters while I can only afford a jar.” The last one was accompanied by a jar of generic peanut butter being thrust in my face.

I tried to explain and she didn’t believe me. I tried to ignore her but things kept getting more heated. I put myself between her and my daughter and kept my head down. As I left, she was still yelling at me to spend her money more wisely.

All of my trip cost 38.41. I will skip meals to make that work. I will hope that my wife and kids don’t notice. I will claim I am not feeling well. My kids have to eat.

This is what they can’t see. Medications, IV antibiotics, PICC line supplies, respritory equipment, hand sanitizer hospital bracelets, sharps container, stethascope, PICC lines and masks.

 

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December 4,2013 update here

Teach Me How To Breast Feed [VIDEO]

Urban Matriarch made this awesome video, inspired by women she has helped breastfeed and her own breastfeeding experience.

I want to just say a few things about breastfeeding and formula to make it totally clear what my intentions are here, now and in future blog posts.

I am a “lactivist”. I support and encourage breastfeeding. I’ve breastfed 6 children. I’m still nursing a toddler. I love breastfeeding. In terms of how it applies to folks struggling with food security, it is totally applicable. Breastfeeding is a free and secure resource that ensures a baby gets the nourishment he or she needs, no matter how much money is in Mama’s bank account or SNAP budget… or if there’s a misstep in the stat’s management of WIC funds and their program is shut down.

But I’ve also had to use formula. Maybe “had to” isn’t the right wording. I had no support while breastfeeding preemie twins and it was a stressful, frustrating process I could not work through alone. Maybe if I had the support, I could have done it but that’s not the way it worked out. So, in the neat labeling system that happens within the Mamahood, I have been a Formula Feeding Mom. So, I know the crap people can give you for not breastfeeding.

I’m not into the judging thing here. I’m into being an advocate. If you feed your baby formula, don’t take anything pro-breastfeeding here as a personal criticism of your choice. I am sure there will be opportunities here to talk about formula feeding,too. When it comes to being an advocate for mothers and children living below the poverty line, it’s important to me to advocate for ALL mothers, no matter how they chose to feed their baby. I think that’s what being an advocate for women & mothers  (feminism,humanism,etc) should look like,anyway.

Teach Me How To Breast Feed [MUSIC VIDEO] – YouTube.

11 Meals for $50 and a little bit about Freezer Cooking

 

Freezer Meals Boot Camp – Freezer Meal Recipes in 3 Hours for about $50! | Lamberts Lately.

 

The recipes at the link above  are intended to be recipes for a freezer cooking day but they’re great, economical meals even if you’re not doing freezer cooking. If you’re not familiar with Freezer or Once A Month Cooking, it’s  just simply taking a day to cook a bunch of meals that you freeze ,then thaw and reheat throughout the month. Usually it’s a main course and then all you have to do is throw together an easy salad or side dish while it’s heating.  I found it to be really wonderful to do late in my pregnancy so there would be full meals ready to go during my post-partum “babymoon”.
When I have had time to do a once a month cooking day, it’s made life a lot easier. It’s like having convenience ,boxed meals but at the fraction of the cost and as healthy as you like them to be.

The disadvantages to freezer cooking is that it’s a little more difficult when you only have that tiny freezer on top of your fridge to store meals. Years ago, we scored a upright freezer for $30 at a yard sale and it was one of my best purchases ever made. If you’re struggling with not having enough food, a freezer can save your butt. When you find a good sale on produce and meat or have leftovers that can’t be used right away, freezing them can be a good food insurance for later. Sometimes on Freecycle or Craigslist , you will find freezers for completely free.

Freezer cooking can also be really hard when you have young children, especially babies. One of the tips those who usually give to people who have kids is to give them small jobs to keep them occupied and help. I found it easier just to send them out of the kitchen entirely! It was just easier for me personally to have a cooking day when my partner had a day off or someone else could help out.

Cleaning & Personal Care Products You Can Make With SNAP Purchased Ingredients

I have more great recipes like this I will add to the blog separately but these are great basic ones , perfect for when you’re just beginning to make your own cleaning and  personal care products. I’m also working on putting together a  print zine , due out the end of this summer.

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SNAP allowances can only be used to purchase items that are for human consumption (with the exception of alcohol,of course).  You can’t  buy shampoo,deodorant, toothpaste, toilet bowl cleaner or laundry detergent with food stamps. Basically, if you can’t put it in your belly, you can’t use food stamps to buy it.

You know what you CAN buy with food stamps,though? Vinegar & baking soda. These 2 items can be used to make a gazillion things to clean your house, your things and parts of your self with and they’re both inexpensive.  I’ve been asked countless times for tips on how to score great deals on cleaning and personal care items or how to find the best coupons for such things and my answer is always ,”Don’t buy -DIY.”

You can also use food stamps to buy corn starch,lemon juice,oranges …and a few other ingredients you can use to make all-natural, frugal cleansers that actually work. One thing I have learned about being dirt poor is that the things that are most economically advantageous are also the most environmentally friendly, while also being non-toxic . It’s a nice incidental bonus.

In this post, I’ll cover all the things you can make yourself with vinegar, baking soda and a few other items purchased with food stamps.

Kitchen & Bathroom Cleansers

Vinegar alone will clean and disinfect all your surfaces, including cutting boards. It naturally kills bacteria,molds and mildews. Also, wiping your counter tops with vinegar on a cloth deters ants, so that’s an added bonus. To remove stains (especially tea and coffee) from dishes and counters, add a  tsp of salt to the vinegar.

On linoleum floors, 1/2 of vinegar in a gallon of warm water is a great floor shine,too

Both vinegar and baking soda, together or separately, removes odors from pretty much everything. Use them together as a drain cleaner.

You can also make a Citrus Scented Cleanser by places orange peels in a quart jar of vinegar. Let it sit for 2 weeks, then fill a spray bottle with half water and half the vinegar-orange solution. It works to clean every surface, with  that fresh, lemony scent.

My vinegar-orange peel mixture,brewing

You can use baking soda to make a Soft Scrub -like cleanser. Just put baking soda in a dish and add water to make a paste. you can also add a bit of liquid dish soap to it. It works great on stovetops, ovens, scouring countertops and cleaning the sink.You can also use the same pasty mixture to clean your cast iron pans and enamelware.

To clean toilets, just baking soda let to soak is supposed to do a good job.  I never get to find out exactly how well any toilet bowl cleaner works . The minute I put any sort of cleanser in the toilet, someone has to go pee, even if I just made the announcement, “I’m getting ready to clean the toilet! If you have to go, go NOW!” Those kids need to learn how to put a cork or tie a not in it,seriously.

Now, I have also heard that Tang and Coke both work well as a toilet bowl cleansers but I’ve never tried it. You can buy both of those with food stamps. I don’t suggest drinking either one of them, especially if it does such a great job at cleaning toilets. It does amuse me to think of buying soda to use for cleaning with all the talk lately of  not allowing food stamp recipient to use SNAP to buy soda . “But…but…I need it to clean my toilet!”.  If anyone has tried either Tang or soda to clean their toilet, tell me if it really does work.

Laundry

Like I said, baking soda and vinegar removes odors really well. When I have stinky towels or rags (we’re a paper-free household so especially the rags because you know…they sop up milk and crap like that) ,I let them soak in the washer with about 1/2 cup of baking soda. Then add some of my homemade laundry detergent to run the rest of the wash cycle. During the rinse cycle, I’ll add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. Vinegar is a great rinse and softens clothes,too. A lot of people are skeptical of this and are worried their clothes will smell like vinegar but trust me…no vinegar smell is left at all.

The same technique also works for cloth diapers,too.

You can also make smelly fabric softener:

6 Cups Water

2 Cups Hair Conditioner (You can use any kind, I did have the Suave Rosemary Mint on hand so I used that.)

3 Cups White Vinegar

Although you can’t buy hair conditioner with food stamps, you can buy the really super cheap Suave conditioner for less than a dollar.  The scent left behind is just a whiff…not overpowering like many of the store bought fabric softeners are. You don’t have to add it to the rinse cycle – you can instead soak a washcloth in it and throw it in the dryer , like a dryer sheet.

Deodorant

This recipe from Sustainable Utopia can be made entirely will ingredients you can purchase on food stamps. It’s simply:


  • Coconut Oil, any brand
  • Baking Soda
  • Cornstarch
Follow the pictorial here for complete instructions.
If coconut oil doesn’t seem like it would be the greatest way to spend limited food stamp dollars, check out all the things you can do with coconut oil. And if that’s not enough, there are 25 Magical Things to Make with Coconut Oil.
My Grandma used to use just corn starch as a deodorant. She used a powder puff to apply it. I don’t remember her ever being smelly so it must have worked ok.
Shampoo
I rarely use shampoo. Instead, I’ll use baking soda to clean, apple cider vinegar to rinse.  The times I’ll use a tiny dab of shampoo is when I’ve been doing something sweaty and dirty like gardening and feel the need to have a little something extra. Otherwise, baking soda and vinegar is all you really need.
The practice of not using shampoo has become known as No Poo , which kind of weirds me out. It’s also a little inconvenient to have to exlain that you’re referring to shampoo and not poo poo. Whatever you’d like to call it, it’s exactly what it sounds like :  Not using  shampoo to wash your hair.
I haven’t been able to convince anyone else in my household to be shampoo-free but it works for me.  The first week of shampoo detox is AWFUL. Just plain and simple ew. When you use shampoo, it strips all the essential oils   your hair has naturally. Quit using shampoo and your body makes more oil to compensate. I promise, after the first week when things are more balanced out, it’s all good. Make it through the first week and you’re golden.  You still clean your hair, you’re just not using shampoo anymore.
Here’s more on how to go Shampoo Free , including how to get it right for frizz-free curly hair:
Or if you’re no so into the No Poo scene, consider some Hair Smoothies for conditioning:
 More on Hair Smoothies…
Toothpaste
A simple baking soda & water paste is completely effective as a tooth paste but if you’re not that crazy about the sound of that (it doesn’t taste that great), this is a great recipe from One Good Thing by Jillee. Remember that coconut oil i mentioned back when I was talking about deodorant?  You can use that for this.

3 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp baking soda
25 drops peppermint essential oil
1 packet stevia
2 tsp vegetable glycerin (optional)

Put the coconut oil and baking soda in a bowl and mash up with a fork until blended. Add the peppermint essential oil, stevia and optional vegetable glycerin and continue to mash and stir until you’ve reached toothpaste consistency.