Today’s fluffier post is brought to you by a Christmas card from Laraine and her cats, paying half price for snowpants at Target plus getting an additional $10 off, sunshine, and, of course, my neighbor’s cute goats.
Our neighbors are raising goats. They’re frickin’ adorable. They make me do things like baaaaa at them and talk baby talk.
The other day I said to my fam, “I should make pajamas for the goats. They would look adorable in pajamas.”
My husbeast said that he didn’t think the goat farmer would like that idea.
Teen daughter though was on board with the idea and was thinking of it as a guerrilla operation.
“What we do is sneak over there Christmas Eve, dress all the goats in their jammies, and then the next morning the guy goes out there to feed them and is like, *WITH LOOK OF WONDER* ‘SANTA?!’ . Magic. ”
I promise I’m not guerrilla-pajama-sewing for the neighbor-goats. Promise.
Cold house update:
Unseasonably “warm” so it’s very comfortably warm inside. Now if I could figure out a way other than all the ways we’ve already done to retain that heat once the temp drops again!
Well,honestly – this isn’t ALL the food we ate. I forget to take pictures or I’m too tired or my house is chaosville. Most meals were made w/ things we got at the food pantry 2 weeks ago . We did do minor grocery shopping for basics. I had two crying meltdowns that were food related – one because the ground beef from the food pantry was spoiled and the other because bread dough (honey wheat oat…the one I make the most) didn’t rise.
About the crying – I never cry. Maybe once or twice a year. The advantage to this is that people who know me know that when I’m crying, it’s super important. Lately? I cry over every damn thing. Dearest says, “It must be hormones.” And I said, “No, I think this is who I am now.” To his credit, he didn’t even flinch. I notice this has been a gradual thing as I’m getting older. I cry if something is impossibly cute or beautiful or horribly sad and tragic. Bread dough not rising and spoiled meat are probably not the most tragic things but it was in my world on the days it happened.
Anyway…on to the food.
This was something I’m calling Loaded Potato Casserole. I diced potatoes, rinsed them, then coated them in a packet of “chili seasoning” that I found in the pantry. I added a can of pinto beans and baked the whole thing for 25 minutes or so. I threw cheese on at the end. The chives on top are super fresh. I harvested them from the garden…. the day after we got 6 inches of snow.
Poor chives. They were looking pretty sad after the snow but have bounced back since.
Basic spaghetti loaded with chunky onion tomato sauce. This was where I cried. I wanted to make meatballs but the ground beef wasn’t good. I DON’T EVEN LIKE MEAT. What the hell?
I’m calling this one Eggroll Bowl. I guess it’s “Deconstructed Eggroll” but ugh, hipsters and their deconstructed ethnic foods. What happened here was I thought I had 2 packages of eggroll wrappers so I went ahead and made eggroll filling before realizing there were no eggroll wrappers. No crying over this for whatever reason. I just cooked it and put it in bowls over rice.Hubby had made a pork roast for a fantasy baseball thing he went to and I put some of the leftover pork in the mix.
“Baja Fish Tacos”. This was a taco meal kit from the food pantry. Well, the seasoning and tortillas was. The fish was from the food pantry,too. The fish we get there is frozen pollock and it’s not terrible. I’ve found it’s ideal for things like tacos or sandwiches.
The tomatoes and lettuce are from this tiny produce shop near us. It’s literally in an addition on this man’s house on one of the more traveled back roads here. His prices are great and most things are pretty local. He also has eggs, both local small farm and more factory farmed. The latter were reduced this week because he had too many so we picked up several cartons for 75 cents each. We’ve been eating a lot of breakfast-for-dinner meals.
And we still have a ton of these frozen pancakes left. When I first served them, my littlest thought I was handing him a plate of small cookies. Yeah, they do look like that.
One of the most memorable things I made recently that I didn’t take pics of was Jim Lahey’s Potato Pizza .Because potatoes, which we have a lot of right now.
I loved it but I got mixed reactions from the rest of the family.
“It’s …..interesting.”- Husband
“I just don’t know how I feel about this.”- 15 yr old
“Don’t call it pizza. It has no sauce.” -11 yr old
“Nope.”- 5 yr old
I wish my other kids had been home. I think they would have appreciated it.
My 11 year old is an incredibly picky eater (sensory issues. No, “if he’s hungry enough,he’ll eat” doesn’t quite work here) . We accidentally discovered that he loves those stupid chunky campbell’s soups – Loaded Baked Potato,specifically. I HATE buying soap in a can because I can make it so cheaply at home. I have tried feeding him various homemade potato soups and he’s rejected most. FINALLY, I made one this past week that he loved. Bye, campbell’s chunky soup.
Used homemade broth for it,of course.
I don’t remember what I did with that chicken. Garlicked and baked,maybe?
I still have a bazillion carrots to use. I’ll get on that this week.
I’m sure it’ll also still be pretty potato intensive.
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We’re late with the rent because we had to pay car insurance
We had no water from Friday night until Saturday afternoon. I lived in a house without running water once and forgot how much I love running water and indoor plumbing.
Eventually, I figured out that it was a small issue with the pump and fixed the problem myself which was a super good thing since I called the landlord’s rental agency, left a message for the “on call emergency” person ( a person took the message, not a machine) and here it is Tuesday and never have heard a word back. I suppose I should have called them to say I got the water running again but I was honestly curious to see how well they respond to issues. I think they failed that test and now I don’t feel as bad about being late with rent.
THIS: Ok, I LOVE my boys but I did not enjoy winter break at all. Not only was there never (well,hardly ever) peace, it’s so hard to work at home and have kids home from school. It’s not like you can really get a lot of work done, which of course adds to stress and frustration when you really have to be making money.
Winter showed up. I was just kinda boasting yesterday morning about how awesome I did at winterizing and how toasty warm it was inside but I didn’t wait for the temperature to drop low enough. Holy Elsa, it’s fuh-reeeezing in here. Wood stove roaring and the temp this morning inside is barely 60. It’s the wind. If the wind isn’t blowing, it’s fine.
Well, running water was welcomed back. I will never under appreciate it again
I just complained about winter break but we actually did manage to have some good fambly time. We had some good movie nights ( thank you , library), baked( banana bread,of course), played games, and general fun stuff. We made these birdfeeders from my out of control dishes-to-craft-with stash that I’ve acquired from free piles and yard sales to use for mosaics and various crafty stuff.
Food pantry food. Seriously. What would we be eating without it? I guess a pluckier gal would use some of her thrifted tea cups to start an indoor garden!
The boys went back to school. I can get back to work. HALLE-effing-lujah
My ex (my twins’ dad) bought us a pallet of Envirobricks. With our wood supply running low, this will help a lot. So far, I think they’re awesome and I’m noticing that the bricks are definitely more efficient than the wood.
GOALS THIS WEEK
pay rent ,obviously
Figure out how to not have garbage. Not even kidding. We have to pay $18 a month for garbage plus $10 for a sheet of garbage tags that go on each garbage can. We barely have any garbage. We compost and recycle everything we can so all of our actual garbage is packaging and the few things that cant be reused or recycled somehow. I want to cut that $18+ out of my budget entirely (I didn’t even pay that bill last month,actually)
Stay warm. Keep stalking all the drafts with non-expanding spray foam and scraps or rags. Make some more draft dodgers for along the floorboards? I don’t know what else I can do. Doorways are covered with drapes or blankets. Windows sealed with vinyl. Just so much ugh
Figure out what to make with this. Garlic Piastra? Even Google didn’t help me much. I asked my oldest son because he knows a ton about food plus works at a food bank in another city and he had no idea either. The best I can figure it it’s a dry seasoning for a rub or marinade? Yay,flavor! I’m nearly out of every herb and spice in my pantry. My Taxmas shopping list looks ridonkulous. I will buy a year supply of ginger if someone doesn’t stop me.
See if we can do our taxes ,like,now. I need Taxmas to be here.
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.
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 the 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.
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.
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 Buggyreports that it has helped provide 6 million items, including diapers and bottles, to struggling families.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This recipe from Sustainable Utopia can be made entirely will ingredients you can purchase on food stamps. It’s simply:
Coconut Oil, any brand
Follow the pictorial here for complete instructions.
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.
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:
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.
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.