Checking food privilege

Read worthy this morning, this piece ,Check Your Food Privilege , authored by Carrie at Our Stable Table– it’s  a point close to my heart and one people are probably sick of me making so I’m glad someone else said it.

We lost our ability to be picky because we were so completely broke”.  

When I started doing my Pantry Anarchy recipes I know there were people who seemed quite dismayed that they weren’t “low cost real food” recipes. There are enough food bloggers out there giving advice on how low income people can eat healthy and what I personally hear is that the information isn’t helpful. It’s more helpful to have ideas on what to do with stale bread, canned peas, dehydrated potato flakes, and a tube of USDA issued ground beef. Because that’s what low income people are more likely to have access to. Ideally, I try to use the low quality ingredients I have to create food that’s creative, delicious, and nutritious but at the end of the day, #1 priority is that it’s edible and fills a space in our stomachs.

The way many of us low income people eat is not the way we would love to eat and on the flip side of that, many people who do not struggle with food insecurity are not conscientious about eating “healthy” and no one chastises them for purposefully choosing fast food and junk.  People with food privilege should check their own while also looking at who they are choosing to  aim their “concern” (shaming often) toward. Are you focused on the people who choose to eat poorly even though they have the means to eat well or the people who don’t have the means to eat any other way but poorly and have little choice in the matter?

 

 

 

 

via Natural Cures Not Medicine

Sure. Great fridge for a vegan with money and ability to do food preservation for anything that needs to be preserved before it becomes waste because dang, that’s a lot of fresh produce to use up. I guess what bothers me about images like this is that they declare that people should eat like this but are they saying, “EVEN POOR PEOPLE!” or ….are they just expecting everyone to make it happen for themselves? I never know .

 

Daily Dozen: Links galore.Well, 12 to be exact.

 

Trying something new here. I always have soooo many links to share that I get overwhelmed when I try to do it just once a week. And honestly, I can imagine when it’s a ton of links at once, it’s a lot to take in. So, I’ll try this. I’ll share 12 links every day. I’ll probably do some on topic (like food/recipes, SNAP,current events,gardening,budgeting,etc).

[content: parenting while poor,doulas for low income women,homelessness,transgender homeless people,homeless shelters,nice rappers doing good things for poor families and homeless people, teachers don’t get paid enough,wealth inequality,food insecurity]


 

 

  1. How it feels to be a poor mother living without heat during a blizzard – short answer: fucking miserable
  2. The Myth of Low Cost Doula Support – this was a heated discussion over at the FB page one day after I said I wanted to become a doula just to provide services to low income women. I understand in some areas, low cost doulas are totally a thing but it’s not the norm. Also, some people don’t seem to get that some low income women need it to be “no cost”
  3.  In North Carolina, Teachers Work Second Jobs to Make Ends Meet [via Raise Up]- “…16 percent of teachers nationwide are forced to work a second job outside the school system. In North Carolina, however, that number is closer to 25 percent — third-highest in the entire country. When you include teachers who take second jobs within the school system, more than half of North Carolina educators — a full 52 percent — work second jobs to supplement their salaries.”
  4. Travesty: It Is Now Illegal To Feed The Homeless In Thirty-Three Cities – ugh
  5. Chris Hedges: If You’re Poor, Justice in America Doesn’t Look the Same-nope
  6. Chance the Rapper Raised 100k to Make Coats for Chicago’s Homeless– they double as sleeping bags
  7. 2 Chainz Gives Family of 11 Facing Eviction a New Home – this guy❤
  8. Study: Low wages drive up government costs– makes sense. You dont pay people a living wage, they will need to rely on government assistance
  9. Police: Homeless Woman Smashed Window to Escape Cold – she wanted to go to jail so she didn’t have to freeze
  10. Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession -yup
  11. via TalkPoverty: “I can’t afford to fill up my freezer, but I’m denied food stamps” –Kim bit.ly/22oqUBM
  12. Tll HUD to house trans people in shelters according to gender identity – This is a big deal. The number of trans people on the street has gone up and it’s harder for them to find shelters that accept them. (this does not address SAFE shelters for trans people,though)

 

The food people get from the food bank

A couple of weeks ago, I asked readers to tell me what they get from their food bank. I got hundreds of answers and what I heard was exactly as I expected but maybe not what a lot of people would expect?

And that was absolutely why I wanted to do this post.

I’ve been writing about food insecurity for long enough to have encountered recurring conversations and remarks. I would say it’s a common occurrence to see a person say they don’t have enough food to eat and the overwhelming response they get is, “Go to your local food bank.”. The advice might be coming from someone who thinks this is helpful advice but they’ve never been to a food bank themselves OR they have used food banks before and they’re experience has been excellent. “Excellent” is not what most people would describe their experience as and it’s also important for people to understand that sometimes food banks are not accessible for everyone. But mostly, I want people to understand the limited capacity of what “go to the food bank” might mean for someone.
I want to clarify here that this is in no way a diss to food banks. Food banks are an incredibly valuable asset. The people who manage and volunteers at food banks are tirelessly compassionate and caring people. They want people to get enough food and they would rather it be good food. As more states impose restrictions on SNAP and limit who can get it, food banks are crucial but as the number of people who need them increases, the ability to truly help people decreases. You’re hearing from GOP candidates that the best thing we can do for “the poor” is to just get rid of the SNAP program altogether on the federal level and let the states decide how to allocate money for safety net programs. This will have a massive impact on already struggling states where food banks are maxed out on their helping potential.

Right now there are people who are trying to feed themselves exclusively from food banks. These people usually are just over the limit to qualify for SNAP (I keep telling ya’ll…SNAP works exactly how it should and needs to be expanded). Some people do get SNAP but the amount is small. People will sometimes have to go to several food banks in their area to make it work. Two people told me they couldn’t use the food bank where they live because the eligibility is based on whether or not you qualify for SNAP and they didn’t. Some food pantries do not deliver and people without transportation can’t make it there.

Produce is rare for some,especially in the winter months. This is an important point for foodists to take note of. If you’re advising poor people that it’s easy to eat healthy, you need to be aware that their options are limited. 

 

[in photo: bag of apples,bag of white potatoes,3 onions,1 cabbage, 5lbs wheat flour, 5lbs cake mix base, red thai curry seasoning,shelf stable milk,1 lb macaroni,2 lbs dried lentils,2 cans black beans,1 can chickpeas,1 can blackeyed peas,1 can chili beans, 1 can kidney beans,2lbs white rice,1 lb brown rice,2 cans pineapple,2 cans mandarin oranges,2 cans fruit cocktail,1 can peaches,1 can tuna,2 cans cream of mushroom soup,juice,1 lb pasta,1.5 lb egg noodles,2 lbs ground turkey,1 lb hot dogs,veggie chips, contact lens solution,1 loaf of sourdough bread]

This is what we brought home last Monday from our food pantry. Our’s is a “self serve” pantry and clients get to choose what they want. The amounts are based on a point system for family size. These guidelines are supposed to be a 3-day supply of food per person. This food pantry is open twice a month. What’s available changes.

img_2048

Sorry this photo is blurry but I think you can get the idea. When we go in, we take the card with our family size on it (6 that week because 1 kid went back to college). On the tables, the food is labeled with points. Canned food is usually 1 pt, as are grains. Meats are more….I think the ground turkey was 4 pts.  I know a bag of chicken is the costliest at 10 pts. Some items are only 1 per family (especially produce). Occasionally they have non-food items like toothpaste and those are always one per family.

From my perspective, this is pretty good. I have never had expired food. Nothing has ever made us sick. I can usually figure out ways to make meals from it , although sometimes it takes a lot of creativity and strict management of resources available.

So, that’s my experience with the one we use right now.

Here is some of what other people wanted to say about their experiences:

Amy, Central NY-   We have a food bank and a fresh food giveaway.  The fresh food giveaway is bread and produce, every once in a while dairy products or eggs.  The food bank is toilet paper, pasta, pasta sauce, canned fruit, canned vegetables, mystery poptarts (They’re out of the box and the wrappers aren’t labelled, so you don’t know what kind they are until you get them home and open them.  I can’t have peanuts, but so far I have been lucky and have not gotten the peanut butter ones), pancake mix, syrup, tuna fish, rice, beans, lentils, and some vegetable soup that’s bizarrely nasty on its own but that can be put into a stew or something similar.  One time the food bank had body spray.  And they’ve had agave nectar a couple of times. 

Elizabeth, Southern PA -…my experience has been mixed. Some only give enough for two days for four.
I’ve had produce, frozen meat, canned meat ( once the chicken was bad and made my daughter ill). I’ve seen nothing but bags of stale soft pretzels at one place

Becky, Vermont (volunteer) – We purchased a walk in cooler for meat and other frozen foods. The amount you get depends on family size. For example, a family of 4 would get around 12 cans of veggies, 12 soup, 12 various types of macaroni, 12 tuna, 10 other meat cans. Two bags of rice, 4 frozen packs of meat…etc. You can come once a month. Fresh produce comes in from the food bank once a month. You would need to be in that week to get it. Eggs we have too.

Peggy-  Our foodbank also allows only one pickup a month. The only time I ever received meat was the first time that I went. I was turned away by the foodbank itself. A lady came out and told me that the woman in front of me was the last person they would serve. It was two days before Christmas, a snow storm was forecast. I had driven 15 miles to get there…I was nearly sure to almost starve before they opened back up in the new year. A kind woman gave me one of her family’s four boxes. It had a pork roast in it.

Brooke,MI-Last time my husband was off work…they asked for paycheck stubs…haven’t been back unfortunately. We did get all the staples. Never any fresh stuff. I can get baby food..diapers and wipes also. 

Chris, FL- I haven’t been back since we all had food poisoning. I know the bad food came from the food bank because it was the only food we had in the house.

Sheila, CT- I went to the FB today in the neighboring city. I”m allowed to go only once every 3 weeks since I no longer get SNAP, this is about it for me… I also go to the food bank in my town (once a month, when I am not scheduled for work I am able to go to this)  and the food truck is once a month  but I have Fibromyalfia and so can only go during good (not really bad) weather. Today at the FB in the neighboring city I was given: 

1 turkey breast frozen
1 chicken pot pie “use by 1/5/16….  (not so sure about this, it was not frozen, it was fresh. 9 days past it’s use by date and it has poultry in it.. : ( Not feeling like I will use this… 
1 box of cereal (contains almost- I am super allergic to…) 
large box of pound cake
box of stuffing mix
peanut butter
grape jelly
2 cans beans
1 can apricots
1 big can (28 oz) tomatoes
can of cream of mushroom soup
can of cream of chicken soup
2 boxes pasta
3 individual servings size coconut water mixed with juice
1 can of carrots
8 or 10 bagels
2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
trial size fabric softener.2 small cans Vienna sausages : ( 
2 dozen eggs
32 oz skim milk
16 oz chocolate milk
16 oz hazlenut meal- says it can be used in place of flour
So that is suppose to do me for 3 weeks, for 3 people…
Wendy, SLC,Utah- I live in a low income senior apartment building with 80 apartments. Once a month the food bank brings both state and federal boxes. Even the guy who has been distributing the food for many years does not know why some people get state and others federal. I get the state box. Each one is decorated by kids. Sometimes they are quite clever! Boxes were distributed yesterday. I got 4 cans of tuna, 2 small cans of salmon, 3 cans of cranberry juice concentrate, peanut butter, 2 cans fruit cocktail, a box of honey graham crackers, a loaf of oat bread and 6 strawberry Activia bottles. I gave back 2 cans of beef stew, a jug of grape juice and a brick of plastic cheese. We have a free table in the community room, so we can put what we don’t want on it and take something else. I took a bag of powdered milk and an old guy gave me his 6 bottles of Activa Everybody here wishes we got things like fresh meat, veggies or fruits!

Anon, MI- The pantry I used to volunteer at in the next town over  a few years ago
that was supported by several local churches, who did not have pantries
of their own and chose to consolidate resources.  The requirement was
residence in the local school district.  Customers were allowed one trip
a month and were given a general listing with quantities in various food
groups.  “Day close” produce and bakery was donated by the local grocery
store and could selected according to their needs/preferences.   Meat
was typically donated from a local butcher shop, frozen.  Never things
like butter, eggs, cheese or milk.   They always referred to it as
supplementing their customers groceries, not providing everything.
Extra trips were allowed on a case by case basis.  Customers grabbed a
shopping cart and chose their own items.  That worked soooo much better
than throwing stuff in a bag and handing it to them, not having a clue
about personal tastes.  A free clothing closet was available as well as
bill assistance.

From my recollection, I can’t find the actual lists on my computer.

1-2 people (then kinda double or triple or 3-4 and 5-6)  There were
allowances made depending on how deep the shelves were.

3 cans of veggies
2 cans soup
2 cans meat (usually tuna)
2 boxes mac & cheese, pasta,  hamburger helper, rice or potato mix
2 cans of fruit
1 can spaghetti sauce
1 box cereal
1 fruit juice
Baking supplies if we had them, if requested.
1 peanut butter  (but for instance an elderly woman might not use this
and could select something else)
1 jelly
2 personal care items which might include 1 laundry soap, 1 toilet paper
a package of frozen beef, pork or chicken (no fish ever)
1-2 Snack items, cake mix, pancake mix/syrup etc., jello, pudding were
usually available

Various things like canned or powdered milk were usually available if
requested.
Things like unusual vegetables or canned goods that had been donated
were free for the picking if they could be used, as well as dry beans.
Usually there were diapers, feminine hygiene products and formula
available.

I think we estimated $30-40 worth of product per trip for 1-2 people

Pam, Chattanooga-  The food Bank delivers to a local church once a month. We usually get a frozen 10 lb bag of chicken legs and thighs 5 or 10 lb bag of potatoes some fresh produce a couple of canned veggies some donated baked goods and some other random stuff. In late fall I received a huge amount of end of season produce. Carrots onions and peppers that are in my freezer. This month got a cabbage and a lb of older carrots that cooked up fine in a soup. Last month not much produce but peanut butter and cereal were appreciated.

Connie, Lake County ,Ohio- Most of the good pantries are run by churches, and usually the Catholic churches. They divide the community into sections. You have to go to your assigned church. The one we went to for several years, before our recent eviction/move was once every 30 days. Clients choice from each food group. Three day supply for however many people. For the two of us (adult son and I) we usually got 3 soups, a breakfast (pancake mix/syrup or cereal) two pasta, sauce, 3 canned fruit, pb&j, 3 canned veggies, tp, 1 snack, and something frozen- sometimes bagged entree, sometimes hot dogs, chicken, whatever they have. Other items depend on store donations- if they had close date yogurt/dairy, sometimes eggs. Lots of bakery donations, wry depends on how much they got- 1 or 2 bread, a couple cookie/cake/pastry. Occasional “fresh” produce, but lots of times borderline spoiled.

Current church seems to have more/better donations. We got quite a lot and also got milk, eggs, frozen leftovers from on site caterer, frozen meat, bread, dessert. They had a snack shelf, coffee/tea, baking products.

There is also a produce give away the first Saturday. Last time we got 10 lbs of potatoes, cabbage, onions, apples, watermelon, carrots, grapefruit, squash and some baked goods.

Another church does “taxables”. Last Saturday of the month. One month deodorant, shampoo, shaving supplies, along with toothpaste and TP. Next month laundry and dish soap with TP.

MJ, Southern IL- We don’t go all the time but sometimes we need to. Usually there is a frozen chicken, or a lb of hamburger, once we got a pork loin, pancake mix, syrup, a few cans of fruit and veg, soup, box of cereal, and spaghetti noodles and a can of tomato sauce. I am always grateful that I can cook. I can turn a sows ear into a silk purse. Sometimes there are out of date things. I always check things out well…we have also gotten sick from chicken. About twice a year they have a thing where they load your trunk. Once we got a case of frozen pineapple chunks…lol…it was summer so they were good frozen treats.

Most all of the food pantries here are run by churches…I don’t know of any town around that has a food bank.

Lydja- We haven’t been there for 6 months, but when we went it was usually this;
2lb bg macaroni
1 can veggies usually green beans
1 can soup
1small jar jelly
1 small jar peanut butter
4 to 5 day old full size cakes or pastries
4 loaves breads usually I was given more because most folk didn’t want the whole or multi grain healthy bread. I took all they would give and freeze.
Sometimes there would be a stick of margerine, or a pack of hot dogs or bologna, maybe a couple of rolls of toilet paper.
At Christmas or Thanksgiving the first 25 or so got hams or turkeys.
That food bank gave out 2x a month. There were others, but they were in bad areas, and only did evening hours.
I found an outlet store that sold dented, close to date food, I was able to make what they had into passable meals cheap.
There were too many folks in need,and not enough to go around.

Ramen Noodle Nation (great blog, btw) shared these links related to their food pantry excursions- Blog entries on food pantries and gave this update… The mobile food pantry has been better since these were written, last time got a bag of peppers, a pound of sliced ham, stale French bread, some ranch dressing, hummus and chips, lettuce and a few other things.
Found a second church community meal.
One church food pantry in November 2015, gave us frozen thanksgiving turkey breasts with corn, stuffing, noodles, a box of biscuit mix, cranberry, and soups. We got a similar box in December.
Meat seems to always be in short supply and since these were written Squawker can eat dairy if she has a glass of Lactase milk that day.

An, Minnesota-

I am a student-parent at a community college in Minnesota. I have a work-study position in which I facilitate Poverty 101, a training program I designed to break poverty stereotypes amongst our student employees (this is needed…just wait for it–the pictures speak volumes). We just opened a new Resource and Support Center this week. The center will help students get connected with basic needs, and houses our food pantry. While we have had a food pantry for awhile, it was located in an empty store closet with no heat.

I have included a few photos. The one titled, “Pantry,” is what we used to give out to students–snacks to get them through the day. The photo titled, “Food Bags,” is from our holiday break packs, which were packed with the hope of supplementing a student over winter break. They consisted of a few cans of generic soup, dehydrated veggies, unlabled tuna, pasta, and a couple cans of fruit. Some had sauce and beans, but there wasn’t enough to go around. The photo titled, “Screenshot,” is what was on the posters advertising the break packs. (As you can see, the marketing team hasn’t taken Poverty 101.) Students were upset about the difference between the advertisement and the actual items, but what do you do when it’s your only option? The lack of cultural sensitivity is real, and I am having a rough time breaking down the poverty stigma on campus.

Don’t get me wrong, faculty is trying  and finally we have administration behind us. But the struggle is real. The distributor the pantry gets their food from recently told our contact that they are having trouble securing food at the prices they need to keep supplying the many food shelves they serve. This pisses me off to no end. We all are painfully aware that food not sold eventually goes into dumpsters, not hungry stomachs. There is no reason, in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, that we can’t feed everyone nutritious food.

But that’s another story.

 


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Bread Baking Economics

 

[content notes: food privilege,being broke, classism,poorsplaining, food insecurity]

We ‘ve been buying store bought bread. I used to make most of my own but when we lived in the house with no heat in most of the rooms and a 30 year old oven that didn’t work so well, I stopped doing it and never got back into the habit.

Yesterday morning we ran out of bread and there was exactly zero cents left to buy any after scraping together the rent money. Good thing I bought flour last week and have yeast and salt on hand,eh?

I was in a terrible mood because of the general circumstances of the day but then it was made worse by Pinterest. We all know Pinterest is a life ruiner. Somehow Pinterest seemed to know the exact buttons that needed pushing and placed as their “recommended for you” posts all things that had to do with “Bake Your Own Bread To Save Money!” and holy hell…. “Eat Real Food Even When You’re Poor”.

Lizzy McGuire

 

Ok, great…good for you for baking your own bread to save some money but I’m not baking bread because I’m trying to save money! I’m baking bread because I don’t have any freakin’ money in the first place!

What if I hadn’t had flour and yeast? I could make pretend bread. That would probably taste great if I put my mind to it and have a lot less calories. Really,though… I am certain some of these people don’t understand that cooking things from scratch like homemade bread requires ingredients and sometimes you don’t even have the money for the ingredients. Then what? Well, then you just go without. Like…you just don’t have that thing at all. Really. That’s a thing that happens.

And time! I work at home. I’m home all day. I am busy but I do have time I can work with. I think back to those days when I was a single mom working full time outside the house and I can just not imagine how I would have baked bread everyday with all that was going on.

Other things needed to bake bread: a working oven or bread oven, the economic ability to pay for  the utilities, the physical ability to do it.
So,then after thinking about all that,  I was mad about having to bake bread even though I LIKE baking bread. I even like kneading it, which is the one thing people seem to want to cut out of the process. It’s really therapeutic and I developed this whole routine to go along with it. I made a playlist with songs that are all 7-10 minutes in length and that’s how I measure the amount of time I need to knead. It helps keep me focused (ADHD brain here) and makes the time enjoyable.

I also went through that thing where when you don’t have money and you keep thinking back on all the things you bought that you could have done without or spent less money on. Like bread. I even did math. I quit before I had the answer to what I was trying to figure out but that’s beside the point.
I did manage to figure out that the cheapest loaf I can bake at home is about 35¢. It takes two of those loaves to equal the $2 loaf we buy. So, 70¢ for homemade versus $2 for storebought. But we tend to eat more of the homemade because it’s SOOO good (really, it’s much better), so I’m  not convinced I should have major remorse about the money spent on storebought bread.

Food pantry is open this Monday. There will probably be bread. There usually is. Bakeries and stores throw a lot out . There’s nothing wrong with it. I’ll take it.

I did make bread after all yesterday. It was awesome,thankfully.If anything had gone wrong, I probably would have flipped tables.
IMG_1663

My day ended up improving. I sold something, made some egg ,butter,milk money (we ran out of all 3 yesterday,too. Sheesh). Started the day with zero cents ,ended with more than zero plus good bread. Still annoyed at how the people telling poor people how to cook and spend their money don’t really get it sometimes. This morning I was listening to one of my usual podcasts and a woman introduced as a frugal foodie was on it explaining(poorsplaining) how to eat well even when you’re broke. The woman’s bio does not entail an impoverished life. Yes, bread was mentioned. The universe is determined to piss me off by putting these people in my ears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

250 × 139

Ugh, SNAP.

Here’s my good-bad news:

My husband got a raise. 50 whole cents more per hour.

I am finally easing back into work at home mode. The summer and our hectic move made working difficult. We’re settling in, my kids are in school full time. I am not at a place where working outside the home is a feasible plan- economically and logistically, working elsewhere won’t fly.

 So I’m grateful I have skills and options that help me work at home. It’s going well but it’s still a small source of income. Still, small is better than none….

BUT….

We just had to recertify for SNAP. That small income was enough to make us ineligible. By $73.

I say this all the time… being in the income range where you just miss qualifying for help is just as dangerous a place as qualifying. SNAP works and it works well. Without SNAP, there is no food budget. SNAP opponents will often deconstruct the acronym to point out that the S stands for Supplemental. “It’s meant to be extra money for food!” 

No. No, it isn’t . I mean…maybe that was the intention but that isn’t how it works. Anyone who has ever lived on a SNAP budget will attest: That money is not extra money for food. It IS the food budget. 

Even McDonald’s gets this. Recall when Mickey D’s offered “helpful tips ” for employees on how to live on poverty wages. Their McBudget had no food allowance. Why? Because they were well aware that employees would qualify for SNAP. SNAP was the food budget.
Low income families without SNAP have to make economic decisions that sacrifice food.Pay rent or groceries? Heat & electricty or food? Food is always sacrificed because no one is going to come knock on the door and give the food in the fridge an eviction notice. Know what I mean?  Priority goes to making sure you have a place to live. 

So, I’m in this weird place now where I should be happy we’re achieving small successes but I can’t because we’re still living under that poverty line and not making enough to make ends meet. 

This is ridiculous,y’all .

I have gratitude for all that I do have, so there’s that. And I have to add that. I am so damn grateful and count allllll the blessings . Blessings counted. Thanks given. Every day. But I have to actually SAY that I am because poor haters will assume I’m not . That’s how the Interwebs works. 

PAF Playlist: Stand up….we shall not be moved, except for a child with no socks and shoes

PAF Playlist: Stand up….we shall not be moved, except for a child with no socks and shoes

What with all the holey shoe issues this week, this song kept popping into my head.

This week has me thinking about how my current poor AF circumstances are both enormous and small at the same time. I’m thinking about how fortunate I am but how unsettling that good fortune is knowing that so many people are in the same place and much worse.

Fullscreen capture 1172015 63146 PM

Do you think I could crowdfund to become a philanthropist? People would get behind that,right? The Poor Philanthropist.

(I LOVE oxymorons, by the way)

I wouldn’t be a charitable philanthropist,though. Charity is this concept that assumes that the person giving is more elevated than the person receiving. I wouldn’t want to be about that. I’m right there with ya’ll.
(I think I just mangled another quote right there but the exact wording and who said it first is escaping me)

I finally made it to Aldi’s and didn’t swoon (and other thoughts on food shopping w/out transportation)

All the people who told me that I needed to go to Aldi’s if I really needed to save money on food will be relieved to know that we got a car a few months ago and now I can go to Aldi’s.

I mean…if the car starts. Which it didn’t one day last month. It needed a new alternator which we had to wait weeks to get fixed until a) we had money to fix it or b) we got approved for a special loan program that helps low income people fix their car.

Or  if it’s not one of those weeks where it’s the day after payday and we have $15 until next payday, which means absolutely no unnecessary trips besides husband getting to work and home.

But otherwise, I can now go to Aldi’s. Before, I had to take two buses to get there. I would have to take at least 2 kids with me. We live in NY. In the winter, it gets really cold. In the summer, it gets really hot ( so, that’s a no to buying anything frozen). Plus, here in Ithaca we have special weather. Ithacating. It isn’t fun. Sometimes there could be as much as an hour+ long wait at a bus stop to get our bus home. One trip to Aldi’s might take me 6 hours, even though it was 20 minutes away.
Bus fare for one trip to Aldi’s: $5.75 . One of those children required hand holding or sometimes carrying. Since we didn’t live directly on the bus line, we would have to walk about ¾ of a mile to our house from the bus stop (don’t make me mention the weather again).

Total bags of groceries I could get without hurting myself or losing track of my kid: ONE.

I never went to Aldi’s. It was too much work.

Now that I have been to Aldi’s, I think I’m supposed to tell you that it was a life changing experience and with the money I saved, I can send my kids to college!

Sorry. No.

And on and on and on those chips and snacky foods go.

For one thing, my nickname for the Aldi’s here is Ithaca’s Snack Food Emporium. Are Aldi’s like this everywhere?

Nothing against chips but I can’t feed my family just chips. Although at those prices… I could divide a bag among my whole family for 36¢ per serving! That’s a more economical snack than the fresh peaches at Aldi’s. Peaches were 59¢ EACH, and that was when peaches were in season. My food budget is roughly $3 per person per day. I’m not spending 20% of my day’s budget on one peach. I could buy a can of peaches for around $1 and there’s 3 servings in a can. That’s 30-ish cents per serving.
I hear the cries of the real foodies right now telling us poor people that “Yes, you CAN eat fresh produce on a budget!”. I swear, those people just cannot do math.

Well, and obviously, they have no idea how to deal with lack of transportation or food deserts either.

People think of food deserts as being a city thing but they’re just as much a rural issue. Where we live now, the closest place that has something that resembles food is a gas station convenience store 2 miles away. Obviously, the selection is limited to snacks and a few pre-packaged meals that are way overpriced. I could probably walk there if I needed milk but then I’d have to pay something like $5 for a gallon of milk. A gallon of milk I’d then have to carry 2 miles home, dragging kids along, and ugh, did I mention the weather here sometimes? And no, that milk is totally not organic or hormone free or whatever I’m supposed to be eating/drinking to be a healthy and ethical human these days. This scenario is not on my top 10 list of “Ways To Save Money On Food When You’re Poor” . It doesn’t even make the top 50.

We are fortunate out here to have rural bus service, even if it does run a frustrating schedule. It can be hard to even get to the food bank, let alone the closest real grocery store (16 miles).
There are a lot of people in my area without cars. I think some assume automatically that those who live in the country have vehicles. Not so much here,anyway. There is a great group of retired individuals who will give parents a ride to events and meetings at the school. It’s necessary to have such a thing here.  So, with grocery shopping… when people are able to get to the store, they are more likely to NOT buy fresh or perishable food. Who knows when you’ll be able to go to the grocery store again? Dry goods and canned foods is the way to go.

I don’t know what my point is here. The man gave me his Man Cold and my brain is fuzzy. I think I’m just trying to ask people to think before they give advice to low income folks on how and where they should shop for food and what they should eat. Generally, we (“we”= poor folks) know what we’re doing and are just doing the best we can. It might not match what OTHERS think is the best but it is what it is.

*So Many Addendums*
I had no idea so many people felt so strongly about Aldi’s. If only some of those people were as upset by poor people not having access to good food as they were by me not liking Aldi’s!

But really…people also do have to remember that their Aldi’s may not be the same as my Aldi’s and Ithaca Aldi Lovers need to think about what a new shopper’s 1st impression might be in the local store. You walk in and *boom*….it’s all the snacky stuff straight up in your face first thing. I did buy trail mixes for my daughters who are at college. They seemed to have a good ratio of dried fruit to everything else. My one daughter complained that most of the pre-packaged trail mixes are more like candy and those weren’t. So, score one for Aldi’s!
The produce is NOT impressive. I picked apples off the neglected trees in our field that looked better than their organic apples (upcoming post!) . Everyone told me I had to go to Aldi’s ESPECIALLY for the produce but when I got there ,I was like “meh” and I couldn’t really afford a lot of it,anyway.

My key point was about transportation and food shopping. Writing while sick probably didn’t help me get that point across. Note to self: camp out on the couch and binge watch Netflix next time.