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.

Our Rented Homestead

If someone made me sit down and write a “How I Spent My Summer” essay, it would read more like the lyrics to a woe-is-me country song. Thankfully it would be missing the elements of Loretta Lynn songs involving being pregnant again. There was also no spousal abandonment but otherwise… it was a craptacular summer.

I’m not even going to talk about every little bad thing that happened. I’m thinking of Summer ’15  as that attention-seeking Internet troll. The more you talk about them, the more power they have to ruin your day. Be gone, Summer ’15. I will not miss you.

bye animated GIF

Worth talking about is how we struggled to find housing for our family that didn’t cost 80% of our income (no exaggeration. Love ya, Ithaca but the rent is too damn high! ). Beyond the cost of housing, there seemed to be a general lack of places to live for families and man, the discrimination….ugh.And I’m not even the usual minority who gets the bulk of discrimination thrown at them. I can’t tell you how many times I called about a place that was for rent nowhere near student housing to be asked, “Are you Cornell people? I only rent to students or grad students with families.” Other times I filled out really strange questionnaires that asked detailed questions about my relationship status that baffled me. Sometimes I got the impression they were trying to ask if I was a single mother and if the guy who was going to live with me was the father or my children or if I just had random men live with me and be my sugar daddy. Other times, the gist of it seemed to be…are you a “traditional” family. Like, married man and woman who have heterosexual sex and aren’t living in sin. Very confusing.Several wanted copies of paystubs and a verification of employment. I wondered what would have happened if a disabled or elderly person who couldn’t work would have wanted to live there?One landlord said he couldn’t rent to me because I have too many children and his water bill would be too high (I offered to pay extra for water but no deal). And then there were landlords who would rent to us but not without a credit check. We don’t have bad credit…. we just have NO credit. And on and on. Stupid reasons people couldn’t rent to us.

Oh,I know. It’s totally illegal but I just needed to find a place to live. I was in panic mode thinking we would have nowhere to go I didn’t have time to mess around with reporting these jerks and jerkesses. That’s probably why they can get away with it. People are so stressed and focused on finding a place to live NOW .Dealing with unethical landlords in is the last thing you want to deal with.

I was also amazed that so many landlords would not accept Section 8. We don’t have Section 8 because there’s a 3 year waiting list and I’m an eternal optimist who thought  3 years ago there was no point in getting put on the wait list because “there’s no way we’ll still be this poor 3 years from now!” .  Ha.
So, this doesn’t personally affect us but c’mon,people. Get over your outdated stereotypes about the types of people who get housing subsidies.

I was so irritated with people who told me, “Why don’t you just go live in one of the trailer parks?”
Now,let me say this first. I am sure there are some fantastic trailer parks out there but I grew up in one that was not and know that the ones here are even worse now. I will never-ever-ever live in one again, especially not while raising children. Living there  I witnessed and heard domestic violence and child abuse on a daily basis. I was sexually molested by a neighbor when I was 9. In my teen years, I was walking home from a friend’s 3 trailers away and was almost raped. Drugs were everywhere. Sickos mutilated people’s pets. No personal possessions were ever safe. And besides, trailer parks here did not escape the influence of Ithaca’s high cost of living. $950-$1,200 for a 3 bedroom box with no yard and shitty surroundings. I will take that nope train all the way back to Nopeville,thankssomuch.

Then I would mention an address we were looking at an apartment in and people’s reactions would be like, “OHMYGOD, but that’s THE GHETTO!” Funny thing is, I know people who live in that neighborhood and I have worked there. I saw it as a community. A community that doesn’t have very many white people living there.  Where my general concern would be that White families moving into that neighborhood would add to gentrification, other people were horrified and concerned for our well being because surely, I would die immediately just living among all those people of color.Or something. I’m not quite sure.

But sure, tell me to go live in the cesspool that the trailer parks are.

By the way… please be aware of the way you use the word “ghetto”. 


This story has a semi- happy ending. We found an affordable place to live and I’m in love with it, even though my beloved kitty was probably eaten by bobcats the first month we lived here. The area is one I have family roots in (the first two white settlers here were my ancestors. The town and school is named after the wife of one of my long dead relatives and there are all sorts of NY state historical signs all around commemorating things my people had a part in). It has a reputation of being rife with hillbillies and poor hicks (I have a lot to say about this and I will on another day) and so we moved here to add to the population,I guess.  We’re in the middle of nowhere yet we have bus service. I love it here. Best of all, the owner doesn’t care what we do with the land here. 5 acres, a barn, and a pond.


“I don’t care what you do here.” – our landlord

It’s a great property but it’s been neglected for awhile and it’s going to be a lot of hard work but having the freedom to have chickens and grow food and properly homestead while renting is a serious blessing. Longtime readers here know that I am vocal when it comes to poor people shamed for not growing their own food. I totally stand behind all those reasons but I also want to show the possibilities for people who may not have the same limitations. Get ready for Rented Homestead  posts in the future. They will be honest and frugal because as much as I love living here, I’m still as poor as ya’ll know what.
(That’s why I said “semi-happy ending”. Still poor,dammit.)

Yay, pond! We finally get to use the canoe we got 10 years ago.
Yay, pond! We finally get to use the canoe we got 10 years ago.

Ithaca Mayor Myrick talks living wage, poverty on MSNBC and fast food workers strike globally

My local Mayor Svante Myrick was on MSNBC the other day talking  to Ronan Farrow about Ithaca’s Living Wage. The city minimum wage is now $12.62/hr.

Couldn’t embed the video in this post but watch it at the link. Myrick seemed to get a little emotional when asked about his Mom & her feelings about the new living wage.
Link : Why the minimum wage is a poverty wage

Related on the blogosphere. Rick Cooley has a piece on making minimum wage a living wage| rcooley123.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/mak…

Today, fast food workers protested poverty wages globally. Lots of updates and articles at the #fastfoodglobal ←link on Twitter.

Protest at , Whitehall, Central London as part of

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via Rep. Schakowsky says, “we as taxpayers are subsidizing McDonald’s poverty wages!!” That isn’t right!

Media preview

Even as a manager at a Charleston @mcdonald‘s, Shenee STILL only makes $7.25/hr. 

Relevant song to add to the PAF Soundtrack today…

Why’s the rich man busy dancing
While the poor man pays the band
Oh, they’re billing me for killing me
Lord, have mercy on the working man.

Hey, St. Peter, look down for a minute
And see this little man about to drown
There’s quicksand all around and man I’m in it
Please help me up Lord, ’cause I’m going down.