**Disclaimer** This post is an attempt to give you a glimpse into life when you live in poverty. This is NOT an attempt at emotional manipulation, or a request for money or food or anything else. My only requests are that you hear my story, are kind in your comments, and that you take away knowledge that fosters empathy. I will also be vulnerable enough to tell you that my frustration level was HIGH tonight. I began to tear up. I sat down and put my head on the table for a moment. I raised my voice at my children. Poverty is not easy, and I have it far better than many do, and better than I did in my own past.
Through no fault of our own, my husband and I found ourselves with just a few dollars this week, mere days after payday! We’re working to get the money back, but that takes time and we needed groceries and gas and we had bills to pay too. It just wasn’t going to happen. It’s no secret, if you know us or have read my blog, that we live paycheck to paycheck. It’s also well-known that we work at our church’s food pantry each Wednesday, and that I coupon and have a small stock-pile of basic necessities in our kitchen.
So…we find ourselves with little money and little food. The last two weeks we have eaten mostly from our kitchen, and we’re pretty low on some staples. When we got to the pantry on Wednesday, we asked one of the volunteers to pack us some food. We have to check in and go through the same process as everyone else, and we don’t get special treatment, for the most part. I did go through our bags and take out a few cans of things we have (green beans) and replace them with things we don’t have (mixed vegetables, to be used in soup or pot pie or a casserole). In that way, I am more fortunate then most that rely on hand-outs. I always stress to our volunteers to pack meals, as much as possible. I want people to be able to eat just like “everyone else” if it’s at all possible!
Tonight I had planned to roast the two chickens that we got from the pantry. (One was in our bag, the other was a “God” chicken that someone had left out for an unknown reason and it had begun to thaw. We took it home since it could no longer be used to hand out.) We have rice from a 25 pound bag that we were given by my dad back in April when my husband was on medical leave from work, and we have green beans. I thought we were going to have a great dinner!
I took a nap this afternoon, and was late getting the chickens into the oven. In the midst of my frustration, I realized that one of the chickens was still frozen solid in the middle. I couldn’t get the “innards” out even with hot water and a knife. I put the chicken back in the fridge and moved on to plan B. We had two dozen eggs, bought last week when they were on sale for $1.25/dozen. We have sandwich bread, and cheese. I decided to make a simple breakfast.
The next issue? The five-year-old doesn’t eat eggs! We had a package of yummy garlic smoked sausages in the fridge, so I heated one for him, and pulled the casing off of another one, chopped it up, and put it in the skillet also. I used this little bit of meat, cheese, and eggs to make omelets for my girls and I. (Older son was sleeping and husband is at work.) The first one was fine, but as soon as I was ready to cook omelet number two, I discovered that we were out of butter! That omelet stuck to the (non-stick) pan a little and quickly became scrambled eggs. The toast that was in the toaster was spred with the last bit of jam from the fridge, and I was on to omelet number three. I remembered that we have a small bowl of bacon grease in the back of the refrigerator, so I added a tiny glob to the pan. It worked, and I also added a few drips of salsa to mine.
In the end, we all ate and we are fine. Nobody will starve, and if the kids were younger, they would be oblivious to the struggle. But they’re not so young anymore, and they know the difference. On a “better” week, our omelets would have contained plenty of sauteed onions and colored bell peppers, enough meat to taste, and plenty of stringy cheese. Today I saved the onion for the cavity of my chickens tomorrow, and my pepper is in the bottom right drawer. I know that it will be better used later this week. We’ll be fine, and we’ll eat three meals a day, but we are fortunate. We were able to borrow $100 for incidentals until things are straightened out. We have salt and pepper, flour and sugar, several spices, and a mental cookbook full of meal ideas and recipes. I have time to cook from scratch, which is a luxury not afforded to everyone. I have milk and eggs, and bacon grease. I have canned tomatoes and pasta and cereal. I have staples in my pantry that are a luxury to those that live in poverty. Even Hamburger Helper requires milk, and milk is expensive, folks. I would encourage you to check packages when donating to organizations. Can the pancake mix be made with just water? What about the cornbread or muffin mix? It may be inexpensive to you, but if the family that receives your donation doesn’t have eggs and milk to add to the mix, it’s useless. There are just so many staples and ingredients that we take for granted.