Friday, January 31, 2014

It's all gone...time to start over.

Our savings had a $200 balance yesterday, but it and our bank account are $0 today. Because of being behind on rent, the surprise magazine debt, and paying back the bank debt, we have $35 to live on this week. Gasoline, groceries, milk, diapers. I just don't even know how we are going to do this. I *think* we have enough food, even if we have to eat nothing but home made bread sticks. It's really how we are going to balance the rest.

$7 diapers (cheapest possible)
$6.50 2 half gallons of soy milk

That leaves $21.50 for gasoline and no other groceries. We have just over half a tank right now, but my husband has an hour commute each way, so I really hope that is enough. That also means there is no money for laundry this week ($3 a load and my daughter is out of clean socks....). I'm going to have to experiment with doing laundry in the tub this week. Even if I can't get them clean, at least maybe they won't smell bad.

Sighhhhh.  Back to square one.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Our past is haunting us!

Up and down, up and down,  good gravy, being broke is such a roller coaster. I was actually feeling pretty positive about things, but life always has a surprise wrench for you doesn't it??

I guess a few years before me and my husband met, he ordered a magazine subscription, one of those where you get a free trial and have to cancel or they charge you monthly. He got 2 months worth of magazines, paid 2 months worth of bills, and then I guess moved and didn't realize the subscriptions wouldn't follow him with the change of address, but then neither did the bills, which doesn't make sense. According to this company, they kept sending the magazines and he now owes for 2 years of subscriptions, and they are taking him to court for THEFT! Whaaaa??

They called his work yesterday and demanded $4500 and told him they wanted to see him in court somewhere in Georgia or Florida or something, and the only was to stop it was to pay the full amount owed of the original bill, which was about $380. We had exactly $100 left in the bank for rent, so obviously we didn't have it, but they demanded he make a payment of some kind and set up a draft for the rest. So he did. Ugh. Now we will be behind on rent, and in 3 weeks, two hundred and some odd dollars will be withdrawn from our account. Where this money is going to come from, I just don't know, because now our savings has to go to paying rent.

Who knows what might haunt us from MY past, I cannot seem to even get my credit report for some reason, and that scares me. Between a divorce, an identity stealing ex, bazillions in medical bills, delinquent student loans, and who knows what else, I'm terribly worried what that might mean. What if I can't fix it??

And to top it all off, my can opener broke, and I have been having to pry cans open all week to cook. My hands hurt, and I have cuts all over them, and I can't even go to the store to buy a new one! I just want to scream in frustration!

See, a lot of people on't understand that it just takes *forever* to dig yourself out of debt and poverty. Even after your circumstances start improving, all those bills you couldn't pay start rearing their ugly heads. I know for certain we've got my school loans like I said, a few delinquent utility bills, probably a few hundred thousand in medical bills, aaaaand that's all I know for sure. I'm so very worried what else might come along to set us back.

/Huge sigh.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Poverty Climb: Weekly Progress #5

Ok, well, for once not everything is dreadful! That alone is progress!

*We did our taxes. We can't file them yet (until the 31st) but when it comes in, it is going to hopefully allow us to do 3 major things to improve our situation:
    1) Buy a second vehicle. This will allow me to hopefully be a wage earner as well. If nothing else, it will allow me to get laundry/grocery shopping done and expand our horizons a little bit by going to the library/state park/church. We have been hermits, seriously. The hard part will be convincing my husband to buy what *I* think we should buy vs. what he thinks we should buy. I'm not sure who's right, I just want the money to go as far as possible.
   2) Pay off debts. This includes the recent bank debt we acquired, an older bank debt, and some collections on our credit. These all however total about $1800, so it being a lower priority than a second vehicle, they may not all be able to be taken care of.
   3) Increase our savings /Catch up on bills. It's not likely that we will have enough left over to do both these things, however my GOAL is to double our savings (whatever they are at the time it comes in) and then use the rest to catch up on bills. Some of our bills are still running 1 month behind. If we can catch up on those, I've given my husband permission to get cable for hockey playoff season. as long as w can keep up on the bill. Heh.

*We added another $50 to savings this week. Seriously, 2 bank accounts, where a portion goes into savings automatically, is the way to go. Handling/seeing that money in any fashion almost guarantees it will be spent. Not seeing it at all, makes us forget about it, and either suffer without necessities (within reason) or say no to splurges we would normally make.

*We paid another $25 off on our bank debt. It really makes so little progress as to be almost insignificant, but we will have to pay less out of our tax return if we keep trying.

*I tried to get my credit report/score but was unsuccessful, so I'm not sure this counts as progress. Pre-progress maybe, as I'm trying to figure out what the problem is. they cannot seem to verify my identity online, and want me to mail them a bunch of verification paperwork, but I don't have a copier or printer, so that's an issue. Pushing the stroller through 4+ inches of permanent snow with high temperatures that haven't even hit 20 yet for 2 weeks takes the library completely out of the equation. So that's on a burner for now. not necessarily the back burner, just a burner, as I try to figure out what I can do.

*Went to the food pantry again this week. It's been over a month, but I wanted to save it for when we really needed it. We don't need it this week really, but we will certainly need it next week. Rent is going to drain our entire check. I'm not sure we will be able to buy any groceries at all. We'll see.

So, hey! Some progress! Still tiny steps, but getting a second car will be huge. Paying off debts will be huge too actually. I just hope we can make it without digging our hole deeper until then. That's always the challenge right? Keeping equilibrium until the Hail Mary money comes.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

1000 views!

I know it's really not that much, but it is a mile stone! Everything in my life revolves around baby steps right now, so you're darn right I'm going to celebrate every little one!

Thank you guys for reading, and for commenting, and for caring! If you have any suggestions for topics or content, please let me know.

Pretend the asterisks are fireworks. You'll have to pretend pretty hard.

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*1000 views*

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You're not pretending hard enough....

Monday, January 20, 2014

Netflix Judging

There's a strange trend I'm noticing as I read other people's blogs, forum threads, and article comments on issues of poverty: Netflix judging.

We all know the general consensus among those who are not in poverty is that if those who are were willing to work harder and sacrifice more, we wouldn't be in that condition. I guess by sacrifice more, they mean every single little thing that costs money, that doesn't go towards basic necessities. Really, people explain their situation, with many circumstances stacked against them, but as soon as they mention they have Netflix (or internet, or cable), everyone seems to lose all logical thought and blame that person's situation on their frivolity of daring to spend money on entertainment. Isn't that a little ridiculous?? I know you as a logical person are thinking. no way, but I've seen it/ read it at least 5 times now. Recently related again by Sam.

Yes we have Netflix. Whether it is that, or Hulu, or basic cable T.V., these are some of the advantages it provides:

Entertains children / keeps them busy so Mom can clean and cook.
Educates children with pre-school and grade school educational programming.
Helps younger children learn to talk.
Allows us to bond as a family on movie night.
Entertains Mom & Dad after children have gone to bed.
Keeps depression (from being poor!) at bay.

Netflix costs $8/month.

 Logically, what is an extra $8 per month going to do for someone in poverty? A few extra vegetables, a small toiletry item? Sure, they could put it in savings for a year, but with the disaster cycle many are stuck in, that money would be used up long before it got to the full amount, sucked up by everyday life. And yet, for $8 /month Netflix can provide all those benefits I listed above. That is worth $8 to me. Absolutely. Even so, that doesn't make it a priority to me, and those months we can't afford it, we cancel the auto debit.

Maybe these people take this as evidence that people who complain of poverty are using their money on additional frivolous items, and the cumulative money would be substantial enough to make a measurable difference in their lives. I cannot speak for everyone of course, but generally, we're just like you. We look at our budget, note which "frivolous" items we would like to have, and weigh the benefits against the costs. One expense not deemed "necessary" does not mean we are so irresponsible with the rest of our money that it keeps us in poverty. Yes, low income individuals do develop money habits different from those who are not, and those habits can contribute to the poverty cycle; however being cautious with what we do have and weighing the benefits against the costs is something financially successful people do every day. We just have a lot less.

Maybe these people think that by having any enjoyment in our lives at all, that we are making our situation more desirable, and therefore have less drive to make any change. I don't know about you, but an occasional frivolous expense does NOT make my situation more desirable, only more tolerable. Tolerable, in that I don't have to hear my oldest cry about why we never get to do anything fun, we never have the money etc. Tolerable, in that we get to escape for 80-90 minutes from this persistent drudgery and think about something else for a change. Tolerable, in that no, we can't ever go to the theater, but with some cheap popcorn, some blankets and pillows, and a movie on the screen, I can give my family a positive experience when those are so lacking these days.

I apologize if this has seemed like just another rant on our situation, I suppose it is a tiny bit. It always hurts to be judged and misunderstood. This is really a plea to those of you out there, that automatically jump to conclusions when you see a person begging for help and advice and you immediately jump all over their one single luxury. How is that helpful? How is that supportive? We need help improving our circumstance, not making it worse by sucking every bit of joy out of it.

The next time you have that urge, try to help by focusing on the bigger picture, and not the minute details.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Poverty Climb: Weekly Progress #4

Whew what a week. Somehow we made it and I am still here, nothing is shut off, and we have plenty of groceries.

I even have my $26 savings left. And it has another $50 on top of it!

So how exactly? I"m not really even sure. And as good as that sounds, I'm not sure whether to count this week's adventures as a step forward, or one back...

After we were -$150, I had 2 checks, totaling $139 from my mother to pay her gas bill with. I paid her gas bill, I just never cashed the checks. A family member of ours had also sent our oldest child a $30 check to buy herself a Christmas present.
 I'm not sure we did the right thing for the long run, we could have paid our balance back to zero (and in hindsight probably should have anyways) but we needed gas money and a few groceries for the week. So we took the checks (forgive me child!) and opened a new account at a local bank. We put $50 immediately into savings, and the rest in checking. We only used about $20 before payday. Payday came, and my husband had a good chunk of overtime on there. Hallelujah. Bills were paid, groceries bought, and a new Equestria Girls toy for the oldest to make up for cashing her check.

However, in the meantime, several more auto pay crap things came through (they wouldn't let us turn it off!), so the bank paid our phone & internet bill, which is good, but we are now:

$547 in the negative

Oh my goodness. Talking to the bank was absolutely an excercise in frustration and insanity. We paid them $50 up front, and said we would pay $25-$50 a week until it was paid off, and asked if they would reduce some of the fees so we could pay it down. They wouldn't turn off over-draft, they charged us 2 fees per charge, and also a daily negative balance fee. WTF! They wouldn't negotiate on any of the fees, wouldn't stop charging the daily negative balance fee, etc. 
In 60 days, they will close out the account, turn it in to collections, and put it on our credit. So we are going to be paying all that money in for the same final result as if we had paid nothing towards it at all, the only difference being the amount owed. This bothers me, but if we don't pay it, it will probably end up towards $1000, and if we keep paying, it will end up closer or just below $500. I'm one of those unfortunate souls that doesn't really understand how all this credit crap works, so I have no idea if one is worse than the other, or they are both equally bad.
Either way, We JUST started trying to take care of our credit and get it good, and this happens. Our only hope to not have 7 years of bad credit luck, is to pay it off with our tax return. If it even comes in time. Of course we have a thousand other things we need to spend that on, so we will have to sacrifice something to pay the bank. I'm absolutely blessed to have that money to use, I just wish it wouldn't be all gone to debt before we even cash it. Bleh.

But, whatever, I'm going to try to focus on the good things now. So without further adieu, the few ways our situation has improved this week:

*We got another air mattress with money from my husband's over-time. This is awesome, because those horrible mattresses, we stacked on one another and gave to my daughter, and got to put the futon back in the living room to have something to sit on! They are much more comfortable stacked, and she is light, so she's happy. Our air mattress was $60, and is very thick, so we're happy. We have a couch again, so we're all happy.

*All our bills are paid, even if by the negative bank account.

*I didn't have to go to the food pantry yet this month. I lucked out when I went to the grocery store, and they were just marking all the manger's specials and short dated food. I got lots of fresh stuff (blueberries, green beans, carrots, mushrooms), some bread, and a big package of chicken thighs, all for half price. Yesssssssssssss! And it wasn't old enough for any of the quality to suffer.

*We have $76 in savings! Hooray!

*We bought hangers. This probably seems silly to you, but we have no dressers, and tiny closets. Because my husband works I hang his clothes so they aren't wrinkly, but we haven't had enough hangers for me to hang mine. I've been storing mine in baskets, boxes, in piles by the bed, in piles on the bed, etc. So I'm really, really glad to finally have hangers. The expense for 30 hangers just wasn't one we could afford until now.

*Baby got a new car seat. She outgrew her previous one about 7 lbs. and 2 inches ago. She was ecstatic to face forward. I am ecstatically confident in her safety.

These steps feel so tiny, really, I just hope there are bigger ones soon.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Good Luck Getting Out Of Poverty!

Since I've started this blog, I've been doing a lot more reading, some might call it "research" (but I really haven't worked that hard at it), about the poor, and poverty, and income limits etc. Everywhere I go, it seems there a two camps in the matter:

"I've been there, I know how it is."

              and

"I think I know, and you're doing something wrong."


The seem pretty equal in numbers, but that sad truth is that the second camp is so much more vocal than the first. And it even seems people switch camps. When they finally can be labeled "successful", they seem to forget their years in strife, all the pain and despair and hopelessness. They forget how hard it was in the midst of it, and how hard it truly was to rise above. They say, "Work hard like I did  and you will make it". They seem to forget the things that finally helped them out, whether it be social programs, family aid, or promotions, or just plain luck.
And luck accounts for a lot.

"I was lucky enough to get a raise."

"I was lucky my parents let me live with them."

"I was lucky that someone finally gave me a chance."

"I was lucky I qualified for all the programs."

"I was lucky enough to have free babysitting."

"I was lucky that a head hunter finally saw my resume'."

"I was lucky that my advisor helped me get a job."

These are all literal examples I've seen people write about how they became "successful", no matter how far down they started. When you take away the luck factor, all you have left are people working hard for their chance. Some get it, some don't. You're advice to work harder is useless if any amount of "luck" helped you to succeed, and it does. When you say "work harder like me" you mean, "have more good luck like me."

 For some reason people think low income families don't work hard. I have no idea why. If based on how hard we work alone, very, very few people in poverty would stay there.

The sad truth seems to be, that for so many low-income families, luck is a huge factor. Bad luck keeps you there, good luck helps you out.

Bad luck makes your car break down. Good luck keeps it running until you have the money to fix it. Bad luck makes your cold turn into pneumonia, resulting in doctor bills and missed work. Good luck means some cough syrup clears you right out. Bad luck makes your boss completely unaware of your value as an employee. Good luck opens his eyes and makes him want to help you advance. Bad luck makes it so that you have no friends or family to help you out with babysitting or a place to live. Good luck makes your family offer to let you  move in or babysit your child while you work/go to school.

If you set 2 people on deserted islands, they're both going to work as hard as they can to survive.
Good luck makes it so a boat goes by and sees the first person's smoke signal and they're rescued.
Bad luck, well, that person dies on the island. He worked just as hard, but there was never any boat.

People, not everyone has the same opportunities. Not everyone has the same options. Not everyone has the same luck!! Can you not come from a place of understanding and empathy, and not look down your nose, and say, "if you just worked harder."?

SO what then does a poor person do? How can we have more "good" luck, and less bad? How can we make ourselves opportunities, and give ourselves more chances?

I figure if there was an answer to that, we'd all be doing it. But I'm researching it, I'll get back to you.

In the mean time, I wish you all GOOD luck.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Poverty Climb: Weekly Progress #3

Because of my computer issues, I wasn't able to do update #3 on time, so I'm doing it this week.

However, I am not feeling very positive. I'm sorry if that's what you came to read. It feels like the only progress that has been made this week, is backwards. Two steps back in fact.

Due to some error on somebody's part, we were over drawn $150 when my husband's paycheck hit. Out came 3 auto-pay bills instantly. There normally wouldn't be 3, but one didn't get paid last week, and so came out as soon as funds were available. After those 3 bills came out, we got gas, ate some gas station hot dogs, and went grocery shopping. After all that, a gas purchase from LAST WEEK tried to come through. I'm 98% certain it had cleared, but suddenly it was pending again. We ALMOST had enough money, like seriously pennies off, but we got an insufficient funds fee ($39.50). Because of the order everything went through, we got another NSF fee AND two overdraft fees after groceries. We are now $150 in the negative again, one day after pay day, with a week to go until we have more money.

I need a minute here to put my head in my hands...

I just feel so defeated y'all. We just can't seem to get ahead. My husband's been working over-time, and it just went to the bank. Poof. Now to catch up he will have to work more over-time, just to pay off the bank again. Poof. This shouldn't have happened, and we both realize that, but $300 of our income this month gone into thin air hurts so bad. 

Now next week we start off $150 short again, with more bills due. Our phone and internet are about to be shut off. By the time next week's disaster has passed, we will be late on our electric. We will have to pay that the following check, the one of two that a large chunk of rent is supposed to come out of. I see so much more potential for failure here, it's just suffocating. This cycle of minor errors turning into big disasters due to lack of money has worn us down.

My husband is so depressed because he barely gets to see our kids. Even though he and I spend a couple hours together when he gets home from work, because of their bedtime, he either sees them for 5 minutes or not at all when he gets home. Ones in school, and one's a baby, so I can't really adjust their schedules to give him more time. He does get two days off a week, so there's that, but I'm sure you can understand why he feels like it's not enough. And the knowledge that he's sacrificing the time with his children to work to pay off a mistake makes him (rightfully) angry. He works so hard, and honestly, the only thing we have to show for it is the basic necessities. He is working so hard just so we survive. How do we get to thriving from here?

Ugh.

The only bright spot, the only tiny little shiny thing I could find this week, is that we finally paid our last $150 loan payment. We might have to take out another one just to pay off the bank, so I am hesitant to even be happy about it, but if we somehow conquer this without doing that, then it will be a big step forward. $150 a month, split between groceries and savings. Oh my Lord, to actually have savings to turn to at a time like this...

After doing the exercise of my Reasons Vs. Excuses and seeing where I needed to make some effort, I started putting away some savings. It was $26 before the tooth fairy came last night. So here we are with less than $0 to spend, and $24 in my hands. This $24 represents me trying to fix the things that are in my control to get my family out of poverty. Here I am, torn between pretending it doesn't exist at all so I can add to it next week, or living off of it the rest of the week. It's such a small amount that it's not going to make a huge difference either way, but the thought of spending it, even for things we need, makes me feel absolutely defeated. We can't save money, because we need it too bad in the present. We won't ever get ahead if we don't have some savings for extenuating circumstances, and therefore we are screwed unless something changes.

If you're the praying sort, we could use some.

I'm hoping next week, things will look a little better.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Guide To Getting Food On A Low Budget - Starting At $0

This is going to be a huge post, with lots of stuff in it, and it is going to be a work in progress for awhile to get it all on here. I am going to post it unfinished, and keep editing it.

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A lot of people, may sometime face the reality of needing food for themselves or their family, and having very little, or no money at all. Whether accustomed to poverty, or one of the "new poor" due to awful circumstances, or someone who simply has hit a very low spot temporarily, the stark reality of needing to fill one or more bellies and not having having the means to do it, is one of the heaviest burdens one can ever face.
I have been there, both when I was a child and more recently after we moved, and I want to help you get through it.

My husband's paychecks were held by his work for two weeks even though he had transferred and was not a new hire. We were completely unprepared, and quickly went through the little food we had moved with us. We had an empty refrigerator, empty shelves, and four hungry mouths. My husband and I could (and have) absolutely gone hungry a bit to make sure our children had enough. But there, at that point, there was not enough money for food for even them. And there wasn't for two MORE weeks, while we tried to catch up on rent/gasoline/electricity.

With a bowling ball taking up the room in my stomach, I asked, Oh my God, what do we do?

When you get to this point, take a deep breath. Be calm, because freaking out isn't going to help. Realize there are things you can do, that might suck, but your family WILL eat. It won't be fun, you will sacrifice your pride, but you will all be fed. You'll be ok.

Here are the steps you have to take before getting started (used with permission):

Step One:
First and foremost: make a money budget. How much do you have to spend on food? How much do you spend usually? Get a hard number for what you CAN spend.
Step Two:
Make a nutrition budget. Estimate your daily calorie needs first, here is an online calculator to help. Next, figure out how much protein you need. Vitamins and minerals you may have to worry about on the lower end of the budget spectrum but in general, a western diet is not going to have many vitamin deficiencies if you're eating a somewhat diverse selection. Many foods are fortified now.
Step Three:
Figure out your grocery sources. For most people this will mean finding a few grocery stores, but do not discount the cost savings and nutritional benefits that can be made from alternative food sources such as: community supported agriculture clubs/ grocer co-ops, food banks, and local charity/churches. Key things to look for: mexican and asian markets in major cities typically make the majority of their money off raw ingredients and so sell ethnic food staples and produce quite cheaply. Here you can look up food banks /pantries in your area: Food Bank Locator   Food Pantry Locator
Step Four:
Understand that you will be preparing and cooking the food yourself. Unless you are buying discontinued or short dated food on the manager's special (and I encourage you to), there is a huge, unbelievable mark-up on prepared foods, especially baked goods. Twelve dollars in raw materials will make you delicious homemade breads for months. Tortillas can be made in less time than it takes to go the store and buy them for pennies. Even pasta, though time consuming, can be made cheaply and easily and frozen. Ravioli is stupid easy to make. Buying most herbs: $10 can get you potted herbs that will keep in your window and keep you going for long periods of time, considering the price of some of the containers of dried. Cheap cuts of meat like pork shoulder take a little bit more preparation than say, hotdogs, but have plenty of protein and fat and calories, and fewer bad stuff (sodium, preservatives... animal scraps). 
Step Five:
Plan your meals. You know how much food you need now, you know how much money you have to spend. Plan your meals out weekly. Make a meal chart, breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week. Remember that this is a guideline: you will want to be able to take advantage of specials at stores and such, so you want to leave a little room in your budget for deals as they come up, and to build up your stock of staples, but you want to have a plan you can stick to and eat somewhat regularly. I find a weekly schedule to be nice because it's hard to get too bored if you're just eating something weekly.

After you have completed these steps, you're ready.

Budget: $0 per week

Assuming you have some family or friends nearby, give them a call. If you don't want to disclose the true nature of your situation, say something like, "Do you have any flour/sugar/eggs/cooking oil I could have? I've run out of pantry staples and can't get to the store/don't have the money/need a lot for a recipe." Almost everyone (and this is one of your goals) has a small excess of pantry staples, and will usually gladly give you some. If they ask, "Do you need baking soda/ powder/ lard /yeast too?" Say yes! Say you're running low, and you will take anything they can spare until you've caught up/gotten to the store. People usually don't think twice about an exchange like this, and you won't sacrifice too much pride for a few staples. Of course, if you aren't too ashamed and you have generous family, please ask them for food/food money until you get back on your feet, and you will be way ahead of the game. We were lucky that my in-laws gave us 2 large boxes of food those first two weeks. Thankfully we had just moved here, back to the bosom of family, but before that we had no family/friend resources, so the rest of this section is going to assume that you've done this already or it's not an option.
First, get yourself to a salvation army, bring an ID, and ask for an emergency food box for your family size. This service can be used once a month. Next get yourself to your community food bank. Another food box. These tend to be a little richer. Next, call local churches, it doesn't matter if you're not a member, and ask if they have a food pantry or know of one. This will get you another food box, usually with the same once a month restriction. 
Emergency food boxes typically contain:
peanut butter
jelly
1 lb rice
1 lb beans
1/2 carton of eggs
flour
sugar (white or brown, sometimes both)
salt & pepper
2 cans beans
2 cans other veggies, like carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, or green beans
1-2 cans fruit, such as applesauce or pie filling
2 boxes macaroni & cheese
2 cans soup
1 box instant mashed potatoes
Depending on family size and available resources, you might be lucky enough to have a box that includes things like:
powdered or evaporated milk
egg noodles or other pasta
dry cereal
boxed meal starter (like Hamburger Helper)
mayonnaise
pasta sauce
1 box cake mix
You now have enough calories to get through the next ordeal: waiting in line for the civil servant who will approve your food stamps. Food stamps are hard to get for people who make even small amounts of money. Emergency food stamps on the other hand, much easier to get. They will grant you an emergency boon, usually about 200/month$ for one or two months. At this time they will also collect the information to process an actual food stamp application, and if approved, you could have benefits in two weeks to a month, drastically improving your circumstances. Use it to supplement the food you've already received, and spend according to the advice below and you'll be back on your feet in no time. 

Understand that these are TEMPORARY solutions. If you have a long period of time to go with no money for help, you're going to have to look for some additional options. When you've exhausted all community and family resources, things are much hairier. Here's to hoping you don't end up waiting for old food outside of a fast food joint, but if you do - at least you will eat! If you have an internet connection available at home or the neighbors or the library, you can try:


Most of these have account age restrictions and verification processes, but I don't think /r/assitance does, and it never hurts to ask. Be prepared to offer some other kind of verification if you don't already have an account of appropriate age.

You can also try:

Good luck, don't take advantage, and for goodness' sake, return the favor when you can.

Budget: $10 per week

Use your community resources outlined in the previous section. This is only enough for the absolute lowest essentials. Buy a lb. of flour, a carton of eggs, a lb. of dried beans, a lb. of  rice, and some lard or oil or butter. Buy powdered milk if you can afford it. Don't eat the eggs by themselves, use them in recipes to make larger amounts of food. It will be bland, but with just these things and your emergency food boxes you can make:
peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
milk & rice for breakfast
beans & rice
bean, rice, and tortillas for burritos
quick bread
biscuits
crackers
fried rice
peanut butter cookies
and more!
If you borrow or receive in your food boxes, any staples like baking powder, sugar, yeast, or salt, your baked goods options expand exponentially. Pancakes, waffles, fluffy bread etc.

Budget: $20 per week

Use your community resources if you haven't yet (first section), because you still don't have enough to eat well. You are still in staples territory, but it is easier to buy variety for a family now than just an individual. Buy your eggs/butter, an extra bag of rice and beans, and buy these staples. Get sugar, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dry milk if you don't already have them to make breads, noodles, gravy, puff pastry, etc. Buy some oatmeal for breakfast and recipes.Buy an onion and a garlic to add flavor to your food. Then use any room in your budget for whatever other cheap veggies/fruit you can find. Save some money to buy yourself the odd live herb plant to spice up your food. You will become really really good at cooking with a handful of ingredients.

Example meals (all roughly 1$ a meal):
scrambled eggs and pancakes with an orange
lentil soup and home-made bread, bean and rice burritos
brothy beans and rice with corn.
egg noodles with homemade alfredo
homemade roasted tomato soup
veggie chowder

Budget: $30 per week

You're practically home free from here on out. You've got the absolute basics, you've got the staples to improve your basics, and now you can afford a little variety. Buy a different variety of beans than usual, and make them into a dip or a different dish.Buy cornmeal instead of or in addition to flour. Use the extra $10/week for apples, oranges, bananas, cauliflower, celery, carrots, bunches of greens, etc. Buy seasonal so you can buy as much fresh food as you can get for that amount because you've been seriously deprived of it up to now. It won't be much. Apples will taste like heaven by themselves, but use them in recipes to extend them further.
Example recipes:
chili & corn bread
apple bread/turn overs
banana bread
steamed cauliflower
veggie & dumpling soup
apple oatmeal
burritos (always burritos!)
bean dip or hummus (if you buy chickpeas)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hallelujah!

The computer drought is over! I am, for the foreseeable future, borrowing a laptop. I'm so hesitant to say I'm back for good, so I will say I'm back...for now. I'm not being negative, just giving a nod to those circumstances that are sometimes out of our control.

I don't have a dedicated reader base, a lot of subscribers, or even very many views, but I feel a feeling of dedication and affection for this blog and my readers, even if they are all in the future and yet to stumble here. Even if I write for months without any comments or an increase in page views, simply the idea that someone like me may come along and be uplifted or helped in some way, and might be inspired to change their story makes me want to keep going. Also, the fact that even if it doesn't help anyone else but this little family, it has been worth it, keeps me going. I often feel like I can't do anything about our situation. Outlining it helps me see differently and keeps me motivated to make small changes even if I don't yet see results.

So here I am again, and here you are, if you're reading this. If you haven't found anything to help you out yet, maybe check back in awhile when I've got more content and posts.

I am so happy to be back!

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