I shared my idea with one of my friends and she told me how her family received baskets of food from the church when she was growing up. She said it was such a blessing and made such a difference for her family. Others have told me the same thing – of the difference that a stranger’s donation made or how much their family appreciated the kindness shown to them.
There have been several emotional moments during the past few weeks, each affecting the way that I look at food and the money that I spend on food.
I had both boys with me the first grocery trip. Adam wanted mini-muffins in the snack aisle. There was NO WAY those were in the budget, and I wasn’t giving in that early in the game. He threw an absolute fit because I wouldn’t get them. I was so embarrassed. I think that if I had just said “no” because I didn’t want to get them for him, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But the idea of not being able to afford them was so hard. We ended up with a muffin mix for $1.29, but that meant I couldn’t buy eggs.
That first shopping trip was so stressful. I came home and was crabby to the boys and crabby to Bart. And it made me think about how hard it would be to be the kind of person I want to be if I had a serious stressor in my life, whether it was money, illness, cancer, whatever. It makes my battles seem not-quite-so-hard.
We went to play at the kids’ gym one day, and Adam wanted a snack on the way home. He specifically wanted to stop at the gas station and get gummy bears. Not in the budget. But it was a Friday, and there is free popcorn at our bank on Fridays (plus, Aunt Staci works there) so we went to visit. And eat free popcorn.
During my 2nd shopping trip, I was debating between the 99 cent medium eggs and the $1.39 extra large eggs when my eyes wandered to the “cage free, organic” eggs. $4.39. I about had a coronary right there. $4.39? Thank goodness there was a cheaper alternative. Eggs are one of Adam’s few sources of protein.
We visited a neighboring farm to see their calves a couple weekends ago, and the farmwife gave us some fresh baked cookies. I’ve never tasted cookies so good.
There have been moments when I’ve felt embarrassed or frustrated because of my self-imposed financial limitations. But when that happens, I try to pray for the hungry. One in five children in the United States (via) are going to bed hungry. In the district where I taught, about 50% of the children were on free or reduced lunch plans. World hunger and malnutrition are literally unbelievable for me.
So, I pray for those kids. And their parents. I try to imagine what it would be like to be unable to feed my children. And I pray for the elderly who are choosing between their medications and groceries.
And then I’m not so embarrassed or frustrated. Mostly just sad.
One of the most powerful experiences during this experiment happened at the grocery store last week. It was my last $25 trip and my birthday, and I was feeling pretty good. A little boy, about two, waved at Isaac in the produce section and said, “Hi baby!” As the boys “talked” to each other, the mom and I exchanged smiles and went on our way.
Later, I came up behind the same mom and little boy as they blocked an aisle. When the woman noticed me, she began fumbling with papers and I realized they were her WIC papers. (WIC is a federal food program for women, infants and children.) She seemed embarrassed as she put them in her bag and hurried to get out of our way, but smiled and talked to Isaac a little bit before continuing on.
Based on the woman’s accent and appearance, I assumed she was an immigrant – possibly an international student, since I was in a town with a large university. As I continued shopping, I realized that I had just encountered one of the families I had been praying for.
That woman was in the grocery store, shopping on a serious budget, FOR REAL.
She was deciding what she could and could not buy for her son FOR REAL.
Feeding her family as cheaply as possible was not a game for her – not a fun challenge.
It was real life.
I stood there and pondered this for a minute, and then decided I had to do something. I went to the front of the nearly empty store and talked to the cashier at the express lane. I explained that I wanted to pay it forward. I gave her some cash with instructions to pay for the woman’s groceries.
And when I left the store that day, I felt even better than I had when I arrived.
Tomorrow, we go to the grocery store for the first time with our normal food budget. We’re pretty excited. Throughout the past few weeks, we’ve learned to cherish and savor our food. We are thankful for every meal, especially those provided to us by caring friends or family members.
But I’m ashamed to admit, our freezer still has enough meat for several meals. In fact, last week, I went through the food we still had on hand and we had enough for 27 full meals (lunch and supper.) And yet, it seemed like we had nothing to eat!
We are spoiled. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. But hopefully, this experience will keep us from becoming too rotten.
I’m hoping, when this is all over, I will continue to remember how I felt during this time, and can continue to help those who truly need it. Had I not decided to “give up groceries” our lives would have been a bit easier for a few weeks. But I’m truly hopeful that the money I’m saving (and donating) will make a much bigger impact on someone else’s life.