About a year and a half ago, our family embarked on an experimental journey to understand what it is like to live on a very limited food budget. I was reminded of this experiment last night and have been thinking about it a lot today. The first three paragraphs here are from one of my original Giving Up Groceries blog posts, and the rest are my reflections after last night’s discussion.
“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.”
I truly cannot imagine the pain and heartbreak that a mother must feel when they cannot afford to buy food for their children. Muffins are not in any way an essential food item, but a year and a half later, this memory still haunts me.
What would it be like if my child could never get a “treat” like muffins or the donuts in the background of that picture?
What would it be like if we had to stay on that kind of a food budget indefinitely?
How would my children react to being limited in their food choices?
How would I react to the ongoing stress of such a tight food allowance?
What would that mean for my family?
As hard as it would be to limit our food choices because of money, it could even be worse. Can you imagine not having food for your children? ANY food? Can you imagine your child crying out of hunger? True hunger – not just “I’m starving and I want a cookie” hunger. What would that be like?
In America today, 1 in 5 children live in “food insecure” households, meaning that they have "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways." (USDA.) That is heartbreaking to me. My grocery experiment gave me a tiny glimpse into the life of a mom without “food security” and it made me so much more thankful for everything that we have.
This year, we’ll join #FoodThanks by making a donation to our local food pantry so that a food insecure family in our area – possibly even the family of one of my son’s friends – can have a bit of the comfort that we have everyday. We’ll be joining Subway to #SubtractHunger so that another mom doesn’t have to hear her child cry out in hunger. And we’ll continue to grow turkey in the most efficient way we know how so that other families have access to affordable, nutritious protein.