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So, today was grocery day. This was a short week because Caedy’s hours were off and we had to pay the second half of the water bill. So I thought I’d diary about our trip today, what we spent and where, and why.  To start out, let’s begin with what we had to work with before we went to the store.

Already on hand:
Half a bag of frozen veggies
Several cans of various veggies
½ bag of baby carrots
Instant mashed potatoes
Rice
2 pasta sides for adults (kids won’t eat them)
4 packs of Ramen
2 boxes of pasta and one can of sauce
½ gallon of Milk
Sugar
Cereal
1lb of bologna (it was buy one get one last week)
Various spices/seasonings, etc.
2 meals worth of chicken leg quarters
2 frozen ham bones with meat attached
18  flavor aid packets for the kids

Once the water bill was paid, Caedy’s insurance and taxes were out, etc we had $97 left for the week for the five of us, including a hypoglycemic 17 year old boy and a 10 year old girl. So around 11:30 am, off we went to the store. We stopped at McDonald’s for lunch because Caedy gets 50% off since she works there, so it was a cheap quick lunch and meant I got the hamburger I've been craving for 2 weeks (I've been craving beef so badly the dog’s canned food was starting to smell appetizing). We've had chicken and pork for two weeks because that’s what was on sale and what we could afford.  Beef was a definite must have this week, as I’m also borderline anemic and I've been wilting.

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So we spent $12 for lunch for four of us. Not bad. This is why we went there and not somewhere else. Yes, it’s a bit of a splurge but we also walk to the store, and for the hypoglycemic 17 year old who was pushing the wheelchair I road in, eating out like that is almost a necessity. He would have been flagging before we got home otherwise. Besides, the kids went along to carry and push, they earned it.

Our grocery list: (with estimated cost)
Lettuce $2
Tomatoes $3
Provolone cheese (Bit can’t have American) $2.50
2 bags shredded cheese (one for salads, one for meals) $6
Eggs $2
Butter $2
Potatoes $4
Green beans $2
3 meats $15
Mac-n-cheese for the kids   $1.50
Dog food for Freya $6
Puppy Food $7
Cat food $5
Jelly $1
Soup for me (which we didn't get) $1
Peanut butter (still need, different store than today, it’s $1.50 cheaper there) $5.50
Bread – 4 loaves (still need, different store than today where it’s cheaper) $4

I estimated spending about $55.50 today and $9.50 tomorrow at the other two stores (Dollar General for the peanut butter and the Discount Bread store). We ended up going over that by $10 today.

I figured if needs be we could get hamburger this week and save money that way on meals. However, hamburger turned out to be $3.79 per pound this week!!!! So, no hamburger! I refuse to pay that much. All they had on sale meat wise was pork and chicken again. So we got a small roast at $3.99 per pound ($9.70 total) and pork chops on buy one get one for $8.70 total (2 meals’ worth). I may be able to get 2 meals for us out of the roast, or at least one dinner plus a lunch.

Our biggest expenditure this week was pet food. Usually it’s not because I get the puppy’s and the cat’s once a month, but we were entirely out by this morning. Freya, our older dog, can only eat cans so we get hers every week. Freya’s food is $3.60 for her breakfast (because she was sick and lost weight so I've had to add to hers) and $5.28 for her dinners.  Sophie, the puppy’s food was $5.99 and the cat’s food was only $3.59.  So pet food this week cost $18.46, but that was absolute necessity and most of that isn't a weekly thing. It just fell on a bad week this month.

I decided to forgo my can of soup and get a roll of paper towels instead so I can get some extra cleaning done this week. I have salad and such for lunch. The mac and cheese was more expensive, $2 for three boxes, even for the no name this week. Potatoes weren't on sale, so they were right at the $4 mark when I was half hoping to at least get them buy one get one or a dollar cheaper. The butter and jelly were also more expensive by about a dollar each. Again, we don’t buy those every week, but they fell to this week and they’re not something we can really go without (my son practically lives on PB&J’s). The rest of the produce was right on the mark, though none of it was on sale as I’d also hoped to find.
Using the Winn Dixie card we spent $64.55, with a savings of $20.80 including the buy one get one meat. So, we have just over $20 for the rest of the week, including the peanut butter and bread we still need (which is about half that). This leaves us $10 until next Wednesday. So long as no one gets sick and nothing breaks (like the can opener for example) we’ll be good. Bills for April are all paid. Bills for May come due next week (but Dad gets his SSI next week and Caedy gets paid again).

If I hadn't been smart and spent the extra money on meats last week (and found a lot of good sales) so that we had the extra meals, we would have been eating a lot of hot dogs and fish sticks this week and I would have gone another week without beef at all. And now, as of next month they've cut our food stamps by another $50 because “we make too much”.  Somehow they took an extra $250/month in rent, a dollar per hour reduction in Caedy’s pay (and the same amount of hours on average), and a $12 COLA increase in Dad’s SSI as a total net household increase enough to reduce our food stamps by $50. I’m trying to get it reviewed and figure out their accounting. Because honestly, I don’t see it. I don’t see where I can really cut our budget any further than it is. We don’t buy or eat a lot of junk, and if we do get it we buy it at the Discount Bread store for VERY cheap.

Yes, we maybe could have cut out lunch, but it’s one of the few luxuries we get from time to time, and it was half off. So please don’t complain about that, it’s not like we go out all the time, or even every week. And the kids walked with us to the store to help carry and fetch, as I said, they earned it. I didn't have a good lunch to give them before we shopped anyway, they would have had sandwiches, which wouldn't have been enough for my son at least.

This week’s groceries and budget is not unusual for us. It’s more unusual when we have extra money, and then I try to put in extra groceries against weeks like this one. May the gods help us if Caedy gets injured or sick and can’t work, because then we’re really screwed. I can’t put savings aside for a ‘rainy day’ with $10 left over after necessities. And even if I did they’d hold those against our food stamps and just cut us off further. That would be having ‘assets’.

This is what it’s like to live in poverty. You can’t get out, you can only get by and pray things don’t get any worse. You can’t save, because they don’t leave you room to save, and if by some miracle they do, they count those savings against you and cut off your benefits further so you have to use those assets to survive then fight for an increase again. This week we didn't buy any prescriptions, though I have 3 unfilled I can’t afford (because I also somehow make too much to qualify for Medicaid), and Dad has 4 that should be refilled. I also didn't need any of my vitamins this week, or my allergy meds because I bought those last week. I try to budget those for food stamps weeks anyway.

The Republicans talk about ‘pulling yourself up by the boot straps’. But there aren't any. They've already been cut off so short you can’t grip them with tweezers. And every time you tie on a bit of shoe lace to extend them they snip those off too.  Grocery bills are expected to go up. We’re already planting vegetables (given we can afford soil and such we need) to try and cut down the produce bill some. I was hoping to have the extra money to go to the farmer’s market this week. But we don’t have it, and I haven’t been there yet to be able to budget money in for it. I don’t have enough leeway to get things just because. I budget to the dollar. I can’t risk spending more at the farmer’s market than I would have today. Maybe next week. I say that a lot. I get really tired of that phrase. I’m sure my kids do as well.

NOTE: This isn't a plea for donations or money. As I said, we get by. I do have some ways I could tighten our budget, if we ate more junk meats, ect, but I try not to do that. Sometimes we have to. This is just an example of what it's like to live below the poverty line on a day to day and week by week basis. Even here a lot of people don't seem to understand what it's like to not be able to buy something you want or need at the drop of a hat.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to FloridaSNMOM on Thu Apr 25, 2013 at 03:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Hunger in America.

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