December 11, 2013
One day a neighbor from a block away came to my house and asked if I had a frozen chicken that he could have. I had a whole chicken and I gave it to him. Have you ever had a neighbor come to your home asking for food? How hard was that to do? Right after I posted that article, I came across a documentary on Netflix called “A Place at the Table.” I streamed it and watched it a couple of times.
This documentary came out in 2012. On Netflix it is described as follows “Using personal stories, this powerful documentary illuminates the plight of the 49 million Americans struggling with food insecurity. A single mother, a small-town policeman and a farmer are among those for whom putting food on the table is a daily battle.” This documentary is every enlightening and I am asking as many of my followers as possible to watch this.
If you don’t have Netflix, ask your public library to get this documentary. Why? You will be surprised at what you learn. This documentary dispels the myths about hunger and poverty that you may have. Also it describes terms such as “Food Deserts” where fresh fruits and vegetables are not available or the fact that someone living in an inner city setting has to take a bus to a grocery store that takes 2 hours round trip. It also tells the story of one minister trying to feed the people in his small community. One person is a police officer who now goes to the food pantry for food for his family. He hasn’t had a raise in 4 years and with the cost of food going up, his paycheck just doesn’t make it to the end of the month.
This documentary has some Hollywood backing in Jeff Bridges. He, along with his brother, Beau, have been talking about hunger in America for years. This documentary goes you historical background and also shows you what people are up against. For example, the single mom who finally gets a job, but her income is just a little bit too much and and she no longer qualifies for SNAP or child care assistance. She’s worse off working; then when she was on unemployment and assistance. Her food situation is dire. Stress from not being able to provide can make a person so sick. (No matter what you think about people on food assistance, always remember that the babies and children have no say in their parent’s choices for how they spend their SNAP funds.)
Something is wrong when we live in the greatest nation in the world and yet we have children living with little food. The other problem is health related. Living on high processed, high carbohydrate food means obesity and type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Fresh fruits and vegetables are too expensive for many people. After I saw this documentary, I purchased a DVD that came out 15 years ago starring Beau Bridges as a widower with two children and his struggle with unemployment and feeding his two children. It is called “Hidden in America.” It portrays someone who wants to work and is actively looking for work and doesn’t want to be on assistance. He tries so hard, but in the end he has to go to apply for food assistance and goes to a food bank. This is a gut wrenching story that sheds the light on hunger, especially with his kids.
Here is the problem: we don’t give our children adequate nutrition and they perform poorly in school. In our school district alone there are over 50% of the children on free lunches and breakfasts. However, the USDA guidelines leave nutrition to the side when it comes to the school meals. High fat, high carbohydrate food is on the menu. Heat and eat foods is what kids get more and more.
After viewing the documentary and film, I went ahead and purchased the participant’s book given the same name as the documentary, “A Place at the Table.” I have been reading it a chapter at a time each night. This book is a great companion to the documentary and it goes into detail where the documentary can’t. Why? It would take another 2 hours to get it all down on film. For example, one chapter deals with the history of food stamps and how it came into being in 1939. The initial program helped farms and the poor by offering fresh fruits and vegetables and other extra farm commodities at a reduced rate that could be purchased with food stamps. Over the years the program morphed into allowing more foods to be purchased with food stamps, such as soda drinks. Don’t believe everything you hear on the news, do the research yourself. Call your library and ask to get that book perhaps through an inter library loan.
After a couple of weeks of watching documentaries and reading and researching, I received an e-mail from a friend at church. A nearby college was hosting a hunger and homelessness awareness week. The friend asked me if I would like to attend a few of the events with her. I was very excited to go and learn more. The first night they showed the documentary “A Place at the Table.” The next night we were invited to a panel discussion. Four panelists were present: one was the director of a local food pantry; one was a director of a large homeless shelter, one was from an organization that helps to fill the gaps in between charities and one person who promotes community gardens and individual gardens for individuals to grow their own produce.
The 3rd night was an OXFAM banquet. I was given the role of being a middle income individual and was served rice and beans. There were guest speakers from the World Food Bank and a professor who is teaching a class on Food and Justice.
OKAY – why am I telling you this? We all want to leave this life having made a difference and I am finding my niche.
Between me and my friend, we have solicited a few other like minded women at our church to work on poverty and hunger in our community. We are in the process of interviewing 15 local charities to find out their purpose, their needs and their vision for our community to aid in this issue. In January when we meet and report our findings to each other, it is our goal to find a “gap” in meeting the needs of the hungry and poor in our community. We don’t want to overlap or try to fill a need that is already being met.
I’m not sure where we will find the gap, but I am guessing that we may start a weekend food backpack program in our elementary school, summer time meals for children when school is out, or even a breakfast program at our church for students in High School. Most of these students could get a free breakfast, but how many poor High School students want that stigma?
We will concentrate our efforts on one program. I am passionate to do something.
I want to also find a way to reduce our expenses as much as possible so that we can get money in the bank for our retirement. I have no idea what the cost of living will be in 11 years when we retire, but I am now feeling as if we need to set aside more money for food and other incidentals. If anything, I could save money so that when there is a hunger need, I can help meet it.
November 10, 2013
Recently the government cut back on food assistance benefits (SNAP program) effective November 1st. I know that there are people who abuse the system. There will always be abusers, however I know that there are more people in need that don't abuse the system versus those that do. Of particular interest to me are the children. No matter what choices the parents make, children have no decisions in the matter. In our country it is beyond my comprehension why a child should go without food.
Many families are under employed or have been unemployed for a long time. Having access to food is a priority and in my opinion is the right of every American. This country produces enough food for all of us, it's just that some of us can afford food and some of us can't.
I have been watching videos on You Tube regarding people on SNAP and what it is like to be a mother and not be able to feed her children. I have watched many videos produced by "Feeding America." All of this got me to wonder what it would be like to be a single mom receiving SNAP benefits for her and her school aged son during the summer months. This means no free school breakfast, lunch or after school program because it is summer. So, what would this look like? It looks like $1.40 per person per meal.
Instead of going on the food stamp challenge myself, I want to come up with meals on the above limited amount of money for 1 week for this type of scenario: single mom with a school age son. I am going to use the advertisement from the nearest grocery store and make up a list of food choices as if I am living in poverty. I am assuming that I won't have a car and will have to walk to the nearest store for groceries.
Here is what I would like from my readers: I need your help in setting up this scenario.
1. What items would you think this type of person would have on hand that I wouldn't have to buy on my first shopping trip? For example, ketchup, mustard, sugar, flour, soy sauce, salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder. What do you think someone would have in their cupboard? You may think that someone in a dire situation wouldn't have any of the above, and if so, let me hear from you.
2. I have never been to a food pantry. In our community I know that I would need to be referred. Let's say that I get a referral, give me a list of a few items you think I would be able to get from my local food pantry for the week. Set the situation for me.
3. Give me any other ideas to set this situation up. Be brutal as I want to really have this as a challenge just as if I was this mom, underemployed, and struggling to feed my son. I want to experience the sadness, fear and pain of figuring this all out.
So, give me your ideas so I can set up the challenge for myself.
November 06, 2013
I have spent this past week catching up on housework. It is hard sometimes to clean my house as I start to make a list of all the things that need to be repaired, painted or replaced and I tend to get side tracked. I think I will start to call myself "building manager."
On Saturday it took me 6 hours to deep clean my living room, entryway, hallway and dining room. Our old house has the original old narrow wooden floors. They aren't sealed. The previous owners put in an in house vacuum system so I use it to vacuum the hard wood floors, but with a dog those floors quickly look furry after a couple of days. So, it was time to not only vacuum but to get down on the floor and clean them.
My mom used to spray her dust mop with a light spritz of soapy water. Then she would dust mop the floor and the dust would cling to the mop. Again, it was a light spritz and she didn't soak the mop. On Saturday I took a cloth and spritzed it with a mist of water and cleaned the baseboards and did the same to my hard wood floors. In a couple of weeks when I have more time I will mop the floors with Murphy's wood oil soap. I also used a separate cloth spritzed with soapy water to wipe down my old upright piano (that I painted a shiny black a few years back).
Dusting, mopping, vacuuming area rugs and working on the hard wood floors, cleaning cob webs off the ceiling and putting clutter away and taking trash out wore me out. But the result was that after 6 hours I had 4 thoroughly clean areas in my down stairs. These rooms are the ones that are most visible from the front door.
Today I vacuumed again (that darn dog fur) and deep cleaned the downstairs bathroom. I don't watch my grandson on Wednesdays, as I need a day off. Tomorrow I can straighten up the den and downstairs bedroom. This is easily done with Ryan playing in the room that I am quickly working on. On Friday my son and his wife have the day off so Ryan won't be at my house and I will spend the day deep cleaning my kitchen.
The end result is that by Friday evening my entire downstairs will have been deep cleaned within a period of one week. Then the challenge will be to keep it up, which I should be able to do by devoting an hour a day to cleaning.
When Ryan is at my house I do a little housework, mostly laundry and some pick up. I can't do much with a little guy crawling around and I find that my day is spent caring for him, playing with him and catching moments of housework when he is napping.
This weekend I plan to tackle the upstairs but I know that it will take two weekends to clean out closets and deep clean. I find that once things are in good order, I want to maintain that order no matter what. It's just getting there and once you do get there, you feel like the queen of your home.
Which brings me to grand mothering. As I stated I watch Ryan Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday each week. He arrives at 6:30 a.m. and goes home when my son is done teaching for the day. This depends on students staying after school for help, which I think is an awesome thing that he does. So Ryan could be at my house until 4:30 some nights.
I am finding that I am not the normal grandmother. Most grandmothers do not watch their grandchildren as I do. One person told me that no way would she ever be doing what I am doing as she had already raised her children. It's not for everyone and I understand it. However, I am a bit old fashioned and I feel that families need to support each other as much as possible. I also like the idea of Ryan being watched by family members as much as possible.
Childcare is expensive but that is not my primary motivation to watch Ryan. I want Ryan to grow up knowing that he is loved not only by his parents, but by extended family. I also want my son and his wife to have the kind of support that my husband and I never had.
When we were raising our two sons, we did not have parents to help us out. My parents lived in New York and my husband's parents at one time were living in California. Family lived far away and we only had each other. We never had the luxury of grandparents caring for our children a day a week or even when we wanted to go to a movie. We were used to it as it was our normal, but it was difficult many times.
Yes I don't get a lot done many times when I am watching Ryan but I wouldn't trade the time I spend with him. I know that I am helping to raise a confident and happy little boy and when it comes down to it, that is the most important thing I can do right now.
One other thing about grandmothering, when I am caring for Ryan I know my role as his grandmother. If I think he is getting sick, I text his mother about this and let her make the decision if she needs to make a doctor's appointment or if he needs some Tylenol, I know my place. I am on the support team; my son and his wife are the parents and Ryan's primary care givers.
The only way for grandmothering to work is to recognize that you know your place. You have raised your children, but when you become a grandmother you get a second chance to have a powerful impact on a little baby's life.
October 22, 2013
October 20, 2013
October 14, 2013
October 11, 2013
I am glad to be back to blogging. At one point I considered ending this blog as I was feeling that over the past 4 years I had probably covered everything that needed to be said about living frugally. But -- I missed blogging and the reality is that a lot has happened over 4 years and there is still a lot to be said. It was good to take a break, even if it was largely due to needing a new laptop.
When I started this journey 4 years ago, our economy was reeling from the Great Recession. Then things started getting a little better in some areas, and not so great in other areas. Now with the government shut down it has shown me once again that you have to rely on yourself (and God too) when it comes to being prepared for hard times. What if there weren't unemployment checks, W.I.C., Food Assistance, Rent Assistance, etc. What if life was like back before the Depression in the 1930's when there weren't very many relief programs. Families counted on each other and worked together to help each other out, but many times that wasn't even enough.
I think a lot of people in the past year or so started to forget what it was like in 2007, 2008 and 2009 when the economy really tanked and unemployment was a lot higher. People cut back and I'm sure that many thought that they would never go back to being spendthrifts and in debt and no savings. Time does lessen the difficulty of some of those times. Isn't that true? If it wasn't, there would be a lot of moms giving birth to only one child.
The Great Recession changed how many people felt about their finances. For some people it was a temporary annoyance and for others it was a life changing experience. No longer would they live with no savings and a tremendous amount of consumer debt.
I have been listening to the news programs regarding the government shut down and I am not going to discuss politics - let's leave it out of the discussion for this blog. Instead it just backs up what I already know which is that you should rely on yourself when it comes to your finances. Plan on getting no help at all when things get rough, and save, save, save during the good times so that you can weather those hard times.
This is easier said than done. I am guilty of becoming soft and spending when I shouldn't be spending. Then I get back on track and ask myself what got me off track in the first place? Many times it is impulsive small purchases that can add up over time.
Now I make a list in an app on my phone. Whether it is food, thread, shoes or whatever, it goes on a list. Many times I look at the list, perhaps it is rather long, and I decide that I really don't need a lot of that stuff after all. And, if I really need it, it is still on that ongoing list waiting for a sale.
Being prepared financially also means that you may need to learn some new skills or resurrect some old skills that you haven't used in a while. I am sewing a lot more these days than I have in 20 years. It took me awhile to get the knack of it again. For Christmas each of my immediate family members will be receiving a homemade gift that I have sewn. I have purchased fabric on sale since the beginning of the year with Christmas gifts in mind.
Learning to mend is a skill that we need to resurrect also. Throwing clothing out because it has a broken zipper, missing button, small tear or pulled seams is money going down the drain. Learning to make repairs saves money. Baking bread and cooking from scratch or just learning to cook simple meals to keep you from going out to eat all the time is a great skill.
Bottom line, when it comes to being prepared for hard times you need to rely on yourself over the long haul to make sure you are prepared. It just makes sense that hard times will happen and you need to be prepared. I should add that leaning on God in making financial decisions is an excellent idea also.
Over the past year we have seen a lot of disasters occur in the U.S. From Hurricane Sandy, to wildfires, to floods and mudslides and droughts, we have had many different disasters. People have been displaced from their homes and have lost their homes altogether. Preparing for hard times also means being prepared for disasters. This is one area that I am not prepared and over the next few weeks I will be doing some research on how to have my own emergency management protocol for my home and family.
You can't put your head in the sand and think that hard times happen to other people and will never happen to you. Many people over the course of the years have lost their jobs, when they thought they had job security. When a disaster happens and people are being interviewed by the news media, they are in shock at the loss of their home. None of them think it will happen to them. When the power goes out for several days, many people are not prepared and wish they would have been. And then lastly, many people don't want to be prepared for the death of a spouse as if talking about it, will bring on death sooner.
Yes, we will be discussing these things over the next couple of weeks along with the topics of grandmothering, cosmetics, healthy nails on a budget and menopause.
September 28, 2013
I will be back - I promise.
August 29, 2013
August 26, 2013
The challenge in August when it is this hot is to try to figure out what to serve for supper. By now we have done a lot of grilling so it isn't quite the novelty as it was at the beginning of the summer and it is too hot to stand outside over an even hotter grill. It is on days like this that I pull out the electric roaster that I use to cook the turkey at Thanksgiving and I set it up in the basement. I use it as a portable oven.
Tonight I will be cooking my semi-famous turkey casserole in it. Here is the link to the recipe. Back in June I roasted a turkey that I had leftover from Christmas and I carefully cut the breast pieces for sandwiches or to use as the main dish for dinner sometime. The rest of the meat was cut into small pieces for soup or casseroles and the carcass was boiled down for broth. All the meat and broth was frozen for later use such as a day like today.
I will put the casserole together in a square casserole dish and place it in the roaster to bake. The best part of this is that the heat from baking this casserole does not affect the temperature in my kitchen as it cooks in the basement and the heat stays there. Also it takes less energy to heat the roaster and it preheats in no time at all. To complete our dinner meal, I will serve watermelon and a tossed salad.
I know some people will think who wants to eat something hot on a hot day, but these are also the same people who will go to an air conditioned restaurant for a hot meal or stand in the hot sun grilling some meat.
As I write this post, Ryan is taking his nap. He spent the morning at his other grandpa's house as I needed some extra rest as I have a cold. While he is napping I may take a nap myself or go through some of my sewing patterns so I can plan my next project. I'm already thinking ahead to Christmas and there are several gifts I want to make. I don't want to wait until November or December to work on these projects. Also, there are a few tops that I would like to sew for myself.
I better start getting more sleep at night as when Ryan goes down for a nap, it will be sewing and craft time for Grandma.
August 25, 2013
August 07, 2013
I'm on vacation for a few more days. Actually, I'm visiting my mom out east. I'll be blogging when I get home. I miss my family and home and am ready to get back home and cook regular meals.
In my down time this week I have been working on a new household schedule for when I begin caring for my grandson 4 days a week beginning next week. I know I will only be able to get household chores done during naptime. However my walking time should increase as he loves to be in his stroller going on walks. It's a pleasant and happy trade off.
July 29, 2013
July 23, 2013
July 22, 2013
Tomorrow I will be starting a series on living off the resources that you have in your home starting with what I have in my freezer.
June 26, 2013
June 25, 2013
June 24, 2013
It is almost indescribable as to the love I have for my grandson, Ryan. If I don't get to see him, I go through withdrawal and tell people that I need my "Ryan time." Yesterday my son and wife asked me if I could watch him as they were going out of town for the afternoon. They didn't have to ask me twice. Ryan was with me for about 8 hours in which I fed him, diapered him, rocked him to sleep and played with him on the floor. I love to see how he can roll on his side, smile at me and interact. He will be four months old this week.
He was born when I was in the midst of being treated for depression. On the very day he was born I had asked God to give me a small miracle of hope that day. I didn't know that at that very time he was being born. Ryan was the best medicine for bringing me out of my depression. I can hardly wait for the day when he actually calls me grandma.
There is nothing like this time in my life. I love it.
June 09, 2013
This is a picture of me holding our grandson, Ryan, when he was born on February 27th. I have the privilege of watching him a few times a week. He has stolen my heart and he is such a joy.
My husband loves to read the newspaper to Ryan when he is home for lunch.
When I haven't seen Ryan for a while I start to think "Hey, I need some Ryan time." Tomorrow I will get my "Ryan Time" as he gets to spend the day at our house.
There is nothing like being a Grandma.
|Me and our cat, Sheircon in Feb. 2010|
I stayed with her as she was put down and then we put her in a box, placed a piece of pink fabric on top and buried her under a forsythia bush in our backyard.
In January we had our black lab put down. She was almost 13 years old and had declined so much.
Now we are left with our 16 month old labradoodle Molly. We have no intention of getting another cat. One pet is enough for us for now. Molly fits the bill and she is a wonderful, loving dog.