Friday, August 13, 2010


I am obsessed with food. If a Genie popped out of a bottle right now, I would wish for a dinner at an all-you-can eat place for my sons and I, and the opportunity to go to ALDI and fill my grocery cart to the brim. At the buffet, I would stuff myself until my stomach hurt. At ALDI, I would select items without consulting the price and keeping that constant total in my head, having to stop when I reached my limit. I'm guessing the total cost of dinner to be about $30.00 and the full shopping cart, $70.00. Not a great deal in the grand scheme of things.

I go to our local grocery store on an almost daily basis to check the discounted meat and dairy at-code specials. If there isn't a 99 cent deal on a package of ground turkey or other meat, I leave empty-handed. But not before I have a chance to observe other people shopping and filling their carts. I look at what people are buying with a kind of sick fascination. I feel like a Peeping Tom as I contemplate the items in their carts. At the check-out, I wait to hear the final total on the purchases and get some of strange pleasure in hearing the really high totals over a hundred dollars. Oh, to be able to spend that amount on a cart full of groceries like I used to in the old days...

In a recent book I read, the main character decides what to fix as a light summer dinner coming up with egg salad and cucumber salad with iced tea. I drooled at that menu and added to it, a ripe, juicy tomato, maybe a fresh ear of corn. The seasonal fruits and vegetables are what I am missing most now. The thought of canned green beans leaves me cold. I think about frying up some new red potatoes and making a beet salad. To have to pass up the packages of blueberries and the nectarines almost makes me cry. I circle the produce section with my empty cart and watch the people select their tomatoes, strawberries and carrots.

I dream about going to one of our local farm stands and inhaling the smells of the produce. Or going into a bakery for the same sensations. I pass by a Dairy Queen and dream of an icy cold Blizzard or cone. This has been a Blizzard free summer. A pizza commercial airs and I dream of buying an entire pizza for each of us and not caring if there are any leftovers - a real fresh pizza, not the frozen ones I once in a while pick up as a treat. Once I even had the fantasy of getting a dozen Dunkin' Donuts and scarfing them down myself - and not worrying in the least about calories or high blood pressure.

My focus is on feeding my boys and doing the best for them. Sometimes that has meant that I've gone without or been the one eating a pb & j for dinner. I don't mind. It just has been catching up with me where I feel a bit hungry on some days and craving foods not in the pantry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nothing Left to Cut

I have come across a couple of articles about people in debt and their plans for digging themselves out. The latest was in O Magazine with Suzy Orman as the financial advisor. One of the main advice given is to cut out all extras and luxuries. In this case, the family cut out vacations, cable, buying books and magazines. Other expenses that can go would be take-out dinners, pedicures/beauty appointments and trading in high end vehicles. In some of the articles I've read, the families seem to really struggle with all of this, especially losing the cable with the rationalization that if vacations have to be given up, at least cable should still be maintained.

I would like to read an article geared more to my current financial level. An unemployed, widowed mom trying to survive having already cut out all the extras. We haven't had cable or a vacation in six years. There haven't been new clothes or even Christmas gifts the past two years. So what do people like me cut out or cut back on when they've already cut everything to the bone? When I am using up my supply of hotel sample soaps because I can't affor my facial cleanser? That is the question I'd like to ask of Suzy Orman or Mary Hunt.

I find myself having a hard time relating to these families portrayed in these articles. They are not poor enough - there is still some disposable income available. And in the end they all are able to avoid bankruptcy. I want to read about a family that can't dig themselves out - that like me does laundry only two times a month because they can't afford the $3.00 a load cost. A family that like me has to supplement their food budget with castoffs from the food pantry.

Do you know why I think the financial advisors stay around from those of us hovering at the poverty level? Because there isn't any advice they can really give us - because we have sunk too low to be able to dig ourselves out.