What If You Can't Afford Food? - Main Street Meltdown
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Main Street Meltdown

What If You Can't Afford Food?

 There are several signs that the economy is in trouble:  stock prices are down, unemployment is up and for many, their financial future is uncertain.  However, there is another surefire sign that the U.S. has fallen on tough times.  Food pantries and soup kitchens are reporting an increase in the number of people seeking their services.  Even more disturbing:  many of those seeking help are familes whose parents both have full-time jobs.  

The working poor are nothing new in the U.S.  Each generation has had a segment of the population that just can't seem to make ends meet, no matter how hard they work.  The causes are many...low or no education, a depressed local economy, single-parent families struggling to get back on their feet, etc.  These days, food pantries are increasing seeing clients who never thought they would ever have to seek help in obtaining food for their families.  

During the recession of 1991, I found myself out of work, and on a couple of occasions, there was no food in the refrigerator or the cupboard.  With a few dollars wired to us by a helpful relative, my family was able to eat for another week.  We never sought the help of a food pantry, but in hindsight, we certainly could have and probably should have.  Perhaps it was pride that kept us from seeking that kind of help.

 I did learn a few things during those salad days in which we had no salad.   Here are a few steps that my family took to help stretch those food dollars a little further.

Cut Out the Drinks:  Save your money for milk and cut out expensive drink habits like soda, beer and bottled water.  

Stretch the meat budget:  Meats are the most expensive items in the grocery budget.  When trying to save money, think of meats as a side dish, or an ingredient in casseroles, soups or other one-dish meals.  There are other sources of protein available such as beans, tofu, soy or lentils.  Not only are they cheaper, but they are better for you, too.

Rice and pasta are your friends:  Nothing stretches a food budget like rice or pasta.  If you are concerned about the carbs, buy whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.  It might taste different at first, but after awhile you don't notice the difference.  Again, it's better for you than the plain white stuff.

Make what you have stretch further:  Casseroles, soups, stews, pasta dishes...these are the types of meals that will make the food you have last longer and stretch further.  I make a meatless chili that my family loves.  It's inexpensive, and makes enough for two to three meals.  

Grow your own:  If you have your own yard or flower beds, dedicate some of that space to herbs or vegetables.  It's amazing how much my family saved this last year on fresh herbs, and they taste so much better than the dried out stuff purchased at the grocery store.  

Coupons are cash:  If you use coupons on the things you normally buy, and combine them with in-store sales, the savings can really add up.  Of course, there are some great couponing tips here at The Dollar Stretcher.

Stick to the outer aisles:  Typically, the outer ailes of the grocery store are the main ones you should concern yourself with when shopping.  These are the ailes with dairy, eggs, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables.  For the most part, the inner aisles of the store contain all of the processed foods, and they are the foods that are expensive and not nearly as nutritious.  



Published Feb 03 2009, 08:54 PM by SavvyFrugality
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frugal_fun said:

Great tips!

The only thing I would add is to be careful about calling plant based protein (beans, tofu) better for you.  Eating plant based protiens certainly works in survival mode, but I had serious health problems after 2 years on a nearly meatless diet.  

Further research after my diet disaster left me of the opinion that there is very little science to confirm the idea that meat is bad for you or that vegetarianism markedly improves your health.  Bioavailable micro nutrients (meaning your body can readily absorb them)  tend to come from animal sources, not plants. (Iron and Omega-3s come to mind as 2 examples of that)

For survival during a short spell, beans/rice/tofu certainly works.  Just be careful with it for long term if you've got a choice.

February 4, 2009 9:56 PM

Millers Grain House said:

Very nice entry!

We've been living like this (all suggestions) for the last 3 years and it does make a difference in how long you can make it stretch.

It's been like 'the loaves and fishes' miracles at times, but endurance wins the race when you don't know where/when your next income is coming in!

Nice list and ideas!

Best Blessings!


February 9, 2009 1:57 PM

cheapChic said:

wow good way of thinking there..


February 15, 2009 12:58 AM

Heidi said:

Not only for German customers: Steer well clear of Maggi and Knorr (and the like). It´s mostly salt and flavor enhancer  - neither healthy nor tasty and very expensive.

Worst of all: This stuff may well confuse your sense of taste.

When you close your eyes and taste something - can you tell the difference between apple and pear? Or zucchini and cucumber? Can your kids?? ;) Great game for birthday party when blindfolded.


February 23, 2009 10:14 AM

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