Sunday, December 4, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--a dark secret

I know a lot of times I seem pretty happy and make it sound like it is easy-peasy to do what I do. but I've also not hid the fact that I suffer from depression and anxiety disorder.  Some days, the strict food budgeting and the anxiety come crashing together and I become a drained, sobbing, emotional trainwreck.   This typically happens at least once a month, but this is what set it off this time.

For breakfast, my 6 year old son decided to get himself and the 2 year old bowls of cereal (my daughter is still at her grandma's house for a few days).  He forgot to put the box of cereal away when he was done though, left it on the table and wandered off to play or watch tv or whatever.  Before I noticed this, my 2 year old decided he wanted seconds and that he was a big boy who could get it himself.  Predictable, this resulted in the entire remaining box of cereal, the last cereal we'll have in the house, dumped all over the table.  I salvaged what I could, but it still resulted in a lot of lost cereal, since a fair amount landed in bowls that had a bit of milk in them or areas of the table that had a bit of liquid, either splashes of milk or water, on it.

Eventually, I got around to making breakfast for me and my husband.  We had eggs over easy and toast made from the sandwich loaf of bread I'd made the day before.  The boys wanted some too, so that served as their lunch.

We ended up having a late lunch of leftovers.  My husband got himself some of the roast venison dinner from the other day, but rather than putting gravy on here which would have been essentially free since it was made with the pan drippings and a bit of flour and water, he put ketchup on it.  When he got the ketchup out, I noticed that nearly half of the bottle, which I had thought was still full in the pantry, was actually nearly half gone!  I started to have a panic attack.  I became convinced we were going to run short of food for the month.  I do not deal well with discovering we have far less of something than I thought we had.  Everything is on too tight of a balance for that, especially in my brain.  I eventually calmed down enough to have my lunch of some of the broccoli, cheddar, potato soup from the day before and some of the bread I'd made and get some for the 2 year old as well.  The 6 year old just wanted bread at that time, but he and the 2 year old snacked on some cheese and carrots later as well, to balance it out and turn it into a decent dinner, since that's really what it was.

While the toddler was napping a bit later, my husband wanted some ice cream.  I'm not a huge fan of plain vanilla (especially artificially flavored vanilla, which is the kind of ice cream we can sort of afford), so I made some chocolate syrup to go on top of it.  What an improvement!

Later yet, my husband got out the tortilla chips, which by this point were mostly large crumbs rather than chips, for another snack.  I asked him if he'd like me to scrounge up some salsa to go with them, since the salsa was virtually free, since I made it, and the chips were expensive (yes, when you are on a budget like $161 a month to feed 5 people, a $3 item is considered expensive).  He declined and he and the boys ate up the rest of the chips.

I lost it.  Between the tortilla chips, the ketchup, and the juice that everyone seems to think we should buy more of because we are out of it, that's about $10 worth of food.  To most people, that would be no big deal, but here, we only have $61 to last us until the 21st, so that is a huge chunk of our budget.  We were going to have to go without something if I couldn't find a better solution.  I had a huge cry over this, to the point that I made myself sick.

Finally, I gave in and took one of the Ativan that the doctor gave me at the hospital a couple weeks ago for when I was just too stressed.  Then, I went to lay down and rest for a bit until the medicine could take effect.  Eventually, I noticed I was still tired (don't know if that was from the medicine or just crying), but I was emotionally numb.  I was calmed down and could start coming up with solutions to the problem.  I started searching for ways I could replace the ketchup by making some with things I have on hand like my homecanned tomatoes rather than buying some.  I discovered that I can't make authentic tortilla chips since I have cornmeal, not masa, and probably can't turn my unground corn into masa at this point because I don't think unslaked lime (the mineral, not the fruit) probably can't be bought on food stamps, even if I can find it in a store.  I probably could make some cornmeal based chips that would still taste good and served to get the homemade salsa into mouths.

I didn't work on any felt food or any other crafty or culinary project yesterday.  I was just too drained and worn out.  Hopefully, today will be better.  Maybe I'll even make some of those chips, so I can have some chips and salsa while making even more felt food tonight.


  1. I just wanna give you a great big hug! It's not always easy - in fact most of the time its pretty damn hard but you just keep on going. Hope today is better than yesterday.

  2. It seems to me that your husband seems unaware of the rules and snacks whenever he wants to. This adds to your burden. Not fair. He actually seems willful in his disregard for you. Just my take. A Family and Consumer
    Science teacher friend of mine prints out her monthly menus, which include snacks, and posts it on the fridge for her husband and two sons to see, So they can support the program.

  3. My husband is of the view that "the food is here and isn't at the point it needs to be rationed out like that" so he shouldn't be limited on what he can have. He think I'm overreacting because if that $61 isn't enough "there are other options".

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. The Holiday season brings with it so much extra anxiety, especially on fixed budgets. My grandmother would save free gifts she got through out the year and give us those as christmas gifts. She was a phenomenal cook...and on food stamps. Remember, don't put a limit on your dreams.

  5. Bless your heart. I understand totally, well, as best as someone else can sort of understand. I have suffered with depression and anxiety for 20 years. As a single mom of 4 I HAD to work so I plastered a smile on my face and went out and MADE it a good day for years (which is what you do, you MAKE the best of a bad situation) but two years ago all that crashed when I sobbed uncontrollably for 10 hrs straight and I ended up in a mental hospital and then had to retire and am now on SS disability. All the stress and energy it takes to do your best and make the best of it really takes its toll on you. Just living with depression and anxiety takes a huge amout of energy. Please take care of yourself. You are an amazing woman to do all that you do. You are stronger than you know but you are also suffering with medical issues. That you can function enough to do all that canning, take care of your family, and everything else is something, especially considering what depression & anxiety do to you. I wish I could help, physically, financially and emotionally. a virtual hug is all I can offer. take care

  6. I promise that if you find the money I sent to acornlittle (at) hotmail (yahoo) (dot) com, on November 19th, you can buy yourself enough corn chips and ketchup to last well into the new year. My husband used to be like that too, it took some training, but by making him what he likes,he is now well on board with the weekly meal plan! Hugs,


  7. Oh hon, I want to just wrap you in a big hug as well. I have similar problems although not nearly at the level you do.

    Right now the husband is munching on the Babybel cheese I bought for my lunch (he's had all but one so far) and the mini Club crackers I bought to go with it and the pepperoni I bought to make pizza the night the power went out. Needless to say I am ready to smack him. He gets all caveman when I don't work and feels entitled to what he wants when he wants it cause he is making the money, but forgets when I am working just as much that I matter as well and he has no excuse to not remember that. Its a boy thing, I'm convinced.

    I definitely get worse in the winter, especially working nights alot so my time is all wonky and I sleep through much of the daylight.

    My heart weeps for you, but I know there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel for good people like you. You've just got to make it there.

  8. Suzanne, was it a hotmail or yahoo address that it went to?

  9. Chris, you just share so much of yourself with us! I wrestle with anxiety myself, and it can be overwhelming in and of itself without having added pressures such as you are going through. (((Hugs))) The best thing you can do is not be too hard on yourself when you're having a rough time. It's hard to be fabulous 24/7, right? Take care and just keep on rolling the best you can.

  10. Corn chips can be made by purchasing the corn tortillas in the refrigerated section of the store. If you go to good will you can get a decent deep fryer and then teach your husband how to deep fry his own chips. If he runs out, he can make more. We saved a lot of money purchasing corn tortillas rather than bags of chips. My husband actually loves making all the chips. You can save all the oil, strain it put it into the fridge and use it again.
    There are ways to be more frugal without needing to stress, but putting a plan together is going to be important. If you're husband isn't willing to be on the same page when it comes to the budget, then maybe he should get another job. My intention isn't to be snotty or disrespectful, its just that there is only so much you can do with what you're given, and he will need to be more supportive. Consider him being supportive as a part of your will do you a world of good. :)

  11. Believe me, he is very willing to get another job and is looking very hard for on. Right now, he's at his approximately billionth interview (okay, not that many, but he's had a lot), but considering that Michigan has the third highest unemployment in the country, it is easier said than done. He's even got applications in at places like McDonald's, but so far, no luck. He's not about to start making anything himself when it comes to food and I'm not sure I want him to, as big of a mess as he makes and as much stuff as he tends to waste! I've thought about making tortilla chips, but, so far, I haven't because of lack of time. Between making so many other things from scratch, cooking up meals, keeping up the housekeeping, homeschooling, making Christmas presents for the kids, writing this blog and my other writing projects, and OCCASIONALLY taking the time to take care of myself....somehow, I don't end up with enough hours in the day to do everything I need/want/would like to do.

  12. I feel you! How are you now? Are things any better?

  13. Still pretty stressful, since my husband still doesn't have any prospects for a job, but it looks like we won't go hungry at least! How long it takes until we get an eviction notice or shut off notice for the utilities or have our vehicle back up for repossession....that's another matter.