Thankful for Labor (Day Weekend)

As you all probably know by now I've committed myself to a food stamp challenge as a humble attempt to raise awareness about Hunger right here in America. Right here in our city. Our neighborhood. Our neighbor.

Yesterday I went grocery shopping with my food stamp budget, a national average of $2 per meal, per person. That's roughly $126 for the week. Of course I took advantage of every coupon that I could and shopped with a plan for our meals and when we checked out, our total came to just under $120.

There were some sacrifices made. Mommy went without her bottles of wine. Daddy went without his beer. Juniper went without her gallon of Goldfish. Amongst other sacrifices. 

And if it weren't for those coupons, we would never have made it under the budget. HEB has these fantastic coupons where "if you buy item A" then "you get item B free" or "get $1 off item C" or "get $2 off item D" etc. and so forth. So when it came time to buy cheese for our week's worth of sandwiches, instead of buying our beloved Havarti, we picked up the Kraft Swiss Cheese because we could get it for free (for having purchased a bag of string cheese snacks for June). And instead of buying our usual Hazelnut Poppy Seed Bread, we bought a specific brand's Wheat Bread so that we could get a 6-pack of applesauce for free. Needless to say, we used these coupons wisely.

We officially started eating on the food stamp budget today. All was going well until Juniper and I decided to meet up with some friends at the San Antonio Children's Museum. (I'll take this moment to acknowledge that if this experience were REAL, then of course Juniper and I would not be meeting some friends at the Children's Museum. Instead, we would be at home where it wouldn't cost us $7 to play or $5 of gas in the car to get there or $8 for parking). We played for two hours and when it was time to leave we were hungry!

It was such a beautiful day out today. The temperature was milder than the usual and the sun was lower in the sky - the lighting was perfect for a nice cold beer and a bite to eat with a couple of friends along the Riverwalk, our kids playing.

But I had a commitment to honor.
So while our friends decided to go some where to get a bite to eat, Juniperand I returned home to have a sandwich.

Of course later, when Tim called to say he was coming home for dinner, we ended up deciding to meet up at the Riverwalk to share a meal. (Have I told you about my will?) The beauty of a dinner on the Riverwalk took hold of my will power and totally threw it on the ground.

We ordered one ham and cheese panini and a bottle of water for the three of us to share. Total damage? $8.50. That was $2.50 over our dinner food stamp budget. And officially stamped to my forehead is the word, FAILURE!

[Aside: I can totally understand how families would turn to Dollar Menus at Fast Food Chains for a "night out". For $6, you can get 6 double cheeseburgers - that feeds a lot.]

The irony of my flubbed up challenge today?


And I'm pretty sure that Tim is too. We each had a quarter of the sandwich, maybe 10 potato chips (Tim let me have the pickle). Juniper ate the rest.


The challenge today isn't a total flub, I don't think. I mean, I learned me a lesson or two...

What I am understanding is that no matter what silly little simulation that I try to play out during my challenge? It will never measure up to the real experience. I will never truly comprehend what it means to be hungry and without the means to provide for my family. And I hope that I will never have to.


On a similar note, I've learned that one in ten Americans do not have a job right now.
One in ten Americans.

It's interesting that this challenge happens to align itself with the Labor Day holiday - a weekend celebration symbolizing the end of summer and regarded as a day of rest and relaxation for many Americans. Scott Simon reminds us that this year not every American is glad of the day off of work, that there are millions of Americans who'd trade up their 'holiday' for some labor. If you haven't yet clicked on the link, do it! It's a short and well-written article that provides a perspective every one should consider.