Canned Chicken is among the staples given out at food pantries. I never heard of it before we needed help having enough food to eat. In my opinion, there was only one thing that sounded less appetizing. That was canned tuna in water. In fact, that smelled like cat food and was nauseating. But given the options of the few available sources of protein we could eat, I had to chose one of them. So I chose canned chicken.
How The Former Middle Class Eats
The decision to incorporate this newly discovered canned food into our meal planning did not come quickly or easily. In fact, it was a humbling even painful experience. The only thing I ate out of a can before now was by choice. I could always afford fresh, whole food. Chicken never came in a can. But something had changed. We had become part of The Former Middle Class.
Being A National Nutritional Statistic
Not only had we become part of The Former Middle Class, but we also had become part of the Poor Middle Class Nutrition Crisis. Feeding the poor and making sure that people who need assistance can get it is a national crisis. As rich as our country is, we have a serious problem with enough food for some while there is food waste by many. Good supermarket food is dumped because of imperfections in appearance or expiration dates. According to Sustainable Table | Food Waste, “In the US, we throw away 40 percent of our food supply every year.”
How Did This Happen to Us?
I could become historical, philosophical and even sociological about why there is a National Nutritional Food Crisis and how we went from being middle class to part of this crisis. But that is besides the point of this post. Our story is available on another post. This is not a theoretical treatise. This is our lives. So here I am with a substantial collection of canned chicken in my cupboard. I say it is there for emergencies. But the truth of the matter is, it is there because I need to learn 101 recipes for canned chicken if I want to eat every day, stay healthy, not go hungry and survive.
I am a Savvy Savings Shopper. Why do I call myself that? It is because I have had to learn, adopt and develop as many money saving, frugal habits and techniques as possible so that I could survive.
It has taken time, energy, research as well as trial and error to learn what to do and how to do it so I could be considered a savvy savings shopper. Consequently, the things that work have helped me to go from being One Day From Homeless, to a Senior Suburban Survivalist and now to A Savvy Savings Shopper.
Therefore the purpose of this blog post, A Savvy Savings Shopper, is to review some of these techniques, tools and tips I have learned. I wish to share what has worked for me with other people who need and want to survive, too. In addition, recognition goes to others who have accomplished a similar feat and to recognize them with The Savvy Savings Shopper Award.
ASKING FOR HELP
Back in 2008 when the stock market crashed and my husband was laid off from his job, all within one week, I realized we were going to need help. It really sank in when we had to use his pension and lose my savings just to survive. We needed help. As a result, I had to swallow my pride then learn to ask for help.
We researched and applied for whatever social services we could qualify for. We sought help from our local senior center. We got food stamps which were very helpful initially. This was because the amount we got is based upon a peculiar formula reflecting past income and medical expenses. But as time went on, our income was reduced to unemployment and there was less money for medical expenses. As a result, our monthly food stamp allotment diminished substantially.
APPLYING AND QUALIFYING FOR GOVERNMENT ASSISTED LIVING
Since we had such limited income and minimal food stamps, we had to find other sources for food. There are food pantries in just about every town where we live. Most are open once a month and some are weekly. We have found the ones that work best for us. But even then, there is still a shortage of fresh produce and meat.
GOING TO FOOD PANTRIES FOR CLOTHES
Some food pantries also have clothes that have been donated. Depending upon the source and the community, the clothes can be very good quality. Since I cannot afford to even go to thrift stores any more, these ‘Lord’s Taylors’, as my husband calls them, are a tremendous help.
Some websites are specifically for coupons for food, household and all kinds of item. One of them is coupons.com.
AARP.COM is a great source for senior discounts. In addition, there are restaurants and stores that give discounts to seniors. But don’t wait for them to tell you. ASK rather than wait for them to let you know!
Some supermarkets give everyday discounts to seniors, like Wild By Nature. Others have senior discounts one day of the week, like Gala Fresh and Compare. Riteaid gives seniors a discount on the first Wednesday of the month.
SHOPPING AT DISCOUNT STORES
There are all kinds of discount stores from cheap dollar stores to high end ones. My favorite is HomeGoods. In fact, if you use their credit card for purchases, you earn points and get a $10 store coupon for each 1000 points earned.
SHOPPING WHERE I GET GREAT SAVINGS
CVS Pharmacy, their official name, carries much more than prescriptions. I buy all kinds of household items there. Because they regularly offer discount coupons, I regularly shop at their stores. In fact, they just acknowledged me as being in the top 4% of supersavers in their New York stores. This is because I regularly make purchases at deep discounts from CVS. These include:
• all my paper goods
• kitchen accessories
• dental care products
• occasional candy and dessert treats
• nasal and vision aids
• over the counter medical needs
• clothes and shoes
• hair care products
• special body soaps
• skin care products
GETTING FURNISHINGS FROM THE TRASH (STREET FINDS) AND GARAGE SALES
Unless something is made out of fabric and stuffing, like beds and chairs, I have gotten almost all our furniture from street finds or garage sales. In fact, the quality of old wooden furniture is far superior to the new cheap materials, chipboard and fast growing pine. Consequently, old furniture is in demand.
A manual that describes the process step-by-step is in progress. This makes it possible for anyone to upcycle old furniture and furnishings.
USING CREDIT CARDS RESPONSIBLY
PLEASE NOTE THE NEW SECTION DEVOTED TO CREDIT CARDS USAGE. BECAUSE OF THIS, CREDIT CARD USE SYSTEMS ARE NO LONGER PART OF SAVVY SHOPPING SAVINGS TOOLS.
Because of the potential financial dangers of using credit cards irresponsibly, I especially caution that only people with excellent credit and extreme diligence with their use of credit cards follow these ideas. I compiled two booklet from resource materials that detail the best credit cards to use for cash back and travel rewards. They are The Best Cash Back Credit Cards and The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards. Furthermore, there is a website creditcards.com that will actually calculate which are the best credit cards to use for individual needs.
PARTICIPATING IN SOCIAL MEDIA ON THIS TOPIC
Participating in Facebook groups and pages as well as websites can provide lots of new information. The groups can also function as support groups. I strongly recommend joining and participating. Some of my favorite sources are listed below.
READING AND WRITING BLOG POSTS WITH SUGGESTIONS ON THIS TOPIC
Reading and writing blog posts are two great ways of learning new tips as well as processing what one knows on this topic. Here is another blog post I wrote on this topic, Living A Consciously Frugal Life.
READ EVERYTHING I CAN ON THIS TOPIC AND WRITE AN eBOOK ABOUT IT
Especially relevant to writing on this topic to read, are other sources of material. Based upon extensive research and writing, I composed, The Poor Middle Class Crisis eBook. It is designed to ‘tell our story’, going from ‘One Day from Homeless’ to where we are now. The book is filled with savvy savings shopper tips.
In conclusion, the list of resources is growing exponentially. It will continue to grow as the need and demand for savvy shavings shopping tips increases.
Why This Post Is Called A Nutrition Crisis Rather Than A Food Crisis
The Poor Middle Class Nutrition crisis is due to the lack of healthy, nutritious, especially locally grown food. It is not as much about the availability of food itself. There are plenty of sources for cheap, empty calorie items. But access to affordable, healthy, local food is a the root of the Poor Middle Class Nutrition Crisis. The major food challenges for the Poor Middle Class are:
• having access to healthy food
• affording to eat healthy food
• eating enough nutritionally rich food
• staying healthy by being able to eat healthfully
Challenges & Solutions to the Poor Middle Class Nutrition Crisis
The following tools for accessing food have both pros and cons. The one thing they have in common is the added expense of time. Some involve monetary cost. Others are financially free. There is always a trade-off. This can also require a significant adjustment in lifestyle if one is used to supermarket shopping for quick and easy access. Here are some suggested alternatives that are mainstream or government sponsored:
• Buy In Bulk
• Use Store & Brand Coupons
• Barter & Exchange Products
• Get WIC & Farmers Market Coupons
• Go To Food Pantries
• Collect Food Stamps
Here are Alternative Lifestyle Means of Obtaining Food
• Go Dumpster Diving-This food was retrieved from dumpster diving
• Foraging for Food is making use of nature’s bounty, free for the taking, with gratitude. Be sure you are a pro or are foraging with a pro. You want to pick healthy not deadly items.
• Farm your own chickens for eggs, cows for milk and goats for milk
• Make Your Own Essentials and Seasonal Treats with fermentation, canning and other wholesome preserving techniques.Here is a great alternative. It is the Afro Jam story. I just love their graphics.
• Kill Your Own Food-This is a controversial but reasonable alternative. It is probably the cleanest source of animal protein, fish and fowl. It certainly is much harder to obtain than at the supermarket. But you know exactly where it comes from. It also brings us much closer to nature in relationship with the animal that has died for us to survive.
The Issue of Hunger
In addition to the existence of a nutrition crisis, there are people who go hungry in this country. Each of these crises is unique. Here is a short list about hunger and health:
• hunger is the result of a lack of food
• health is the result of a lack of healthy food
• accessibility and availability are issues
• poverty and homelessness can be a contributing factor
• food waste is a very serious contributor to food insecurity
As part of a holiday charity campaign, the Walmart Foundation last month donated $1.5 million to food pantries across the country, while hundreds of thousands of Walmart’s own workers struggle to feed themselves and their families thanks to the corporation’s famously low wages.
So far no one has come up with a wool soup recipe for me. Why do I need one? you may ask. Well, it involves a story. So I hope you don’t mind. Have a seat and make yourself at home.
In 2008, when the stock market crashed . . . . Let’s stop right there and go to a shorter version of my story. We are part of The Middle Class Poor. We get food stamps, go to food pantries and get assistance for living. I am not sure how much living one can call this when food stamps is $17 per month (it went up from $15!). Food pantries have no food we can eat. That is where the wool soup recipe comes into the story.
One of the food pantries we go to is in a church that has a wealthy congregation. I get clothes from Talbot, Lord & Taylor and lots of other prestigious names. It is fun to get new clothes each month. But I need food. I need real food not peanut butter and jelly or mac ‘n cheese. So therein lies my problem. I had become clothes rich and food poor. If I could only find a wool soup recipe, then I could be both food and clothes rich. No wool soup recipe has appeared or is likely to do so in the near future. It became apparent to me that I would have to find another solution to our hunger/nutrition crisis. I decided to call it The Food Project.
The first idea was something called, Donate It Local. I started my research by going around to local restaurants and supermarkets to see if they would like to donate food that was not used up by the end of the day or was about to expire. The answer was the same everywhere. ‘Sorry, but we can’t risk the liability if someone gets sick’. ‘If someone gets sick’, I thought. Hah, I’ll risk it. It’s better than going hungry. But not as far as the powers that be saw it. They could only respond in terms of their potential legal situation instead of the real food/nutrition crisis.
My next effort was part of the Global Food rEvolution. The focus was on fighting for healthier, non-gmo food. I participated in that for a while by posting about everything to do with GMOs and their danger. I also announced all the marches and activities I could for Occupy Monsanto and other such rallies. But we were still hungry and the amount of money we had available for food when our food stamps were cut from $367/month to $15/month was a shocking wake-up call that we had to do some thing more immediate and personal.
Back to Basics and Millenial Food Freedom felt more personal and hands on for us than ‘occupying’ a global corporation. I began to make my own laundry detergent and thought about other ways to save money.
When we were receiving $367/month in food stamps, I was able to food shop in our local health food supermarket and get the kind of foods we needed to stay healthy. One of my favorites had become Kombucha. It is a fermented tea that is high in probiotics, energy boosting and very healthy. But at $3.50 a bottle and $15/month in food stamps, a disparity existed-no more store bought Kombucha. So I started to make my own. I became more involved in making other fermented foods and drinks too. For fun, I named my efforts, Ali’s Kombucha Kitchen.
I now spend most of my time in Ali’s Kombucha Kitchen as A Food Fermentation Farmer doing what I call, Fermented Food Farming. I have no land. I have no garden. I do not have a single flower pot. But I have managed to learn how to cook, prepare and preserve fermented and cultured food stuffs that are nutrient rich and delicious.
One of my traditional nutrition favorites is bone broth. It is as old as the hills as are many of the other culturally indigenous foods and beverages I am learning to make. Many of these traditions have Facebook groups where I can meet other like-minded folks and discuss our experiences.
We still have a ways to go. But I already feel as warm and nourished inside like when I have a wool sweater or skirt on the outside. I may not have found my wool soup recipe. But wool has led me in the right direction. I will not rest until I have found The 100 Percent Solution for the hunger/nutrition crisis for everyone.
Are you part of the Middle Class Poor? We are. How did it happen? What are we doing about it? These are the two questions I will answer in this blog post.
I’d like to make a few points about being Middle Class Poor. We are not alone. The problem is increasing. The government plans to have less involvement in helping to solve this problem. For example, as illustrated in her article, Hunger is all around us, yet it doesn’t have to be, Randi Shubin Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest explains what is going on. Her post starts with the following statement, “The recent vote by Congress to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — the food stamp program known as SNAP — over the next 10 years is alarming. If these cuts become law, those who are already struggling to afford food will be thrust into further hardship, increasing hunger across America and right here on Long Island.”
Because the problem is increasing and the government will have less to do with solving it, we will have to find alternative resources to solve it ourselves. That is a big part of the reason for the title of this post and the creation of a Facebook group, Resources for the Middle Class Poor. There are many private donors and nonprofit resources, like the Island Harvest Food Bank that are currently helping people.
Right now, I would like to go back to the question, how did it happen? For us, the answer is simple, ‘2008’. In the same week, my husband was laid off from his job and the stock market crashed. The fallout from that led to my own crash, physically and emotionally. I was hospitalized and became unable to work. Our lives have changed dramatically in the last five years. We had savings, we had security and we thought we had stability. The rug was completely pulled out from under us. We went from being middle class to being middle class poor.
The upside of having our lives turned upside down is that our new lives have brought us extraordinary challenges and opportunities that we never imagined experiencing. Sometimes it has been terrifying. But the more we go through, the more miracles we have received and the stronger we become. Our fear has been replaced with faith. We are inspired to pass on to others what we are learning as we help ourselves navigate our new path as part of the Middle Class Poor.
For more resource information, refer to my facebook page and group shown below.
My husband volunteers working with others and is actually studying to become credentialed in a helping field. I have gone completely wild applying my years of social media marketing studies to using social media as a communication tool for this serious, real life issue. I have created numerous facebook pages including, The Middle Class Poor and the companion group, Resources for the Middle Class Poor. As we help ourselves to grow into our new state of existence, we are working to help others who are in situations similar to ours. Together we will change the world. It may only be our world. But as Ghandi is credited with saying, ‘Be the change in the world you want to see’.