Skip to main content

Feeding a Family is More Than a Trip to the Grocery Store

Governor Ted Kulongoski and his wife are trying to limit themselves to $42.00 for groceries for one week. That is the amount spent by the average food stamp recipient in Oregon. The stated goal is to call attention to the plight of hunger in our wealthy country. Cynics charge it is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Back in my medical school days I budgeted ten dollars per week for groceries. Since that was twenty-five years ago, it is probably not too far off from what the governor is trying to do now. I spend far more than that now, but lessons learned during those lean times carry over to my times of blessed abundance. Having very little makes one appreciate what is a necessity and what is a luxury. The more food is processed and packaged, the more expensive it is. Pre-shredded cheese, boned and skinned chicken breasts, or frozen dinners are luxuries. When I was a starving student, I shredded my own cheese, peeled the skin off the chicken breasts, and never ate frozen dinners. Now that times are better I still shred my own cheese, though I do indulge in the boneless-skinless chicken and keep some frozen entrees in the freezer for quick dinners. However, I recognize this as a privilege of prosperity, not a right for subsistence.

I have lived in areas with a high incidence of food stamp users. I would hear complaints that the food stamp users are buying steaks while the working poor were surviving on hamburger. I never saw that, but I did see a lot of poor economic choices in the checkout line. Why buy one pound of pre-formed hamburger patties when it twice as expensive as buying one pound of ground beef? I think a good home-economics course should be a pre-requisite for receiving food stamps.

I thought about the governor as I served dinner last night. Last Thursday I cooked a pork roast in the crock pot. The piece of meat cost less than six dollars. Four of us ate our fill and there was plenty left over. About half of the leftover meat was used for a meal of quesadillas this weekend. Last night the rest of the meat was used in some pork-fried rice. I had 2-3 serving of the pork-fried rice left over so that was put in the freezer to provide a quick meal on one of those nights when only 2 or 3 of us are home. For under six dollars, I served meat to our family of four for three meals. None of us felt deprived. If you add in the cost of the rice, beans, bell pepper, onions, tortillas and cheese, I still don’t think the cost of those three meals exceeded fifteen dollars.

Eating economically means taking the time to plan and prepare meals. It means giving up non-nutritional extras like soda and chips. It means buying the store brand instead of the name brand. It means buying a box of oatmeal for your breakfast cereal instead of the sugar sweetened corn puffs. Please do not think I am trying to belittle the plight of those struggling to feed their families. Anyone can fall on hard times, and as a society, we should always be ready to offer a hand up to those in need. I think we are doing these families a disservice if we hand them food stamps with no guidance on how to economically buy and prepare food. However, if the guidance is given and ignored by food stamp recipients, I don’t want to hear wailing and gnashing of teeth about the struggles of surviving on food stamps. Rather than just showing us his visit to the grocery store, I think Governor Kulongoski should have shared his menu plans with us as well.


Podcastin Cyndi said…
I just discovered your blog from the Kitchen Madonna's blog....what a treat - a chocolate truffle of a blog, dense and rich. Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts with the world!
Little Sister said…
I too stumbled on your blog, although I can't remember from who's site.

Since my father had his heart attack a few years ago, and mom has been shopping for more health-oriented food, I've had the occassion to sneak a peak at the grocery bill; it's lower!
Catholic Mom said…
Welcome to you both! I am so glad to have you visit and share your thoughts. Cyndi, I noticed you are from Tulsa. I spent most of my childhood there and graduated from Bishop Kelley HS. What a small world!
Michelle said…
My guess is that the governor isn't also buying diapers on that budget?
David Jackson said…
As an Oregonian, I must say that while I disagree most of the time with our governor for his liberal politics, I have been impressed with his character. He also makes it a point to attend every funeral for every Oregon soldier who has been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. He doesn't take the press with him, and the few times he has talked about it, you can tell there is a genuine sincerity in his intent.
Anonymous said…
I've always been led to believe that it very difficult to survive on food stamps alone. It is for that reason that I try to be as generous as I can when giving to my parish and local food banks.

That said, and after reading what Michelle has written above, I think I ought to consider buying my very first box of diapers and giving those diapers away in addition to the canned goods that I normally donate. Thanks for the tip, Michelle.
Catholic Mom said…
Diapers are definitely a help. When I volunteered at a food pantry, almost all personal hygiene items were welcome--soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!