Notes from the Poor House

February 10, 2012|Posted in: family, food, Food Stamps, frugal, My World and Welcome to It, tea

Well, it’s a tough scene, but this is the scoop. Mr Husband is out of work on disability while we wait for back surgery, and a layoff shimmers on the horizon after that. We’re moving very quickly to a smaller, cheaper house (apartment, really) and have been packing, sorting and donating carloads of stuff. Cash flow sucks. I’m both trying to earn more as a freelancer while trying to move us single-handedly. So it looks like all that fun stuff on the June Food Stamp Challenge of a year and a half ago will come in handy…

Just thinking about some of the techniques (if they can be termed as such) that we’ve been using in the past couple of weeks to pinch pennies. Til they scream.

1. Use less dishwasher and laundry soap. Use less shampoo. Shampoo less often.
2. Coupons or sales for everything. Paying full price hurts. Physically. Eat everything out of the freezer. Even the weird sh*t. Grocery budget is about $10 a week at the moment.
3.  Use less milk. Add water to the juice. Powdered drink mixes = juice until further notice.

4. Have a calm discussion with son after finding half a banana tossed into the compost bucket. Refrain from killing him. Pat self on back for not killing anyone.

5. Sell books and DVDs so that we can take the boy out for ice cream for his birthday. Since we can’t afford a party or outing other than that, it was what we decided to do. Buying a quart would have been cheaper, but it was literally the only thing we did for his special day, so bite me. Don’t judge.

6. Eat less. I’m not kidding here. Popcorn makes a nice meal. 

7. Don’t throw out old coffee. Reheat, save in thermos, or keep in fridge. Make fresh coffee every other day (less coffee, more water). Use tea bags more than twice. No more than one teabag a day.

8. Make sure to take a snack and water on the road for errands. Working our way through the stock of granola bar flavors that everyone hates (strawberries and cream — yuck) (crumbles? no problem — just pretend it’s trail mix).

9. Enjoy old Halloween and Christmas candy because there isn;t any fresh coming in. 

10. Collect donation receipts from every place possible when donating, for next year’s taxes.

11. Look at everything with an eye for “how much could I get for that?” Put it on craigslist for sale. Lower price after a week. Lower price again. Put it on Freecycle or donate for receipt.

12. Make people pay what they owe instead of being magnanimous. (Daughters are supposed to pay $25 each toward cell phone bill but have slid a lot in the recent past. No more.)

13. Harvest fruit from neighborhood citrus trees. Make interesting juice combinations.

14. Send in all FSA medical receipts, rebates, refunds, etc. possible.

15. Stop donating cash and stop contributing to son’s 529 and my IRA until cash flow returns to normal.

16. Make a lot of something out of nothing. Example: cooked the tops of the broccoli but saved the stems. Making soup tonight with slightly soured milk and broccoli stems. Sounds disgusting until you whirl it in the blender. Then it’s the same as you’d get out of a can. But better. Because there will be no insects or thumbtacks in it.

17. Bake interesting treats — use shortening instead of butter (crisper texture), lots of walnuts (which we have in abundance for some reason), mixture of chocolate chips of various flavors and sizes. Delicious! Pumpkin pancakes and muffins are next — with walnuts, of course.

18. Buy margarine instead of butter. I know. Kinda gross. Too bad.

19. Think about drinking coffee black. This is where we get a little desperate. Might have to put kids into the poorhouse instead of forego my half and half.


I can’t afford #20, so I’ll stop here. Watch this space for more adventures from the edge of doom!

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of "Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop" and "Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News" (rep'd by Booktrope). She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. Her articles have appeared in Thrillist, Quill, Paste, San Francisco Chronicle, and in many magazines; her latest poetry appears in The East Bay Literary review.

11 Comments

  1. noreply@blogger.com'

    Unknown
    February 10, 2012

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    We’re right there with you, Julia. Have you noticed how the lines are growing at the recycle station? Those guys used to be the loneliest guys in town. Now they’re working their butts off. Everybody’s cashing in bottles and cans now.

  2. noreply@blogger.com'

    Wendy
    February 10, 2012

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    Sorry to hear about your predicament, and hope Mr H mends quickly!

  3. noreply@blogger.com'

    LisaPie
    February 11, 2012

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    Oh Hoolia,

    This is a tough time, but you are so well prepared to handle this and I have all the faith in the world that you will all come through this dip in the road with resolve and with lessons learned.

    Check out http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ and also Hillbilly Housewife for some great strategies for food stretching and menu planning.

    And girl, I tend to use my own tea bags 2, 3 and even 4 times before they go in the compost. But you know I have waaaaay too many. Can I send you some of my excess so that you can indulge a little?

    Will you be able to garden at all in your new place? Container gardening? If so, I can send you some seeds. We use only organic, heirloom and my Mr. Husband saves seeds from year to year, so I promise there won’t be any mass-produced, possibly GMO ones in the mix.

    I tend to not use my coupons that come in my Sunday newspaper, because I am just not that dedicated. I can mail them to you if you would like.

    What else? What can I do that would ease your burden just a bit? Just say the word!

  4. noreply@blogger.com'

    Jon Spangler
    February 11, 2012

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    We understand your predicament, Julia.
    We had to sell our house and move in 2009 after never recovering fully from the dot-com bust of 2001-2002.
    Our savings are gone, and so are the proceeds from selling the house.

    The good news: our business is finally picking up (since Q3 of 2011) and there seems to be more work ahead.

    Hang in there, and don’t be afraid to call on your friends. (We did.)

  5. noreply@blogger.com'

    Mairsydoats
    February 12, 2012

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    I’m also feeling your pain. (Unemployed, looking for work, eating the cupboard food.) I noticed your postings on Freecycle, was hoping it was just a good purge of stuff. I’ll go over to Freecycle to offer some moving boxes. Much love. Bear up, girl. And know that sometimes full-price ice cream is necessary.

  6. noreply@blogger.com'

    Anonymous
    February 13, 2012

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    Would you consider adding a “donate” button to the blog?

  7. noreply@blogger.com'

    Anonymous
    February 13, 2012

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    I second Anonymous @5:37. I enjoy your blog and would be happy to make a donation. Thanks.

  8. noreply@blogger.com'

    mamagotcha
    February 14, 2012

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    Hey girl… thinking of you and sending you wishes of prosperity and health. We just finished the last of my ex’s child support payments, so we are joining you on the super-tight rations. I’m making all our bread and most meals, and trying to scrape up a few writing assignments… been out of the saddle for a long time, though. Our farmers markets haven’t started yet (not until April or May), but I suspect you have them year round? Cruise the stalls at the end and you can get some amazing deals… they really don’t want to haul it back with them. I haven’t given up on driving out in May this year, but it’s not looking good… if I do, though, let’s try to hook up? xoxo from Chillinois

  9. noreply@blogger.com'

    Anonymous
    February 15, 2012

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    When I want to buy something that is not 200% necessary, I ask myself “how much would I sell it in a garage sale” and usually the 20 € I would spend end up being 50 cts there, so i just don’t buy it.
    Pauline

  10. noreply@blogger.com'

    MaggieMojo
    February 23, 2012

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    If you added a donate button – I would donate!

    I actually just started rereading your June Food Stamp Challenge to help me remember my food budget and put grocery spending into perspective.

    I hope Mr. H heals up quickly and everything works out for your family. Keep your chin up, people out there are cheering for you!

  11. noreply@blogger.com'

    julia park tracey
    March 22, 2012

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    I just read all your comments and thank you — super sweet and supportive! Mr. Husband just had his back surgery and the disability checks finally came, and we finally moved and finished moving, so we’re off the ledge for now. I’m kicking into gear with some writing projects, so (finally) there will be more Muse soon. Really appreciate your Love, peeps. Thank you <3

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