Pie and Prejudice
Yes, those are bugs in the photo. Disgusting? Bear with me. I just returned from food shopping, done with great caution (more on that in a minute). As I was swiping my ATM card at the grocery store, I noticed that there are options such as debit, credit, or EBT. The EBT card is the food stamp card. I had never noticed that option before. So I asked the cashier, “If I swipe my EBT card, does it (the computer) know if what I’m buying is OK?” (qualifies for a FS purchase, I meant). I don’t know how to express how her face changed. Her smile changed a little, definitely less smiley. Her eyebrow lifted a little. Her head jerked a little. Her glance lingered before she answered, “Yes, the computer knows.”
I don’t have an EBT card. I was really just satisfying my own curiosity. But the way I asked it changed how this woman saw me. It was very clear on her face. I have made that same expression before. When The Boy brought home a jarful of bugs from school last week and showed me, I knew I wasn’t supposed to register complete disgust at some of G*d’s creatures. I faked a smile and said, “Make sure you keep those fed now,” and wondered how long till they die. Honestly, the look on the cashier’s face did just that: Must not sneer. Must be polite. Answer question. End transaction. Next…
Perhaps I imagined it. Perhaps not. I will experiment with this question in some other locales and see what happens. Very, very interesting. But shocking, I must admit. I didn’t expect to see a visible change in attitude from a mere question about the food stamp system. Lucky for me, I didn’t pull out a wad of paper stamps, or they’d be tarring and papering me now, I suspect. Perhaps not. Just a fluke? Hmm.
We have a Father’s Day BBQ set for Sunday, and that means extra food for guests. I saved up my shopping until today, and split the money with Mr. Husband. He’s planning to stop at Smart & Final near his office tonight, with a short list of bulk-buy foods. If certain items cost more than a set price, he won’t buy them, and I’ll go back Saturday and get them on sale with my coupons. Either way, we’ll get the best buy. His list includes lemonade mix, hamburger patties, buns, salsa, sour cream and tortilla chips. Mine included, besides basics for the family, chips, onion soup mix (for dip), ice cream and cones, veggie burgers, graham crackers and condensed milk.
Today’s shopping trip stayed out of the meat department, bread section, and beverage lanes. I’m making the Key lime pie ($2 for the limes, $2 for the condensed milk, $4 for the max-pack of graham crackers). Comparing prices, there were no Key lime pies, but a bakery lemon meringue pie was $9.99. I spent time debating buying potato chips on sale vs coupons, and finally bought a family pack because it has the least packaging and the most chips. I could have saved more on another brand, but it was triple-wrapped, and there’s already too much plastic in the world. And nobody needs that many potato chips (a non-food item, if you ask me). I’m baking cookies for the party, and we have hot dogs, sausages and chicken in the freezer. Guests are bringing side dishes and beer. With the chips and dip, fresh veggies and desserts, we ought to be in good shape for food — but our budget will be much smaller for next week.
My grocery shopping came to $64.51. Two biggest items were peanut butter, of which I bought the large jar [$7.99], and coffee, of which I bought a different brand (Peerless, of Oakland), cheaper than the Rogers Family brand but still local [$8.69]. That, plus $31 spent at the farmers’ market on Tuesday, puts us at $95.51 for this week’s groceries. I will post a running total soon, including whatever we spent on BBQ party food.
Yes, this is day 18, and yes, there are 12 days left to go. And yes, I realize that with today’s shopping, we are about $110 away from busting the food stamp budget. So how Mr. Husband does with his shopping today will make a big difference in how the rest of the month goes. And the rest of the month will be a new kind of challenge — the hang-in-there challenge.
Breakfast: Julia: 2 hard-boiled eggs*, toast with jam, coffee. Patrick: oatmeal, grapefruit.
Snack: Nectarine, banana**
Lunch: Patrick: lunch meeting at work; Simone: (?); Ana: Hot Pocket, cucumbers, homemade snack mix (cereal, raisins, peanuts). Julia: cottage cheese and canned fruit salad, bread and butter, coffee.
Snack: Peanut butter & celery (PB costs about 7 cents per tablespoon, from the 4 lb jar)
Dinner: Quesadillas, reheated soup.
*Another mini food catastrophe: When the hard-boiled egg shell peels away most of the white. Very annoying. Lucky we had a second (the last one) hard-boiled egg in the fridge. I guess I should count 1.5 eggs, not 2.
** I don’t normally buy bananas, since they are shipped from out of the US, and that violates my general standard of “buy locally grown produce.” However, when I see the bags of slightly bruised bananas on sale for $1 or $2 a bag, I snap them up. That way, we all get to enjoy bananas for a couple of days, and the mushiest become banana bread. I put them in the freezer if I can’t bake/eat them soon. No matter how black and mushy they get, they’re still fantastic in banana bread and muffins.
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.