Just past the halfway mark in the month of June, and halfway through the June Food Stamp Challenge. Yesterday was our payday, so I paid bills and wrangled with a couple of items. If I was a food stamp recipient, I would be glad of the extra money coming in, but either way, I’m really annoyed about the money going out, too.
To wit: Our health insurance company sent me a letter saying that if I switched to their mail-order prescription service, my co-pay would decrease by 1/3. I would pay $20 for a three-month supply of Medicine A. At pharmacies, I pay $10 a month. OK, sounds good. I signed up, sent in my order for two meds and waited for the package to arrive. Then I saw the bank charge — for $90. What? Should have been $40 for three-month supplies of Medicines A and B. Maybe they’d sent it FedEx or something…?
The package arrived yesterday, and while one med was charged for $20, the other was $70 — more than double what I would have paid. I spent the (considerable) time on the phone calling the mail-order company, arguing and persuading, but it’s illegal to send back medications, they say, so I’m stuck. I do have the right to appeal the charges, and so I did that through member services (another lengthy phone call), and it came down to this: Medicine A was a generic, but medicine B was not, though I can request it for next time, but I’m hosed this time. Can’t return it, contest it, or do without it. That’s how my appeal went. So there’s $50 I did not mean to spend, and though I was playing by the rules (as set down by my oh-so-caring health insurance), still, got the short end of the stick! Irksome, but luckily for our real-life budget, won’t kill us.
However, in the world of the Food Stamp Budget, a hit of $50 — especially when we’d been led to believe by an institution we depend on and need, that it was a deep discount program (and it will be, 3 months from now, grrr) — this could have huge consequences. Because although food stamps pay for food, it doesn’t cover toothpaste, soap, medication, pet food, shoelaces, needles and thread, stain remover, gasoline, vet bills, telephone bills, bus money, late fees, postage, parking meters and more. Some of those things are necessary. Some are expendable. But $50 could make the difference between buying medicine or not. Having toothpaste or not. Having enough money for a bus pass. Not having a quarter for the parking meter, and risk getting a $45 — or $75 — or $125 parking ticket that we then cannot pay.
Which reminds me of another hot item at out house — pet food. One of our cats (Norma Jean, photo — how could you resist that sweet face?) has this ongoing issue with skin itchies — scratching, hair loss, dandruff, etc. It breaks my heart to have her itching like crazy. She seemed to live in utter misery. Turns out she’s allergic to the cheap cat food — the 20 lbs for $10 Brand-X kind. Bummer — now she is supposed to eat only canned food or the twice-as-costly no-filler-meat-only kind of kibble that you can get only at the pet food store. Budget buster in the extreme. No way could a person do this on food stamps or a low income — even though food stamps don’t buy pet food. The amount of money that is suddenly demanded by our cat’s special diet — eek. The “good” food is $15 for 5 lbs of kibble, and has to be supplemented with canned food — at about 50 cents a can per day.
Should poor people be allowed to own pets? That money has to come from somewhere, and no, it’s not the government — but should poor folks be spending cash on “good” pet food if they can’t afford to buy their own groceries? If you start down this path, the question of who gets to own pets, and should income be a factor in pet ownership, arises…another slippery slope when you consider how important for companionship, love, comfort, stress relief, shared exercise, or protection a dog or cat can offer. Hmmm. Another shadow on the horizon of what it is to be poor or struggling (unemployed, disabled, elderly, single parent, working poor, low income).
Breakfast: Julia: cereal, milk, coffee. Austin: last night’s spaghetti; Ana: yogurt; Simone: fruit (?); Patrick: oatmeal, hardboiled egg, green tea.
Lunch: Simone: leftovers and snacks (?); Ana: homemade calzone*, carrot/celery sticks; Patrick: salad; Julia: spaghetti, toasted leftover hot dog bun.
Snack: grapefruit slices, nectarine, hot tea with milk and sugar.
Dinner: Soup**, French bread and butter (bread: free; butter: $1.29 a pound with coupon/sale. 4 cents/tablespoon = about 2 cents per person). Cost of dinner: estimate $1 total for cup of dried beans, macaroni and leftover vegetables.
*Yes, I made an attempt at homemade Hot Pockets — using half of the homemade pizza dough and some leftover pizza sauce, I chopped some mushrooms and grated cheese and baked 4 homemade calzones. They are wrapped in the freezer and I await Ana’s review of how they taste. Sorry, no photo.
**Soup happens about once a week or so at Casa Tracey. The odds and ends of onion, celery, carrots, and other veggies go into a bag or a Tupperware and stay in the fridge until soup time. The soup costs virtually nothing to make, since it is all odds and ends. I don’t buy anything special for the making of soup. A cupful of noodles or rice adds bulk; leftover meat would go in, but we have no meat at present. Sometimes I save bones from several dinners in a bag in th freezer — even chicken bones from take-out hot wings can be thrown into a soup base. Boil the bones and then remove them before adding spices and veggies. A cupful of cooked beans is also nice to add protein. Today I’m boiling up some dried kidney beans for a three-bean salad for this weekend, and some of those beans will end up in the soup, literally. 🙂