Living on a tight budget during the recession

Dear Friends,

Last week I shared my conversation with a customer at the grocery store. I received a huge positive response from many people. So I decided to share with you another dialogue.

Recently, my close friend called me from Portland and told me she lost her job. Her husband had also been laid off several months earlier. I have changed my friend’s name to “Amy” for privacy reasons. She gave me permission to share our conversation with you. 

Amy: So, it happened. As of last Monday, I am unemployed.
Victoria: Do you have a place to live?
A: Yes, my parents allowed us to live in their apartment at no charge for several months because our current joint income is less than $1000 per month.
Save Money During The Recession V: How are your children? How old are they now?
A: My daughter is seven, and my son is five.
V: Oh, Amy, can I do anything for you?
A: Thank you. The biggest problem is our food. We had to cut our grocery expenses considerably. I don’t shop at a health store any longer, and I don’t buy organic.
V: Wow! What do you guys eat these days? Do you drink your green smoothies?
A: No, we cannot afford them any more. We’ve been surviving on morning cereals for breakfast, noodles for lunch and pizza for the evenings almost every day. But still we spend over $20 every day.
V: $20? You can eat healthier and for less money.
A: How?
B: By preparing your meals from scratch,
A: No, no, no. First of all I don't know how to cook. Secondly, I remember how my grandmother spent many hours in the kitchen. I don't have time for cooking; searching for new job is taking all of my time. Plus my son stays at home now, because we stopped taking him to his daycare.
V: Have you ever cooked anything from scratch? Even once?
A: Like what? I have been buying frozen pizzas and baking them at home.
V: I mean cooking from scratch. For example, making vegetable soup, or baking yams?
A: Mm, I don’t think so. It seems too complicated and it is also expensive.
V: Expensive? Why do you think so?
A: I used to go to the health store for my lunch break and all of the soups and other vegetable dishes were expensive. I paid about $7 for my not so big plate.
V: The cost of meal at the lunch buffet includes large amounts for the service and labor in addition to the food cost; that is why it is so expensive.
A: I never thought of it.
V: Also you can make better food choices when you prepare your own food from scratch. For example you may add fresh sprouts to your plates. Growing sprouts in glass jars is fast and economical.
A: Victoria, you don’t understand our situation. I cannot worry about a healthy diet right now; we just need to survive.
V: What about your daily nutritional needs?
A: Our situation is temporary; we'll take care of our health soon.
V: When?
A: In the springtime it will be warmer and we will go to farmer’s market and buy inexpensive produce. We will even perform a green smoothie cleanse then.
V: Meanwhile you are living on morning cereal noodles and pizza?
A: At least, this food keeps us full longer because it is calorie dense.
V: Amy, therapists and nutrients that you need to receive daily such as for example vitamin C. Every one of you would need at least 90 mg of this vitamin daily. If you don't receive it you may begin to develop the symptoms of scurvy and your immune system will become weaker. Now, in the middle of winter it is advisable to consume even more vitamin C in order to prevent infection.
A: For vitamin C I buy my children bananas and apples every day.
V: How many bananas do they eat every day?
A: Each of them eats at least one banana or apple daily.
V: Amy, this is good. However, it’s not enough. One ripe banana provides approximately 15% of vitamin C. Same goes for one Apple. Each one of you need 90 mg or more of Vitamin C daily, because the human body cannot store vitamin C, but uses it every day.
A: So what can we do?
V: You may prepare cabbage salad. One couple shredded chopped green or red cabbage provides 85% of vitamin C. Combined with the banana or apple it will take care of your needs in vitamin C.
A: My kids won’t eat cabbage.
V: Contrary to popular belief, raw cabbage can be very enjoyable. You may chop one small head of green or red cabbage; add salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. That makes a tasty salad. Also, children usually enjoy munching on pieces of raw cabbage. Especially the red cabbage, because it's so beautiful. Of course, cabbage is rich in vitamin a, potassium, calcium and lots of other nutrients. One pound of organic cabbage costs usually around $2.
A: Where can I look up all this nutritional information?
V: One of the most reliable sources is this:
A: Victoria, I often wonder, how come other people live their entire lives on pasta and pizza?
V: And that is why there are so many sick people, and so many of them catch the flu.
A: But what if they don’t have enough money?
V: Amy, I am sure it is possible to spend under $20 per day and still keep your family fed much healthier diet.
A: Under $20?
V: Yes! And sometimes even less.
A: Honestly, it's hard to believe.
V: For example, Amy, you can use root vegetables, such as beets, carrots, daikon, or yams. They are tasty raw. Just grate them and add oil, lemon juice, and sea salt. One pound of organic red beets cost about $1.40. If you buy them in bulk, it will cost you even less. For a family of four, you need to buy two pounds. Beets are highly nutritious; they are a rich source of B-complex, phytochemicals, and potassium. If you happen to buy beets with the tops, you may use them in salads and smoothies, as the top greens are rather excellent source of vitamin C.
A: Can I prepare a more calorie-dense food with these veggies?
V: Yes, you can steam, boil, or bake vegetables. You may also prepare a vegetable soup. Root vegetables are one of the easiest things to cook. I taught my five-year-old granddaughter how to cook beet soup.
A: Vegetable soup is my favorite food! But it seems to be so complicated to make it. I have heard you have to add potatoes, flour, spices, and lots of other stuff to make a soup.
V:  You may literally choose any veggies for your soup. You don't have to add flour to your soup. Many years ago, some poor people started adding flour to their soups to make it thicker. You want to add nothing but vegetables to your soup and that will be the tastiest. I think that vegetable soup is the easiest dish in the world to prepare.
A: Really? Tell me how.
V: For example, you have 5 stalks celery, 2 yams, 1 onion, and 5 mushrooms. Wash the vegetables. Then cut them in 1-inch cubes. Bring about five or six cups of water to boil. Don't put too much water. Add only enough water just to cover your veggies. Put cubed veggies in boiling water, reduce the heat, cover with a lid, and cook on “low” heat for about five minutes. As an option, after your soup is done and cooled down a little, you may add a tablespoon of raw salsa to your soup for better flavor.
A: That’s all?
V: Yes, it is really simple.
A: I am excited and will start tonight. I am going to prepare cabbage salad and vegetable soup for our dinner. Thank you!

Love, Victoria


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