Fred and I have recently been going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Part of our push towards self-sufficiency is attempting to become completely debt free. True independence means not being slave to a financial institution. We have given up lots of material things over the last two years and frankly we do not miss them but what we have not managed to do is learn to save for purchases versus buying them on credit. I admit I was leery of even taking the class but since the first class was free we decided to at least check it out.
The program works but it is extremely difficult. Of course I guess that explains why so few Americans are debt free. It is hard to decided exactly how much money you will spend on what and then stick to that regardless of changing circumstances and it is hard to budget out ever cent you make before you make it and then hold fast to that commitment, forgoing the extra wants and temptations that pop up through the month.
But here is what is really difficult: realizing that, if you are going to pay down debt than you only have “x” amount of dollars left to spend on groceries and let me tell you fresh produce, organic dairy and soy products are not cheap. This has been the biggest struggle. How do you fix healthy wholesome food and do so cheaply in the dead of winter when getting a fresh veggie is like looking for a Baptist preacher at the local juke joint. Not to mention buying organic is like trying to buy gold or gasoline or Faberge eggs.
In the past I paid all the bills that were immediately due in that pay cycle, I would ignore the few extra that were not covered and whatever was left in the bank was food and gas money. Although we were not bouncing checks this was not a very efficient way to balance the checkbook. Sure, it allowed me to generally spend with impunity at the grocery store but it was doing nothing to get us out of debt and big purchases (and emergencies) were still made on credit. We do not want to live like that forever and we both agreed it was time for a change.
I found the Dave Ramsey class on line after talking with several people and listening to their testimonies about how they had successfully paid of staggering debts and were living their lives with a whole new lease on freedom instead of a new Lexus (or in our case a tractor). After hearing these things and talking about it with Fred, our folks and even our pastor I thought God was really pushing us into the class and so far it has been a success and a very helpful tool.
What I cannot get past though is the utter disappointment with the food budget. I am sick of eating beans, potatoes, oats, cabbage, apples and pasta. Those few staples are cheap and fit within our budget. Asparagus, squash, fancy lettuce, fresh tofu, pears, pineapples, soy milk and the other pricey items that have, in the past, been staples are now things that have to be picked between and done so sparingly. Curries, basmati, quinoa and other things that I used to make several times a week are now treats. I have cut our grocery bill almost in half but I have done so at the expense of our palates. Well, my palate.
It is frustrating. I know that for the most part I am still feeding my family relatively healthily but we are eating many more carbohydrates and far fewer colorful vegetables than I like. I know that this is a temporary situation. Spring is coming soon and with spring will come a garden of those vegetables I crave without the colossal price tag of the supermarket. Also, at some point (hopefully), we will be out of debt and the money that is now geared towards making us financially free can once again, in part, be earmarked for our bellies.
Here is the other problem and I can see now how easily it is to fall into the trap of low income families everywhere: It is cheap to eat CRAP. If I took my family to McDonald’s every night and everyone ordered dinner off the dollar menu and skipped soda I could easily cut our food bill in half again. Likewise if I went to the grocery store and shopped only in the middle isles of boxed corn and fake cheese I could save a bundle too. This is so depressing.
When my dad was growing up, with eight brothers and sisters, they were poor. Back then poor meant you ate what you raised and grew, not that you went to McDonald’s or ate Spaghettos and EasyMac every night. But now, for most people, it is the path of least resistance. So not only are the poor financially oppressed but they are malnourished as well. Our government hands out food stamps but instead of subsidizing the price of fruits and veggies we subsidize the bastardization of the corn industry so it is cheaper to buy a bunch of boxed corn products and feed America’s children powdered mystery chemicals. Then we are all stupefied as to the reason kid’s grades are atrocious and things like ADD, autism and behavioral problems are rampant.
I am frustrated. I know that doing the whole budget thing now will lead us to a better future and so far it has not been awful but I admit, the place I feel it the most is at the grocery and I also admit to being tempted to skip the produce all together and stretch our food dollars a little more by buying boxed poison. It is a tough and narrow path. There is a balance somewhere but it is not easy to find.
Much love, thanks for reading,