A few weeks ago, I was attacked. I got attacked by something that I’ve been attacked by before. By this time, I should know its patterns, and be able to smell it coming. But no, I was blindsided with a cart full of groceries, two yelling kids, four heavy pumpkins and the high cost of my morals.
I was attacked by “The Dreaded D” as it’s called in my house… DECLINED.
Yup, the debit card went into the machine and came out useless. Some car troubles, cell phone repairs and birthdays had rendered our savings next to nil. So there I was, trying to move money that wasn’t there to move.
That poor clerk behind the register was young. I wonder if I was the first person he had ever had to aid in an attack of the Dreaded D. He was ashen when I looked up and said, “I’ll be a minute.”
Soon it became like every Hallmark movie about a poor struggling family.
I traveled around the store putting back things that we really didn’t need, planning “scrape by” meals in my head. We can live off pocket lint and ketchup the next couple of weeks, right? I mean, the kids don’t want to eat even WHEN we have food. They might like the change.
The next two weeks, my husband and I were thrift ninjas. We pooled all of the change we could find in the house to put enough gas in the car to get him to work and me to Once Upon a Child to sell an old high chair, toys, and clothes the kids had outgrown.
We got through the two weeks. It was rough. I began to get used to going to sleep with a heavy weight on my chest and waking up to the same feeling. Andy’s paycheck went into our bank account and the feeling dissipated slightly.
We were in the black. But for how long?
The fear took over. Andy and I scoured our bank statement to see where we could cut costs. There had to be a way. We changed car insurance and saved ourselves sixty dollars a month. Any extra spending for recreational activities during the week with the kids needed to be cut. Unless it was free, it wasn’t happening. No eating out. No buying new clothes unless extremely necessary and even then, places like Goodwill always were the first stop. And then it was there, the last big expense, groceries.
I buy the groceries and do the cooking each week, so I knew it was up to me to get the cost down. I knew there was an easy way of doing it, but for some reason, it was hard for me to follow through.
I have always been a huge fan of cage-free, free-range, and organic food.
I was a vegetarian until I was pregnant with my son and was against factory farming and BST use in the dairy industry. I had done the research, seen the images and those things had dictated my shopping choices since I was fifteen.
Now, here I was in the grocery store, looking at the Hannaford’s brand eggs and the free-range eggs. One carton said $1.25 and the other said $3.25. A whole two dollars difference. Just the previous week, we had been looking in the couch cushions to put gas in our car. Two dollars is a lot of money when you don’t have any. But the image of those chickens crammed in tiny cages, pecking each other kept flashing in my mind. I stood in front of the egg cooler, like a crazy woman, for a good five minutes. I wonder what other shoppers must have thought.
Eventually, I put my hand into the cooler and pulled out the Hannaford brand $1.25 eggs. I put them into the cart and as I walked away, something happened that shocked me. I felt no guilt.
My kids were going to be able to eat and that was the only thing, at that moment, that I cared about.
After shopping and getting rid of all brand names in sight, (except for Goldfish crackers, why aren’t there any Hannaford’s brand Goldfish crackers?) I really began to understand some core things that so many people have already come to understand as parents.
Your position as a parent and as a human being is constantly in motion, either forward, backward or disappearing completely.
My stance before I had children was firm. I would only buy the products that I deemed socially responsible and that fit in with my personal morals. Now, that line has moved. I buy the products that I deem socially responsible when I actually CAN buy them, and when my bank account affords me the breathing room to begin to think about being more socially responsible with my choices. My stance deviated slightly, but it still remains, though it’s opacity is slightly lower.
If there’s one thing my children continue to teach me, it’s that I need to go with the flow, don’t sweat the small stuff, and for now, save the chickens when I can afford to save the chickens.
If you should ever find yourself in the same situation and can’t seem to make ends meet, there are places all over the state that can help you. Please never feel ashamed if you need a helping hand.