Debt and Food

DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
DH = Dear Husband

Hanger and road rage

                On my way home from work one afternoon in late June, I made a detour to pick up DD2 from her summer job training. “What’s wrong?” she asked, noting my effort to keep an emerging crankiness under control. “I’m hungry,” I said. Traffic was bad, and our trip home involved another detour. As my hunger grew, irritation started to spill over. There’s the green arrow to turn left. Turn left already! Why aren’t you moving? HONK! HONNNNNK!
 “She gave you the finger you know,” DD2 informed me as we finally started to move.
“Who gave me the finger?”
“The woman in that car you honked at.”
SHE gave ME the finger when SHE was the one keeping us stuck at that light? Crankiness morphed into road rage and took on a life of its own. My eyes narrowed, glaring straight into the review mirror of the offending driver as an assortment of suppressed expletives came charging out of my mouth, and up went my middle finger. ‘Flipping the bird’ as it’s called.
“Mom!” This was a low point. Not a proud moment. DD2 was enjoying the spectacle, but her eyes were wide with surprise. It had literally been decades since I’d stuck up my middle finger in this kind of adolescent fury. DD2 had never witnessed her mother doing such a thing. “You really do get hangry,” she said emphatically and with a trace of wonder. Mistaking my silent shame for a lack of comprehension, she explained the term. “It means you get angry when you’re hungry.”

Club Thrifty’s rant on food and the American dream

                I regularly read other debt-bloggers, and this week I got some good chuckles out of a Club Thrifty post – a rant against the itemized annual budget for a family of four as presented in USA Todays analysis of the high cost of attaining the American dream these days. “And food.  Don’t get me started on food. Why does this family need $12,659 for groceries and an additional $3,662 for restaurant dining each year?  . . . [T]hat’s a total of $16,321 per year and $1,360 per month for this family of four to stuff their faces.  I have to ask, what in the hell are these people eating?  Filet mignon every night?  Try meatless Monday, folks.  It works great!  I feed my family of four for $500-$600 per month and no, we are not starving or eating Ramen for every meal.”
                I actually have some sympathetic understanding for this overeating family living in pursuit of the American dream. While we all need to eat to survive, there is a wide range in the human capacity for self-control when it comes to appetite. “I’ll just skip lunch,” I’ve heard people say. Or, “Supper won’t be for another hour, so just eat a little snack to tide you over.” I could no more skip a meal than fly. And if I’m ready to eat, a “snack” is just not going to do the trick. There’s always been an urgency to my hunger that sets me apart from others, and I if I don’t play it right, I end up overspending or overeating – or hangry.

Food and summer school

                I’m teaching a summer school co-op class this July and August, as I did last year, and the job involves a lot of driving to visit students and their supervisors at different work placements throughout the city. During the regular school year, I put my lunch and snacks in a fridge at work, and I have access to a microwave, kettle, coffee-maker, and toaster oven. When I teach summer school co-op, any food I bring with me stays in the car. Last summer, I would so often stare blankly at the contents of our fridge and cupboards as I prepared for a day on the road. I’d pack insufficient lunches and almost always end up in desperate need of sustenance part way through my travels. DH and I budget a monthly discretionary fund for each of us, and last summer, my personal July and August money just emptied right out to all the restaurants in town.
                This summer, my goal is not to spend a cent on food as I make my co-op rounds. I’m prepared with a serious lunch bag. It’s big, padded, and divided into compartments. It can accommodate sandwiches, drinks, snacks, and an ice pack to keep it all from going bad as it waits in the sweltering heat of my parked car. I’m filled with purpose when I open the fridge to prepare for a day on the road, and so far, I’m succeeding.
                There is no magic recipe for frugality with food. Each one of us operates with a different metabolism, a different set of preferences, and different health needs. But each one of us is capable of avoiding the pitfalls of the ‘American dream’ diet – one that involves unnecessary spending at grocery stores and restaurants alike. With an awareness and acknowledgement of my needs for food, and with an intentional determination not to waste money, I’m keeping my tummy happy as I drive. And my fingers around the steering wheel.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • LOL, I thought “Hanger” was a typo at first – LOVE the “hangry” thing, and so funny about how you flipped that woman the bird. I have those rare moments too, when the Laurie of many decades ago will come out and do things that my kids are stunned by. I think that rebellious, not-always-so-nice girl is long gone, but put me in the right (or wrong) situation, and she comes right back. Ahh, forever learning, I guess. 🙂

  • This post made me laugh! I get hangry too. I agree that each of us is built differently. I’m hungry All. The. Time. but I work out a lot. There is no way in hell I’m skipping any meals or snacks. What I can control is buying excess stuff. Stuff that is filler or nice to have, like alcohol, chip, dark chocolate, etc. OK maybe skip that last one. 🙂 The main point is though that is DOES in some way fit into your budget. If you income is 2k, per month and your food budget is 1k, well, you can guess that you will go way over with your overall budget unless somehow you live rent free.

    • There is so much in a budget that is just a given – with little or no flexibility. Grocery and restaurant expenses offer a lot of flexibility, so anyone trying to pay off debt if bound to look at these areas carefully. That doesn’t make it easy for the urgently hungry though! I’m glad you can relate to the whole “hangry” thing. And I wish I could say that I work out as much as you do to burn it all off : )

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