This post was sponsored by Y-USA as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.
I have always shopped on a budget. I don’t always need to but I have always found that we like to do other things so why spend extra money on groceries if we don’t have to. There are many strategies that we utilize as a family and even the kids join in. Right now there are only six of us in the house but at times there have been as many as ten and four generations. It is very important to keep our budget under control so everyone gets all that they need.
We are a couponing family – though not nearly as extreme as I used to be. Of course I have far less time now. We do shop for the best deals and when we don’t have time to put in to those deals – we turn to the discount chains such as Dollar General, Aldis, Ocean State Job Lot, Family Dollar and more. If we shop at Walmart – I always submit my receipts to their Savings Catcher program to get money back. Those are just some of the things we do and I know that saves us a bunch of money each month. Naturally, cooking at home rather than fast food is a huge cost saver. Lastly – we always make large enough batches so we can have leftovers and freeze some. For example – if we make lasagna, we make two. One to eat and one to freeze.
But, we do all this because it is a life skill that we are teaching our children and although we have enough money to pretty much disregard all those practices and still be able to eat just fine – they may not always have that luxury. Learning those skills when you are under stress to find money to eat is much more difficult than learning them throughout their entire lives and really understanding how it works.
Funny story – when I was a bit more of an extreme couponer the kids would clip coupons with me. In case you didn’t know – around Thanksgiving/Christmas there are always lots of coupons for toys and those same toys are popular and often go on sale just before Christmas – double the savings. Well when the coupons that we didn’t use expired and I was about to throw them away my son became despondent. He couldn’t believe I threw the coupons away because now Santa would not have enough money to get him toys for Christmas. From then on I am more of a casual couponer rather than extreme. I don’t want my kids to grow up with it being stress – I just want them know understand the savings and participate in the process.
I work in an urban public school with a very high free meal percentage. I know what it looks like and what the impacts our to a child when they don’t have enough food to eat. I know what it looks like when there are so many children who need food during the summer that 50,000 meals are served. I know what it looks like when children have so little to eat they have to take backpacks home from school so they have food for the weekend. I am thankful that they have all the programs they have to help them out – but no child should have to go hungry and I definitely hope we are teaching our children everything they need to know so they are never in that situation themselves or with their future children.
Hunger is not a small issue in the US. It cannot be ignored.
We are participating in the Y’s Food Desert Challenge. We have been asked to live three days with a maximum of $5 being spent on each person per day. For the sake of this experience I will do so without coupons and through a “normal” shopping experience.
Here is the plan we lived by for three days:
Breakfast – Honey Nut Cheerios with Vanilla Yogurt (mixed together).
Lunch – Kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and my husband and I – tuna sandwiches. Side of applesauce.
Snack – Almonds
Supper – White rice with grilled chicken mixed in with a side of applesauce
Breakfast – Oatmeal
Lunch – Grilled cheese and cucumbers on the side
Snack – Air popped popcorn
Supper – Pasta and sauce
Breakfast – Apples dipped in peanut butter
Lunch – Mac and Cheese
Snack – Almonds
Supper – Leftovers of the chicken and rice or pasta and sauce
All three days the kids can drink milk, water or flavored water.
My shopping experience was interesting. First – I brought a calculator. That was a new experience because although I usually have an idea what I expect to spend – I don’t usually have an “absolute” limit. I shopped at a regular grocery store – not a discount store and didn’t use coupons. But I did pay attention to store sales as well as last sale discounts.
Then I ignored some of their promotional strategies that I always buy into. For example if the sale was 4 for $5 – I refrained from buying 4 and only bought 2. That was the hardest of all – I am always in “stock up” mode.
So what do groceries for 4 people for 3 days look like with a limit of $5 per person per day?
Eating within the constraints of the challenge was possible and the kids embraced the challenge and never complained. But it takes a great deal more effort in planning, sticking to a menu and a grocery list and not grabbing something extraneous that tickles our fancy “just because”. As you can see I had to resort to store brands, clearance chicken, sale items etc… The next largest hurdle was our extra activities. We work at the barn every single night with our horse, the kids riding etc… In this weather it is hot and we become exhausted. There was no stopping for fast food because I was too tired to cook; no stopping for a beverage because we were so parched from the heat and activity. Every single aspect of our day needed to be planned out to make it all work.
Why is all of this so important? YMCA has a commitment to keep kids healthy and their Summer Food Program provides kids with the opportunity to receive nutritious meals and snacks, while also enjoying recreational and learning activities to keep their bodies and minds active. With the support of the Walmart Foundation, the Y will provide 5 million meals and snacks to 250,000 kids and teens at 1,500 locations.
The Y created the Food Desert Challenge to drive more support and awareness to their Summer Food Program. The challenge aims to spread awareness and elevate the public discussion of year-round child hunger and how the Y addresses this issue. Food insecurity is in every community and in every country. No community is safe from it.