As American’s you would think the lessons learned from our most recent economic collapse which affected so many businesses, organizations and families would not be soon forgotten. Yet, when the going get’s back to going we often fall back into a sense of security and even our prior habits. Our family has struggled to dig ourselves out of a financial crater that resulted from the collapse of our family based construction business. While we have filled some holes in, there were holes we couldn’t fill and several holes that we are still filling back in. As part of that experience there was a period of time in our lives where we needed to utilize government assistance for food as our income had been reduced to just fractions of what it had been. We were raising three babies as well as a young child for which we were able to find assistance first through the WIC and food stamps which provided assistance for many our nutritional needs. Yet even with this food allocation there were additional challenges as many of our expenditures were in things like diapers, wipes and baby formula which were not items that were supplied through government assistance that we could find and many of the resources available through the community were limited in what they could offer due to high demand for these essential items. We were life imitating art as expressed by Eminem’s song Lose Yourself, “Best believe somebody’s paying the Pied Piper. All the pain inside amplified by the fact that I can’t get by with my 9 to 5. And I can’t provide the right type of life for my family ‘cause man, these goddamn food stamps don’t buy diapers.”
I can remember the gutted feeling of going to the Department of Health and Human Services feeling like a failure, feeling like I worked too hard and didn’t belong in this place begging the government to help our family. Through a process of proving our need and our self employment income we finally received the food stamp assistance, I was pleased that the benefits were now on an Oregon Trail EBT card rather than the monopoly money that I remember from my childhood. We were thankful to have the help and because we had a larger family, the allowance from the government was a decent payment each month that enabled us to reduce the pressure of the pressure of having to worry about providing nourishment for our young family. One amount provided at the beginning of the month creates a need to be studious, disciplined and thrifty. By being creative and learning from others who were going through the same issues we were able to make our food allowance stretch through the month while eating a fairly healthy diet. Some of our families’ favorite meals are culinary innovations were concocted in the laboratory of necessity by utilizing the ingredients that were available to us.
While our nation, or leaders and our families need to remember our not so distant past as we move forward, the only area that we have control of is our own experience moving forward. I know those who came through The Great Depression are forever impacted by the struggle of those years in American history. Our experience of being on government assistance is one that we are conscious to never forget, we are grateful for the help of those resources provided by the government, as well as the generosity of family and friends that carried us through our leanest times to date (there are so many humbling stories of people supporting us). Truth be told, those hard times may have been some of our best times as they forced us to be creative and to work together as a family. Our kids were too young to remember the details of the experience but they do remember some of the recipes and as noted above they are some of their favorites which create opportunities to remind them of lessons our family has learned. We recently met as a family to discuss creative methods for trimming our budget so that we could distribute our resources into areas that matter to us as a group. One area that we thinned our spending was in our grocery shopping, which was already lean when compared with other families we had discussed our ideas with. To make the process fun, to maintain a level of health and to challenge ourselves to try new things we have mixed our process to include boys vs. girls, food style challenges and themed meals all while staying within a budget that mirrors the parameters of the SNAP challenge by averaging $3 or less per person per day for three meals. Some of these family experiments we have documented on our Youtube page such as our challenge to utilize hominy in a video we titled E-hominy.com.
Keep your lessons close. Be creative, be accountable and be a part of the solution.
The DYOJO is the Do Your Job Dojo. In The DYOJO we want to help each other develop intentionally.