I am not 100% sure if we are middle class, but I think we live like we are. We live in the Midwest (so we aren’t paying LA rent or Alaska milk prices) and my husband is in a union so health insurance is an included part of the package and not a deduction from his check or something we have to pay for separately. The “Middle Class Mondays” series covers things I’ve always felt would be different when we had what I consider “enough” money and how those experiences compare to how things used to be for us or how they compare to how things were when I was a child.
My husband has spent years fighting with me for an increase in the grocery budget.
Most of our marriage has been me insisting we can live on the food stamp amount and no more. He would want to get something crazy like yogurt and I would be so angry because I knew he bought it without telling me because I wouldn’t’ have let him get it otherwise no matter how much our kids love yogurt. He just wanted them to have something special.
There have been several times in our marriage when we did not receive food stamps and every time I kept the budget exactly the same saying, “It’s what we lived on then, we can live on it now.” Which was never entirely true but it felt true, you know? Numbers might not lie but I would just not look at them because it felt like it should be enough. Yes, I know now that’s some seriously faulty thinking.
I gave the Mr. $80 a week to spend and he asked me to raise it. Then we went to $100. Then we went to $120. Finally, he’s managed over years to convince me we absolutely must have $150/week for our family of five which is both a lot and hardly any depending on who you ask.
So after all his fighting and eventual success, when he came to me yesterday and said, “I think we can eat for $80/week by having the same thing once a week.” I was shocked but intrigued. Could he really do what I’ve been asking him to all this time now that he’s not feeling the pinch of money? Will he be able to do this thing by choice he’s never been able to do by necessity? While I was looking at him with what must have been a confused face he continued, “It’s only temporary so it’s a fun experiment and hey, it will let you pay off the Macy’s card faster if we can put up with Angel Hair and Veggie Mondays and Taco Tuesdays for the next few months.
So I said, “Let’s do it.”
I feel kind of gross, though, not gonna lie. To purposefully reduce the grocery budget while keeping veggies and health at the forefront isn’t something we could have done as easily when we were really poor. Here in Indiana our food stamp benefit when we received them was $407/month for our family of five and we were just angry all the time trying to make that work. Costco made it easier because we could do bulk meat one week and then fill in the rest of the week.
Now all that knowledge of where the cheapest veggies are and where to get the best cheap salsa (Aldi) so we can put the mild salsa on the tacos and not worry about separate tomatoes being bought and cut up once a week is being used to pay down debt. We can buy the meat up front at Costco and then separate it into baggies and freeze it for individual meals. He might not be wrong, we might be able to do this.
Part of my brain knows that is a smart long-term move but the other part of my brain feels that if I can afford better food and I choose not to buy it I am a bad, bad person … and even worse mother.
It’s a constant tug of war between what’s best for the family right now and what’s best for the family long term.
But right now we are choosing the long term and getting those credit cards off the table as fast as possible. If that means we have to repead meals once a week for the foreseeable future? So be it.
My 25lb. bag of rice says, “It’s GO time!”
This story illustrates how different it feels when paring back the grocery budget is a choice. We have both been forced to choose for pretty much the entire thirteen years of our marriage. We’ve never been able to just go to the store and buy stuff without thinking. I still can’t, even with a $150/week budget but to go down to $80 feels scary. I want so badly to get ahead and I don’t want to sacrifice my kids’ well being but they will absolutely be getting not quite as much of the good stuff they’ve been getting lately. When our credit cards are paid off I’ll make them