Monday, July 23, 2012

Give Us Lord Our Daily Bread

I'm so happy to post about this topic--trusting God with the grocery list!

When I was a new stay-at-home mother, I read all sorts of blog posts that cheerfully boasted I could easily feed a family of 17 for $6 a day. They made me cry! I couldn't do this "food genie" thing to make us eat yummy, healthy dinners on that tiny of a grocery budget. It wasn't until YEARS later that I started seeing all these hidden "tricks" to "Feed your family on $20 a week." First, people had "on hand" all kinds of expensive spices. Because of my frequent moves across 5 states in 2 years, I always had a barren spice rack. Second, people had gardens --while I lived in a 3rd floor city apartment. Third, people clipped coupons and shopped at 17 different stores--while I had city bus pass and 3 kids under age 5. 

Fourth-- people like ground their own corn meal and stuff. Now I like to cook, and I learned how to cook far more things from scratch as a stay-at-home Mom--but there was also this thing I was busy doing as a Catholic wife---having Mr. Benjamin's babies. And babies are hard! It's hard to be pregnant. It's hard to breastfeed. It's hard to soothe colicky newborns. So while I became a huge fan of not buying highly processed food--I also became a realist about food prep time. Baking my own saltine crackers sounds like a fascinating money saving idea for another season of my life, one in which I am a) not in the first trimester and b) have at least one child over the age of 12! 

This week we have a grocery shopping challenge $30 to spend on groceries. This is not a self-imposed coupon saving game. I have $40.61 in my checking account until August 1. My husband and I decided that we can spend $30 on groceries. (Thanks honey, for letting me post our financial info online).

Now, you'll remember that three weeks ago, my family was caught in those awful thunderstorms. My house lost power for 11 days. Every single thing from frozen pork chops to mustard to bread yeast got thrown out afterwards.  So that means that we are starting this challenge with 1 gallon of milk, a cabbage, and half a ketchup bottle. 

There is also practically nothing in the cupboards--because it was emergency eating in the Benjamin house. Also, lets face it, poor Carmelites don't stock up well during a normal summer week.

My garden--did I tell you about my garden? I was so excited to have one this year after 5 years of living in the City, that I carefully planted Tomatoes, Basil and Carrots. I loved my garden. I fell under massive weeds a few times, since I was distracted by Baby Abigail's colic--but each time I patiently saved it. I did a lot of praying in that garden! Then a gigantic tree feel in the back of my house during the thunder storm--and God saved my garden. I went back there and the Basil plants were saved by a mere 2 inches! Hurrah!

Then a neighbor came to chop up our tree for the power company and buried my garden in 6 feet of debris. Yeah. I carried every single one of those messy tree limbs on my garden to the front of my property so the Street Crew could cart it away. It was a good lesson in NOT getting discouraged when Satan appears to junk the fruits of your spiritual life. All the same, when I discovered that we only had $30 in grocery money this week I told God "You know, I could have been buying only cream and supplying my family with yummy tomato basil soup this week--but SOMEBODY killed all my tomato plants this summer."

Yeah. It's never smooth sailing in the spiritual life.

My task as a wife is to use $30 to feed 6 people for 9 days.

I'm really excited to write about this because I think deep down this is what everyone else is afraid of doing. Isn't that one of the reason no one has five kids? What happens when you screw up the money and you run out of cash before the end of the month?

Don't even feel bad about me being poor. I probably have a small grocery budget anyway because I live the life of the Holy Family--but truly an outsider would say I made a "money mistake" last Saturday. My kids are on the Swim Team. On Saturday, we spent 8 hours at a Divisional Swim Meet in another City. My Wal-mart bill on Friday was $77.26. 
That bill included Friday dinner, 
treats for the Swim Meet, 
$20 cash of the meet concession stand, 
and (just so we're totally honest here) $21.00 for a bat man toy for my seven year old son who fell off his  starting block at Friday morning's practice and was completely traumatized by the blood, the pain, and three large coaches spending a very long time bandaging his knee.

Then we spent $20 at Sweet Frog to celebrate the end of the Swimming Season.

So I could have had $127.26 to spend on groceries this week--which is a more normal number for us, but instead I'm down to $30.

My husband is trying to get me off my obsession with making "money mistakes". I seriously spend so much of my life second guessing my purchasing decisions as a Mother. I constantly feel like I "screwed up" or let my family down. My husband has laid down a rule that I'm not allowed to do that anymore. I'm not allowed to feel bad that I bought my son a toy, or that we tried to feed six starving people on $50 during a long swim meet, or that we had a delightful time at Sweet Frog. My husbands new mantra is "we're going to live our life. We're going to do our best to make good decisions in the moment. We're going to trust God to do the rest."

So far, so good. I didn't get a panic attack last night. I didn't pick a fight with my husband. (These are big goals for me). Instead, we went to Wal-mart and calmly spent $25 for food for five nights. Last night we had Spaghetti. This morning we had eggs and toast. Tonight I making meatloaf and baked potatoes. 

Thank you God for our Daily Bread.


33 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Bless you for your honesty...and for sharing this...I too make money mistakes...so does hubby...ugh. I will pray that all works out for you.

Abigail said...

I'm sure it will. Things are too perfectly lined up for this not to be God's will for us this week!

Sew said...

what about the other 3 nights? LOL You only named two nights!

Amazing Life said...

It is going to be just fine. I know your resourcefullness and your family will eat well!
I spend way too much at the grocery store, you are inspiring me!

Abigail said...

Sew, I'm doing spaghetti for two nights. Meatloaf for two nights. "Breakfast for dinner"--i.e. waffles for two nights.

I guess that makes six. Plus, we have a pool party dinner party which only costs me a tray of cupcakes.

7 dinners down--2 to go.

(My husband just took up fishing recently, maybe St. Pete will send him home with lovely trout for dinner!) :-)

Abigail said...

Amazing Life--my new mantra is "lets give ourselves a break!"

There is WAY to much spiritual pride going around about "saving money at the grocery store." If you are buying food to put into your children, your husband and yourself--good for you!

If God wants you to change your spending habits, it will be a gentle, gradual process.

That's a good thing, because if I always knew how to feed my family on $30 a week the extra money would be going to pool passes and movie tickets, not my poor Carmelite friends in Kenya!

Michelle said...

I nearly cried when I read, "My husbands new mantra is "we're going to live our life. We're going to do our best to make good decisions in the moment. We're going to trust God to do the rest." I should try to remember that. Recently my husband splurged at the grocery for a really nice Sunday dinner for the family and I nearly had a heart attack at the cost! I think my husband probably said something to me like - I know; that's why God put us together.

Sew said...

Your meals sound like the normal american menu! ;) Great job! ;)

I'm confused by what you mean "spiritual pride" at the grocery store...

Amazing LIfe- You do feed two growing teenage boys, a growing toddler and a husband! LOL :) I bet you HAVE to buy lots of groceries to keep people sane over there! LOL

Little JoAnn said...

Just reading this now. Send me your address. I am sending over grocery money.

Abigail said...

Little Jo Ann, you and many other blog readers are so kind.

My husband specifically asked me not to accept donations from blog readers this week. He knows God gave me this cross to help purge me of the overwhelming anxiety I feel about misspending our family's budget. The worry I put into this each month is unreal--so I need this exercise in Trust.

I'm doing great! I've got 8 meals covered. Only one more to go. (And we have dear friends in our parish. I'm not above begging a free dinner from Abigail's Godparents, if push comes to shove next week. Don't worry. The Benjamins will not go hungry!)

If this post touched you, give some food money to someone local. God likes charity to be geographically close!

Abigail said...

Michelle, I love your husband! Listen to him more! I'm trying to follow the advice of my own husband more closely. He knows what he is talking about!

Abigail said...

Sew--I think being a Christian wife is hard. It's a "narrow way" thing. So if you write a blog post saying--oh my goodness, God is so great. We had a fuel pump break on our car, but the coupons I saved made our grocery budget $20. Isn't that great! Don't be afraid to have lots of kids because God will always provide for them....


Or, a true example in my life--- the power is out in your house for 11 days from a storm. The electrician says the cost to fix things on your end will cost $400. For no reason, the bank send you a "overage" on your escrow account for $440 the day before you need to pay him.

That sort of stuff happens all the time to me.

The spiritual pride thing happens when you boast that YOUR great coupon saving method is the best and everyone should just stop being a financial idiots, follow your path.

I think because many of us stay-at-home Moms aren't earning a paycheck, its easy to fall into this spiritual pride thing "Well it's my job to SAVE money." I'm important because I have these great saving skills.

It's hard to understand, but that's just as prideful as saying "I'm more important because I bring home a bigger paycheck than you."

If we measure our self-worth in the slippery slope of "saving money" we are missing the larger glory of delighting in being servants of God.

Little JoAnn said...

But, if I lived closer I would be havin' you over to my house for dinner anyways!

Abigail said...

Too true!!!

Sew said...

You totally lost me.... LOL

sthenryii said...

Abigail, tell your husband that while you may be called to be poor, I am called to give alms, and I can't think of anyone more worthy than a loving Catholic couple trying to raise a big family in the culture of death! If I give you money, I am not trying to keep you from doing what God called you to do; I am merely trying to do what God called me to do!

(And if you're really insistent about no donations this week, fine, wait till next week and then e-mail me.)

henry and cunegonda [at] gmail [dot] com

Little JoAnn said...

And, Abigail...it is only because of housing/taxation which is created by the public school union lobbies that we live so far away from each other...you and your husband have to live outside the 15mile radius of the employment centre because of costs and because you have chosen life. My dear, this should not then be a reason why I am then, by geography, prevented from bringing you some bread.

I hope your kids like uncured all beef hotdogs and bacon and that you like virginia ham and turkey...'cause it is on its way.

And, I hope the white pages for one Jon Benjamin in WV is correct. Otherwise another Jon Benjamin is gonna be receiving some delicious meat from Applegate Farms.

Only the best for my dear Carmelite family.

Abigail said...

Gentle readers, thank you so much for your offers of food donations, but I'm not accepting money this week.

I know this sounds crazy, but we are not poor.

As a Wife and Mom, I'm not yet the greatest cook on a budget, or family treasurer-but my husband and kids have a wife and mother who is rich in Love, Hope and Faith and on intimate terms with my friend, Jesus. He truly fills up everything that I lack.

We are actually eating WELL this week. Tonight Tess had her full of macaroni and cheese, carrots, green beans and buttermilk biscuits. The "Give us Lord our Daily Bread prayer" is working!

If this post is inspiring you, give your corporal acts of mercy to someone local in your life tonight. You cook up a nice casserole, serve it with a smile--and tell Jesus you are giving it in honor of me.

My dear buddy Jesus is NOT going to ever let me go to bed hungry this week. Go take your yummy food and give it to someone who doesn't know him yet. Give it to someone who could use an introduction to the beautiful love story that is our Catholic faith.

Little JoAnn said...

Should we only receive charity from strangers? Should we only be charitable TO strangers?

I think not!

Charity begins at home.

And, this is the home of our beautiful blogger family.

We are the IF family, like it or not!

Little JoAnn said...

Oh and St. Francis de Sales says that Charity is just love in action.

That's all.

It's not some bleeding heart crap.

It is simple the desire for the best for someone we love.

And, we all have a need TO BE charitable because LOVING is more important to our souls, we hunger this even more than being loved.

Jen said...

A good religious once told me to never deny someone an act of charity. Perhaps your buddy Jesus is trying to make sure you have more than enough by letting these beautiful souls send you some money. It's humbling to accept alms. However, if your husband says no, then his word is first. I know we've had to accept many alms when we didn't want to. It's hard to take money from others, but sometimes that is how He works. Jesus sends us His help in His ways, not necessarily the ways we think He will (or want Him to). I was going to send you some money too. Mainly as a thanksgiving because we recently had our money issues pretty much solved overnight.

Jen said...

I do agree with you on the spiritual pride things with grocery coupons...it plays into certain ways of eating too I think (Paleo, Atkins, etc). I'm sure most folks have the best of intentions, but it comes across as arrogant sometimes, at least to me. I think it was the Great Pope John Paul II who never was picky about his food. He ate what was given to him. When so many go hungry, it seems silly to be picky about what we eat (obviously not cupcakes all day...temperance comes into play). Moderation, temperance...how can I serve Him better? Having an all organic diet and talking about it all the time and actually refusing to eat something that isn't organic (which I've seen people do), or saying grace, giving thanks, and saying "Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts.." Just a thought.

Jon Benjamin said...

Hello—this is Abby's husband Jon. I wanted say OK, please send charity if you like.

When Abby asked me if we should accept charity from the blogger community, I said no. Not so much out of pride (well a little), but more because I was a little annoyed that people would miss the point of the post.

I love this post! This is Abby and I saying together, "We are going to stop beating ourselves up over making foolish decisions". We are foolish! We don't have it figured out! We don't have a plan to avoid the pitfalls of this world. And that is good. It is easy to say, Trust in God, but it is difficult to accept your worldly foolishness and trust that He is happy you are a fool because it diminishes your pride.

That is all—I just thought if everyone started writing in, saying they were going to send us food, the point would be lost.

Abigail said...

This is Abby and I saying together, "We are going to stop beating ourselves up over making foolish decisions". We are foolish! We don't have it figured out! We don't have a plan to avoid the pitfalls of this world. And that is good. It is easy to say, Trust in God, but it is difficult to accept your worldly foolishness and trust that He is happy you are a fool because it diminishes your pride."

Amen, Honey!

Abigail said...

You know Honey, your comment makes me cry because I remember being pregnant with Hannah and crying during my lunch break at work because I didn't have the supposed "required" $200 to put in her college fund. I didn't want her to have the same crummy college loan experiences that we did.

Now I'm staying at home, with five kids, and we have no college fund, and no IRA, but I have so much more confidence in my children's futures because I'm teaching them first hand how to be foolish, and humble, and make financial decisions with God instead of against God.

Little JoAnn said...

My new BFF St. Francis de Sales says stop being so hard on yourselves. If it was not for the housing bubble, the public school union lobby that makes homes in desirable neighborhoods within a 15 mile radius of employment centers, property tax, and our eroded society that no longer has extended families nearby, you guys would just be over at my house or I would be over at your house having a pizza party or potluck dinner or eatin with Aunt Jean or Grandma Mildred this week! Society has pushed nuclear families into isolation due to the above mentioned forces and the two income parent trap stuff. As a family that has chosen to be truly open to life you are struggling because our tax system, education system and suburbanization has pushed you to have to live in WV! As a blogger community we are all scattered geographically but we share ONE HEART. This is what matters most. If we all could just drive over to each other's houses we would. Some of us, during certain periods of our lives, have "more" to give at certain times...I happen to have "more" because my darn infertility lasted so long that I worked for quite a number of years. Heck, shouldn't I share with my fellow IFers and my precious Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are OPEN to LIFE the small fruits of my labor? And, heck, aren't we all spiritual aunts and uncles to each other's children?!

Finally, have we not all been helped? Some of us our helped emotionally (like I am by being married to a man with the most humble and generous and easy going temperament) some of us our helped socially, some of us our helped by being raised by great parents, some of us our helped by having a talent that some one else fostered in us and now we earn our living from.

I know my BFF has a lot to say about "charity." It is really just love in action sort of thing helping mostly the giver.

So, let's now make such a big deal out of an occasion to love on another. NO BIG DEAL.

Let's just accept love when it comes knockin' at our door.

Little JoAnn said...

Obviously I need help in the typing and spelling department!

It's not easy typing comments with one hand as you are holding a 13 pound 2 month year old!

Sorry for my messy typos.

My BFF says for me to forgive myself now. So, I have done so!

Abigail said...

I love St Francis de Sales too!

(and spelling mistakes b/c I make them all of the time also)

I think I'm learning something here. I'm not speaking for my husband, but I think I have a scar from the rejection of my family. Nobody biologically related to us thought it was "wise" to have 5 kids, or for me to stay at home--so when we run into any financial bumps in the road my first instinct is to hide it, second to deny accepting charity for others--all because I'm just waiting for someone to say "I told you so....having Baby Abigail was such a mistake."

But I can't learn how to give true Charity unless I'm also open to receiving it.

Does this mean I should re-email the offers of help and say yes?

Little JoAnn said...

I was very close to a religious community, a very unique one that incorporates lay people, religious, priest, lay volunteers, missionaries, and friends all together. They are called Heart's Home that is their name in English they are originally from France. Anyways, as married people (we did not have children at the time) we could not join them as oversee missionaries nor obviously as one of their consecrated singles. But, what we did is befriend the community. Sometimes it was a simple thing...like bringing them fresh fruit, or winter gloves and scarfs for the group of them that lived together...sometimes instead of going out to dinner, my husband and I would call them up and say, we want to give you the money we would have spent had we gone out tonight. We often lent them our car and when I got bonuses I was able to give them nice help as well.

The point in me sharing all of this is: you should have seen the way the RECEIVED their blessings. I have never meant folks so HAPPY and SO FREE and SO TOTALLY committed to the vow of poverty and trust in God's Providence as this group of young people. They, in turn, use to tell us, what we have is to give you a taste of our community and our hearts, they invited us over to their "home" for dinner all the time, simple meals, spagetti with barely any tomatoe sauce on it and a tort made with apples they had on hand. But, our times together were magical. We would arrive in their poor house be shown to the parlor, allowed to pray the liturgy of the hours evening prayer with them then have the most fabulous dinner all together, laughing and sharing and singing songs.

They taught me it is a gift to give and how to be overjoyed in another brother and sister's ability TO GIVE. And, here's another amazing thing...they would go and visit the absolute poorest people in whatever given neighborhood their missionhouse is in...and guess what, these poor people would want to GIVE them something...a candy, a old book, a picture, or even cook them a meal. And, they said YES, every single time. I learned this was part of their philosophy...accepting the gift of another is helping to restore dignity to them...it says, I acknowledge you have something to give to me and my heart is so overjoyed in this receiving. Love reciprocates by nature. And, we as human beings are all equal because all our hearts equaly want to share our inner heart with those we love. Charity is not something that the rich to for the poor. It is the NATURAL inclination of a heart filled with love.

I learned so much from Heart's Home. I still to this day can never fully process the lessons they taught be about love and friendship and family.

God's family...for so many of us, myself included, is so radically different than many of our families and histories.

They use to of course, also pray for my husband and me. They really really did. Of course, it is no accident that after being touched by this amazing community that we no longer were infertile...no accident at all.

Jen said...

Abby, I know how you feel. When we had Maia (she came when Keith was only 14 months old and our oldest was not even 3), my own family told me that I made people who used NFP the right way look bad. IE, I was a bad catholic, person, and mother for having so many kids so close together. When I was I the hospital with Sonja, we had my home school group come and take shifts to watch my other four kids during the week while my husband went to work because my parents had to work (they could have taken some time off) and then asked me pull my special needs son out of school so he could stay in Rockville so they didn't have to drive up our way. It was awful. My mother in law flew up from Louisiana and stayed here a week, but she had to leave because she still had one more child at home (my hubby is the second of eight kids). My point is, I've been terrified ever since that unless we had our "stuff" together, everyone, including the Catholics, would say "I told you you shouldn't have had anymore". It's honestly the reason we haven't. With Davids autism, siblings after have a higher risk, do everyone has been waving their finger saying "You have csection and special needs children. Enough is enough". We love you and your beautiful babies. It's why I want to help so much, because I understand so well how you feel.

Jen said...

Abby, I know how you feel. When we had Maia (she came when Keith was only 14 months old and our oldest was not even 3), my own family told me that I made people who used NFP the right way look bad. IE, I was a bad catholic, person, and mother for having so many kids so close together. When I was I the hospital with Sonja, we had my home school group come and take shifts to watch my other four kids during the week while my husband went to work because my parents had to work (they could have taken some time off) and then asked me pull my special needs son out of school so he could stay in Rockville so they didn't have to drive up our way. It was awful. My mother in law flew up from Louisiana and stayed here a week, but she had to leave because she still had one more child at home (my hubby is the second of eight kids). My point is, I've been terrified ever since that unless we had our "stuff" together, everyone, including the Catholics, would say "I told you you shouldn't have had anymore". It's honestly the reason we haven't. With Davids autism, siblings after have a higher risk, do everyone has been waving their finger saying "You have csection and special needs children. Enough is enough". We love you and your beautiful babies. It's why I want to help so much, because I understand so well how you feel.

Meika said...

You have oatmeal! You'll be fine. :)

Seriously, I've said a prayer that God will, as he always does, provide for your family this week.

And as it happens, we're in a similar situation for similar reasons this week, with $59 in the bank. Thanks for the encouragement that it's not just me. :)

Amazing Life said...

Just got to read the comments! Sew is right about me having to feed four hungry males . . . all the time!!! They are always hungry! I feel like I am always going to the store to get more milk, yogurt, or some other essential.
I just got a chance to read Jon's comment and his reasons for not wanting to accept food/donations really struck me and I feel that I need to reflect on that more.
Truly, in the chaos of your everyday life, God is showering you all with graces of divine wisdom!!! I love this, it is really 'faith food' for my soul these days!