Monday, April 21, 2014 8:12 AM
Published on: Friday, February 14, 2014
B. Morrison, Special to The Sentinel
We've all heard about how important it is to plan your meals for the week, make a shopping list, and stick to it. It's hard to be that organized, though, when you are struggling on so many fronts. I only really learned that lesson later when my son started doing the grocery shopping for me. It turned out that I saved a ton of money because he only bought what was on my list, refusing to be distracted by sales and coupons.
However, there was one time that I really concentrated and forced myself to be organized. It was during the last year I was on welfare when I took in three foster children. Here is the story from my memoir:
A social worker friend did the paperwork so the three of them became my foster children. “Don’t expect the money any time soon,” she cautioned me. “The office is so mixed up you probably won’t get any until the kids have gone back to their parents.”
I found that with five kids to care for—one six-year-old, two four-year-olds, a two-year-old, and a baby—I began to run the household with military precision. Every minute was devoted to the children.
I scheduled everything tightly. The weekly menus never varied. Oatmeal most mornings, that was the rule. Scrambled eggs on Wednesday and pancakes on Saturday. Lunches were peanut butter and honey sandwiches on the bread I made twice a week. I still had some applesauce I’d made after a trip to the U-Pick orchard. The weekly dinner menu was fixed too: beans, spaghetti, more beans, macaroni and cheese. Treats like fresh fruit were out, as I stretched the food stamps to feed three extra children.
All toys had to be cleaned up before every meal; and bedtimes were rigidly enforced. There was no getting out of naptime either. They didn’t have to sleep, merely be quiet for one precious hour.
One book each before naptime and bedtime. Sometimes the six-year-old helped me out by reading some of the bedtime books on those nights when I was stunned with exhaustion and could only sit on the couch, holding the two-year-old while the others snuggled against me.
We managed, and the children eventually went back to their mother. But I learned an important lesson: don't wait till everything goes sideways to take control of your food budget!
B. Morrison is the author of a memoir, Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother. For more information, visit http://www.bmorrison.com.