Wednesday, February 04, 2009

You Say Recession, I Say Depression

Misery loves company and frankly, it's nice to share my current financial crisis with the rest of the world. Recession? Depression? You betcha baby! And it's happening right here, right now.

My soon-to-be-ex-husband and I did share a rather timely joke once. We said that if we ever broke up, it would be a real fight for the house:

"You take the house!"

"Shit no! You take the house!"

Thankfully, the house has a reasonable mortgage payment and for all it's drafty windows and dying water heater, it's our last bastion of shelter. I want to stay in Duluth until my kids get out of high school and I am not an apartment type of gal. I have a tendency to be a tad spontaneous. Landlords don't like spontaneity. They also don't like purple paint and newly dug garden beds.

So, if everything else hits the fan, we will at least have a house. I'm not sure if we'll have water and heat, but frankly, I think society has blown their importance way out of proportion.

I've been on a crusade to cut costs over the past couple of weeks as my obligations to police and social workers have waned. Obsessions can always be called "hobbies" and hobbies are a great way to wile away the hours, ask any cutter or bulemic.

We gave up satellite tv a long time ago. We gave up netflix. I gave up getting any books not stamped with Duluth (or Superior) Public Library. I've been harvesting yarn and fabric from my stash. I've been staying away from any recipes that force me to purchase something "special" which I will never use again. I've been injecting my children with growth retardants.

Yeah, we're living on the hairy edge.

And this is where I'm starting to get pissy.

I shop around for internet rates and call up my provider and say "Hey, I can get a better rate with Joe Schmoe and they're $15 a month cheaper, what's up with that?" And they fall all over themselves and lower my rate. I am grateful.

And I call my garbage company (whom I dispise as much as any one individual can dispise a waste disposal conglomerate) and I tell them that I can go with a local company for $15 cheaper a month ($15 is the awnser to life, the universe, and everything). They also fall all over themselves and offer to lower my rates. Because I dispise them, I tell them to fornicate themselves and go with the local company.

I am now onto investigating what assistance is out there for heat and water. I will probably not tell MN Power to fornicate themselves although I am guessing they have enjoyed fornicating me all these years.

When it comes to edibles, I have already investigated food stamps and even though we have an order for protection against S-T-B-E-husband, the lovely people with the state of MN will go back three months and count all income for our household. We will be allowed to go hungry for three months. After that, we will apply for food stamps. Before that, we will make due with oatmeal, peanut butter, eggs, milk, and wallpaper paste. (It's always good to know your history and if history taught me anything I've learned that wallpaper paste can be used for food when your city is under siege. Also, rats can be quite tasty after you've exhausted your neighborhood supply of guinea pigs and hamsters.)

We're not yet in a position to visit the food shelf but I'll be honest, I've made enough deposits over the years I'm not ashamed to make a withdrawl in the near future. Unfortunately, the food that most people donate to food shelves is loaded with sugar and preservatives and makes no concessions to dietary restrictions. I'm actually considering approaching the CSA that I purchased produce from last summer and asking them if they would trade a one person share for a few weekends of farm labor. A one person share is enough vegetables and fruit to keep our family happy. I'm also going to gear my garden this year to crops that can be canned and preserved.

So after all this, I must ask for other ideas. Is it really worth my while to purchase a Sunday News Tribune for coupons when I very often buy brands that are cheaper than the discounted brand to begin with? And really, am I the only one who feels like I need to take a shower after handling the Duluth News Tribune these days? I'm willing to sell my cooter but damn, purchasing the News Tribune would be sinking REALLY low.

And on the subject of selling my cooter for food, in our present situation, that might not look too good on the parenting front either.

Yes, damnit. I am kidding. Wipe that look off your face.

So, other money saving ideas? Tips? Just how much CAN I make selling my plasma?


Rebecca Hartong said...

1. Check out the Duluth Freecycle community:
Freecycling is a really wonderful way of getting stuff you need from other people in your community and later, when things are going better for you, you get to give back to others. It's a great feeling. There could very well be someone in the Duluth Freecycle group who'd be happy to give you the coupons from their newspaper. (I've seen several such posts on my local group.)

2. Eat vegetarian. Maybe you're already doing that. If you aren't, though, you may be surprised by how much cheaper it can be.

3. Rice and beans and frozen (or canned) vegetables and some good spices. A person can make an astonishing array of healthy, filling, and really delicious meals with these relatively inexpensive ingredients. Check out this recipe for daal, for example. (I could eat the stuff every day -- and it's CHEAP):
Maybe you think turmeric, cumin seeds, and garam masala are spices you'll only use rarely. Trust me, though, once you taste this stuff, you WILL want to make more.

4. Shelf-stable tofu. The kind that comes in the little aseptic package. It's cheap and you can do all kinds of things with it. I like to get the extra firm kind. Press it to get out the extra water, cut it into cubes and marinate them in something delicious for a few hours, then dredge them in cornstarch and fry them in oil until they've got a nice crispy brown crust. Serve them up with some of those frozen veggies (steamed now) and rice from my previous suggestion and you've got yourself a really good meal.

5. Walk and take the bus. You might already be doing this. I never had a driver's license until I was 36 years old and living in the DC area. Before then, I walked all over the place. When I lived in Duluth, I walked a LOT and was in the best shape of my life.

6. No matter how much you have to cut back on other things, always keep your house warm inside. That's just my personal thing, but... man. It's just awful to be cutting back on everything else and not even have a warm, cozy house to come home to.

7. Eat vegetarian.

Yeah... I know I already wrote that one. I just think it's probably the biggest thing a person can do to cut down on their food expenses.

Mary said...

There was just an article about this organization on the front page of the DNT yesterday (although I can't seem to get a proper link to it off their website):

Not sure if there's a MN group, but you're close enough to Superior that maybe you could fudge it a bit...

Anonymous said...


If you don't want to do vegetarian, here's more tips:

Buy the whole "roasting" chickens and roast up enough (2) for the week. When the chickens are cool enough to handle, process the birds by discarding the skin, saving all the bones & tail (for soup stock) and store the meat for use during the week for meals (add to Ramen, use for sandwiches, etc.)

Making stock: Put all bones and bits into stockpot or crockpot, cover with water, and add a dollop (about a Tablespoon) of vinegar and a bit of salt. Bring to boil and simmer at least 4 hours or until water becomes opaque. Pour stock through drainer to strain out bones and bits. Then you can either whip up a large batch of soup right then by adding veggies, beans, onions, whatever you have on hand OR you can refrigerate stock for up to a week to use as needed OR freeze stock to use when needed.

The only things that come in a can that I find are usually on sale without coupons are beans and tomato sauces. I rarely find DNT coupons that save me money on the essentials. Buy frozen produce instead of fresh when you can. Flour comes in 25 pound sacks and it is far cheaper to order yeast in bulk online and keep in the freezer. Buy bread flour if you decide to bake as this will up the protein in your diets (and far cheaper bread than the ready made stuff. Buy the 5 pound bag of carrots instead of the cute little pound of mini carrots.

Ask around at work (you work for a non-profit), the local churches, and some bakeries. Look for baking groups, day old quality breads. There are programs for kids (WIC?) to make sure they get adequate protein.

It will be a challenge, but don't worry. Your shopping skills will become finely honed. There are resources, just keep asking and don't isolate yourself.

Keep warm. The heat can be kept at 60 degrees and all will be well, just wear more clothes and maybe a hat around the house. Cuddle. Take in a boarder, maybe a student or two. The colleges are loaded with students who would think your cramped quarters are paradise. What is that worth?

Keep us in informed.