Monthly Archives: February 2016

I had lunch with a homeless man yesterday.

Last week I got a free burrito at Chipotle because of their promotion, and while I was there I purchased a gift card specifically to give to a homeless person. I saw a man almost immediately after walking out and gave it to him.

“Ben,” I greeted him yesterday when I saw him again, feeling a little proud that I’d remembered his name.

“Oh hey,” he responded. We chatted for a moment and he said that he remembered my face, but not where we met. I reminded him, and he said, “Oh yeah! I used it to get a burrito bowl. That’s easier than a burrito, because the tortilla is hard with my dentures.” He pulled out his retainer to show me. “You know, I’m kind of hungry now . . .”

I had some time, so I took him to Noodles and Company for lunch. I asked what had put him on the street asking for money. He told me that he’d had an infection in his hand several years ago, and it left him with decreased motor control plus pain with repetitive tasks. He said he used to work for a lot of restaurant-type places and on construction jobs, and that he recently applied for a job to bus tables and is waiting to hear back from them. I asked him where he sleeps, and he says he knows people who will let him sleep on their couch for $15 or $20 a night, plus he can shower and keep his other clothes there. He said sometimes they won’t want him to stay because they have guests or something else, and on those nights he’ll find a motel for around $50 if it’s really cold. He mentioned that he has a sister living a few towns away, but otherwise no real family or friends, only acquaintances.

He told me that when he’s asking for money on the street, some people are very nice and some are very mean. Recently a man gave him $200 and suggested that he use it to take a bus or train somewhere warmer, but instead he got a motel room for a week. I asked him how much he spends on food on a typical day if people don’t give him food, and he said maybe an average of $10, and that he usually eats at cheap places like McDonald’s. Finally, I asked if he’s ever able to save money up, or if he just lives day to day. He said day to day.

Budget-happy Rose did some quick math. If he pays $15 a night to sleep, that’s $450 in a 30 day month. $10 a day for food if no one gives him food, so maybe $5 a day on average makes $150 for a 30 day month. That’s $600 per month, plus anytime he gets a motel room. I didn’t ask about any other costs, like transportation or miscellaneous expenses.

I have so many thoughts about what I could do if it was me. There are some apartments listed as $450 per month or less, and $150 is more than enough for a monthly food budget if you a) can cook some things and b) have some cooking items like pans and spoons and such. It seems like it would be easier to get a job after having an apartment, because not being sure if you have a place to sleep/go home to seems debilitatingly stressful. Of course I’d have to save up enough for a security deposit and first month’s rent, which would be especially difficult on cold nights when that $50 motel room is looking like the best thing in the world.

Anyway, I could write up a whole plan for what I would do if it was me. But it’s not me. Our histories, skillsets, world knowledge, motivations, resources, and stressors, are so different. The perfect plan for me isn’t the perfect plan for him. What I would need in that situation is probably not what he needs.

Did I help him by buying lunch with him and talking to him? Nope, or at least not much. More than the food itself, it could have been nice for him to talk to someone, though I don’t know that for sure. I do believe that small acts of kindness go a long way, but just giving people things won’t make them fulfilled. It’s not my job to ‘save’ anyone, and it never will be. Maybe someday I’ll be in a position to create more positive opportunities for people, which in a nutshell is what I am starting to believe that every person needs.

Did he help me? Definitely. Whether his story was 100% truthful or not, I learned a lot by talking to him. I prayed before our meal, and noticed that he said “God bless” to me several times afterwards, where he hadn’t before. He also only ate half of his meal, taking the rest in a box. He seemed worried that I was going to think that he was going to waste it, and without prompting assured me several times that he would eat it later.

What else? If I talked to him again I might ask more questions about his background, but also what it is that he wants. What would make his life better? Happier? More fulfilling? I know what might make my own life different in these ways, but not anyone else. If I was going to make a plan for reducing poverty, I think I would start by asking people questions instead of just assuming that I know what they need.



A trip to the ER and an anti-climactic end to $50 food month

An interesting thing happened to me today. I went to McKinley to get a tetanus shot since it’s been ten years since my last one, and for a (still) unknown reason my body went into a state of shock/something. When I came in to the clinic the nurse asked me if I have a problem with needles or if I thought I’d pass out, and I told her no, that I’ve always been fine before. She gave me the shot and it felt as shots do, just a normal little sting, and I felt fine, then a touch lightheaded, then I warned the nurse that I was going to pass out and I leaned forward on the counter.

I was awoken from a strange dream by the sound of my name. “Rose! Rose! Rose! Rose!”

“What?” I finally said. Instead of one nurse there were now about seven. They helped me into a wheelchair and (apparently) moved me into a different room and had me lie on my back. I was in and out of consciousness for a while, but eventually I gathered that my blood pressure and heart rate were very low. They put an IV in me (though I don’t remember that happening either) to give me a saline solution to help get things moving again. It was cold, and it made me so cold I was shivering. I asked them if they could just knock me out because I was in such pain/discomfort, but they apologetically said no. They did give me some orange juice though.

My hallway hospital setup

They called an ambulance for me and I went to the hospital, but by the time it came I was at least more sentient and was feeling embarrassed that I was being rolled out on a stretcher. The ER was so full that I was given a bed in the hallway, but I didn’t mind because I was feeling alright at that point and I liked watching the people walking around. They did blood tests and an EKG and found nothing weird. I asked what the reasons might be that that had happened (is it because I got the shot while I have a cold? stress from grad school? should I gain weight?), but since everything came up normal and I ate a good-sized breakfast, they didn’t have any straight answers.

I’m back at my apartment now and feeling normal, though still not at 100% because of my cold.

I don’t think that my $50 food month diet is unhealthy or caused this to happen, but I’ve decided to give it up anyway for the sake of having fewer things on my plate to juggle.

For posterity, here is the ending state of things:

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$5.61 worth of food

I have $1.06 left to spend because yesterday I spent $5.61 for week four. I estimated that I had 3 breakfasts, 10 lunches, and 6 dinners remaining for the last 10 days. I tried to get items that could be used for a couple different types of meals, and I splurged on the OJ and tomato soup as comfort items for my cold. I had more milk left than cereal, so I got the pudding mix to use it up and have more snacks for my lunch. I think I’ll keep doing this in the future, because it’s a great lunch item,  it took only about 5 minutes to whip up, it’s more economical than buying the prepackaged individual puddings, and there is much less waste. Whoo!


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Food remaining after 21 days and $48.94 spent

I piled together all of the food that I have left. If I were to continue, I would have this food to eat for 9 more days (since today is day 21), plus the $1.06, which I likely would have spent on bananas. Some of it’s hard to see because of how it’s packaged, but you can get an idea. (Look how cute the puddings are! There were originally six, but I’ve eaten two because they’re delicious and easy snack foods.) You can consider for yourself if you think this is enough food for 9 days or not.

In terms of my own diet plans, I expect to eat almost exclusively these items for the next 9 days anyway because it’s what I have already. The biggest differences that I foresee from ending the $50 food month early is that I will eat cereal for breakfast instead of eggs or toast (as was my plan for this last stretch) and that I will probably get some more fruit and maybe some lettuce.

Well . . . I guess that’s it. I will post my thoughts on how this went and of what I’ve learned and what I plan to change about my usual grocery budget in the future. Thanks for following along! 🙂



Lunchables and being well past halfway

I’ve had several moments today where I’ve gone from, “I’m two and a half weeks in and killing it!” to “Oh gosh there’s still twelve days left,” back to “I am doing an amazing job.”

$50 food month has not been easy. It’s day 18, and I have a growing appreciation for how difficult it can be to diversify on a budget.

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The Mountain Dew was on sale – I got it for a Super Bowl party I am attending tomorrow! Whoo contributing.

Earlier this week I spent $3.48 on the items to the left. The canned meat pasta thing had a reasonable calories per dollar score, so I got it as another thing to try for lunches next week. The broccoli cuts were the least expensive of the frozen veggies; they and the potato were for an attempt at soup. The soup was . . . less than delicious. I basically cooked the potato, then the broccoli, added milk and parmesan cheese, it was too thin, cooked some rice and added that, and at the end it really just tasted like soggy broccoli stems. Luckily it was only about two servings, so I ate some yesterday and some today and it is now happily gone.

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Unappetizing soup.
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For dinners I switch between pasta and rice with broccoli, polish sausage, and soy sauce. The veggies have to be replenished the most.

Today I spent $4.57 more, which brings me to $8.05/$9.71 for this week. I got the broccoli florets again instead of the cuts because I still think stems are gross, and the other items are for making my own lunchables. I haven’t had bologna or processed American cheese (actually, the package says Imitation American Cheese, which leads me to believe that it is not, in fact, cheese) in years, and suppose I am pleased to report that my palate has developed and I don’t love it. However, it is a huge improvement on the soup, so I’m happy with it.

I don’t anticipate spending any more until after the fourth week starts, which means I’ll have $6.67 to finish off the month. The scary part of that is that $6.67 doesn’t seem like much for 12 more days, the un-scary part is that I have rice, veggies, soy sauce, polish sausage, a little pasta, an egg, bread, a few apples, milk, cereal, chocolate covered pretzels, and a some other small things left in addition to the food shown above.

I weighed myself while at the gym today, and while I am at the low end of my normal fluctuations, I am not out of my usual range. An excellent place to be at the more than halfway point, I would say.






Halfway Point: An Alternative to PB&J?

Looking at the many things in my fridge and cupboards, this is starting to feel less like an experimental venture and more like a normal food situation (except for the non-use of my spices). However, I still have 15 days to go, with only $14.71 left to spend.

My packed lunches for the past two weeks have been PB&J sandwiches with miscellaneous supplementary items, but I am now at the end of the PB&J. Do I continue or pursue another lunch plan? The pros of going that route again is that I have few ingredients to buy for it and it’s high on the calories per dollar chart. Cons are that it’s boring.

Is there something I can do that’s close to as cheap? I have access to a microwave most lunchtimes, depending on where I’m at.  I’ve been pondering it, but all I can come up with is soup. Maybe potato and mixed vegetable soup. I already have milk and parmesan cheese. I have no flour, nor do I have chicken broth or bouillon cubes,  which could lead to a thin, less flavorful soup. It’s not even that risky, though, because I can just get one potato and the mixed veggies, and if it goes terribly then I’ll go back to the PB&J. Excellent. It will be tried.

Otherwise my plan is pretty straightforward. Buy more fruits, more veggies, maybe more meat. Coast on through. See what runs out first of what I have left.