Economic Crisis Diet

by M. Lizabeth Currain

So, times are tough. I say this phrase at least 5 times a day, to try and make it really sink in to those around me. Especially my employer, because it’s the most passive away to imply that one needs a raise. Which I do. Because I am poor.

I basically live paycheck to paycheck–the last one I get in the month always being the one that I use to pay my rent. That paycheck is barely enough to cover my rent, and my rent really isn’t that high. But once you tack on things like electric (which is killer in the summer if you are not a hot/humid weather type of person, i.e. ME) and gas–generally not that expensive because the stove is more like a conversation piece than something I actually use on a regular basis–things get tight. Then there is my student loan, credit card, etc. I have no chance to save any money, because basically, I go through it like toilet paper–and I go through a lot of that because we aren’t allowed to put toilet paper in our toilet. It’s a long story that involves plumbing that I don’t quite understand, but maybe Joe the Plumber would.

So I am stretched financially. And that means something has to fall to the wayside. I’ve already practically given up on fashion–I’m wearing bootcut jeans that I got at a thrift store! Who wears bootcut jeans?! I might as well be wearing flares! It’s all about the skinny jeans, people. Also, I’m still wearing tank tops. It’s pretty much like 50 degrees outside. But I can’t afford the luxury of a long sleeve shirt. Not in this economy. Mostly all of my clothing at this point comes from the thrift store where I work. Sometimes I will buy a t-shirt–from work. Tres Faconnable. Tres Chic. Tres Pauvres.

Now this economic crisis of mine has asked to me to give up something else that I love. Something that I love almost as much as fashion–sometimes, even more, when I’m depressed. Food. Yes. Food. When did groceries become so expensive? When did eating a normal meal become a luxury? No longer can I enjoy a Chipotle burrito; my lifeblood; or a sausage, egg, and cheese on a bagel on those dreadful Sunday mornings when I have to work. No more.

But I know I am not suffering alone. And I want to help others out there, that are in a similar situation as I. I’m going to give some tips, some recipes, some advice.

If you work in retail, or anything sort of customer service related, where you interact with people–sometimes the same people–on a daily basis, try to make friends with a few of them. They are going to be essential in getting you the nutrients or snacks you so desperately need. This past Sunday, when I had forgotten my lunch, one of my favorite customers came bearing gifts of delightful little pastries, from a reputable bakery. They satisfied my sweet tooth for 3 days. Also, don’t be selfish; offer some to your coworkers–at least the ones you like anyways. When someone comes in asking to borrow a pair of scissors, try your best to find a pair, because you never know when they are going to be violently trying to open up a bag of Starburst Jellybeans and offer you some. When a customer comes in bringing food for your boss, who is not there that day, don’t be afraid to split it amongst you and your coworkers. That food could go bad, better yet, that food could be poisoned, and you will have saved your boss’s life. It is a great way to supplement the pathetic lunch you have packed for yourself (I added a soup to my sandwich today! For free!) and save you the hassle paying for a drink at the deli–with regards to that, just buy a can of soda, it’s only a buck and not as bad for the environment as those $1.25/1.50 bottles of soda. Arizona teas in the can are also a great bargoon for $.99. Also, if you buy one, $1 bottle of water, you can keep refilling it for free, from your own tap! Water is pretty much included in most people’s rent–and a lot of work places have water coolers.

If someone offers you some free food take it. Don’t ask questions, just be grateful that you are getting something for free. Also, mention foods you like, because a coworker may have some foodstuffs in her house that she gets from the government for free, like peanut butter, but doesn’t like and can’t feed to her child because they are allergic to nuts–you can benefit from that. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Don’t be afraid of brands you have never heard of or the generic stuff. Tropical Fantasy Soda comes in a variety of, well, tropical flavors in a generously sized bottle for only $.65 (at least that’s how much it costs at the bodega by my apartment.)! Go for the $1.39 loaf of bread with a name you can’t remember–it tastes like Wonderbread, but better because it’s not $3. Also, generic pretzels, pretty much the same thing as Rold Gold, but CHEAPER. Hotel Bar butter? Bet you haven’t heard of it. It’s cheap, but it looks like butter, tastes like butter, and it fucking is butter–but it’s cheap, because their logo is a g.d. bellhop from 1957. And when you see a name brand cereal box touting a special price of $2.79, grab that mofo because that won’t last. And Froot Loops taste better when you aren’t being charged $4.39 for a box that is going to last you, in all honesty, like 3 days. We are adults, not small children. Our cereal intake is at a different level and just can’t be compared to that of a small child.

If you are going to order out, which I don’t recommend, unless your Father is paying for it, try to extend that takeout for as long as possible. That Chinese food I ordered on Saturday? Lasted me until Tuesday. I was having that stuff for lunch and dinner. It’s all about portion control. Don’t order from places like Papa Johns…my roommate makes this mistake all the time. A large pizza is like $23. That is too much. I can get a large pizza from Nick’s/Frank’s/Whatever-his-name-might-be for $14. At 8 slices in a large, that’s 4 meals if you eat two at each sitting. Everybody’s different, but 2 slices of pizza is a reasonable serving for someone who is grown and not binge eating because they are drunk. Also, Subway, $5 footlong–sure you may find a knife in your sandwich, but how can you beat $5 for a footlong?! That’s two six inch subs. That is lunch and dinner, or lunch and lunch. However you want to spread it out. I believe Quizno’s offers a similar deal–choose your poison.

Buy pasta. Buy the cheapest pasta you can find. It is all going to end up in the same place eventually (get what I’m saying?), so why splurge at this point? Cook it, put a little bit of your Hotel Bar Butter on it while it’s still hot, sprinkle a little salt, a little pepper–maybe some garlic powder if you have some–and there is dinner, every night of the week until you can find a new job that pays better or until someone does you a favor and puts you out of your misery.

Buy pancake mix, but be sure to read the box so that you are buy the “just add water kind”. I recommend Aunt Jemima–lady knows a pancake, okay? That can be breakfast and dinner until the box is gone. It will last a while (I’ve had my box for a good 5 or 6 months), unless you consume massive quantities of pancakes at each meal. Pace yourself. Also, Aunt Jemima syrup is delicious. You’ll want to have that around. Not only is it good on pancakes, but when you realize that you have no food in your apartment, except for a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter your roommate bought you to replace the one he ate while he was drunk, you can drizzle it on a spoonful of peanut butter. I can sense that you are judging me right now, and I am okay with that. Because when you try it, you will know what I am talking about. It’s the right blend of salty and sweet.

What started this whole thing for me, was that fact that, yesterday, in order to save myself some money, I bought Smuckers Goober Grape. For those of you elitist consumers out there, this is what real America is about. It is peanut butter and grape jelly combined. In one jar. For only $3.19 (at my bodega). Skippy peanut butter alone was $2.39 with jelly around the same price. I am saving practically half. It tastes okay. It wouldn’t be my first choice if I gobs of cash to be grocery shopping with. But it does the job. Slathered on some $1.39 no-name bread, served with some generic $1.19 pretzels and a $.65 Tropical Fantasy ( I recommend the Peach or Mango flavor) soda and you basically have a lunch for a little over a $1. That is true savings people!

Also, Halloween is coming up. You can either go trick-or-treating yourself and collect yourself some delicious candy bar meals, or you can steal the candy from children. It’s up to you. November is coming and if McCain wins, we could be facing even tougher times, and no amount of Goober Grape is going to be able to get us through it.

As with any diet, try and think of the end goal. With the amount of weight one will lose, from the lack of nutrition and food that is being eaten, when that new job comes, and one’s personal economic crisis is over, those brand new skinny jeans are going to look great!