Family is everything! Family is forever...for parents, nothing else in life really matters but that your kids are healthy and happy. Thriving. I grew up with two parents who provided me all the necessities of life...and loved me and my sisters very much. I never knew of any financial problems, if they had any (they are human so I'm sure they did!). I had this Cinderella idea of life. I would be a stay at home mom and my husband and I would raise an incredible family and have grandchildren and grow old together.... THE END!
That was not my story. That was not my kids story. At the age of 27 I was a single mom. No college education, just mom skills and years of music training behind me. My mom had been a stay at home mom and when my dad passed away when I was 26, she had to go to work full time. So - when I was suddenly this single mother...I had a world of stigmatism's and judgement's about 'our kind' and I felt sucker punched and blind sided. Everything had changed. I remember one day my mom and I were going for a walk downtown (small town - so a walk meant that everyone you saw you knew). One lady had the 'audacity' to ask me if I had found a job yet!!! I mean, seriously???!! I was a mom! lol. I couldn't even comprehend the concept of working outside of the home. I remember feeling so upset by that silly little comment. But...soon after I was offered my first job and I settled in just fine.
Life as a single parent can be interesting. There are these beautiful little humans who look to you to feed them, keep them healthy, alive, warm, sheltered...and they have NO idea that you go to bed stressing about little things..like, 'am I going to have money to buy toilet paper', 'what about milk and juice...do they really need to be in the budget?'...so you can go one of two ways: start researching healthy eating to stay within a budget and cut out the crappy foods, or you can buy all the junk that is cheap. I had to do both over the years.
I am going to share with you one of the darkest moments I had as a single parent. A 'real' moment I am sure I'm not the only one who has had this. It was my first summer single. I had no job yet, no income, no financial support. I had held a yard sale to go to our church camp so the kids had some normalcy. I had family allowance coming in the following week and the cupboard was bare. It was late summer so alot of my garden produce had already been used and I wasn't much of a green thumb then and the bugs had taken over the lettuce and some vegetables. Some tiny tiny baby carrots had started to grow from my second planting so I picked those. We had crabapple trees so I picked some apples. I had 1 cheap hot dog left in the fridge and a tomato. I was picking the apples and I noticed the leaves. I thought hmmm.....I wonder....so I rushed inside and googled 'are crabapple tree leaves poisonous to humans'. No. So I went back out and picked some leaves. I steamed them a little and prepared a salad for supper. While I was making the 'salad', my kids came into the kitchen and my daughter said 'YUCH!!" Why are you making salad with leaves mommy?!' I lied. I said, it's spinach! My oldest son said, 'Mom, those don't look like spinach, those look like leaves!' I said again 'nope. They are spinach. There is different kinds.' He said 'yeah, there's spinach then there's leaves'. I told him to go and wash up dinner would be ready soon. We sat down and we ate. My boys googled that night spinach leaves and tree leaves. They were not stupid. But they said nothing and had eaten.
Now, I am not saying to eat leaves. And I had just enough other 'odds and ends' so I really filled that bowl up and only used what I needed for 'greens' for 'filler'. I do NOT recommend this. I share this because I went to bed that night feeling like a failure as a mother. I cried myself to sleep. My daughter came in at one point (she was 4) and said, 'That's okay mommy, I love you even though you fed us leaves. The salad was yummy and so healthy!' And it kind of was. I had grabbed raisins, any nuts we had, unknowingly we had quite the healthy dinner (except for the hot dog and leaves).
The next day I was on a mission. A mission to NEVER eat leaves again!! So - we purged the house of everything we did not need and sold it. I sat down and did a budget that broke down each meal and what it would cost. I worked out what I could afford and away grocery shopping we went.
Here's 5 Tips to Healthy Low Income Eating:
1. Your Budget Never Lies.
It is what it is. So stay within it!
2. Stay on the outside perimeter when shopping!
You will be tempted to shop for cheap canned foods-it's a trap! Eat healthy and stay along the outside!
3. Your kids don't need dairy and sugar! You have drinking water from your tap. Simply add fruits, lemon or vegetables to the water to infuse it. It will be a very healthy treat!
4. You are not there to keep up with the Jones's! Your child's health comes first. Your budget comes first. You are a strong independent person and you have the will power to ignore the calling of the dino snacks!
5. TAKE the calculator and add things up along the way! Why are we so proud this day and age. I applaud people I see in stores adding things up. They are wise! SIDE TIP: Make your goal $20-$25 less than your list. This 'leaves' (no pun intended) you some room for play money, movie rental, an ice cream treat.
We were so lucky. In the summer we lived 8 minutes from a beautiful lake. So $25 for the weekend got us fuel to drive to the lake, a DQ ice cream treat along the way and a snack while we'd sit by the bonfire in the back.
To all you single parents out there who have 'had an indoor campout when the power was cut'; 'had to get creative with your food'; focused on the positive and healthy substitutes when things got low'; and sold things to just put food not the table', YOU are not alone! And I'm proud of you! You are a survivor! Stay around encouraging people and know that you are rocking' it! My kids survived and turned out amazing! I included a photo below of my kids the age they were that summer. Then a look at them years later. They are happy healthy individuals. Kids are resilient. We need to be too...