Sunny in the hood…

I took a walk to one of the 53 liquor stores in my neighborhood.  I wanted to compare prices and food options at the corner stores versus the dollar store.  I was surprised at some of the “specialty” items they sold…

…like popcorn in a can and four different kinds of Vienna Sausage in a can.   Yummo.

I was impressed with their selection of items that can be used to cook a real meal, such as spice packets, dried beans and corm meal.  Price wise, it was way more expensive then the dollar store, on average $1.50 higher.  So why would you choose to spend more money at the liquor store?  The only reasons I can think of are A) if it’s closer to where you live (I live 1 block from the dollar store) or B) you also need alcohol and you don’t want to go to two stores.

Speaking of alcohol…

Guess how much the cheapest fifth of vodka is at my local liquor store?

$2.15.  I had no idea that liquor could be that cheap.  No wonder I see bottles of it everywhere around here…

So my 4 bucks a day has not left me hungry, but I realize that is due to the .99 Store that has stepped up to fill the role of a grocery store.  I have never seen a dollar store that has a little freezer section, produce and bread sections.  After talking with several people, I know that if I was doing this in a part of town where there wasn’t that option, I would not be able to buy as much as I have .  I’ve talked a lot about the crap that I’m eating, but I want to talk about the hunger.  Turns out that according to the San Francisco Food Bank, hunger manifests itself not just as a consistent lack of enough food to meet nutritional requirements, but it can also mean poor-quality food that is calorie-rich and nutrient-poor.  So while I feel like I am getting enough calories everyday, I am still hungry, hungry for nutrients.  When I think about how many people in this city alone qualify as hungry because of the lack of nutrients in their diets, I feel overwhelmed.  A common misconception is that the only people in this country who are without food are the homeless.  This simply isn’t true.  Only 18% of people that the SF Food Bank serves are homeless- the rest are people who are unemployed, disabled or working and not able to make ends meet.

My husband and I are always complaining that we don’t have enough money.  The truth is, as is the truth for many people with the same complaint, that we don’t have enough money for our lavish lifestyles.  Let me define lavish- because we certainly don’t have a BMW or take exotic vacations while our house cleaner vacuums.  But we do  go to concerts and festivals, spend money on camping and baseball games and enjoy going out for dinner.  While I buy most of my clothes at second hand stores and we cut out cable to save money, we are still wine club members and have a netflix subscription.  We have had many times in our 10 years together where we didn’t have enough money to pay the bills- and have always gotten assistance from family.  But we have never been in a situation where we didn’t have enough money to eat, and if we were, we would always have someone to help us.  I can’t imagine not having anyone to turn to in times of need, or being to ashamed to ask for it.  We are so lucky to have the lives we have, and while we struggle to pay our bills every month, we spend a not so small portion of our income frivolously and enjoy doing it.  That sounds kind of twisted and immature when I read that back…but it’s true.  We work hard and like to play hard.  We are fortunate to not just have jobs (OK- I don’t really have a job) but to have the freedom to spend some of our hard earned money on enjoying life.


Today I ate the exact same thing I ate yesterday, except instead of beans in a can, I had Spaghetti O’s without meatballs in a can.

They were not as good as I remember them being as a kid…


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Comments on: "Sunny in the hood…" (7)

  1. brizzahizza said:

    gotta get the meatballs.

  2. Katie- Great blog! I’m enjoying your stories.

    .. since its spring time there are lots of four leave clovers (which are edible) popping up in urban settings. They contain a ton of vitamin C and a little bit of vitamin A. Wouldn’t want to binge on these because they do contain a lot of mildly poisonous oxalic acid. a leaf a day would keep the scurvy away.

  3. Cup of Sunshine said:

    I just found your project thanks to a post on The Rumpus, and I’m glad I decided to check it out.

    Through most of my middle & high school years my father, my twin sister & I lived on limited resources. My father had foodstamps & was able to get a large box of free food from the local Salvation Army office every week (and it definitely wasn’t high quality – mostly canned goods of questionable content & lots of white rice, with some partially stale/moldy bread). We moved to a small town partway through high school (think neighborhood-sized town), and the nearest city with a full grocery store (no dollar store) was about 10-miles away. Definitely not walking distance. As far as I know, there was no Salvation Army, so we lived off of just the foodstamps until my father discovered that he could grab a boxful of (low-quality) frozen dinners at the local church; however, this was only available to senior citizen-aged people, and if he had not been of the right age, we would not have had this option.

    Basically, where you live definitely makes a *difference*, and you’re very fortunate to have a dollar store.

    • 4bucksaday said:

      thanks for the comment. it is so true that location makes a huge difference. i can only imagine how difficult is would be to be in a rural area without transportation. i have it really easy doing this with a dollar store on the block…

  4. Cup of Sunshine said:

    In contrast to my childhood, I just realized I *am* living on roughly $4/day *now*. And I eat fairly decent. The difference? I live in area with plenty of shopping options and have transportation (the bus) to them. It certainly is possible to eat healthy on this budget, provided that you’ve got the right location. I also try to make up a weekly menu plan, and cook things that will last for a few days (brown rice is one of my staple foods; bulk bins are awesome if you’ve got a store nearby with them).

  5. Honestly when I saw a blurb about you doing this my heart sank. Often when people do poor people challenges I frankly wind up angry. Thank you for being respectful and realizing how many seemingly small things can make such a huge difference.

    • 4bucksaday said:

      shannon- thanks. i really made an effort to come at this project with respect and empathy. i’m glad that came through in my blog…

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