Budgeting for Uncertain Times

I used to be a very loyal customer of a beautiful little health foods grocery store run by a really sweet family with a lot of heart. They were incredibly excited about all the new things they were ordering. They would try things out on the shelves for a while and then carry something else. This little health food store had the new products on the market before they even hit austin. I stopped there often and tried many new health foods that i wouldn’t have otherwise known existed. It was like a neat surprise what was on the shelves each month. I remember loading my basket with goodies and going to the check out with vegan pizza, chives dip, cream cheese, yogurt, and field day garbanzo beans (the best there are). I also always bought several packages of gluten free vegan ramen noodles. I spent a great portion of my paycheck there. I bought a smoothie each time. I thought nothing of it. The field was stable and i didn’t have a mortgage. Fast forward to a year later and all sorts of changes were being made to my career field. There was a fair amount of uncertainty in my life. I had an adjustable rate mortgage, lots of payment plans to uphold, and two mouths to feed. I could no longer afford to buy luxuries like vegan waffles, chives dip, and gluten free ramen. I was ashamed. I was so very ashamed that i could not afford to contribute to their place of business like i used to; like i wanted to. I didn’t show my face there at all for a couple of months. Then one day i mustered the courage. i was focusing more on dry bulk items; things that would keep long in the pantry and give me the most amount of food for my buck. I looked for bags with large quantities of the thing inside rather than an individually wrapped item. The owners had started a “clearance basket” routine. Whatever didn’t sell in a timely manner went into the clearance basket in great quantity to make room for something that would sell better. I felt super guilty again because they were not making any profit selling me items at $1 a piece. I told them it felt like i was stealing from them. I thanked them for the items. It nearly squashed what was left of my pride when the owner produced the box of ramen saying that he thought i must not know where they were because i hadn’t tried to buy any from them in months. I bought a couple. I knew i would enjoy them, but they were not in the budget and this couldn’t happen again. Over the next few weeks i watched all the things i had once loved to buy disappear from the shelves as he gave up on me returning to my old habits. He held out longer than i expected him to wait before crossing the items i used to buy off their list. He was truly a considerate person and made every effort to allow me to purchase them before discontinuing the carrying of the items. I tried to put on a happy face every time i entered the store but my carefree days of filling my basket were over. I shopped from the clearance basket. This particular time they were getting rid of gluten free dry pasta. I spent 50 dollars and filled the trunk with two large boxes of food. It was a good deal. Then i hopped over to goodwill where all the clothes with orange tags were 50% off. I found two shirts with orange tags and 9 big band records for a collective total of 99 cents. There were 10 originally but one was missing.

Then i drove it all home and stocked the pantry.

I put on a record to listen to while i unloaded the groceries. Though the music was upbeat my heart was heavy and sad. When i got a great deal on clearance items in a chain store it felt like an accomplishment but when i knew the store owner, it just made me feel like a sorry friend. They had their obstacles and hardships just like i did mine. I wanted to support their business. These were people that had given me a free brownie to celebrate the closing of my house, who had opened their closed smoothie shop and driven a block of frozen acai berries over to make an acai bowl when i was so very sick i felt like death itself and the frozen acai berries slid down my throat in such a soothing manner. These were people who had been there to help me mark every milestone, even the landing of my side jobs. I wanted to support their business, but unfortunately, i couldn’t. I continued to dig through the clearance basket and make quiet excuses and forced smiles when they brought me the items i used to purchase regularly. My own words to the patients under my care seemed to haunt me, “if you don’t use it you lose it.” I had been talking about muscle mass but i was pretty sure it applied to beautiful family-owned health food stores in the country too.

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