Living on a budget and trying to save your health and the environment can get to be frustrating. Last year we invested in a big bag of soap nuts. The price was reasonable when you considered all it was replacing. For $35 we had laundry soap, bath soap, shampoo, etc. The only problem was we didn't like it. My family hated the feel of the soap on their skin and hair. I hated that it went bad so I had to constantly make fresh batches and keep them in the refrigerator (which meant remembering to take it out and using really cold soap on our bodies). Eventually, it just became laundry soap. Our laundry grew dimmer and dimmer over the months until one day my husband announced he had had it. He does the laundry in our home and he just couldn't do it any more. I was so grateful because I could stand the fact that my clothes looked awful and the static was enough to kill us all. It just didn't work for us. The worst part is I still have half a bag of soap nuts that I have to figure out what to do with (supposedly they make great insect repellent so that's what we'll be using it for). This is just one example of how hard it is to do the right thing. Last night was grocery night. There were sales we didn't want to miss so mid-week shopping was what we had to do. I can't control when the food stamps arrive or when pay day is - fortunately they are on the same day. That meant late evening shopping which is frustrating enough. We started at our Co-op. The plan was to buy the hamburger there. The price has been $2.89 and if you buy three packs you get it for $2.59. The meat department was dark by the time we made it there (that in its self is a long terrible story but not all that important except to say I was already tired). The hamburger was $3.39. What!? My mother was there on Sunday and it was $2.89. After a time and me nearly leaving without hamburger. The lovely man that was helping us had finally found someone who knew something about the deal. We got 30 cents off a pound and bought the last four packs (two for us and two for my dad). We ended up paying $3.09 a pound. It's still a better deal but 50 cents in two days is a huge price jump. I did find a huge container of plain yogurt for just over $5 which was great because I wanted to start adding yogurt back into my lunch. This will get me a months worth and then I can save some to make my own (I forgot to save some from my last batch). On to store number 2. I had 2 things I wanted to get there - butter for $1.69 a pound and milk. Before we gave up milk we bought it there. The milk was from a local(ish) farm and was amazing, except I can't remember the name of the farm. There were three choices at the store - generic for $2.49, Dairygold for $2.99 and one organic brand for over $6. No local farm milk. I did peek at the milk at the co-op and there was nothing there for less than $6 a gallon. I can't do it. I remember the milk we bought wasn't that pricey, when did organic milk become over twice the price of the non-organic milk. No organic milk for us this month. I head for the butter. It's a generic brand for $1.99 with a coupon for 30 cents off. Not bad, except I forgot this is Idaho and even if you use food stamps, they tax the coupons. I didn't even think about it. As we were checking out, my son was going on about how he wanted some change and I hadn't even brought in my purse so I had nothing. That's when the girl at the counter asked if we had 12 cents to pay the tax. I understand that 12 cents is not much but it's inconvenient. I think it's horrible and the state's way of preventing those who use food stamps from using coupons. It's nearly a scam - the food is not taxed because of the food stamps but the coupons are. It's the whole reason I refuse to use coupons. I know if I think about this rationally - I saved $1.80 and they only want me to pay 12 cents but I have to tell you - I never have change. Change is what my son always takes. He loves the change, always had and I don't have a problem giving him the pennies and what not I find. But I, also, rarely deal in cash so change is not something I always have. By this time we had spent most of our food stamps (down to $18) and had 6 different foods to feed my family - hamburger, yogurt, milk, eggs, butter and flour (my wonderful husband had picked up the flour earlier in the day). For those who are keeping track - we started with $92. I'm fully frustrated. I don't know how I'm going to feed my family. Our cupboards are getting barer and barer each month. I still have a ton of applesauce but that's not any good if I don't have more to go with it. We're working our way through the grains we have in the pantry and the beans but I still haven't got a plan in place for when they are gone. I still have the option of going to the store right now but it makes me think of what will happen if I don't have that option. What if the world really does end? I worry about the economy and the environment. I've always been a nature lover but over the past few years I have been learning about what nature really provides for us. I get to thinking about the weeds - there's food and nutrition out there but there's also pesticides and herbicides and natural poisons. This winter has opened my eyes. I have to learn more, be vigilant in finding free or inexpensive sources of food, and find ways of preserving that food without coating it in sugar or salt. I know I'm not alone in this. I'm finding a growing community of people who want the same thing - sustainable sources of healthy food. That I am grateful for.