The Empty Fridge Club

October 16, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

This is a long overdue post. Overdue in that I wasn't really sure how to write it. So I didn't.

In 2015 I qualified for the SNAP program. Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or Food Stamps. A long distance move, a bad roommate, safe and secure housing woes all had me leaning on the supplemental program as my budget for food for the month. My award was the highest the state would allow for someone single. About $6 a day. Over the last 4 years I made that budget work for me. When the pantry was bare, or the vegetable drawer neared empty. Instead of feeling that things were scarce. I played a game. How long could I make do with what i had? I called it the Empty Fridge Club

I played this game to stretch my food dollar, to use ever last penny, and to not waste food.

Admittedly, I also played this game because I disliked the task of grocery shopping. I was never one to hop in the car for a needed lemon. I knew folks who did that.  I knew of people who would go to the store more than once in the course of making dinner. Why? I personally that that was pretty ridiculous and a really irresponsible use of gasoline. 

Grocery shopping on a budget requires decision making and planning. Often I got that right. But when I was having an off day emotionally, the grocery store challenged me. I would stare at the bulk bin trying to decide what sortof almond to buy. Sometimes I couldn't decide. I've left the store because of my overwhelm. I've cried while checking out when I couldn't remember my PIN #'s. Sometimes the store would set off other triggers. This would be frustrating. Obviously I can't avoid the grocery store. Sometimes I've wanted to. 

I've been single since 1997. There is noone to help. I had to plan, commute, execute, pay for, commute, haul and unload and organize. Sometimes the task would just wipe me out. Going to the store less and buying enough for at least 2 weeks was one solution to that. Each place I've lived offered unique challenges. Currently, it's a small fridge and a commute to the parking lot where I park. I have to use a cart. One place it was mice. I had to think differently about my pantry. Another place I lived I had to haul groceries up 23 stairs. Depending on how large my shop was. That was a lot of trips up and down the stairs! 

For one period of time the nearest grocery store was 45 minutes away - each way. My gasoline budget allowed 4 trips into town a month. I had to manage appointments, errands and such all in those 4 trips. Remarkably. I did.  If I forgot the butter, it was going to be 2 weeks before I'd get some. I had to "make do with what i had" 

The making do way really surprised me! Over the years I made some rather amazing dishes with very little. Instead of saying all I have is one egg, an onion and a bell pepper.  I could say LOOK it's an omelette. It was another day I that I didn't spend. It was a way of finding abundance. with very little. 

I love to cook, I cook scratch and I eat for health. I live alone. Posting an image of what I was having for dinner on social media would often spark a response. It made me feel less alone at dinner time.  When I started playing the empty fridge club game. I wrote a tag.( #emptyfridgeclub ) Folks noticed. I later found out that my posts were inspiring to others. Especially regarding food waste. I would get my fridge and pantry to empty. I would use all that I had. Others would think of me as they faced the same circumstance.  I love that. 

Emotionally. A full fridge speaks to abundance for me. It's comforting. When the fridge is full. I have nothing to worry about. In my past when things weren't going very well. A full fridge consoled me. At least I could eat well.  

Today as I write, I am working an empty fridge. I thought I would have to go shopping yesterday. I surprised myself and instead found 2 more days of meals. I made a soup from potato and acorn squash. Not how I planned to use those ingredients. The soup turned out amazing.  And there were left overs. YAY! This making do stretches my food award. It keeps me within my budget.

I started documenting an empty fridge before I was awarded food stamps. I found within the fridge a sense of order, bright colors and the shapes were rather intriguing. I can't possibly share ALL of those images in a blog post.  This was part of why I didn't write about it. I felt overwhelmed by all the images.  I recently thought. What if I tell the story. and link instead to a portfolio of images that will grow as time allows. or as empty fridge captures are taken. This idea felt like a way to manage the story. I feel so good telling it. 

we have below. pickles, rice, zoodles, 4 radishes and onions. in the freezer: 2 jars of aronia syrup, catnip, and curry sauce. and empty ice tray.

Meet "Gert" My granny cart!! 



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Photography = a never ending opportunity to capture visual celebrations. 


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