Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Donating excess foods

It’s organizing month.  Lots and lots of people are planning to clean and organize STUFF.  Me?  I’m planning to rid myself of excess STUFF.  I was almost ashamed to write this post.  I felt so greedy seeing the pictures and it’s a big contradiction to this blog. I kept asking myself how could I write about giving away lots of food when I’m living below the poverty line?  I decided to write it anyway because it’s a part of who I am.

I’m the neighborhood Nannie.  I collect kids from school buses and feed pets when owners are away.  I accept package deliveries and listen to problems.  I was also the keeper of food for those in need on our block.

I seemed to have accumulated lots of STUFF this past year because  no one was coming to get any of it.  I had a long talk with myself and decided I no longer want to be the keeper of foods for people who obviously don’t need or want any of it.

This year I’m starting my annual house clean out with the accumulated foods. It’s the time of year when the food banks are near empty.  Having just gone through two holidays of handing out food boxes it depletes their shelves. Church food banks are looking for donations which is why I started with the accumulated food.

Food donations 2013

Food donations 2014

I had more food than one person could possibly eat and my neighbors have stopped coming to get it from me.  For a long time I would fix up a box for someone about two or three times a week.  That no longer happens which means I have way more than my usual donations for the food banks.

Food donations 2013

Food donations 2014

You might think me crazy to have so much food but it all kind of sneaked up on me.  I swear I think the cans and the packages were dirty dancing and multiplying themselves behind closet doors.

Food donations 2013

Food donations 2014

Actually there’s a good explanation for all this food.  I get senior commodities every month and so do some of my neighbors.  The senior neighbors give me cans of things they either don’t want to eat or can’t eat.  I kept it here to give to any young family in need.  There have been other people bringing me canned foods this past year too.

Food donations 2013

Food donations 2014

Also, my senior neighbors had convinced me to go get the second harvest foods with them each week.  Second harvest is the blemished produce not good enough for a grocery shelf but very edible.  In this area the food give away is called Dare to Care Mobile Food Bank.  It’s a blessing for us in an area of a food dessert.  A food dessert is a city area of poverty lacking accessible fresh produce.  Dare to Care started giving away cans of food too.

I became hooked on getting the fresh produce for home canning. Especially after I got a new pressure canner.  I also found lots of fresh produce bargains in the store discount bins or purchased some at the farmer’s market.  I did  a whole lot of canning over the summer.  The Dare to Care foods felt like going to a special farmer’s market every week and was the next best thing to growing it myself.  I really enjoyed doing all that canning.  Of course I ate my home canned foods instead of the factory canned food.  My own tasted better because there is no chemicals or salt added.  So the factory canned foods just accumulated and accumulated.  No one was coming to get it and I wasn’t eating it either.

Green beans canned in 2013

Green beans canned in 2014

I am really good at finding discounted items in the grocery.  I would buy items because I believed a neighbor or a relative would use it.  This added to the accumulated foods too.  But I’m tired of looking for bargains no one wants anymore.

Here is one example of what my food storage had accumulated.  There is absolutely no reason what-so-ever I should keep more than 1 jar of peanut butter in my house for just me.  Now Na Na really, sixteen jars of peanut butter? Geeze, I just gave away 26 jars only four months ago.  Ok, there are four senior neighbors plus myself getting a jar every month.  So this has accumulated quickly at 5 jars a month.

Food and kitchen 2014 019

Hmm… I got carried away with canning jams and jellies too.  Way, way more than I’ll eat so I made up some gift boxes for a few families with several children.  Jars of peanut butter and several jars of jelly will make a whole lot of PB&J sandwiches.  My step daughter took the jelly only.  She has children with nut allergies.

Food and kitchen 2014 018

In my neighborhood the people don’t understand the concept of “RE USABLE” canning jars.  As a result I was loosing jars because people ate the contents and threw away the jar just like throwing away an empty can or manufacturer jar.  So I made labels for the jelly give away and explained to everyone these jars are not to be thrown away.

Food and kitchen 2014 020

I’ve informed everyone who had been giving me their extra food stuff that I will no longer take any foods for storage here.  Storing foods for the neighborhood is taking up too much space in my house.  I need that space for other things so all future donations should be taken directly to the church food bank.  They have the space and it’s what they do.

I’ll continue to get the second harvest foods and will be canning it for myself only.  The second harvest is really helping stretch my budget. I would prefer to grow my own food in a backyard garden but I’m not able to do that for awhile.

Well here is the storage room as it looked after 2 car load of food donations.  Only home canned foods are left except a few more factory canned items to be picked up this evening.

Food and kitchen 2014 015

Eventually I hope to move all the food into the kitchen and let Ladybug have this as “her” room when she spends the weekend.  Other times it’ll be the guest room/den.

So how about you?  Do you feel the need to purge your excess?

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