As I sat down to eat my 4th night in a row of the same dinner, I thought I would share what dinners are like for a single, 31-year-old woman.
As it is with many full-time volunteers, my support from donors comes in once a month. This means I have to budget everything out for the month.
I break the monthly amount for food down into 4 parts usually. While the intention is always 25%-25%-25%-25%, somehow reality is more 50%-30%-15%-5%. It is a vicious cycle. You just checked my math, didn’t you?
Week 1: The previous month ended with me barely having enough to eat, so now that I have plenty of money in the envelope. I am going to treat myself for “suffering” through last week. Plus my self-inflicted fast left me with no energy or motivation to cook. Therefore, I eat out or get take-away and go out for coffee with friends. (Keep in mind, I live in SE Asia, so eating out is not horribly expensive, however, it still more expensive than making small meals at home.)
Week 2: I feel guilty and realize how much of my food budget I blew in my first week. Additionally, all that Pad Thai take-away and coffee gave me the energy to grocery shop. I proceed to the 4 different stores and markets Cambodia requires to find all I need for a well-balanced, beneficial week. I spend my entire weekend cleaning, chopping, cooking, and making a four-star chef feel inadequate with the healthy gourmet food I “whipped up.” However, it is just me to eat this meal made for a family. So I eat a small portion of it and either freeze or refrigerate the rest. For this week, I eat the delicious, nourishing meal every… single… night.
I no longer like this meal.
Week 3: The budget is almost shot, but there is some salvage. I decide I want to accomplish something other than spending my weekend cooking and doing dishes, so I only proceed to one grocery store on a tight budget. $5 for a box of cereal, that can make at least 3-4 meals. Or I opt for the rice crackers and quickly blended hummus for dinner. Sometimes oatmeal with some frozen fruit does it.
Sitting on my couch*, I munch happily on this plain meal in a bowl that only took me a few minutes to put together.
*Keep in mind, I have a table. Week 3 meal just doesn’t merit a table.
Week 4: I search every bag and pocket for money. Scraping it all together, I determine I do not have enough except to replenish my toilet paper supply. Then, I go through my cupboards and try to get creative with frozen fruit, dried black beans, and peanut butter. I also lament how low my coffee bag is getting. I may not survive this week.
God forbid it is a 31 day month… I may go hungry a few evenings or stave off the hunger with a few tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter (I really don’t like peanut butter much, yet somehow I still buy it and have it for emergencies.)
I endure because I know I will start the singles-food-cycle all over again and feast like a queen in a week.
I realize in these moments, I am grateful that I do not have to be accountable for feeding a husband and child cereal for 3 nights in a row.