Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 27, 2014
Discuss this article at the Diner Pantry
From the title you might have suspected that I headed over to one of the “Thanksgiving Blessings” that several Churches and Senior Centers do around here, which actually we have been helping to supply from the Food Pantry I volunteer at. We rounded up 100 cans of Cranberry Sauce for one of these Blessings.
Twice a year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, these large scale “traditional meal” extravaganzas are held to make sure even homeless people can share in the great Food Bounty of Industrial Agriculture. The rest of the year, as a Homeless person you are basically SOL, because there are like ZERO Soup Kitchens that operate year round.
The Thanksgiving Blessings around here also mostly don’t serve real Homeless People, as there are very few of them. They mostly serve the population of Octogenarians and up who either did not have families of their own, or whose sons and daughters moved on elsewhere and don’t fly them in to wherever they now live for Turkey Day. If they still can take care of themselves on their SS and Pensions, they live in usually dilapidated houses, and then eventually they end up in Nursing Homes of varying quality depending on what kind of monthly income they still have. The population of elderly people with no children who care about them is quite large actually.
“86% of Americans aged 45 or older have had children, and nine in 10 of these say they would have children if they had to “do it over again.” Of the 14% of Americans aged 45 and older who do not have children, 50% say that if they had to do it over again, they would have at least one child.”
14% never had children at all, then of the ones that did, if they are in their 80s they may have actually outlived any children they did have. With the Mobile culture we developed, families did not stay together in any event, and my best guess is for people 80 years and older now, at least 25% of them have nobody who even visits them in the Nursing Home, much less invites them for Thanksgiving Dinner.
I remember in this case my mom’s oldest sister, my Aunt Ruth. She was 20 years older than my mom, one of those scenarios of the long fertility time from 15 to 50 for women which can have some pretty wide spreads in siblings. When mom was in her 60s, Ruth was in her 80s and in a Nursing Home. She went to visit with her maybe every other week or so. Ruth did have children, and they actually lived in the same general neighborhood, but you know how BUSY everyone is of course. Maybe she got a few visits a month. You can see the reality of this simply by visiting a Nursing Home, which I do periodically but not this Thanksgiving. Its very depressing overall to do this, and a good reason to hope you go out quick at some point rather than last a long time this way.
So, rather than attend one of these Dinners, with the Buffet Table of the usual Turkey, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Sweet Potatoes, I though I might examine today how a real Homeless person can feed himself or herself, both most of the year as well as on Thanksgiving. Also, I am still going to do this on the SNAP Card Budget, and keep the Daily Expense down to $5/day.
The completely destitute Street Person Bag Lady type of Homeless person who pushes all her meager belongings around in a Shopping Cart has VERY limited ability to either acquire food or cook it, I often wonder how these folks survive at all. Mostly by dumpster Diving I suspect. Leaving your cart of stuff to go into a Food Emporium to shop risks having it stolen, or more likely trashed. So you would have to hide it somewhere. Said Bag Lady also probably does not have a Camp Stove in her cart, so the only cooking means would be to drop in a Convenience store and use the Microwave, or make a Fire Hobo style, but finding fuel to burn and a place to do it in the city where you won’t be accosted by the police also very hard.
Besides this is the problem of Food Storage. As a Homeless person of this type, you have no ability to buy in bulk and store food, and no refrigeration to store your Leftovers. As mentioned in prior SNAP Card Gourmet episodes on this topic, for the single person both buying in bulk and eating leftovers are a big part of keeping your costs down.
So, in this thought experiment, my homeless person is not a completely destitute Street Person. He used to work up here in Alaska on the Slope as an Ice Road Trucker, and for many years made a good living. He used his savings to go into Real Estate development, and did even better for another decade. However, he was levered up heavily before the crash in 2008, and after the Bankruptcy proceedings were all said and done, he lost all the properties he was planning to develop, plus his house which he had used as collateral for a really choice property on the Matanuska River he was going to build a Hunting & Rafting Resort on.
All he was left with in the end was a few hundred dollars in his checking account, his SUV and clothes and his camping gear. He also has some Medical Problems, he is in his late fifties and not yet eligible for Medicare or Social Security but has Peripheral Artery Disease in his legs which makes walking difficult and a semi-paralyzed right arm. He is too proud to go for SSDI, and doggedly looks for a job, finally landing a part time Minimum Wage position 20 hours a week as a Greeter at Walmart. He does apply for SNAP card, and he goes to the Food Pantry he used to volunteer at once a month for a Food Box.
His total income not including the PFD he gets from Alaska Oil every year is around $600/mo gross, less after the taxes are taken out but we’ll call it $600 for simplicity purposes. He looks around for a place to live, but they all cost more than he makes each month, or right at it, so he elects to live in his SUV, also getting a Storage Unit with 24/7 Access which costs him $80/mo. He keeps his food, camping gear, clothes etc in the storage unit, and he sleeps in his SUV. He buys a $50/mo membership at the Alaska Club, where he showers and cleans up every day so that he is presentable for his shift Greeting at Walmart. He also keeps a Cell Phone with the minimum 1GB 4G Data Plan for $30/mo so he can still receive calls and pick up email on jobs he sends out Resumes for. He uses Free Wifi most of the time from the Coffee Shop for doing serious Web Surfing, and to run the Free Blog he has on Blogspot and the Free Forum he has on Create-a-Forum along with his You Tube Channel and Soundcloud Channel where he has the Basic Free Accounts and does periodic Podcasts and Vidcasts to chronicle his life as a Homeless Person.
In his SUV he also has wired in a Deep Cycle Marine Battery which mostly charges off the car alternator, but he periodically tops off by charging it while doing Laundry at the Laundromat or while surfing the net at the Coffee shop. He has a 500W Power Inverter for AC Current which allows him to keep all his Diode Lights and Cell Phone and Laptop charged up all the time. He also can run his Slow Cooker and DC Cooking Oven off the battery to heat up food.
His fixed monthly costs besides running the car are $140. He spends all his time in the Mat Valley, with Daily Driving around no more than 10 miles/day, mostly less since he also has an Electric Scooter to make grocery trips and trips to the coffee shop on. Average driving is 200 miles/mo, around 10 gallons @ 20 mpg @ the current price of $3.50/ Gallon for $35. Insurance costs him another $50/mo, and Registration $10/mo. Add this to the $140, total fixed costs now @ $235, still well under the $600 he earns at Walmart as a part-time Greeter.
To complete the Picture here before we move on to the COOKING, here is how yesterday went for this Hypothetical Homeless Person (HHP), as he told it to me:
“I woke up yesterday morning parked in an Apartment Complex in Wasilla. These are better than the commercial parking lots, the cops don’t cruise them so much. It was around 25 F last night which is pretty toasty warm in winter here so I just needed my Sleeping Bag good to -30 and did not have to use my DC current blanket or foot warmers. When I woke up I drove over to the convenience store to hit the toilet and brush my teeth and Nuke Up a Breakfast Burrito. Then I drove over to the Alaska Club and worked some leg therapy exercises for my legs, took a shower and changed clothes. After that I drove over to the Coffee Shop and did some Web surfing, then over to Walmart for my Greeting shift. I picked up a can of soup and a can of beans and a can of corn to make a Gumbo with. I went over to the Storage Unit after my shift and heated up the soup and rice and had a nice dinner. After that I drove over to the Laundromat and did some writing on the Laptop until just before they closed at 10PM. I topped off the Big Battery while I was there, because it was supposed to drop down to 15 tonight and I like to run my Foot Warmers all night at 15. I don’t have to add in the electric sleeping pad until it goes below Zero. I did some more writing in the SUV before leaving, until about 11, then drove over to another apartment complex and sacked out. I use different parking lots all the time so I don’t get noticed by the residents of the complex. I woke up this morning early around 6, so headed over to the Coffee Shop to do some web surfing, and found your Blog, the Doomstead Diner! Maybe we can meet up since we both live around here!”
HHP is not a REAL PERSON of course, he is just a Thought Experiment of who I COULD BE if I fell off the economic cliff for one reason or another. He is my friend, and he is with me all the time in my head. There But for Fortune, go you or go I.
Now, obviously HHPs daily activities vary some from Day to Day, but overall it’s not THAT much different than the life I live right now. Main difference is of course I have a Home and place to cook and store all my stuff, which makes everything WAY easier. For the added Convenience and Comfort, it costs me around another $1000/mo, by the time you add up the Rent, the Heat & Electricity and the Broadband Internet. The Psychological difference would be enormous though, having your own space to putter around in and just the overall level of COMFORT makes it much better. Besides that though, none of the cooking aspects from here on in would be different, so let’s move on now to some daily meals & methods for HHP to eat, as well as his Thanksgiving Dinner, which he elects to do on his own rather than going to a Thanksgiving Blessing and getting depressed hanging with all the rest of the people who are off the cliff.
First we have to examine what Cooking Utensils and methods HHP actually has.
His personal Cooking Artillery consists of a Propane fired Portable Grill, a Propane fired Camp Stove, a Solar Oven, 12V Oven and Immersion Heater and Electric Slow Cooker. His Utensils are a couple of Pots, a couple of Pans a Dutch Oven or Roaster and his Hobo Knife set. He also can access Microwave ovens in Convenience stores. Everything we prepare will be possible with these tools for cooking.
With your Storage Unit, you have a place to store bulk foods, but your Refrigeration capability is limited, although here in Alaska from about November through March it is cold enough all the time you can keep leftovers in a cooler without too much problem. The rest of the year you can buy Bagged Ice @ $2.50/Bag which probably is good for around 2 days most of the time. However, I would mostly avoid trying to store foods that need to be kept cool.
The main Bulk Foods you keep in the Storage Unit is Rice, Pasta, Flour and Potatoes, aka CARBS. You can add these to any Canned or microwave food to double or triple calorie content while keeping the cost down and leftovers to a minimum.
For the first meal, we will cover the Gumbo that HHP had yesterday. This actually IS a meal that a Bag Lady could do, long as she can get hold of the canned food without having her shopping cart trashed while she buys it anyhow. Its pretty much all Canned Foods, although you definitely can expand on it easily with a little Rice and leftover meats if you have some. , You start with a Can of Progresso Soup, I like to use either the Minestrone or the Black Bean & Vegetable varieties for this, but you can drop in similar things with most of their soup varieties. By themselves, they are a bit pricey and only come in around 300 calories or so, not enough to fill you up. Around here most of the time, around $2/Can, but On Sale you find them often around $1.50. In order to fill them out and make them “heartier” you add a can of beans and can of corn, around 75 cents each. This adds another 300-400 Calories. This is probably enough if you had a Breakfast Meal that came in at around 800 calories, but you can add to it by boiling up some Rice also and adding that in, or adding in a Potato you microwave at the convenience store when you drop in there. Here’s the real complex cooking proceedure for your Canned Soup & Veggie Gumbo which you basically just need a pot, a can opener and source of heat to cook up. You could in fact eat it cold if necessary. Meal Cost without Rice, $3, add 50 cents to double the calorie content with rice. The Header Video covers this complex cooking technique. LOL.
I mentioned having a good calorie filled Breakfast here, and one EZ way as mentioned is to just buy a Breakfast Burrito at the conveninece store for $2.50 or so. Add a Microwave Potato, you are in good shape overall. However, you can occassionallly do better than this if you got some time, making Steak & Eggs with sauteed peppers and onions, home friees or pancakes or toasting up some leftover bread and melting some cheese and garlic on it. All this EZ to do with just a grill and Camp Stove.
Stews also very EZ with your Slow Cooker, which you can use together with your Solar Oven, bury with some Hot Rocks in a hole overnight, or just use stored Electric power in your Battery to cook for a few hours. Combinations of stuff you can throw in the slow cooker are endless of course.
For Thanksgiving, I am doing a Miniature Version of the Turkey I used to cook when we did the big family Thanksgiving back in the Flushing McHovel, in this case using a smaller Roaster and an Organic Chicken in place of a Big Turkey. Stuffing it full of Goodies, and filling up the rest of the space with carrots, potatoes, onions etc. I’ll cook it in the Oven of course burning the NG that flows in here at a pretty cheap price these days, but I could cook it with the other methods if necessary.
However, since this is THANKSGIVING, and you are supposed to have more out on the Table than you could possible eat, I am NOT stopping at the Roast Chicken. I also picked up a “Flamecraft Ham”, which is Fred Meyer’s ripoff of Honey Baked Hams. “Possibly the BEST ham you will ever Eat” says the tag line, and they are quite tasty, as are the Honey Baked Hams themselves. These come in a good deal cheaper though, and I bought a half ham size which will for a single guy besides adding more to eat on Thanksgiving be part of Breakfast for the next week at LEAST.
Besides just making the plate more full though with Goodies to Consume, there is Nostalgia behind my reasons for buying the Flame Craft Ham. During my Trucking Years, my sister ran the annual Thanksgiving Food Fest, and since I was out in the Truck I couldn’t do too much in terms of cooking, but since I had copious MONEY at the time, I would buy a Honey Baked Ham to add in to our Turkey Day Food Celebrations. As I recall, they usually cost me around $60 at the time, and there were always leftovers which I took back on the road in the truck to eat for the next week.
The BIG Problem of course with the Homeless Thanksgiving Dinner though is of course the storage of leftovers, since even a small chicken is more than I will eat at one sitting, especially with the potatoes and rest of the stuff for this meal. Fortunately though, this time of year average temps are around 25, so I can just store the leftovers in a pot left in the cooler. I can probably work through it all in 3-4 days, making a soup stock and chicken salad out of the leftovers.
Not stopping there either, I ALSO bought a huge thick and juicy Ribeye which I marinated for a few days in a super secret Marinade, which will cook on the Homeless Grill and then I will Thin Slice and serve with Sauteed Mushrooms on my Thanksgiving Platter. It will probably take me all day to work my way through eating this plate, and OBVIOUSLY if I was really HOMELESS I would never do this. Too many Leftovers to store up. In fact any ONE of the meat dishes, the Chicken, the Ham and the Steak are good for at LEAST 4-5 days of Leftovers, so I will be eating this stuff well into December to consume it all.
As has been noted by Surly in some of the previous SNAP articles, this is strictly a First Worlder problem, even a relatively poor HHP First Worlder. On a very limited budget by First World Standards, if I harbor my money carefully I can buy COPIOUS food to eat and rather than starvation the usual bigger problem these days is to limit yourself so you don’t get outrageously FAT.
For the real Kollapsniks here, you’ll find all sorts of reasons why this paradigm won’t work too well in the future. Most obvious one of course is the GAS needed to run your SUV. However, when we have descended so far you cannot access any gas at say$5/gallon, the whole society would be in a world of shit, not just the HHP living in his SUV. I don’t currently think we will get that low in the next 5 years, though I may be wrong on this estimate.
Also unclear how long Walmart would keep me on as a Greeter since their profits are going south or how long JP Morgan Chase will keep refilling SNAP Cards, so when these supports drop off the map the paradigm ends. However, so ends at this time ALL semblance of middle class living too, even if you HAVE a domicile you are quite fucked here. The ONLY difference here is having a domicile to live in, everything else the average Konsumer must have to move around the society.
As it appears at the moment, the meme is for ever increasing impoverishment, with the system still operational to some extent. I’ll guesstimate that can last another 5-10 years, so for this period, this Homeless Person Paradigm might work. It depends of course on having a functioning Automobile and available GAS to work. When this type of Homeless Paradigm does NOT work, just about everyone in Middle Class Amerika is EQUALLY FUCKED. HHP has reduced his expenses so much here he could probably stand a rise in the price of Gas to $10 or even $15/gallon and still maintain his SUV Sleeping Quarters. Most remaining Middle Class Amerikans could not withstand such a price increase in gas.
When the Gas becomes either completely unavailable OR outrageously expensive, even people who still HAVE domiciles in suburbia will generally be forced to either abandon them or to live without heat, electricity etc. The whole system just will not run if/when the prices run up that far, and at the moment it does not look like they will, but rather go in the opposite direction, while more unconventional oil fields are shut in, and more people drift off this economy one way or the other.
In the best case scenario, during this devolution off the Industrial system, localities will develop their own economic system. Making the Changeover is the next great CHALLENGE we face, and to negotiate it successfully we must all work together in our local communities, right after we hang all the Banksters and Frackers who got us into this mess. As one of my Tag Lines goes, “The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth. Right AFTER the Meek get very, VERY Angry.”
To close this Thanksgiving Food Extravaganza, a few thoughts.
First, although I can do a Thought Experiment on how it might be for me if I were to fall off the cliff economically, there is no way to really know how it is until you are THERE. I’m not REALLY Homeless, and I’m not REALLY limited to a SNAP Card Food Budget either. I also have Savings that insulates me from DISASTER. What happens in HHPs life if the tranny on his car gives out, and it costs $2000 to fix it? Even if he HAS the $2K to fix it, he is without his sleeping quarters for a week or two while it is in the shop. What does he do if that happens in Mid-Winter and it is 30 Below outside?
Second and even more affecting to me is that while I have this cornucopia of food to cook up on my porch and I can make an intellectual assesment of how it is possible to feed yourself on a limited budget, I know for a FACT that in reality there are many children out there going HUNGRY tonight, maybe not too many in the FoA, but globally in the millions easily. There is no good reason for this right now, since at the moment there is plenty to feed even the 7B human Souls walking the Earth. Right now, it is just a distribution and economic issue, not a supply issue.
It is also plain stupid that there are any Homeless People AT ALL in the FSoA, because there are simply TONS of foreclosed on and abandoned properties these folks could make into viable shelters, but the LAW prevents them from doing so. Besides the empty McMansions, there is empty land everywhere people could set up Tents on, but if you do it the Gestapo comes and sweeps them away. You MUST pay into the Rentier economy to have a place to live!
We have to let this stupid sort of Economy GO! It’s not working now, and really it has NEVER worked, it impoverishes most people while making a few rich beyond measure. It is WRONG.
I will leave you this Thanksgiving with a Hans Christian Andersen story, The Little Match Girl. She is coming back here now, and only YOU can keep her Warm, if it is in your Heart to do so.
Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening– the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast.One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing.She crept along trembling with cold and hunger–a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was New Year’s Eve; yes, of that she thought.
In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.
Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. “Rischt!” how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but–the small flame went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand.
She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when–the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant’s house.
Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when–the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.
“Someone is just dead!” said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.
She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.
“Grandmother!” cried the little one. “Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!” And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety–they were with God.
But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall–frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. “She wanted to warm herself,” people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.