Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Debt, the economy & Lentil Burgers
Daily, new headlines jump off the pages of websites and newspapers, shouting the demise of our great nation. "S&P downgrades debt", "Deficit hits new highs", "Gas prices spike". Everywhere we turn we are confronted with the fragile nature of our economy and livelihood. And it just keeps getting worse. The debt is bad enough, but our inability to right where we went wrong is the real tragedy.
Years ago, when Sir Knight and I decided to move to the country, live in a shop with no electricity, running water or flushing toilets, we were faced with our own, personal downgrade of economy. Before we moved, we had a beautifully planned budget, a dream and the energy to make everything happen. Then reality hit. None of our expenses fit within the tidy confines of our budget. Our dream gave way to real life circumstances and our energy waned under the shear volume of work. We had knowingly piled ourselves with high payments in order to make short work of our debts. We had a property payment, a well payment (the well had cost about $12,000.00 more than we had budgeted), a car payment (I had foolishly thought we needed a larger vehicle), monthly auto insurance, phone, medical bills and the list goes on an on. When all was said and done, we had about $70.00 every two weeks of "disposable" income. When I say disposable, I mean money that wasn't being spent on bills. That $70.00 had to cover food, fuel for oil lamps, toiletries and everything else a family of five might need. We were in a crisis. We had no one to tax and increase our revenue. We didn't believe in welfare, food stamps or medicaid. We had to find our proverbial boot straps and give them a good yank.
After meticulously tracking our every expenditure, cutting out EVERYTHING that wasn't a NECESSITY and discontinuing our welfare programs (the children didn't NEED candy bars or NEW shoes - thrift store fodder would have to do), we inventoried what other cuts we could make. Ultimately, we had to pay off our debt first - everything else was secondary. The only way we could do that, was by not buying food. By the grace of God, we had stocked up for Y2K when we had plenty and now, when we had nothing in the way of money, we had lots in the way of stored foods. I hauled out my trusty More with Less cookbook, poured over the pages and planned our menu using foods we had stored. No more New England boiled dinners or pizza on Friday night, we now ate things like 11 bean soup, whole wheat bread (we ground the grain by hand) and lentil burgers. From time to time, I would save enough eggs from our hens to spoil the family with potato soup and rich egg dumplings - a real treat.
For two years, we struggled, eating our way through our stored foods supply and then, little by little, our debt began to fall away. A medical bill here, a car payment there and soon (although it felt like an eternity) we had escaped the crushing economy of our own making. We had waded through the muck and had come out on the other side. It was the right thing to do. We could have begged, borrowed and stolen, but instead, we worked, denied ourselves and learned to live within our means.
Just like our country should.
Nowhere in my experience, has anyone ever gotten out of debt by borrowing. It just doesn't work that way. It has been proven over and over that you spend what you make. If you make more money, you will spend more money. If you borrow money to pay off your credit cards, you will end up with a payment for the loan, and, in very short order, you will have a credit card payment to make. Again. It is human nature.
It is well past time our country learns to eat lentil burgers. We have gone from a country that ate Filet Mignon once a month, to wanting to eat Filet Mignon every day. We need to get back to basics, with only an occasional splurge. We need to deny our government more money and the ability to borrow money in our names. We need to demand that, as a country, we live within our means. It will hurt. Denying ourselves always does. But it is worth it. As a family, we were willing to eat lentil burgers in order to balance our budget. As a country, we have to be willing to do the same.
Combine in a bowl:
2 C. cooked, cooled lentils, drained
1/2 C. cracker crumbs
1 small onion, minced
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together using just enough tomato juice to hold mixture in shape when pattied. Fry like hamburgers in small amount hot oil, shortening or bacon fat. Serve in buns to complement legume protein.