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.

Lentil Burgers

Combine in a bowl:
2 C. cooked, cooled lentils, drained
1 egg
1/2 C. cracker crumbs
1 small onion, minced
Tomato juice
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.


  1. SO true! I think you should run for president!!!! Our country needs a person who can make a budget, stick to it and survive! I love when you discuss your life and experiences. It is a godsend to read this, it gives me hope. We are a family on one income and this month is very trying. I am so glad to have food storage since we have no extra money this month to buy food, I am trying to learn how to pay off debt, do without things, start my very first garden the list goes on. Thank you for everything!!!!

  2. Enola, that was brilliant!

    Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear can tell that our economic woes are deliberate. We are being systematically destroyed from within. It's not going to take long for the other shoe to drop - social chaos.

    Keep on speaking the truth, dear Enola, somebody has to.

    NoCal Gal

  3. I second NoCal Gal--genius!! And looking forward to trying out your recipe for lentil burgers, too.


  4. So true!

    And your lentil burger recipe couldn't have come at a better time! I was just craving lentil burgers and was about to start searching the internet for recipes :)

  5. Our Founding Fathers saw this coming. It is also true we are living through the ending of the Greatest Mania known in the history of the world. Similar things happened to produce the Depression. Similar things happened in the USSR.

    Solomon said there is no new thing under the sun. Life will get very difficult for all of us. Life will be as dark as the inside of a tornado. But we will get through this as others have before us.

    Those of us who live the homestead life are likely to fare better than others. We all must relearn what our parents and grandparents knew.

    Stock up, get ready. Time is short. It is now our turn to suffer.

    Winston Bearkiller

  6. We are in trouble,Keep it simple and survive,spend reasonably.


  7. You know, I honestly do not mind sacrificing. I too Enola, had to rub pennies to make ends meet when I first started homesteading. It was very creature uncomfortable for a couple of years before I could save enough to have a well and a septic system dug. But, I did it, slow and surely. The first time I had running water through a pipe, and could flush a toilet on the farm, I had a celebration!
    If people knew what personal sacrificing by my choice, was required as stepping stones to get where I am today, they'd accuse me of lying.

    I know now, that those trials and tribulations of hardship, which have lead to personal triumphs, were God's blessings of strength, patience, and foresight for me, for what is to lie ahead.
    When I look back on the past, I am so thankful to know what sacrifice is. I now know what I am capable of accomplishing, my personal limits, and best of all, what I can do without, if that is what God has in store for me!
    I trust The Lord, God, because his sacrifice of giving up HIS only begotten son, to save US, here on earth, is just mere pittance to OUR material sacrifices. HE will continue to guide me through whatever is coming according to his will!


  8. I was wondering what we were going to have for dinner tonight. Now I know! Just happen to have lentils in the pantry. Why? Cause we always eat frugally. I've just never tried Lentil Burgers. But they sound great!

  9. enola, your post describes my life to a t.....but what made our survival so tough was the daily reminders that we did stupid things in the first place...thankfully, we learned our lessons and are in a better place right now with our personal budget. because we took the bull by the horns and made our sacrifices, we are no longer in debt up to our eyeballs..and can afford preparing for tougher times ahead. i love lentils...butnever had them in a burger..gonna give it a try. goverment officials are gonna just have to get over the shame and embarrassment and just make the cuts they are avoiding...yes it will hurt everyone in one way or another but i think americans all over the usa are expecting it to happen anyway. their dragging things out is tortuous.

  10. I have been slowly paying off debt and also slowly purchasing "practical items" such as hand tools. (no electricity required)

    Our society my break down and fall apart however, I will not allow property I own to break down and fall apart.

  11. So, as always I love the post!! I also had lentils on my mind for soup today, but I think this will be much better!! So, my family will thank you for their dinner! lol! :D--S

  12. I don't mind sacrificing, but i resent it greatly when I'm suppose to sacrifice because of someone else's greed or wanton disregard, in this case, the Government's. There's nothing noble about my family suffering/sacrificing because of politicians who forced us into this mess. It wasn't a natural disaster or a foreign attack on our soil. It was an agenda. I know it's to "save" the country, but it was caused by our own countrymen, beyond my influence, no matter how much I spoke out or voted or tried to do what's right with my own finances. Sigh...

  13. Could I use bread crumbs, instead of crackers? We don't have crackers in our house because they are highly refined. I have recipes to make my own, but have not tried any of them yet as crackers are not high priority.
    Of course, the government wants us to sacrifice while they continue to prosper and get richer. Just like Marie Antoinette, they say "let them eat cake". If they are not careful, they may meet the same fate as her and the French elites.

  14. Anonymous;
    I'm quite certain that you could use bread crumbs. I'm sure it would turn out very nicely. That is the beauty of cooking from scratch - you can use what you have!

  15. We have no debt, (finally) everything is bought with cash. My only problem is that at some point property taxes may become a fatal issue.

  16. I totally agree with the article.
    Off topic, sort of, I have a cookbook that was sold with my mom's Bosch machine in 1980 and there are many recipes using gluten as a meat alternative. Mom tried a couple of them when we were kids and they were really good. The name of the cookbook is The Magic Of Wheat Cookery and I bought several of them on ebay.

  17. Terrific and timely post! I told my Mom about this recipe and post, just in passing, and as we chatted it wasn't 5 minutes later we had our mouths watering for a taste of these. Neither of us are fans of lentils so we modified this simple recipe using an inexpensive can of Great Northern Beans (small white beans with a thin skin - mashed), crushed up Oyster Crackers (since they were already open), Ketchup (no tomato juice on hand), and 2 tsp of dry Onion Soup mix, plus the fresh egg & salt/pepper. This made it a true "stored food" lunch. I'm fussy so I assumed we would be feeding these to the chickens but NO WAY! They are delicious! I can easily imagine serving these to hungry friends and family who 'never saw it coming', along with a cup of soup (watered down, of course). Thanks again, Enola Gay! 8-)

  18. Enola Gay, this is my first time reading your blog and I LOVE it!! A few years ago, my husband's position with Wells Fargo was 'eliminated', (just shy of his 20yr anniversary), and then he was rehired for the EXACT SAME POSITION, but only temporarily. Well I was substitute teaching many hours a week, and since I knew he'd only have that job for a year, I began couponing and stockpiling like crazy. All of our neighbors knew, too, so they'd drop off their Sunday ads and coupons, along with Wednesday's fliers. I didnt tell my husband, as he was flying back east every Monday morning at 4am and returning every Friday evening at 11:30, and he had more pressing issues, like spending time with his daughters who he was missing. I kept everything under this 12 ft skirted table in my sewing room...sort of the 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality. When he was done with that job, we were able to live for the next year on what I'd saved, with the exception of eggs and milk. God provided so very much and I'm glad I wasn't foolish and becoming discouraged. He helped me to be strong, resourceful, and wise. I believe that harder times are upon this country, whether people want to believe it or not. Bless you for writing this blog and for being such an inspiration to so many of us.