Lent 2013: We’re Cheating Before We’ve Even Begun.

That was the thought that ran through my mind as I pulled our “blueberry snowflakes” out of the freezer for this morning’s breakfast. Blueberry snowflakes are the blueberries we purchased in bulk last July and froze in gallon bags.


At the time, our grocery budget was being well supplemented by our garden, so spending $40 on enough blueberries to get us through the Fall and Winter months… well, it wasn’t easy, but it was manageable. Then there are the 30 lbs. of sliced peaches we picked over the summer, paying for them out of our “family fun” line in the budget. Realistically, how many families who receive governmental food benefits have enough living space to afford a basement chest freezer in which to store bulk fruits and vegetables? How many of those families even have a budget for family fun?

What other ways are we already given a head start on feeding five with $90/week? We have a pantry shelf in our basement where we can store homemade jams and dried herbs. We have cabinets across from that shelf where we can store dried pasta and other nonperishables purchased every four months on our trip to a somewhat distant grocery outlet. How many families have the time and gasoline resources to take such a trip? I’ve already mentioned all our kitchen robots on which I rely almost daily. Realistically, how many of the working poor have any of those things? Heck, as much as I hate (and I really do mean hate) gardening, have I ever really stopped to think of what a resource it is just to have the dirt available to us in which we can plant not one but two garden patches?

I realize that, no matter how hard we try to deny it, our family has advantages that others don’t. Even in the admittedly artificial circumstances of our Lent 2013 Challenge, we are blessed more than most. To deny that would be foolish. Still, we will try, because there will be learning in the trying, and anything that develops our empathy for others can only be a good thing.

Look in your kitchen. Look around your house. Look outside. What luxuries do you have that you take for granted every day? How many of those luxuries would help another family not as rich as yours? I know, I know: any family living on just one income (especially any fellow papists who’ve been more blessed with fertility than I have)–you’re bristling at being called “rich.” Still I ask you, really, what do you have? What can you share?


About Erin McCole Cupp
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. In December 2020, look for her next book: All Things New: Breaking the Cycle & Raising a Joyful Family (Our Sunday Visitor), a book about parenting spirituality for survivors of family abuse and dysfunction. Find out more at erinmccolecupp.com .

7 Responses to Lent 2013: We’re Cheating Before We’ve Even Begun.

  1. Beth says:

    Erin, I am absolutely impressed by just how fully you are committing your family to this. Not only acknowledging your “richness” on time, but to go on and realize just how much you already have that makes it an impossible experiment or exercise. It is SO refreshing to see people, even if it’s just you and your family, thinking about what it means to be poor, what it means to be on government assistance, and not just hearing the same old banter that seems to be blind to the realities. Thank you!

    • I am honored by your comment! Even as this experience, barely begun, is helping me think more of the working poor, it is also helping me to see the real value–downright monetary value, even–of what I do by staying home and cooking for, cleaning for and educating my family. We all have something to give.

  2. Mom says:

    Several years ago I read Sinclair Lewis’ book The Jungle. I caught myself wanting to yell at the immigrants to grow some food, and for the father to stop being an ass and demanding his manly portion of meat! Yes I know how crazy it sounds to yell at people in a book…
    But that has always stuck with me. And as much as I try to “think” my way out of a similar situation (in case I’d ever find myself there) I simply can’t.
    It’s a real exercise in humility to even consider how to survive on so little. You have my full attention Mrs M…I’ll be sharing your posts frequently during Lent with many of my friends and family.

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