Wednesday, November 13, 2013

FAQ: When the food budget is never enough

During my 31days series on Listening this October, I opened the floor for questions. I'm sure you have all forgotten them by now, but I haven't forgotten you! In fact, I'm planning on answering every question y'all emailed and commented. Which isn't to say that I have all the answers.

Ok, so this first question is from my dear and lovely friend Becky of Life with Kaishon. Gosh, I love her.

Anyways, she asks: "I would like to ask how you budget for food since your door is often open for neighborhood kids. This summer we had kids out the wazoo in our house, and although I loved it, it was a little stressful on the budget."
*I've discovered that fresh flowers and mismatched chairs make neighbors feel welcome no matter how much food in on our plates.

Oh the budget, especially the food budget when your house has "kids out the wazoo" (a condition we are well-familiar with). The short answer to your question is that we just-flat-don’t.

There are a few problems when it comes to budgeting for us:
1- Quite simply, we are terrible, awful, no-good at it.
2- Our lives, and feeding the kiddos in particular, have a tendency towards super-unpredictability. We rarely know how many kids/mouths we will be feeding on a daily basis, let alone a weekly or monthly basis. Let alone when we will get phone calls that need immediate attention, meaning that dinner plans fly straight out the window.

Adam and I have many, many, many (emphasis on many) weaknesses. Flexibility, however, cannot be counted among them. Scheduling, meal-planning, budgeting = weakness. Flexibility = strength. The good news remains that for us, and for our lives and ministry right now, flexibility turns out to be really important.

All of that to say, mostly our budget/plan basically amounts to not having one. We spend much time in prayer for each and every knock on the door and knowing when to swing it wide and pull up a mis-matched chair, and when to admit that we simply don’t have the capacity. We DO make plans (held loosely) each week for our dinners, based on any extra mouths or friends that we know we will be feeding. For example, Tuesday nights when we have Bible study, we end up feeding at least a few extra couple of hungry teenagers. We also always plan to stock our pantry with many granola bars and a bowl-full of fresh fruit for early-morning knocks on the door from kids who missed the bus. Or other easy snacks for the ones who stop by after school. And if all else fails, there are always eggs (thanks to Adam’s ladies), and we make do with brinner (breakfast-for-dinner). Because who doesn’t love brinner?

On paper, ends don’t usually meet. And most of the time, budgeting for dinner means stretching the pot of spaghetti to include one more person, or cutting all the chicken breasts in half. Or perhaps it means my parents buy pizza for all the football boys, or friends stop by with jugs of syrup and extra pancake mix for Sunday mornings. Sometimes, we send a kiddo to the mailbox, and they return with unexpected grocery gift cards from amazing blog readers. And sometimes friends we’ve never met, from a church that is not our own, bring by boxes and bags full of healthy after-school snacks. People and food always seem to show up just when we need it, and I’ve become a firm believer in this gospel that is somehow always more than enough.

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