I was recently hanging out with a friend who was eating while I was not. Being on the Food Stamp Challenge, I now think about eating before I leave the house so that I’m not ravenous while sitting in a place where the food doesn’t fit in my budget (which is basically anywhere). I wasn’t hungry, but knowing that I really like pickles, he asked for an extra to share with me. In this case, I decided a little charity was acceptable. Then I realized that this was the first pickle that I’ve eaten since Ash Wednesday. This is probably not a big deal to most people, but I almost always have a jar of dill pickle spears in my refrigerator, just because I love them and all their salty, crunchy goodness.

During Lent, however, pickles have become a luxury item that I just can’t justify. They have almost no nutritional value, and they’re not even filling. But you know, I miss pickles, and I miss the ability to blithely purchase them whenever I want. And I have growing sympathy for people who purchase non-essential items with their SNAP benefits. Could they buy something more nutritious than that bag of chips? Sure (if they’re not shopping in a food desert, that is, which I’ll get to later this week), but sometimes it’s almost overwhelming how much we can want the thing we know we don’t need, or shouldn’t have.

Ever since I realized that I can’t buy pickles, they are all I want. Suddenly, my very autonomy feels constrained by my inability to purchase this ridiculous food. So, I can understand a little better why limited funds don’t necessarily drive people to purchase only the wisest items. Buying dried beans feels like an obligation. Buying potato chips, in that moment, feels like freedom.

I’m halfway through Lent now, and things are getting real. My budget for the next three weeks is very tight, revealing that I wasn’t nearly as careful as I thought I was being in my first shopping trip. I did stock up on some staple items that will get me through the home stretch, and I have a GIGANTIC pot of soup all set for many a meal, so I think I’ll manage. That said, I have about $30 left for the rest of Lent. That’s not a lot, even for just supplemental fresh items. This is going to be interesting, and I certainly won’t be buying any pickles. Bring on the ramen?

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