Like I said before, the nearest grocery store wasn't near us at all. Driving twenty to thirty minutes, now that I have lived here now for almost 25 years, to do my grocery shopping isn't such a big deal. Back then, anything over five to ten minutes was insane. So, you can only imagine how excited we were when we discovered they had built a little store called the "Bent and Dent" in our town.
The name is exactly what you would imagine.
The cans, boxes, and containers, were all dented and basically looked like things that most likely wouldn't sell if it had been in a "real" grocery store. Some items were close to their expiration dates, while some were seasonal items. You could often find things that stores no longer sold anymore. Sometimes, it was because the store may have just overstocked a particular item, but usually in our case, it was because it just wasn't that great to begin with. The place however also looked exactly how it sounds, bent and dent, old and beat up, and crushed and squashed. I felt exactly how you would think going with my parents shopping there, embarrassed, and much like the groceries, my feelings were all kinds of bent and dented.
I didn't understand why this was deemed an acceptable replacement to a grocery store. My mother kept a very clean house and despite not having much, what we did have was well taken care of. So, why in the world were we buying our food from a metal dust bowl? On top of all of that, we often went after school which doesn't seem like it would have been a big deal, but the store was located right next door to the school. The days we went after school, I thought I was dying just a little on the inside. But again, keep in mind I was young and in my preteens. Being seen with your parents anywhere at that age is just an embarrassment in and of itself.
Fast forward to present day, and here we have the Bartee party of five. Back then, we were the Braden party of five. Jack, being on the spectrum, has the most bizarre and limited food repertoire, and is more label conscious than a Whole Foods backpack shopper, minus the healthy part. His part of the grocery bill is ridiculous. I have two growing toddlers, enough said. My husband is a late night snacker. I am somewhat of a food snob when it comes to certain items and just flat out refuse to use certain brands/products. I was raised in a time where my mother cooked a hot meal every single night and we all sat down together to eat. I know that can be costly, but it was important to her. I, as a parent now, have that same conviction, and have carried that on with my own family. It's only now, after having my own family, gone through financial stressors like my parents experienced, and been in a situation where every penny counts, do I fully understand why my parents made some of the financial decisions that they made. So, kudos to my mom and her frugalness and creativity. If they ever decide to put up another store like that in town again, I hope my kids are ready for Family Finance 101. You do what you have to do to take care of your family. I know I harp on this so much, but I feel very strongly that I would never be as grateful for the things I have and at peace with what I don't, if it had not been for these times in my childhood.
By the way, I did eventually get over the humiliation over shopping there especially when they started carrying these little grab bags! For super cheap, you got a brown paper sack full of the most random things. It was worth the trip when we could buy these. Until the panty incident.