How Military Members and Veterans Can Keep Their Food Budget

3 Rules to Keep Food Budgets Low

 

Military members and veterans know well the importance of keeping a budget; it’s easy to run out of money on a military income. New veterans looking for work in the private sector will also be interested in finding out how to make their dollars stretch further when it comes to the monthly food budget. Eating is one of those things you just can’t live without (literally), and neither can your spouse or children. But  you’re willing to trade time and/or effort, you can save a lot of money on food.

 

First Rule: Shop Smart

Military Family Food Budgets

If you’re trying to save money, fast-food and restaurants are your enemy. Anything you can buy at McDonald’s you can buy for cheaper at a grocery store. You should find the best place to shop that will meet the needs of your family. If you’re still active-duty or retired with 20 years of service (or been awarded the Medal of Honor), you should try to do your grocery shopping at the BX (or PX, as the case may be). The BX is going to give you the best prices you can find on food. If you live too far away from the base for that to be convenient, or you are no longer able to shop at the BX because you were discharged with less than 20 years, you need to consider the needs of your family a bit more.

 

For a family with 2 or more children, a lot more food is going to be consumed than by a couple with no kids. If your family consumes more food, then you’re usually better off paying for a Costco or Sam’s Club membership and taking advantages of the wholesale prices they offer. For my wife and I (we’re expecting our first child), we simply don’t buy enough food to make the membership worth it. For families like ours, the best bet is to go with a Kroger or other grocery store that offers a discount if you have a membership card (it used to be called a Fresh Values card, though I’m not sure what it is called now). That membership is usually free and brings you significant savings over time.

 

Second Rule: Imitation Recipes

 

I love eating out. I love restaurant food. Back in my single days, I didn’t spend much on electronics or gaming or other toys, but I spent a ton of money on eating out. Once I got married and my wife and I got serious about saving for a house, my days of eating out needed to come to an end. The thing that helped the most was to find imitation recipes online for my favorite restaurant foods and make those for dinner. Some turn out better than others, but it can be a lot of fun and a great way to experiment with new foods. Granted, shopping for imitation recipes will not save you as much money as you could otherwise (since the components of most restaurant dishes are more expensive than other options), but it will still save you a bundle over actually going out to eat at those restaurants.

 

Third Rule: Know the Components of a Meal

Knowing Your Meal Budget

This is not nutritional advice. This is financial advice. Generally, a well-balanced meal has three components: a base, a meat, and a fruit/vegetable. A base is usually grain-based like rice or noodles (ramen noodles and macaroni totally count). Potatoes can also be a base. A meat should be fairly obvious. For vegetarians, meat can be replaced with another source of protein. Last, you can have both a fruit and a vegetable or one or the other. If you focus on these components, you’ll be shocked at how cheaply you can feed your family.

 

For example, if you choose ramen noodles, chicken, and lettuce, you can get fairly creative. You can cut up the chicken and mix it with the ramen, have them as two separate dishes, or forget the lettuce and do green bell peppers and broccoli and make a ramen stir-fry. You could add buffalo sauce to the pieces of chicken and turn them into boneless buffalo wings and have the lettuce as a salad. You can get a lot of different combinations just by getting creative with your three components, and you’ll be surprised at how tasty, cheap, and varied those combinations can be.

 

Military Families – The Common Challenges They Face

The Military and the Challenges That Service Members and Their Families Face

 

There are millions of military veterans, active-duty service members and their family members in the United States and around the world. No matter where you fit into the mold,  looking for stable housing, trying to raise a family and starting a career are all things military members face. You can learn more about these challenges and what you can do to deal with them below.

 

Housing

 

Buying a house is usually the biggest issue for a military family. If you are considered active duty, you generally deal with countless relocation assignments. You may constantly have to move to different locations within and outside of the country. Financially, the average family cannot deal with the pressures of renting and buying in countless locations. Doug Norman, the writer of “The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement,” recommends that veterans and service members should rent until they can afford to buy. When you buy, you should research all of your options and military benefits, especially from VA home lenders.

 

Job Opportunities

 

Another major issue is the lack of choices given to the spouse of a service member. When you move too much, it may be hard to keep a job. Creating a budget on a single income is one suggestion. If one spouse loses a job, there is at least one income to fall back on. The Military Spouse Advancement

Accounts program is available to help qualified members receive tuition assistance.

 

Solutions to Help You

 

There are many challenges that face a military family. Though these issues exist, a number of programs are available to these families, including assistance with buying a home. No matter what your duty is in a military family, know that there are solutions to help you through.

 

Military families often face similar challenges raising children, focusing on careers, and establishing homes due to the face they are often constantly moving. These challenges can be difficult hurdles for most families to get through. The following infographic presents these common challenges and how military families can cope with them.

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Military Families - The Common Challenges They Face
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How PTSD Affects Families of Veterans

In earlier posts, we have discussed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the effects it can have on the lives of veterans who have it. But PTSD can not only wreak havoc in the lives of those who suffer from its symptoms, but also take its toll on their families. Research on PTSD has shown that veterans with PTSD have more marital problems and family violence, their partners have more distress, and their children have more behavior problems than do those of Veterans without PTSD.

Why does PTSD affect family members? For one, families will naturally react to the fact that their loved one has gone through a trauma. It’s upsetting when someone you care about goes through a terrible ordeal. Trauma symptoms can make a person difficult to get along with, or cause him or her to withdraw from the rest of the family. There may be resulting financial burdens if the trauma survivor has severe enough symptoms that keep them from holding a job. There may be difficulties in their relationship with their spouse if they avoid emotional connections or have a lower sexual interest. They may exhibit less interest in family activities that they previously enjoyed. Or they may lash out in anger more easily or become violent. It can be very difficult for everyone when these types of changes occur, especially small children who may find it difficult to understand why it is happening. Just as people react differently to traumatic experiences, families also have different reactions when a loved one is traumatized. The following are common reactions of family members of a person with PTSD, according to the National center for PTSD:

  • Sympathy:  Family members feel sorry for what their loved one has had to endure. This can help your loved one know you care and sympathize. But on the extreme end of the spectrum, it can lead to “babying” or lowering expectations, which may lead to the trauma survivor feeling like their family doesn’t believe they can overcome the ordeal, or that they are weak.
  • Depression: One source of depression for family members can be the traumatic event itself. Knowing a loved one had to endure such a difficult experience. Depression is also commonly experienced when the person with PTSD acts in a way that causes feelings of pain or loss. If they withdraw from normal family activities, or interaction, when a traumatized spouse avoids intimacy, etc.
  • Avoidance: Just as trauma survivors are often afraid to address what happened to them, family members are frequently fearful of examining the traumatic event as well. Family members may avoid the same things that the trauma survivor avoids because they want to spare them further pain or are afraid of their reaction. This may lead to frustrations within the family if regular activities are abandoned.
  • Anger: This is a common response among families. Loved ones may feel angry at whoever they feel is responsible for the trauma; they can also feel anger toward the trauma survivor, if they exhibit strange behavior or continue to dwell on the event.  They may also feel angry in response to anger or irritability the trauma survivor directs at them.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse in response to the stress the trauma has caused in the family’s life, as well as sleep problems. Children may exhibit behavioral problems at school.

The first step for families to do is to gather information about PTSD, to better understand where the changes are stemming from. Resources on the National Center for PTSD website may be useful to educate the family about the effects of trauma. There are many support groups for both veterans with PTSD and their families, and group and individual therapy. The VA has taken note of the effects of PTSD on veterans as well as their families and has begun to offer groups, couples, and individual counseling for family members of Veterans. Contact your local VA Center for details on programs available in your area.

(Information for this blog post was found on www.ptsd.va.gov)

Growing Up in the Military

The following essay was submitted by Becky Brinkerhoff via our Facebook Essay Challenge where we invited our Facebook Friends to submit a short essay sharing “What is your best experience in (or with) the Military?”

Growing Up in the Military

My family has been involved with the military all my life. My dad served as a Marine since he was 18 years old. He has long since retired, but the things that he learned and his life in the military shaped his life. It has also shaped the life of myself and my brothers and sisters. We have learned to respect humanity, to help others and to be peacemakers among other values. More than half of my family members have served in various branches of the military to protect the freedoms we enjoy and to help maintain the freedom that we take for granted.

I am proud to support their decision to be soldiers even though I know military life is not always easy.    Sometimes it is hard to watch them leave their families to serve their country, but I know that the sacrifice that they are making is for the good of myself and my neighbors and the millions of people  in our great country.

We are always overjoyed to see them return and see how they have grown and developed as they have served. There is a sense of pride in their eyes and respect in their manners. There is a new confidence in everything they do. The military has changed lives and their influence is felt around the world no matter where they serve.

Many of my siblings have benefited from the educational opportunities that the military provides. They have grown in knowledge and experience and have shared what they know with their families and their peers. It has also given them opportunities that they may not have had  without the military.  My brother learned some things in the medical industry and was able to use his knowledge to save his daughter’s life when she was very young. My sister has always wanted to help in hospitals and will have a chance to learn what she wants to learn with the help of the military.

The influence and sacrifice of all soldiers and their families directly make my life better, no matter where I am and what I do.

Without their efforts, every day would be a lot different.  My opportunities and lifestyle would be very limited. I would not be free to wake up each day full of hope and promise.

They are a beacon of hope during floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters. They rescue the innocent, the weak and the needy. They protect good people from terrorists and tyrants they provide the strength needed to shield us from the power hungry hate mongers around the world.

Without their sacrifices, we would not be enjoying the peace and safety we now have. We would not be able to vote for leadership that represents our values.  Growing up it was easier to know that my older brothers and sisters were helping other little boys and girls around the world enjoy the same safe-haven we enjoy here at home.

by Becky Brinkerhoff

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