Memories of food stamps and getting ahead

Abraham Villarreal
3 min readJul 3, 2022
Don’t rice and beans go with everything?

There are some memories of childhood that stick with you, others you can barely remember. I stop and wonder sometimes why those that you do think of from time to time stay with you. Maybe they mattered more. Maybe what was happening was an important event that helped shape you.

I can think of the time I was standing at the Safeway checkout lane with mom. The cashier was ringing up the groceries. Potatoes, rice, veggies. Nothing too exciting. We were vegetarians and we were poor. My grandpa once said a little bit of rice goes a long way.

As the checkout lady told her the total, mom pulled out a little booklet filled with paper money of all kinds of colors — purples, yellows, blues, and greens. They were food stamps. She flipped through them and pulled out the appropriate amount to pay the bill.

I didn’t think too much of it other than I knew it was different kind of money. At nine years old, you are too young to understand the welfare system. Mom has always been a private person and she didn’t share information related to our economic well-being.

Until you reach a certain age, you don’t realize that you are poorer than others. The food mom makes you is the food you enjoy. The clothes you wear is the clothes you have. The fun you make is good enough for you even if it didn’t cost a penny.

Then you get older. People look at you differently and you begin to look at yourself differently because maybe you are different. Other moms use cash and credit cards to pay for groceries. Other kids wear clothes that look like the kind you see on T.V.

Through the years, I would catch my mom writing out a budget on a plain piece of paper. Each line said something different and had a different amount next to it. Food, rent, utilities, and on, and on. Then there would be a total.

Once she wrote it all down, I saw her take out money and count it to make sure she had enough to pay for what she was budgeting. Her face seemed worried sometimes as if maybe she didn’t have enough. It was old school as it could get. A mom making sure she paid for the bare necessities…



Abraham Villarreal

People are interesting. I write about them and what makes them interesting.