Being poor is very expensive, but also unhealthy. I ususally think about a post for several days before I start writing, and sometimes the whole post is more or less ready inside my head when I start writing. This one started out being quite straightforward in my mind. It was going to be a short post about the financial side of being poor, how being forced to choose the cheapest alternative sometimes makes you pay more in the end. I realised as I started writing that this is more a question about health. Staying healthy when you have a low income is very difficult.
My hometown Haugesund is the latest of many towns that have a tollgate, or as I like to call them, the enforcers from the mafia. This is another sign of how greedy the authorities are. We pay a road tax and at least 80 % of the fuel price at the petrol station is taxes to the government (a litre of 95 ledfree cost about $ 1,75 now, which is crazy concidering Norway is Europe’s largest oil producer). So it shouldn’t be necessary with these tolls to pay for roads, tunnels and bridges. This toll is a good example of how much it costs to be poor.
This mafia-system registers your license plates every time you pass, and you get a bill in the mail regularly. You have to pay 14 NOK ($ 1,75) every time you pass, but if you prepay you get a substantial discount. You get the biggest discount if you pay 4900 NOK ($ 616). I would love to have that 50 % discount, but that is never an option, so I pay twice as much.
It’s the same story if you buy anything in large amounts. Firewood is probably what I buy in the largest quantity, and it would have helped if I could buy enough for the whole winter, but I usually buy for one or two weeks. That is inconvenient and of course I also have to make a lot more trips to the store. I used to buy the wood from a farmer for the whole winter, and he would deliver it to my house without charging more. But of course that was before I moved to the expensive city. I guess that’s one of the prices of living here.
As an autistic family we have some issues with regular food, so we are staying away from anything containing milk, gluten and yeast. The ideal thing would be to go paleo (a diet our ancient ancestors would have eaten, such as meat, nuts and berries), but we can’t afford that. So we do the best we can afford. That often means the less healthy alternative. If you buy cheap lunch meat for example it’s more likely to have a lot of e-numbers, substances that are used as food additives. I recently bought a package of something called Super Salami. This is supposed to be healthier because it has more meat and they have used canola oil. That sounds good, but is it? I looked up some of the e-numbers. E401 Sodium Alginate is a thickening agent produced from seaweeds. E412 Guar Gum is also a thickenig agent and it comes from the guar shrub in India and Pakistan. E516 Calcium Sulfate is a natural mineral prepared from calcium salt and sulphuric acid. This is a stabiliser, meat binding agent and is also used in pharmaceutical preparations.
Europe has pretty strict regulation, which is why some additives that are used i the USA, are banned in Europe. These e-numbers are legal because they supposedly have no side effects in the concentrations they are used. That may be true, but wouldn’t that depend on how much you ingested combined? I wrote a post about aluminum a while back. Authorities all over the world claim that this is harmless, while some experts say that aluminum is a heavy metal. It is apparantly not without risk because the Norwegian FDA warned against deodorants a couple of years ago. These contain a lot of aluminum and together with what you get from food, medicine and the environment you could get too much.
I don’t know if t’s the same with harmless substances from seaweeds, shrubs and other sources, but I think it would be best to limit the use of these additives. Guar gum is used a lot in cosmetics for example, and I wonder how much they take into account the different sources when they make recommodations. According to food-info.net E516 has no side effects when used in food (does that mean it has when you use it in other products?) and acceptable daily intake has not been determined. That doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence!
Candy and chocolate is a difficult one. It’s so easy to grab some of it as you pass the candy section in the store, and of course the bad things are the cheapest. I like fresh fruit, nuts, dried fruits and banana chips almost as much, but that is of course very expensive. The problem is greed. If I bought less I wouldn’t spend more money, but I so want to sin and surrender to gluttony, greed and lust.
I also recommend The Tipping Point