This Journey

Thoughts, rants, prayers, sermons I'll never give and other stuff gathered as I make my way through this life.

I’ve stopped buying groceries

(Cross posted at Blogher.com)

No, I’m not crazy. And I haven’t found a sugar daddy or moved to a commune. Yet.

OK. Here’s the deal.

I think I have the Hoarder gene from my grandma. For me it manifests a little differently than it did for her (read: I don’t have 247 sweaters and she did.) For me it’s food.  And maybe office/school supplies.

But it’s not food that I necessarily eat – although clearly I’m doing my fair share of that – but I seem to hoard food in a way that has it come into my house and stay in the cupboard or freezer, or refrigerator. (Until it spoils or walks out on it’s own. (don’t ask))

I think this situation is partly a manifestation of the fact that I have no real idea of how much food the boys and I actually eat. Even pre-divorce, when it was four of us, it was a challenge. I would plan and shop for a week’s worth of meals but then we’d be at the soccer field or a meeting or a something and catch dinner on the fly.  I have thrown away a lot of food in my days. And yes, I know that not only would a starving child in Borneo have eaten that, but I could have improved my garden by a lot had I been a more conscientious compost-er.

Let’s tackle one environmental sin at a time, shall we?

In addition to just not being able to accurately estimate how much food it takes to feed me and the boys, the divorce has removed “feed the boys” from my to-do list for about 1/2 the nights of the month. So on those nights it is cooking for one.* When there was cooking.**  On top of that, now that DS1 has gone off to college, a full house is cooking for me and DS2. Include G when he’s around and that’s still only three people. At any rate, I just still haven’t gotten a good handle on what this all means for meal planning, shopping.

I also freely admit that I’m horribly averse to hearing the “there’s nothing to eat” complaint and so I clearly overcompensate. Hey, nothing says “I’m a good mom!” like making sure your kids never have anything of substance to complain about.

Even when I was struggling with debt I made sure there was always something (lots of somethings) they could make for themselves if I was being a “bad” mom by daring to, I don’t know, be at work when they were hungry. I think that’s part of the hoarder instinct; trying to find comfort and security in stuff.

I didn’t say I didn’t need therapy about some of these issues. I just maybe haven’t gotten to it yet, OK?

On top of all that, there are plenty of times I’m at the grocery store and I’ll think “I should save money by bringing my lunch to work.” So I’ll shop to enable that and still not do it. So much for saving money.

I was digging around in the freezer this weekend I was trying to find room for the stuff I brought home from the grocery store (I have a 1/2 chest freezer downstairs in addition to the refrigerator/freezer combo upstairs.) and I discovered two packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a package of boneless pork chops, about 5 lbs of ground beef (left over from DS1’s graduation party preparation) and most of the salmon we brought home from Door County. There are still a couple of containers of already cooked taco meat (beef or chicken) and at least one pork roast down there. Not to mention frozen tomatoes, other veggies and fruit. Bags of flour (whole wheat, all purpose, cake and bread.) (Yes, there are differences.) (Keeping the flour in the freezer keeps the bugs out of it when you don’t use it fast enough.) And the frozen tortellini and ravioli I added to the freezer on Saturday. And last night I moved the farmer ribs (for sauce) and the soup bone (for stock) from the refrigerator to the freezer because I realized: I’m not going to be home this weekend to either cook or eat either one.

The inventory upstairs includes frozen veggies (no idea how freezer burnt those are) containers of pesto from this past spring and coffee. Several half used bags of coffee beans, both whole and ground and several pounds of unsalted butter. Not to mention half of a 1/2 gallon of ice cream.

The cupboard is no slouch either. Scone mixes, pancake mixes, cans of beans, tomatoes and soup, boxes of pasta and oatmeal and cereal. There are also won-ton skins and a couple of packages of Nori in there too. And rice. At least two varieties of rice.

Things are good in the staples category too. At least 10 lbs of flour, 5 of sugar and brown sugar. A couple of bags of chocolate chips (From this weekend’s excursion. Yeah. Don’t think they’ve been languishing in there for any length of time) and about 3 boxes of bakers’ chocolate. Various dried beans, lentils and a couple different kinds of vinegar. Salad dressing? Check. Syrup? Double-check. Oil? Canola, olive and sesame.

And this is just what I can remember off the top of my head while I’m wasting time here in the office! Who knows what an actual inventory would uncover!

So, I’m setting myself a challenge. I’ve talked it over with JH at work and I think that I can go at least until November 15, 2009 without buying any food except milk, cheese, eggs and bread. The one “cheat” I”ll give myself is that I’ll get a couple of packets of yeast so that I can make pizza dough (I’m pretty sure the yeast that’s in there is expired.)

Now, keep in mind I still get a delivery from my CSA every Thursday until the end of the year. And every other Thursday, I get a share of fruit. But the CSA share is paid in full already.

However, no fancy ingredients will be allowed as an excuse for this challenge. If I don’t have it in the cupboard, I’ll either substitute, go without or, if I really, really need it, I’ll try to borrow some from a neighbor.

In addition to not shopping for groceries, I’m also going to stop buying food at work. Except for coffee. (We have to be realistic about some things.) In other words, I’m going to bring my leftovers for my lunches.

I’ll be honest. This may be the part of the plan that fails first. I’m all willing to bring them, but when I’m running out the door in the morning, I’m usually trying to remember to grab my cell phones, my computer and my freaking coat and not a bag lunch. But I’ll set this as the goal.

As for eating out for the evening meal – only on Wednesdays (church community meal), when G buys, or when I’m out of town.

I talked about this with DS2 last evening and he was not impressed. I’m pretty sure he didn’t see either the point or the challenge of it. After all, he just shows up and there’s food to eat. What does he care whether it just came from the store or has been here for a couple of months already?***

Ok. Let me sum up:

  1. My goal is to limit grocery purchases to bread, milk, eggs, cheese and yeast between Oct 13, 2009 and Nov 15, 2009.
  2. I will bring lunch from home. (DS2 will still eat lunch at school. Hey, he says he likes it better than bringing a lunch.)
  3. Dinners “out” will occur only when someone else pays, OR when out of the 7-county Twin Cities metro area.

Fine print: This does not include dog food. duh.

Care to try something not as crazy? The Huffington Post is sponsoring a No Impact week starting Oct 18. There are some good tips available here for reducing your impact on the environment. And it’s only for a week.

How will you join in the fun? Leave me a comment so I can come by and encourage you while I’m waiting for dinner to finish cooking.

*Yes, I acknowledge that sometimes I’ve had dinner guests when the boys are with their dad. Mostly lately it has been G but over the life of this blog there have been a couple of other occasional guests for an evening meal.

**Yes, I acknowledge that through the separation and divorce there was more than one occasion where “dinner” consisted of a pint of Ben&Jerry’s and a bottle of wine. Not technically cooking. But that’s not really the point, is it?

***I cannot confirm or deny that some of the things in the freezer may pre-date the divorce. Or the separation. We shall see when we excavate down to that level. Thou shalt not judge. Just saying.

p.s. my divorce was final 3 years ago today.

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Birthday flowers from G

Author: Not Fainthearted

A paradox wrapped in an enigma playing the accordion. I'm a sinner-saint, child of God working at the cross-roads of church and world. A Deaconess called to connect people living near the center with people on the edge and to help your life sing (literally and figuratively) while doing it. People don't always get the deaconess part. Could be the swearing, the corporate job, or the wine.

11 Comments

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  2. We have been working on a similar activity here at the house. We are doing this in 2 week stretches (or trying to) rather than one month. Basically, we’re trying to make 1 trip to the store (payday) and “make do and not waste”. We’ve found that my husband is bigger on splurging than I am. :)

    I love the idea of cleaning out/up. I may try to stretch it further than 2 weeks – but it may wait until after Thanksgiving. I just found out that my DAD and Bonus Mom are coming to visit in a few weeks! Woot!

  3. Wow!!! Great experiment! I’m certain you’ll learn some valuable lessons and become more creative in planning your meals. I’m glad you can still get some fruits. Being originally from war torn Liberia (Africa), and a mom to two midwestern boys – dad’s orginally from Minnesota – I can’t begin to tell you how much guilt I feel when I buy so much items- all in the name of “the boys” that go unused- ultimately expiring or not so appetizing.
    I get sick sometimes just thinking about how people in the part of the world that am originally from starve, and they sometimes wish they even just had rice without the meat, just to stay alive.

  4. Pingback: This Journey » Mom-ness

  5. Hi there! I’m late night blog hopping and thought the title of your post was VERY interesting and just HAD to click over here!! I think I may become a regular! Great blog you got here and good luck with your “experiment”….I am sooooo bad at cupboard / freezer / refrigerator overload…I can’t even begin to go there!!

  6. I am so inspired by your story! I too have cupboard overload and nothing ever to eat. We just got some backyard chickens to help us with some left-over veggies (and will give us eggs in return!) Good luck!

  7. You will do great! Good thing you still get fruits and veggies. You will be a much better shopper when your experiment is done.

  8. Pingback: Tweets that mention This Journey » I’ve stopped buying groceries -- Topsy.com

  9. I think it’s a great idea, though you don’t mention if you’ll eat the freezer-burned stuff. Also, you don’t mention you have any spices. I sure hope you do. The whole experience will enable your creativity.

    • I haven’t decided what to do about the freezer burnt stuff. Sometimes throwing a little freezer burnt broccoli into the soup doesn’t really matter. Other times – inedible!

      But yes, I have a full spice cabinet that I’m sure I’ll be using!!