Thursday, February 24, 2011

Abundance, Scarcity and Frugality

On the one hand, there's an abundance of resources here on earth. For me, this sense of abundance is tied to the fact that, at the most basic level, there's nothing I do to make sure I have food-- I can't make the sun shine or the rain fall-- abundance is that we have more than we need to survive without actually being able to control things. On the other hand, there's only enough if we don't greedily take more than we need. Frugality seems to teach us to gradually evaluate what we really need, so what we consume is closer to what every other person in the world could consume (which, living in the U.S., is virtually impossible, so it can feel like we're constantly behind).

But I've noticed that there's also a danger of frugality seeming like deprivation. I'm not talking about using reusable containers and such. That's just something to get used to. In this post, I'm talking about food.

I have pretty ingrained ideas about luxury foods. And there are a lot of then. Here are some.
Candy and chocolate
Potato chips
Wheat thins/crackers of any kind
Store bought/bakery bread/any baked goods I didn't bake
Any cookie I didn't make
Maple syrup
Sometimes eggs, if we ran out mid-month
Cheese, if we ran out mid-month
Soda is not only a luxury item, it's an Evil Poisonous Luxury Item (that's a whole different category)
Any kind of fruit juice
Fruits that cost more than... well actually almost all fruits in winter, except frozen berries and Anything-for-our-dear--Noah which are exempt

As you can tell, I have a problem. And I do most of the shopping for the family. I noticed it as I felt more and more like "going out for a treat". You know, when you feel like you deserve a little-something-just-for-getting-up-in-the-morning-and-doing-life? And when the cost of Noah's food was something I wanted to tightly control (he eats about the amount that you'd expect a large guinea pig or a small tortoise to eat, so I justified that we're saving on pet food because, well, we don't have a guinea pig or a tortoise).

That got me thinking about how we do frugality and food. And I'm undergoing a fairly radical shift in thinking in this season of our lives. I'm going to try my best to keep our food spending under our budgeted $190/month, but I think I over-reached and tried to make our family into vegetarian locavores before we were really ready. I find the pendulum swinging back now that we're incredibly busy and living in Allston-- we're eating out more (the luxury goods are usually not in the house) and never feel like cooking lentils. The way to bring us back to center seems to be to allow for some good luxury foods even if they're expensive or wrapped in plastic or shipped from Chile. Lentils are so much better when you don't feel like you're cornered into making them by a lack of cheese. We'll get to sustainable eating one day. Although it probably won't be February in the Northeast when we do.

P.S. The Menu had it's moment. That moment is now over. I realized I never wanted quinoa or couscous on Tuesday. But it served a good purpose. We're eating a really wide variety of grains. And I do sometimes feel like cooking couscous and quinoa, just never on Tuesdays. Sometimes you gotta shake things up and go wild and have spinach frittata, you know?

1 comment:

leah said...

$190 a month is a VERY small amount to spend on food for a family of 3. We're much poorer and we spend much more on food, if that makes you feel better.