For those of you interested in my most recent “no groceries challenge,” I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday and bought a bunch of stuff. I’ve purchased an item or two over the last few weeks beyond the fresh fruit/veggies/milk/eggs exceptions. This hasn’t been as strict as I’ve been in the past. I’ve also been in the company of my parents quite a bit who provided our meals when we were with them. But, yesterday’s visit to Trader Joe’s qualifies, in my mind, as a break in the challenge. I’m going to do another shopping to stock up on staples like cheese, beans, flour, and tofu.
After that groceries run, I’m going to keep on with the “seeing how long I can go without going to the grocery store” path because, as before, I’ve found I get much more efficient in using what we already have. Food doesn’t go to waste. Plus, for sure, the food we eat is tastier and healthier. I’m much more creative with leftovers. I have to think ahead (to soak the beans, for example), so I plan a decent meal or two or three that are yummy and well-balanced. Knowing I “can’t” just go get something to augment the easiest possible dinner, I end up doing more work but the results are definitely worth if for our bodies, minds, and my bank balance. Yum.
To my white friends: please listen closely to your inner voices. Please notice if you — even for a millisecond — have a flash of a thought of “they must’ve done something wrong/illegal” when you hear about the number of times people of color are hassled by the police.
Even the most open-hearted and progressive among us are influenced by the systems we live in.
You know the justice system is not just, but please notice if you have the little whisper of “they must’ve done wrong.”
I found that once I started noticing those nearly-imperceptible thoughts — for me, police = protection against criminals, so, therefore, police stopping someone must mean they are a criminal — I was able to learn more about myself. I began the process of ridding myself from the emotional obstacles that had been preventing me from actually participating in social change.
Despite decades of work on my own part in racism, I still have those thoughts! I saw that Philando Castile had been pulled over 49 times in 13 years and I thought, “wow, maybe he was a criminal?” The thought lasted fractions of a second, but I noticed it. I caught myself. I corrected the thought. I was reminded of how insidious racism is and it reminded me to refocus.
I’m not done being racist, and no matter how much inner or outer work I do, I probably won’t shed all of it. But I started getting better when I started getting really, really honest.
This no groceries challenge is still going, and I’m being more faithful to it than I had been.
Instead of sticking to it strictly, though, I’m going to make exceptions. The exceptions bring to light something I learned during that time several years ago when I was in a financial crisis: people who come from privilege (like me) have no idea what it’s like to be poor.
That seems like stating the obvious, but until I found out how much I didn’t know, I had no idea.
If I didn’t have the money for food for my family, I’d most certainly have to say “sorry, I can’t participate” in providing treats for my daughter’s graduation. This goes deeper than simply not having the money. It means I’m forced to be outside, looking in, at a community.
I found out in 2010-2013ish that it’s humiliating to say, “I don’t have the food or money to offer cookies at this celebration.” Regardless of how people will actually view my non-participation (surely most wouldn’t notice), I will feel like I’m not doing my part.
The people in my communities are loving and accepting, but there is still an awkward and uncomfortable stigma attached to poverty. It makes well-to-do people uncomfortable, I found (beginning with my own discomfort), to be faced with the fact that we don’t have to think long and hard about every dollar we spend. We just don’t understand.
For financially comfortable people, it requires effort to be mindful of the reality that not everyone can afford to chip in to group activities and efforts. It’s an effort I continue making, and these “no groceries challenges” help keep me awake.
My mindset around this most recent no groceries challenge can be summed up by looking at our “dining out” budget line. Talk about cheating!
I also completely forgot about the challenge and bought bacon and chicken livers when I was at the Portland Food Co-op because I’m rarely there and finding “happy meat” isn’t easy to do outside of our CSA meat share.
And! we went to my parents’ summer house and I decided to consider it part of our budget for vacations, so we spent about $50 on groceries.
It really hasn’t been a no-groceries challenge in any kind of pure way.
I have, however, begun remembering that we’re doing it. I’m now considering issues as if I really “can’t” go to the supermarket (except for fresh fruits/veggies and milk). I’m almost out of whole wheat flour. So, after I use the rest of the lavash and tortillas, will I make all-white bread? I’d hate to do that. Will I make an exception and buy flour? (Probably.) (It’s different than buying pre-made bread. It’s more in the spirit of making do with what we have.)
Certainly, I haven’t “gone grocery shopping” to buy items on a list and another $50-100 of “we probably could use this” stuff. But, we have eaten takeout more than usual, and flat out forgetting about the challenge and justifying purchases because it was “vacation” all serve to remind me how this is really a game I’m playing. This is nothing like real life, when I couldn’t afford to buy food.
I’m going to keep going, as imperfectly as I’ve been doing it, and see if I can get back on track and not buy anything beyond the fresh fruits/veggies and milk. …and maybe a bag of whole wheat flour…