Tonight I came across these two photos of what I bought when I went to the grocery store after just a couple weeks. In the first photo are the items I had on my shopping list. None of these items were truly “need” items. They were, however, items that held value. The treats (cookies) and fruit for my daughters. The tea for me. And the celery and carrots for all kinds of dishes/snacks.
The second photo is straight-out want items. Snack foods for lunches, and some bok choy because it looked so good.
The pictures remind me how even my “need” items haven’t really been “need” items. If I was back at the under-ten-dollars level of financial crisis, I could’ve made do with what I had. That’s good information to have. It keeps my impulse buying and my justification flows limited.
Yesterday I started listening to the audiobook, “Scarcity: Why Having Little Means So Much.” It makes sense to me that I’m hyper-aware of purchases, patterns, consumption, etc. It also informs how changing my feelings of helplessness and deprivation (weighed down by shame) into a motivating and encouraging learning experience has kept it in my mind, but in a less exhausting way.
For more than 40 years, my parents have had a large organic garden in the mountains of Maine. I grew up with that garden. For me, normal summers included picking anything I wanted at any time and eating it on the spot. I probably played more than I actually helped with the garden, or as a teenager I probably complained more than I helped, but working in the garden was just something my family did.
When I imposed the “no groceries” challenge on myself before, it was May. Our garden had not yet started for the season. Not going to the grocery store is easier now because it’s also harvest time for the plants I put into my plots in my parents’ garden.
As I was picking the old beans (to be shelled and cooked like lima beans), the green tomatoes (fried with corn meal, pickled, ripen some in newspaper), and the basil (puree and freeze), I was connected to how lucky I am that these are easy tasks for me. I knew that we would be going back to the garden in October and that the kale would be fine (it will last forever, the magical vegetable that it is) and the cabbage will be, too. I know what to do with the vegetables, too. I know how to cook them in ways to allow for freezing for later use, for example.
So many people have never even picked a vegetable off of a plant, let alone planted the seeds that grow into plants to pick from. My parents have nurtured this garden space for decades. They’ve planted a cover crop on 1/4 or 1/2 of it, rotated the area where they plant, identified organic methods of pest control, and learned so much from their experiences. I’ve picked up a bit of what they know and it’s enough to grow a lot of food (with their continued help). I’m deeply grateful and very aware of how unusually lucky I am.
Today I was struck by how many times I haven’t gone to the grocery store in the time my no-groceries challenge has been going on. My memory of it is fuzzy, but I suspect I’d stop at the market every few days for something I “needed” for a meal. On any quick stop for one or two things, I almost always end up with at least a bag full. Before this challenge, I thought I was pretty frugal. Now, I realize I can do just fine with a lot less than I thought I needed.