no groceries challenge redux (and redux and redux and redux…)

It’s a fresh start. Again. We’ve stocked up on staples and are prepared for the challenges of yet another (strict, again, this time) “no groceries challenge.IMG_5589

Borne out of necessity this time around (again)—food is one of the few areas where I have control of the amount we spend—we’re going to see how long we can go without going to the supermarket. The exceptions will be for fresh fruit and, eventually, fresh vegetables (after we’ve gone through all we have now). Eggs and possibly milk will likely be the first items beyond fresh fruit to get us into the supermarket.

IMG_5646This no groceries challenge started a few days ago. I got some good news that has my mood up again: my daughters told me they loooove the roasted squash seeds I included in their lunch. The delicata squash rings are a favorite of ours, and they freeze well (bonus!).

In the name of having snack-y foods for school lunches, I roasted the squash seeds like I will our jack-o-lantern pumpkin seeds. It turns out they are yummy!IMG_5647

I had been doing a modified version of the no groceries challenge since August, but I made a lot of exceptions. The up side is I mostly stuck to “only what is on my shopping list” rather than getting what seems like a good idea. This saves a lot of money and limits food waste, for sure.

After the illness and death of a pet, an unexpected car repair (following an unexpected car repair due to my backing into a telephone pole), and dental work, the savings I had built up are pretty much shot. It’s back to paycheck-to-paycheck for a while. Selling what I can, cutting corners where I can, and simply revving up those good habits I’ve started developing over these few financially-tight years.

As with the very first “no groceries challenge,” I find the act of choosing to restrict my food purchases is empowering. Rather than deprivation, I’m in a place of motivation. This one’s gonna be a good one.

 

 

 

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we choose our battles

A good friend on Facebook is an activist for animal rights. Another spends her time fighting for the rights of trans* people. I also have friends who raise money for good causes, friends who focus their energy on their children, or use all their energy just getting through the day.

There isn’t time in the world to be an activist in every cause. We have to pick and choose where we spend our time.

Black and brown skinned people don’t get to choose whether or not racism affects them, but even they, to some degree, can choose how much time they dedicate to the “cause” of fixing our system.

I care about getting clean water to all the parts of the world where people are dying because they simply don’t have clean water. I care about stopping Apartheid in Palestine. Some issues spark my passion and some issues, like clean water and Palestinian rights, I have to put aside and say, someone else has to do that.

I was thinking this morning about how much #blacklivesmatter, #sayhername, and ending mass incarceration means to me. I wrote about realizing that people fighting global warming are also social justice activists. In that same vein, I want my friends to know that I recognize we choose our battles. I don’t judge you harshly for your apparent lack of interest. When we are watching our children play, or enjoying a potluck, or chit-chatting online, I enjoy you and your life with all of your varied choices.

I won’t be quiet about the issues that matter most to me, but I don’t expect you to make the choices I make. I respect your right to focus your energy in different places.

I believe everyone—and I mean everyone—does what they need to do to make the world a better place. Keeping lines of communication open feels more important to me these days than force feeding my beliefs into other people’s life choices. We are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

jonesin’ for groceries, and some upsides

Today I needed cat food. I would be at the supermarket for that, so I also got fresh fruit. Walking through the store felt similar to what it felt like when I first got into recovery for alcoholism. It wasn’t that I was going to buy things, it’s that I felt really drawn to “I’ll just get one thing.” All of those “one thing” items were things I didn’t need. I didn’t buy those unneeded items, but it took concentration and mindfulness to focus on my task: buying fresh fruit and cat food.IMG_0269

One of the greatest benefits of these no groceries challenges I set out for myself is I start using what I already have in more efficient ways. We eat leftovers rather than forgetting them until they’ve gone bad. I’ve dug into the deep freezer and found plenty of yummy things, like apple cider I froze when it was fresh in the fall and many bags of par-boiled chard and kale from the summer’s garden. I’d forgotten what I’d put in that freezer. Little containers of Girl Scout Cookies, even! Yum.

So, once again, I’m finding that having a choice matters. I’m choosing to not go to the grocery store to “shop.” I’m choosing to not even step foot in the market unless there is an item we actually need. It’s educational and illuminating. It’s not terrifying, it’s liberating.

I’m reminded again and again of what a luxury it is to be making this choice. I’m still haunted by the overwhelming fear I felt in those days when I didn’t know how I would get groceries. I think of all of the people who are so deep in real poverty that the quicksand keeps pulling them back in no matter how hard they try to get out. I am so lucky that it was temporary, that I had resources—including SNAP/food stamps—to get through that time.

I’m eager to see how long I go without buying things we don’t need, those things that will be nice to have (I’ve got no bubbly water, but I’ll survive). The no groceries challenge is saving us money, making me grateful, and is certainly good for the environment. Plus, I found those Girl Scout cookies!

no groceries challenge #4

In May of 2013, I imposed a “no groceries” rule on myself to see how long I could go without going to the supermarket. I learned quite a bit more than I expected. I repeated the challenge in less stringent forms a couple more times. (To view those posts, you can visit the “no groceries” category on this site.)

With the full involvement of my daughters, we’re embarking on the challenge again. Two weeks of summer camp (paid for with scholarship money) for the last two or three years aren’t available this summer. This means decreased childcare and increased expenses. With some good luck and some good choices, I’m not currently facing the threat of negative bank balances. But, bills will come due. Without some drastic budget cutting or with some bad luck, it could be dire.

Most of my expenses are fixed (rent, phone, Internet, tuition, insurance). One area where we have some control is food. I don’t expect it will make all the difference we need as I look towards the challenges of summer, but as it was before, just the actions themselves—knowing I can do something—keeps me on the side of gratitude rather than fear.

Full disclosure: I will not have a zero-tolerance rule for this challenge. We’ll get fresh fruits and vegetables as we need them, and, after a chunk of time going without (almost) entirely, if there are one or two ingredients that will make a meal complete, I’ll get them. No “grocery shopping,” at all. No remembering “I need x or y” when I’m picking up a prescription, etc. No “I wish we had a frozen pizza, I am so bleeping tired…” purchases.

We went to Hannaford today which I only recently learned has much better prices than the Shaw’s we had been using (I assumed grubby = cheaper!) and stocked up on some staples like dried beans and kale (to parboil and freeze) as well as some perishables that will last like tofu and sweet potatoes. We’re ready.

check yourself, my white friends

Since the late 80s, I’ve been working on and through my own racism. I’ve written about it on my own blog, before it was called a blog, and I’ve written about it in my newspaper column at the Bangor Daily News.

As the news coverage of the Department of Justice’s study of Ferguson continues, I’ve caught myself in old patterns of translating the facts. I invite my white friends to listen to your inner voices. We want racism to be not as bad as it is. We want that so much. So, to make it easier, when we hear shocking statistics we may translate them into less devastating facts. Maybe you don’t do it, but I know I have.

As I wrote in one of my BDN columns about racismthe one with deeply offensive thoughts as the first sentences—I think we well-meaning white people get so caught up in wanting to be not-racist that we aren’t able to engage in authentic relationships with people of color which means we can’t take or even support real action to change (institutionalized) racism.

Here’s the translation I’ve had to use over and over again as I listen to the news stories, using one statistic as an example:

news story: 93% of summons issued for jaywalking were issued to black people.

me: (for a millisecond) probably more black people jaywalked. maybe that’s something that happens more often in black neighborhoods and maybe there’s a non-racist reason why it’s considered such a bad thing.

me: *checks myself* the police are targeting black people for “crimes” and they are not targeting white people for the same “crimes.”

I’ve had to fix my thoughts again and again as I listen to the news. Each time I hear a statistic, my millisecond “please make this not as bad as it is” thought is louder and more easily detected. It flashes away faster, too.

Just like my work a decade ago getting beyond the “please consider me one of the GOOD white people” nonsense, the desire to have our racist systems be not as bad as they are leads me to an easy way out (hearing the statistic and thinking probably they deserved it).

Please consider reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, or listening to the audiobook, or simply listening to Michelle Alexander’s many public presentations. It is the knowledge of her work resting inside my gut that helps me face the ugly truth that I am still trying to avoid the ugly truth about racism in our country.