Friday, January 27, 2012

Regarding my secret fear of moderately empty refrigerators, and also overly crowded, disorganized refrigerators.

You know how we've been trying to save money, mostly because we were not saving money there for a while and things got out of whack?  We're pretty much back in the black now, but took a hard look at how we'd been spending money.  As a result, we've gone through some major changes in the last month or so.  It paid off:  we paid off the residuals from the credit cards, made some lifestyle changes, and everything is looking up.

Here's what we did:

First, I stopped buying clothes.  Let's be honest:  I had a new-clothing addiction there for a while.  I spent plenty of our hard-earned money buying myself a whole new wardrobe this last year.  Yes, it was stuff that was on sale, and yes, I really enjoy the clothes.  But it was out of hand and needed to be nipped in the bud.

That addiction got replaced with my new meditation addiction, but that's for an upcoming post (promise).

Second, we agreed to cancel the cable.  This isn't going to save us a ton of money, but let me tell you, it has opened up veritable chasms of time in my schedule.  I read every night now, with a cup of tea.  I read in the morning.  I read in the interstices of my day.  It's not that I wasn't reading before, but boy, making the mental switch away from my tv addiction triggered a desire in me to read and do other stuff, like exercise.  This is pretty awesome.

But I should say goodbye to my friends:  goodbye, Kim, Kortney, Khloe.  Goodbye Snooki, the Situation. I'll miss you.

Nother good by-product:  watching tv can't trigger my desire to shop.  Good.

Third, we just got a whole lot more careful about incidental spending.  I tried to make most birthday gifts this month; we didn't eat out; we talked over every purchase.  This helped a lot, and is a habit I think we'll keep up with.

Fourth, we agreed that our grocery budget was out of whack.  I'm about to blow your freaking mind.  Are you ready?  We spent on average $1000 a month on groceries.  Sometimes more.

Okay, pick up the pieces of your brain and join me again when you've reassembled.

I know!  I know!  I can't believe it myself.  I'm ashamed and embarrassed and confused.  I mean, we make almost every meal at home rather than eat out, so that's part of it.  I try to buy organic produce when I can (especially with those rascals, apples).  We like good cheddar.  But I don't know where the hell else the rest of it goes, honestly.

In an effort to cut that budget dramatically this month (we were shooting for $600 but I think hit more like $700) we made two big shopping trips and then agreed to eat from the pantry.  We had a fair amount stocked up in terms of pastas and canned tomatoes and all that Costco-overflow-jazz, so it didn't seem that hard.  At first.

And for most of the time, it was fun.  It was fun figuring out how to be creative just with what we had.  It was nice to use up food we had bought rather than throw it away or watch it get all dusty.

But for the last ten days or so, our refrigerator has looked like this:

Now, maybe you look at this fridge and see plenty.  Maybe you think I'm having a "first world problem."  Maybe you want me to shut my freaking pie-hole.

But I look at this fridge, and I see three half-jars of salsa, a few stalks of kale that I ran out and bought on Tuesday in a frenzied pique as my body demanded fresh greens, a ginormous tub of fake butter (we've had it for three years.  I'm not kidding.  Totally disgusting), and a pitcher of watered-down juice.  And I'm thinking, "How in god's name am I going to feed a family of four on this shit?  Somebody tell me HOW I'M GOING TO FEED A FAMILY OF FOUR WITH MARGARINE AND WILTED KALE, MOTHER FUCKERS!!!!.

If you post a comment with a recipe for fried kale and apple sauce, I will punch you in the throat.

Good thing it's the end of the month and I have special dispensation to go to the market this weekend, even if it means we go a tiny bit into the red until our paychecks show up on Monday.

But let me tell you, it has been interesting to observe myself trying not to freak out about having an empty larder.  And it has been interesting to observe myself freaking out about not having fresh produce and lots of choices, cooking-wise.  And it has been interesting to reflect on my parents' huge walk-in pantry and costco-sized refrigerator, filled with more food than two people could ever eat even if peak oil hits and boatloads of hungry refugees buy out everything in the grocery store and my parents are stuck living off their pantry for a year.

Not saying this has anything to do with them. I take responsibility for my own refrigerator-induced neuroses.  That image of their giant, walk-in pantry and overflowing fridge has just crossed my mind a few times as I've been thinking about my relationship with scarcity and plenty and blessings and fear, that's all.

Here's the cool thing:  I will be very, very excited to go grocery shopping tomorrow, and I will feel very grateful for every recipe I get to cook this next week.  That's for sure.


  1. I wish we were able to even look at our finances accurately. We use Quicken, but sometimes it tells us some strange thing, and after some hours, I'll realize that it's been counting a certain kind of transaction two times throwing our numbers all out of whack. I've failed utterly to stick to any manual system. I simply cannot bring myself to enter my expenditures consistently.

    Anyhow, every time we look at Quicken because of financial anxiety, we decide that we dine out too often. But, we're back on the restaurant circuit the following week. Can't. Stop. The. Pho.

    Good on ye.


  2. Oh, man, exactly. This is why we had to twin the quicken-tracking with the how-much-money-is-actually-in-the-bank-thing. Because E. would get behind with quicken, and I'd have no idea how much money we actually had (because we were using the credit cards to rack up points) and then next thing we knew, we'd be out of money.

    So I'm hoping the behavior change + tracking + using real money thing will work. It seems to be so far.

    That said, life gets fucking expensive.

  3. your fridge looks beautiful; i often try to empty it out a couple times per week but then life gets busy and i forget. and then relatives from out of town bring boatloads of yogurt and leave them there and god knows what else from the in-laws and damn, the kids are snorting yogurt left and right and showing signs of lactose intolerance...poor little things. i too would like to live off our large pantry and just buy the necessities and see where we go. but i don't think so. not the next two weeks anyways; pta fund-raising is getting into high gear and i've volunteered myself sideways silly. but i love it.

    so, i concur....good on ye. -js