Monday, October 15, 2012

$136: put it up; suck it up; eat it up.

Put it up.
Silly me, thinking the harvest season was over for the year.  Tomatoes are off the vine, canned up and put down; that is true.  Apples are in, yes.  Pumpkins have turned orange and have joined the huddle in the cellar, yes.  The garden is a mixture of vine-y things and clods of dirt.

But then my husband brought in a stash of the only essentials still somehow missing from our larder:  Cases and cases of Vitamin Water.  Further cases of Gatorade.  The giant Box O' Donuts.  Ibuprofin, which he takes in such quantities it practically counts as food.   Together with dairy and celery from Market, this means we spent $86 on groceries this week, bringing the 30-week grocery average to $136/week.

Suck it up.
Perhaps you thought that Miser Mom has the kind of family where this situation occurs:
Mom comes home from a pot luck dinner and says to her daughter, "I brought home a piece of cake and the leftover beet salad."  Daughter responds, "Oh good!  I was hoping there would be some beet salad left!"
If that's what you thought . . . well, actually, you'd be right.  True story from Friday night.

I long-ago learned how disastrous it is to raise a picky eater.  It's disastrous for both the wallet and for the eater, really.  Jared Diamond in his excellent book Collapse describes an extreme danger of picky eating:  Norse settlers starving to death en masse on Greenland, surrounded by lakes full of fish they were too finicky to eat.  And this is why -- although I twitch a bit, and although I poke fun a lot, at my husband's choices of so-called food -- it makes its way into the home.  My foot doesn't get put down; my nose doesn't get turned up.  We just eat whatever we're fortunate enough to find in front of us.  The motto in our home is, "You don't have to like it; you just have to eat it."

So I'm proud of my kids for being such omnivores.  Given their druthers, the boys would eat cereal, ramen noodles, and mac-n-cheese endlessly.  I overheard a yo-dude/true dat conversation they were having with their friends about the evils of all green foods, and they all waxed eloquent about the vileness of vegetables.  But then one of their buds mentioned brussel sprouts, and N-son immediately jumped in with rhapsodic descriptions of the deliciousness of grilled brussel sprouts, and this started J-son on a full-out brag on how he could eat more kale than anyone.  Don't beat it; just eat it.  And we do.

Eat it up.
Earlier this month I had a bunch of my calculus students over for dinner.  It was fall break; the dining hall was closed.  I fed them spaghetti and homemade sauce and homemade bread and grilled zucchini, except not one of them touched the zucchini.  They whined about how bad the dining hall food is, while they passed my vegetable plate without touching it.  I've never been so proud of my own kids, who were delighted at the chance to eat extra servings.

To be truly frugal means to be willing to try -- and also be willing to learn to love -- those cheap, healthy foods that surround us.  But another side of this willingness involves sharing the delights of the people in front of us, to be willing to join in their meals.  In the absence of religious or health restrictions (which clearly take precedence), the personal ought to bow to the communal.

Does saying this mean I drink vitamin water?  No, vitamin water is not something my husband wants to share, and I'm happy for him not to share it with me.  Does this mean I eat at McDonalds when my family goes there?  Yes, in fact, I went to that particular chain and ate something it sold back in 2010.  (Or was it 2009?  It wasn't fun for me, but I did it, and I have witnesses to prove it).

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