Monday, November 19, 2012

$131: School snack saga

N-son came home from school Wednesday and said, "my teacher says I have to bring a bag of potato chips to school on Friday.  We're having a party and I have to bring potato chips."

Call me a horrible mom, but we don't have any potato chips in our home.  Haven't for years.  Call the authorities and report me for abuse, but there it is.  And I'm not about to go out and buy some expensive, processed fat-and-sodium-delivery system that comes in non-compostable wrapping just because my soon-to-be-13-year-old tells me his teacher says I should.  Pencils?  yes.  Paper?  for sure! Potato chips?  No way.

N-son was obviously anticipating that his teacher's say-so was something like a papal dispensation, so he was a bit crestfallen when I delivered the bad news that, no, we were NOT going to go to the store and hunt for salty snacks for his class.  Instead, we looked through our cupboards and whipped up a batch of homemade granola.  I put it in a cardboard container (previously containing grits), that we redecorated with the name "Great Granola".

And then I sent N-son off to school with his granola, and waited to see what happened.

Now, you might love potato chips, and I'm not going to say you shouldn't.  But there are probably things that you do that many other people don't; or else there are things that other people don't do, that you do do . . . and so every once in a while you butt up against popular expectation.  Potato chips are just one of those thing that I don't do, and here was someone who didn't even know me assuming that I'm a normal potato chip person.  But I'm not; I just think they're vile  ---  but that's not the point of the story. The point is that I sent a mildly nervous N-son to school with granola instead of potato chips.  It was a lesson in bucking expectations.  And he wasn't sure what would happen.

And here is what happened:  his teacher loved the granola.  In fact, his teacher had fifths of granola.  In double-fact, N-son called me on my cell phone during the middle of the day to see if we were allowed to leave the container at school so his teacher could have more.  The granola was, in triple-fact, great.

Which goes to show, sticking to our values and sticking to our guns and being just a little bit different from the rest of the world doesn't have to be the end of the world, even for a susceptible almost-13-year old.

The flip side of the granola story is that this week turned into a huge grocery shopping week.  We bought more than 100 lbs of food from Millers (50 lbs of regular flour, 10 lbs of rye and wheat flour, 40 lbs of potatoes, 10 lbs of nuts, plus some apples).  From the regular grocery store, we bought coffee, and lots of peanut butter, and a few assorted odds-and-ends.

And, just in case you're feeling too bad for N-son, we also splurged on 3-dozen chicken wings, per his request.  (This was our first chicken purchase in over six months).  We splurged because today is his 13th birthday, and chicken wings was his request for a special birthday dinner meal.  Two of my three older daughters will be back from Virginia to help celebrate.  One of my students who has become close to the family will join us.  As of today, all of my kids are teenagers or older.  I'm feeling just a tad proud and nostalgic.

We spent $223 on food (mixed in with some cleaning supplies) this week.  This brings the 35-week grocery average back up to $131/week.  131 is prime -- indeed, it's a Sophie Germain prime, named after the french mathematician Marie-Sophie Germain, who was, herself, willing to defy societal expectations.  Back during the time that society figured that women couldn't/shouldn't be interested in mathematics, she made huge contributions to an area of mathematics called "number theory", so much so that there are whole sets of numbers named after her.

And I'm guessing (though I don't know this for a fact) that Sophie Germain liked granola, too.


  1. Hi, I am new to your blog! Came upon it by mistake and love it so... here I am!! At our school, the teachers request healthy snacks...good for you for sticking to your values and introducing the teacher to good choices!


    1. Welcome to the Miser Mom blog! It's good to have you joining in the conversation.

      I'm guessing (especially in my school district, which has a high poverty rate) that N-son's teacher knows about healthy choices, but has a hard time asking parents to come up with them. Asking someone to buy fresh fruit -- that's asking for a bunch of money. Asking someone to cook from scratch -- that's asking for a bunch of time. I'm guessing that potato chips were the cheap and easy alternative, from his point of view. I have a lot of respect for that teacher, actually, which is part of why I felt like I could do the swap I did and have it work out so well. --MM

  2. Tell N happy birthday from me! I can't believe he's 13, I remember how little he was my freshman year!

    (Germain primes reminds me: have you seen the play Proof, or the movie version of it? It's an excellent story about math, love, and going crazy. The movie stars Sir Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow. And it passes the Bechdel test.)

    1. Oooh! I got to see it on Broadway (or off-Broadway, I forget. At any rate, live). I loved the show. In fact, the only math-y thing that felt "wrong" was that the grad student in the play hadn't heard of Sophie Germain. I know that was a drama thing (because most audience members haven't heard of her), but *every* math graduate student knows who she was.

      I'll give N-son hugs from you! --MM

    2. I take note of that film. I hope I can find it.

    3. (I can't reply directly to you, I don't know why) I can't quite remember how the exchange went in the play because I saw it in high school, but in the movie he does remember who Sophie Germain is eventually, it just doesn't click until after he's made a fool of himself.

  3. I think we need this granola recipe...

    1. Or the non-recipe, such as it is. Okay, I'll work that up for a future post! -- MM

  4. I applaud your daring to defend what you think is more valuable.