When I started my food journey, I didn’t really think about the difficulties that would come spending two weeks away from my normal routine to go home for spring break and go on an adventure in the Pacific Northwest. I began to feel vaguely guilty because I couldn’t think of any way to maintain a $20 a week grocery goal under such conditions. I talked to some friends and my mom and decided to just do my best to be food-conscious, to resist the urge to indulge every small pang of hunger, and to keep track of everything. And, of course, I didn’t want to be cheap.
Being cheap would be letting my good friend Grace in Seattle supply all of my food while I stayed with her (as hard as I tried to avoid it, she still supplied most of it). Being cheap would involve avoiding social events at the conference that would involve going out to eat, or making my lent resolution public so that people would give me leftovers. I tried to avoid all these things.
Here’s how I did:
The travel day: I brought lots of snacks from home so I’d be set all day long. Because of the time change, I arrived at my hotel in Portland around 6:00 at night and still felt like I had time to go to a nearby Safeway to get groceries for the week.
Total at the store: $16.00, spent on sandwich materials, microwavable soups and fresh fruit.
The conference in Portland: I ate my groceries, made the unlimited free coffee in my hotel room rather than buying the expensive kind downstairs, and did not feel appreciably more hungry than I normally am. I did go out to eat once with colleagues. Though I only got an entrée, it still cost me $12 with tip, so as you can see I was about $8 over my weekly goal. I also went to the conference banquet, which I had paid for several months ago so I didn’t really count it. But I did appreciate that the banquet had cost me $35.00. The banquet and the other dinner seemed necessary to me, though, purely for the social aspect. I enjoyed them and was okay with spending the money within reason.
Visiting Grace in Seattle: I resolved to be less thrifty around Grace. She knew about my resolution but I tried to make it very clear to her that it was okay if we went out to eat and that I wouldn’t worry about my spending habits too much. Before we left Portland, I got a $4.00 sandwich from a food cart and a $2.00 cup of coffee from Stumptown (and I will have to say it was one of the best coffees I’ve ever had – maybe just because I was comparing it to the hotel stuff). We took the bus to Seattle and got home pretty late, so Grace just cooked up some chicken and frozen vegetables for our dinner and we went straight to bed.
I love Grace because she is so generous. We went grocery shopping and she insisted on buying the food. Then she cooked me delicious meals. She also bought my dinner one night when we went out to eat. For the most part, we didn’t go out to eat, but that isn’t to say we didn’t eat well. We had plenty of portable snacks for our adventures and the anticipation of savory, hearty meals when we returned. The only things I actually bought for direct consumption were: another couple cups of coffee ($3.00 total, and can you see what holds the keys to my heart? Maybe that’s what I should give up next), a bowl of salmon chowder ($5.00-ish? I paid with cash), and a ridiculously tiny, adorable fruit tart ($2.00).
But does it matter? Sure, I met my goal for the week, but only because most of my food needs were supplied by someone else. I guess that brings me to my main point:
My $20 a week grocery resolution has not taught me what it means to be hungry, like I originally intended. Instead, it has allowed me to experience the generosity of my friends and family and get really good at doing math.
Yes, I got hungry for sure. My hunger was never terrible or debilitating though. The biggest thing with living by the generosity of others is you don’t get to make the decisions about when, where and what to eat, which I did find very humbling and a little disconcerting. But Grace always made sure I was well fed and I just had to trust her.
What if God treats me the same way, giving me what I need to be satisfied, not more or less? Why do I have such a hard time appreciating that? Why must I always be in control?
Only two more weeks to go.