Some of you have joined the UUMC Lenten Challenge to buy groceries for the week based on the guidelines for families living on food stamps. For the two of us here at the parsonage, that’s $63 for a week’s worth of groceries.
I’m not sure I can remember a time when we came back from a full hour of grocery shopping and the bill was under $100. Clearly some things will have to change. And I’m going to guess—just a wild guess at this point—that there will be ALL KINDS of uncomfortable revelations along the way.
So, day one: planning. Many questions surface.
How much does stuff cost? This sounds horrible, but I don’t pay a lot of attention to prices. I do compare prices, but I have no idea how much a gallon of milk or even a jar of peanut butter costs. This is privilege, sticking its tongue out at me.
There are lots of technical questions, Pharisaical questions, about how to work out the cost of eating over the week. Like: what do I do with the leftover food in the refrigerator? (eat it) Do I count the cereal that I already have, but I’m going to use, or just the new stuff? (figure it in) If I don’t use the Half-and-Half in my coffee, it will go bad, and that would be a waste, right? (right)
This morning we created some menus for the week. We had to be much more detailed than we usually are, because we’ll be buying everything we’re eating. A whole chicken is the centerpiece of our cuisine and it will be recycled through three different evening meals. My old school lunch box favorite, PB&J, will get us through lunch. And for me, it will be cold cereal and bananas in the morning.
We have a grocery list, but we have no idea how much everything costs. (see above) So shopping will be a bit more confusing and time-consuming. Usually we divide and conquer. I remember explaining our process to a young woman checking us out. She thought it was so cool that we split up the list and then met at the cashier. Don’t all old married couples do this? (My list is longer, but Linda takes on the stuff that I would never find in a million years.)
We’re also bringing a calculator. If we fill our basket up and the total is $63.31, it’s back down the aisles to make some adjustments (and buy cheap stuff that is bad for us).
As we worked through the planning, I found myself saying, “It’s only for a week. We can do anything for a week.”