Now What?

This is day 3 of my No New Groceries challenge, wherein I attempt to live off the fat I’ve stored in my freezer and pantry.

I'm pretty sure I'll bore myself silly if all I blog about for the next month is this No New Groceries thing. On the other hand, it's still fresh and new and I have a lot of "And another thing!" remarks to make. So here goes...

One question that begs to be asked and answered in all this is: "What are you going to do with what you save this month by not buying groceries?" What a great question! Are we talking money or time? Or both?

First, let's figure out how much money we're talking about. On a typical Saturday I have a standard 4-stop errand tour of my little corner of the world.

  1. neighborhood coffee shop
  2. Target - for dog food and maybe a few other items (ca. $15-50 depending on how many cases they have and whatever else I get.)
  3. Cub Foods - for the bulk of the groceries (ca. $110-$140)
  4. neighborhood butcher shop - for a dog bone and 1-2 (0r 3!!) dinners' worth of meat (ca. $18-30)

On some weekends I'll also add a trip to the nearby Giant Chain Drug Store where I use my Evil Corporate Job's quarterly "benefit" of a $75 gift card on symbolic purchases of ibuprofen, toilet paper and trash bags. (No, I'm not kidding. And I loved it when I was down in Atlanta and could buy diapers and wipes for SrSW's Itty Bitty with that card.) (No one thinks it is as funny as I do, but I crack myself up every time.)

The usual round takes about 2-3 hours.

If my math and my estimates are right  I'll be not spending between $130-170 per week for five weeks ($650-$850 total) AND if I actually meet the goal of bringing my lunch to work, I'll be cutting out an additional $50 a week of spending. Now we're talking $800-$1000!! Not really an amount to sneeze at!

As for the time "savings" that might be a moot point. This Saturday I'll be with G taking furniture up to his son and daughter-in-law in Fargo. (Yes. Fargo, North Dakota. Jealous?) The following Saturday I'll be in Baltimore at an Assembly planning meeting. So really, by not grocery shopping I'll be saving myself from being crazy by having to cram it on to Sunday afternoon - when I should be napping.

But if I were to actually save an hour or two each Saturday, I could use that time to walk, or read a book, or clean the ever emptying pantries. In 8 hours I could knit two pair of mittens, or declutter the downstairs room by the fireplace so G and I could spend romantic cozy winter evenings there. Hmmm. Wonder what I should chose?

There are plenty of places the money could/should go. I have a bunch of unexpected medical bills and the big Patio Project of 2009 went on the credit card along with car repairs and expenses related to moving DS1 to college. And when you look at those numbers, even putting the whole $1000 toward either the medical bills or the credit card won't make a huge dent. And I sure as heck don't have six months of expenses saved! So this $1000 isn't going to  suddenly cover either one of those financial goals. And since it won't retire the debt, I feel like I should take at least part of this money and put it towards helping people who are hungry.

There are a lot of good and worthy direct service agencies that I could give a chunk of this money. When it comes to giving to food shelves and soup kitchens and the like, I favor Second Harvest Food Bank over buying food and donating to the local food shelves because they can get more food per dollar than I can at the retail grocery store.

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I'd rather spend my time fixing the problem than treating the symptoms. That doesn't mean that the symptoms don't need to be treated! People are hungry - they need to be fed. But we will always only ever have hungry people if no one advocates for changes to the system that cause so many people to be hungry. Those folks who are called to treat the symptoms - to fill the food banks and serve at the soup kitchens - should do it and do it with passion!

That frees a others of us up to try to fix the situation - to lobby for changes to the system, locally, nationally and globally.

Two advocacy programs that get high marks from me are the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) World Hunger organization and Bread for the World.

There's also the "in between" organization of  Heifer International. By "in between" I mean it's sort of direct service - they give people farm animals  - and sort of long-term solution, because the animals allow the families to feed themselves and their communities over time.

Here is where I get wrapped around the axle. I do need to use some of this money to pay down my debt. But the amount that I can use to make a difference for someone else is not a huge amount. And to split it between three or four organizations just doesn't seem like it will do much.

Here's what I'm going to do. I commit to sending $100 (10% of what I think I'm saving by not grocery shopping for these five weeks) to one of those organizations I mentioned up there. (Or I'll split the $100 - I don't know yet. I have to think more about it.)

I wonder if a few of you could help make this a bigger amount? Can you send 5 or 10 bucks to your favorite hunger related non-profit? More?

I'll contribute another $1 for every $1 you contribute to a hunger related non-profit, up to another $100. Leave a comment telling me how much you're pitching in and to which food related non-profit and I'll send a matching donation.

You donate $5, I'll donate $5. You donate $50? I'll donate $50. Up to another $100. To feed the hungry somewhere. I don't care if you choose a local non-profit or an international one. Just leave a comment with the name and amount you send. I'll contact you by email if I need address information for the non-profit you choose. Even better, include the URL.

Surely even the few of us can do this?


Day 2 recap:
Breakfast – oatmeal and blueberries, coffee from coffee shop
Lunch – leftover lamb&rice hotdish and nectarine and more blueberries
Dinner – at church (I work Wednesday nights at church and there's a dinner as part of the evening)

My apple tree on Oct. 12, 2009
My apple tree on Oct. 12, 2009

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