Tuesday, February 22, 2011

$100 A Week--Cheating on a budget

I was scraping the last of the hazelnut butter from the jar, when the first thoughts of cheating on my food budget appeared. Oh right, a budget is so easy until it cramps your style. Anyway, I suddenly wanted almond butter, and not the kind you buy easily on $100-a-week budget. (I'm not sure there is good almond butter available for the tightwad cook, and that's the problem--I'm not a natural born tightwad; I'm shoehorning my fancy tastes into a smaller budget.) I never realized I was such a food snob until I started this budget.

What would it matter just to order a box like this? a little voice echoed in my head.

The more I imagined the flavors, the more I wanted almond butter--so creamy and fresh when spread on an apple slice. But thoughts of cheating on my so-called food budget made me remember my sour disappointment in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver when I read that they kept "emergency rations of mac and cheese," and never gave up coffee in their so-called year of eating only from the local food basket.

Kingsolver had referred to the 100-Mile Diet couple as "purists." But I was also disappointed when I discovered the 100-Mile Diet couple ate processed food from the industrial food chain whenever they traveled. On their TV show on the Green Planet, they renamed this the Randy Rule. Go out of town and what you eat doesn't count. I wonder if most Americans (oh and Canadians, maybe the whole world) are just into denial.

"The first and worst fraud is to cheat oneself. All sin is easy after that," said Pearl Bailey, an American singer and actress from the 1950s. So if I cheat on a food budget, who really cares besides me and my savings account?

I finally decided if I wanted the almond butter, I'd have to use money from my "dream box" and buy less blueberries this summer. Almost as soon I'd resigned myself to counting change and doing with less in the future, I spotted a familiar jar on the back shelf of the refrigerator. The label was turned away from me, but as I reached for it, I realized it was a full jar of my favorite Massa Organics almond butter.

Happy days! No cheating or robbing the blueberry fund for me, not yet anyway, but I'll tell you this, if I go off the budget, I'm going to call it what it is--cheating the food budget. And I'm not keeping emergency rations of mac and cheese on hand any time soon. We're so lucky in this country to have a back-up food system and all the justification we want for our food preferences.

What about you? What's your weakness?


Mallory said...

I really understand what you are going through! I too live in Washington and have committed to only buying local, fresh/seasonal food for myself (I have to buy processed food for my dad or he won't eat)--but I only have $70 a week in my budget!

It is very interesting because my dad is twice my size and eats twice as much, but I only have to spend $20 a week to stuff him, where $50 spent on real food for myself buys little more than produce and dried beans. I make everything from scratch, including yogurt and bread, and NEVER eat out, but I still barely make my budget. It is so wrong that a person can eat junk affordably, but if they want to be healthy and responsible, they have to pay a small fortune to eat like a bird.

I'm with you on the almond butter! Nuts in general are a splurge I have to save up for, as is real maple syrup, heirloom tomatoes, good olive oil, and local cheese.

ddzeller said...

Wow $70 a week sounds so tough to do when you want to focus on healthy foods. Lots of stir-fries I'm guessing since that's what one friend told me he and his wife eat all the time. You comment gives me inspiration to continue, thanks.