My body woke me up at 5:45 a.m. this morning – which has been its long running, not-so-hilarious joke all summer – so that I could tell you something very important. (Are you ready for this?)
I ran out of eggs.
This happens about…never. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m part squirrel who lives in perpetual fear of winter, so as soon as I open the last container of something, I put it on my grocery list. I then buy multiples of it to ensure that I never run out of it. E-V-E-R. When we’re about to go on a trip or preparing for a holiday, I go into stockpiling overdrive because HEAVEN FORBID that I should run out of something during this week and…go to the store. I’m sharing these mysteries of my universe with you at o’dark thirty because the ridiculousness of my irrational fears is starting to sink in. In case you’re one of my psychoanalysis friends, no, we never ran out of food when I was a kid. There was always enough Hamburger Helper to go around. So if I can’t blame my upbringing, as is the custom of my generation, what’s my deal?
I pondered this question as I went to just 2 stores with my tiny little grocery list this week. I did try the Farmer’s Market last Saturday, as outlined in my plan to purchase most of my produce for 7 weeks from local farmers, which sounded so wholesome and environmentally friendly, and is clearly a sign that I’ve been brainwashed by the granolas. However, when I rolled into the market 2 hours after it opened, when the granolas had already cleared out the good stuff, I realized that my plan blows for 2 reasons:
- There is simply not enough variety at our Farmer’s Market, unless I want to feed my family on mystery squash, rhubarb, local honey and homemade jam.
- Who in their right mind goes somewhere at 9 a.m. on a Saturday? Saturday mornings are God’s gift to parents; that’s why he created cartoons. We don’t DVR their shows during the week. They have to wait until Saturday morning and watch whatever’s on, just like we did as kids. Saturday morning is a big deal to my kids. It’s their Sabbath, and I don’t mess with it. It’s also my morning to leisurely drink coffee and ponder my Bible study and dink around on the internet (which I usually do most days, but on Saturday there’s no guilt!).
So I’ve decided to compromise by going to the market of our local farmer that’s just down the road and getting any produce I can there before going to the big box grocery stores. They have non-GMO sweet corn, and the farmer brings in produce from his other farms in neighboring states, so there’s much more variety. When I shared this with the family, my 9-year-old granola-in-training piped up.
Daughter: “But doesn’t the CO2 from the trucks used to drive the farmer’s food to the market still cause damage to the environment?”
What I thought: What the heck! Who’s been telling you about CO2? They’re dead to me.
What I said: “Yes, but that’s not the point. We’re still supporting our local farmer and helping our local economy, which enables him to grow his farm and provide us with even more choices, like his new pumpkin patch.” (Don’t even get me started on the other farmers who’ve turned their sweet little pumpkin patches into huge fall carnivals that cost as much as Disneyland.)
Anyway, back to the eggs. When I opened the fridge to pull out the ingredients to make muffins, I realized that I couldn’t because I didn’t have any eggs. I stared at the fridge, willing them to appear, then decided to eat sausage and leftover pancakes instead. The kids ate yogurt and my homemade granola (because granola is for eating, not being). We all managed to eat breakfast with no eggs in the house. I know, this is so profound, but I needed to experience this little object lesson. Why? I needed to face my irrational fear of running out, and realize that it’s okay. We won’t starve if I don’t have a particular ingredient.
There’s a difference between stocking up on sales to be thrifty, and stocking up on groceries for fear of not having 8 kinds of baking chips on hand in case the mood strikes me to make muffins with semi-sweet, butterscotch, cinnamon, peanut butter, mini semi-sweet, white, mint, and milk chocolate chips. And there’s the hidden reason behind my fear of running out: I have a split personality. One half of me is super organized, and the other half craves spontaneity. My organized, Boy Scout side says, “Be prepared.” My rebellious, “Don’t tell me what I’m going to cook, bossy menu plan!” side wants freedom to make whatever she’s in the mood to eat. This means Boy Scout has to be prepared for all of Rebel’s moods.
So guess what God had to say about all this? Surprisingly little. He’s letting me figure out on my own that I have enough; that I don’t need so many choices, and that there’s freedom in limiting my options. No eggs? So I can’t make muffins – I just saved myself a whole lot of time and dirty dishes! (Can I get an “Amen!” from the husband?) Studies have shown that the more choices we have, the more miserable we are. It’s true. Having a gluten free family has drastically reduced my choices in the grocery store, and though I mourned this at first, it’s actually quite freeing. Fewer choices mean less time shopping and making decisions.
When I went to the 2 stores with just $20 left to spend after the Farmer’s Market and buying toilet paper (which I will NEVER run out of), it was such a different experience than my usual circle-each-store-for-deals, cart-filling marathon. I bought whole carrots to peel and chop instead of the more expensive baby carrots because I was conscious of making my tight budget stretch. I did a little happy dance when I saw tiny apples on sale because I could buy lots of them for lunches. I breezed past the gluten free aisle and the baking chips to get my eggs and milk. I was relaxed (admittedly, because I’d dropped the kids off at the library for a movie). I walked slowly and smiled at people. I stopped to talk to a friend and chatted with the cashier. I was grateful for what I was able to put in my cart, instead of focusing on finding deals on more stuff to cram into my pantry. And I came in $3 under budget. Hmmm…
Okay, God, so maybe you’re telling me that when I stop scurrying around, focusing on gathering all my nuts for winter (which is still 5 months away), perhaps I’ll begin to look up and see the faces of people who need a smile, a friend, a word of encouragement. Perhaps more room in my cart leaves more room in my heart to be filled with gratitude for what I have. Perhaps gratitude leads to less spending and more money for giving. Perhaps my purpose in life is not to keep my cupboards stocked, but to pour out blessings on people who need to be filled more than my pantry. Perhaps it’s time I discipline my spontaneous side and limit her choices to free up time to invest in relationships with my family.
Perhaps. As long as I don’t have to go anywhere on Saturday morning. (And all my people said, Amen.)
To follow my journey of buying less over the next several weeks, check out the posts under the category “My Fast” on the right.