I still had those two bills in my pocket this morning, left over from the money challenge in which I spent $40, plus the $6.50 out of spare cash in my wallet, last Tuesday, at a local farmer's market that proved to be more expensive to shop at than Whole Foods.
Sunday is a good day to take stock. I dropped the two bills into the collection basket when it came around.
I often give more if I can, but I was running late and Bank of America has just closed the most convenient branch in my neighborhood, not leaving behind so much as an ATM.
In the last few years, although this California-originated bank has become as ubiquitous as Starbucks, they have just vacated the branch most convenient not just to me but to hundreds of bus passengers who transfer from the subway there. Might it have anything to do with the fact that the bus riders like to duck into the lobby of the bank to avoid rain and snow or call home in Chinese or Spanish? There had never been a problem for me in getting past them to the cash machine. Who knows why banks do what they do? But stopping at another bank to get cash on the way to church would simply mean that both banks would charge me coming and going - the one I got the cash from and my own B of A for a transfer fee. Taking a crisp twenty from the money dispenser would cost me at least $4, perhaps more, or a fee of 20%.
When the B of A first put up the sign that they were leaving my neighborhood, I nourished the brief wish that they were finally imploding as a result of all their shabby business practices and that this time no bail-out would save them, but I see that the other branches survive - for now.
So I figured my debit card would work today, and shopping could go forward unobstructed.
First stop: Costco, for the usual staples like coffee and cereal, and bigger packages than I really want of lunchmeat and smoked salmon (oh for a Mormon-style freezer of my youth in Nevada, one you could open like a hope-chest). I buy the smallest side of salmon filet, regretting somewhat that it is pale and farm-raised.
My favorite salmon is seasonal, from Alaska (Copper River, or some other vividly red variety), and that season is over. Maybe it is over in more ways than one, considering that Fukushima has polluted the Alaska currents with rolling masses of debris from the tsunami, well-peppered with nuclear waste from their damaged reactors. How long before all of this 2011 event is washed off the earth? In fact all the currents of the oceans connect. There are no isolated areas when it comes to nuclear disasters. Those of us who lived in Nevada in the early 1950's know what it means to have absorbed a few more rads of atomic fallout than the average person, but in reality, no one escaped the common fate of being a down-winder. It's just that some people took in more than others. And that is one reason why to be conscious of this kind of thing, even if you don't see mushroom clouds and celebrate the might of our nation, the way people used to do before they started getting sick. Japan took another hit, with Fukushima. They didn't deserve it.
The final bill at Costco came to a "mere" $165.00. How is it I can see a figure like that and not freak out? Yes, I have the money and can pay it. But how much will go to waste? That's what I continuously must ask myself. Waste is wrong. It's an axiom I accept and will not examine. I define waste as throwing away food which has spoiled. I do not define eating expensive food as waste. I don't even define over-eating as waste (not yet). But perhaps I should plan on a regular basis to share my food with others beyond my household. Perhaps it should just figure in.
Moving on to the next venue, to the best place I know for produce, we drive to an Indian market on Waltham's Moody Street. Checking out with two bags of fresh and frozen vegetables and two types of Indian bread, the shocking bill comes to $17.10, about one tenth of what I spent at Costco for manly food, things of flesh and blood. What if I started shopping only at the Indian place where, it suddenly occurs to me, there is very little animal protein (it's in the freezer) and almost no dairy either, unless you count the panir (Indian cheese) in some of the frozen dinners, as well as tubs of yoghurt. If you avoid the wall of frozen and chilled food, you'd be eating vegan (I don't even think their prepared pakoras and other Indian stuffed breads contain eggs). It's not something I am ready to do, frankly, although I could imagine cutting out meat and fish (for separate reasons). And that's one way to eat cheap, isn't it? Except it might require just a bit of peeling, chopping, steaming and other preparation.
The challenge with all such shopping is in the processing, especially with beautiful fresh vegetables which after all are at their peak a short time, and which then begin to return to the elements. I used to maintain a compost heap. Would it make sense to recoup some of the rot with another? Even with nights of freezing temperatures? To be continued...