Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Goody Two Shoes makes a troubling discovery

Being good is so depressing.

Several years ago my cardiologist, having determined that my heart is poorly constructed, told me,
The good news is, you don't smoke, so the situation isn't as bad as it could be.

The bad news is, you don't smoke, so there's nothing you can stop doing to make the situation better.

I felt like I feel when I read articles telling me I can look years younger! stop being tired! adequately fund my retirement!

Hey, I'm doing all the things they recommend and I still have baggy skin and graying hairs, still feel pooped by mid-afternoon, and still am convinced I'm going to spend my retirement selling apples on the street corner (as are you, my friends--so perhaps we can find a way to make it entertaining).

This all leads up to today's discovery about the Lenten Experiment.

As I mentioned in a previous post, grocery shopping has become an occasion of existential angst: today I can buy these blackberries, but next week they will be a luxury. And that quart of peppermint ice cream from Oberweis... such hedonistic extravagance will have to go underground until Easter.

On the other hand, after six frugal weeks I will perhaps be better equipped to deal with our reduced household budget.

With just a week until D (for Deprivation) Day, I decided I needed to know exactly how much I'm spending on food now. If I'm going to be frugal, I thought, I might as well define my goals. Will I need to cut expenses in half? By one-third? Maybe by only 10 percent?

I still have receipts for everything I've purchased during the last four weeks, so I hauled them out and totaled up food, wine, and restaurant expenses. According to the USDA's Thrifty Plan, we should be able to eat adequately for $342.60 a month. According to my simplified approach of $6/day per adult, we'd have had $336 to spend for that four-week period.

So what did we actually spend on food eaten at home? Drumroll . . . $336.14.

Doggone it, we're already eating on a food-stamp budget.
The good news is, it looks like we'll be enjoying Lent more than I thought possible.

The bad news is, now how are we going to save more money?

Well, we can cut back on wine. I didn't include that in my food total, and I think I won't tell you how much we spent. But some of it was for hostess gifts, and some of it was for Valentine's Day (we ate at home).

And we can cut back on meals out, which I also totaled separately . . . but there were only two.

And really, we can shop more carefully in other areas too--at least I hope we can--because I'd like to have guests more often, eat heartily and well, and still stay within the budget.

Anyone up for a potluck?

P.S. This just isn't possible. I think it's a case of the observer effect. All month I've been thinking about the Lenten Experiment, so I've been terribly aware of food prices. OK, so I've been good for four weeks. Does this mean I have only two weeks to go?

1 comment:

Heidi said...

This is very, very funny to me. Especially because I've been wondering how it is you think you could NOT do this, when you're the one who taught me to live frugally in the first place. So include wine and meals out, and that will be challenging enough! (And save you money, I'm sure.)