Where I live, we have several options for buying food. In addition to the local grocery store chain, there’s a fancy yuppie market, a “whole foods” -style store that sells a lot of vegan/veggie foods, a farmer’s market (a couple of days of week through the summer), an Aldi, Walmart, an Asian market… even the Target has a grocery section. Usually, I do one or two big shopping trips to Aldi a month, and that covers everything except for what I get at the Asian market (lumpia wrappers, pancit noodles, etc), and a a trip to the chain store to get the few items I can’t get otherwise (or I’ll get them if I have to go to Target that month).
The last few weeks I’ve been so busy that instead of taking the time to shop at Aldi*, I’ve been picking up just what I need most, at the chain store. It’s much more expensive, and though it’s quick, it’s a time spent on lot of little trips. Plus, instead of having a fridge full of food to choose from, I end up stressed and annoyed that I don’t have choices; I don’t eat as healthily, and it’s tempting to get fast food or order delivery instead of yet another trip to the store to get dinner…
I finally took the time to go to Aldi today. It’s an hour or two to make this trip–it’s not far from my home, not at all, but it’s time spent going through the store to get everything I need, getting it home and put away, and a small amount of food prep (breaking up bulk packages of meat into labeled freezer bags). Today’s haul came out to $145, and included bread/cheese/turkey slices, rice/oil, raisins/grapes/sweet peppers, apple juice/green juice blend, canned veggies, chicken breast/pork loin/beef brisket/sausage/bacon, oatmeal… all this stuff:
Which, yes, includes snacks for the child, and a pizza for lunch today. One more trip to pick up a couple of things I didn’t get (bay leaves, a tomato–which I could have got, but swiped “tomatoes” off my list when I got a can of diced, and forgot I’d wanted fresh, too–pancit noodles, fish sauce, and if I can find it, tamarind, which I’m all out of). With the food I already have at home–apples, eggs, broccoli, baking staples–I’ve done my shopping for August. All together, I’ll spend about $200 this week, another $10 or $20 in two weeks to pick up more eggs, bread, and fruit when what I have runs out.
Planning ahead, I can keep my food budget under $250 for two people, which means I can afford to have a nice dinner out or splurge on something fancier when I cook for other people (which I do, often, but sometimes I want steak instead of spaghetti). If I don’t, and have to catch as I can, or resort to eating out, my spending is closer to $450, and more than I care to admit of that number is McDonald’s. That means no nicer dinners out, no nicer dinners in… I miss the experience of enjoying my food when I don’t plan ahead. I waste time, and I eat things I don’t love. What’s the point in that?
Yes, this is about writing, I promise. How? Saving time shopping (or anywhere) means more time for writing, which helps. But I was thinking of this: I can spend 30 minutes 3 times a week shopping for quick meals I’m not savoring, or I can spend 2 hours twice a month to have everything I crave in my kitchen, whenever I want it. I can spend 30 minutes day writing, 5 or 6 days a week, or I can spend 3 hours, once a week… and guess which week has a higher word count?
I’d love to write a couple of hours a day, every day. I try, but in the last month or two it’s been impossible. When I’m too busy for that schedule, I’ve found that a day of solid writing is better for me than bits and pieces here and there. I can sink into my writing, savor it, let myself go, and watch the words spill out. Less time, more frequently, means starts and stops, getting into it just as I’ve run out of time. It’s frustrating, and makes me want to quit more than any of the times I’ve ever felt my writing sucked that day.
Maybe that’s true for you, too.
* Why Aldi? The prices are low enough that I can feed my family for just under my monthly food budget, while still having a healthy variety of food. It’s comparable to Walmart in terms of prices and variety. But while Walmart cashiers make an average of $8.86 an hour–and Walmart is one of the biggest US employers that pays its workers so little they need public assistance to get by–the average cashier at Aldi makes $11.60 an hour. If I can choose to support the economy and support a company that pays a better wage for its workers, while at the same being able to afford my family’s food, I’m going to do that.