Saturday, March 02, 2013

Taking Stock of Our Pantry

I expected to post a couple times between last week's "Taking Stock" post and this; at the very least a Working Mom Wednesday post, but I got busy and it didn't happen. Oh well.

This week, for our Lenten challenge, we were taking stock of our pantries by living off of the items that are included in a food box from our church's food pantry. It's a specific variety of canned goods, spaghetti, peanut butter, etc. It costs around $40 total. (We use this cute illustrated shopping list so Kate can help pick out items for the food pantry while we're grocery shopping.)

Matt's sermon last Sunday was really good, not just pointing out the reality of our community (3/4 of our county's public school kids on free or reduced lunch!) but examining the story of the feeding of the 5000 in ways I hadn't thought of before. First, that the idea of communal responsibility is assumed. The disciples don't approach the problem from a perspective like, "these people are getting hungry, we need to end the sermon!" or "they should have brought a picnic!" but automatically, "Where will we get enough food to feed all these people?" And secondly, that Jesus doesn't perform a miracle ex nihilo (out of nothing). He uses the bread and fish one boy brought, using what we have and what we bring to feed others. Connected with Jesus' refusal to turn stones into bread at Satan's tempting (preached on the week before) this especially made a good point.

One of our main family values is gratitude, so I'd like to think I look at our pantry pretty often with thanks for all that we have. We are fortunate to be able to buy the food we like and want in the quantities we like. Health plays more of a restraining role than money, usually. (Though I might buy more fancy cheese every week if we had unlimited funds. Cheese is my weakness.) It was a new experience, though, having to eat what "someone else" picked out for me.

We went grocery shopping as a family last Sunday afternoon, and while I picked out a couple soups myself, Matt grabbed the first chili he saw to add to the cart. "No!" I cried. "I want to pick out the chili" (since Matt doesn't care for chili and it would be me eating it anyway). Matt quickly reminded me that folks receiving a food pantry box don't get any choice about the veggie, meat, bean, or calorie content of their chili.

It looked and tasted like dog food, by the way.

I ate it for lunch on Monday. It was 32 grams of fat per can. Not what I would have chosen. Breakfast was healthier (instant oatmeal and applesauce) though I really wanted an egg white and english muffin. Ah well. Choice and health seemed to be the big things sacrificed in this experiment. Taste, too, being left with peanut butter and saltine crackers for a snack, rather than kalamata olives and wheat crackers, or whatever. But it was a little bit frustrating.

Our pantry for the week.

I even blocked off a couple shelves, so I would remember not to tap into our other snacks, seasonings, or canned goods. (Cereals and cooking oil were still fair game, I figured.)

We continued to eat any perishables we already had in the fridge, but I ran out of coffee creamer on Tuesday and was grateful we still had some milk left. I can't imagine what it would be like to need a carton of milk and not be able to afford it. And it made me ever more aware of the lack of fresh produce in poor areas. I was able to add some zucchini we already had to our spaghetti, and the kids devoured the applesauce and fruit cocktail. We need fresh fruits and vegetables, which are generally not available from traditional food banks.

This coming week, we'll be taking stock of our closets, and I look forward to purging all the clothes that no longer fit or I just don't wear. Jesus' statement "I was naked and you gave me clothing," may seem far fetched in this day and age, but there is still a need for free and cheap clothing for those who need it, and perhaps moreso for the more affluent among us to realize how much we have and learn to live more simply, so that we may live more generously.

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