While most people are wrapping up presents, wrapping up the year, I have found myself a good way off-cycle. Having already started my new start in October, I missed the thankfulness kick-off. With Christmas racing up, I’m far-behind in spiritual matters.
Charity in passing has been this season’s theme. My regular yearly list is lacking check boxes, but I’ve been catching opportunities here and there. Food Gatherers were in the right place at the right time last Saturday. A $10.00 donation seemed just about right. I planned to get cash at check-out, but as I walked the aisles with my coupons and sales flyer, I decided to get personal.
I’m not actually sure how the organization prefers to receive their donations, but I choose to shop. I shopped as budget-follower, as if I were shopping for my own holiday table. I shopped as if I were the one who longed to set a celebration table, as if I would be beaming at the gathered, providing the feast.
$10.00 wasn’t going to make that happen. Doubled, there was possibility. There are foods that always speak to me of holidays. They’re not the normal ones, or the big ones; they’re the indulgent ones. Mini gherkins, black olives, pickled beets, marinated mushrooms; specialties passed over in favor of basics. I settled on smaller versions of olives and pickles, at 99 cents and $1.50. Per placard, the cost-per-ounce for less was more. It did not make economic sense, but spending less meant buying more.
The canned vegetable aisle required study. Each brand featured a special; none of them seemed to be the same kind. Fiesta corn, red beans, sweet peas with pearl onions, green beans made it into my cart. $7.00 in, around the corner pasta and tuna were pulled. 2 bags of macaroni at 50 cents each and one can at $1.00. Tomato sauce was 1.75. Just under $10.00, I had nothing like a feast.
Pre-made, shelf-stable pie crust and a can of fruit filling won over dough mixes and pumpkin, which would have required eggs and oil, milk and spices. I chose cherry for its festive red. Those two items took up as nearly much of my budget as the first ten, but I wasn’t going to put them back.
Packaged potatoes, the just-add-water type were a compromise. Fresh fruits and vegetables spoil. It’s as simple as that. One envelope seemed so small, so I started to reach for a second. A different brand’s ‘buy two, get one free’ caught my eye. I took in three traditionally butter flavored packets at $2.00 total.
$1.63 shy of my budget, I realize I was off-cycle again. Meat and poultry, fresh or frozen, are also a short-lived, requiring refrigeration. Ham in a can would do. Don’t think for a second that I was able to find a $1.63 ham in a can. The smallest and lowest priced was $5.49. I scanned the package knowing the ingredient list would be the same as the other higher priced offerings. Debating with my self is practically a sport, these days. I pulled out my contractor estimate philosophy, and decided a ham is a ham much as a fuse box is a fuse box. Don’t need the fanciest, just need it to perform.
$3.86 over budget. I could have re-shelved the un-holiday-like tuna, one bag of pasta, and the fiesta corn. I could have slid the gherkins back into the display. But, I couldn’t bring myself to. Instead I grabbed another can of indulgent olives, thinking, “why not?” Closer to $25.00 isn’t going to break me any more than $20.00.
I imagine the volunteer sorter wondering what kind of person buys frivolities for a food pantry. It’s one who doesn’t think giving involves only basics; one who believes special is important, too. I realize the likelihood of my festive planning unit materializing in one home as a romanticized Norman Rockwell feast is slim.
I just hope that little-bitty jar of pickles makes someone really smile.
Quote for the Week:
Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:
1 Carrot Way: http://www.foodgatherers.org/
Pickle Timeline: http://www.nyfoodmuseum.org/_ptime.htm
Giving is Good, and Good for you: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you