I once heard it’s good feng shui to have your fridge full of food. My grandpa always kept his car full of gas. My grandma always had a pantry full of canned goods and a freezer so full of food you could barely shut it, let alone fit another bag of frozen anything in there. My mother-in-law usually has at least two of everything, mainly so she can share with the family — thanks to the good deals she finds.
There’s a good fortune there that can easily be taken for granted. Their ways of being and doing things rely upon being able to sustain them. They have the resources to do so. I didn’t realize how fortunate I was as a kid. I knew others relied on school lunch programs. I knew there were homeless kids and adults, that even if they had a make-shift home, it didn’t necessarily mean they had electricity or running water.
I also realize the predicament my parents were in, a stereotypical struggle of middle class America. Keep up with the Joneses. Make things look well and good, even if the budget is a train wreck. Pay the medical and dental bills out of pocket; what other choice do you have? Buy now, pay later . . . if you can. Don’t let the kids know how hard it is.
Now my husband and I find ourselves living between these two ways of living, and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t an opportunity to find a resolve so that our kids won’t have to struggle with the same issues. I feel like my grandparents, who lived through the depression, wanted to make sure they never ran out, that there’s always plenty. They also felt very strongly about paying for things with cash; buy only what you can afford. I feel like my parents, who reached adulthood in the 70s, lived fully in the 80s mentality: get what you need (a.k.a. want), taking time to pay it back. It provided a kind of feast or famine way of life.
Our opportunity, again, is to find what is best of each generation, and I think that relies on us being able to clearly know what is enough.
I heard that it’s best to use the full tank of gas before filling up again. I know from experience that I feel like I’m not wasting as much money on gas when the tank if full. (Doesn’t it seem like the top half of the tank lasts longer?) I know that food does not last forever, even in a freezer. It’s best to cycle through and actually use it and replace it regularly. Some staples do last longer when frozen, so saving room for bulk flour, oats, rice and such is smart. I appreciate credit, too, but unless it can be managed wisely and paid off quickly, it’s best to pay with cash. Do not live outside your means. I’m still learning this simple lesson that can be so hard to live.
I also take the opportunity to tell my kids why we don’t eat out so often, why the fridge might not be full of fresh produce, why I cannot and will not pay full price for new clothes and such (unless absolutely necessary). I don’t tell them to make them feel guilty or ashamed; I want them to know and understand. I also try to make sure they share in my gratitude for what is shared with us, what is given to us. As a parent, you have to know how hard this can be.
Slowly, we are learning what is enough. Though it may feel like we’re cutting it close on having enough food and supplies, we do have enough. We realize how little we actually need to feel sustained and thriving. Appreciation goes a long way. A positive attitude does make a difference. Our time isn’t spent moping about thinking about what we lack or miss. We have to set a standard for ourselves. Society’s expectations and norms have proven skewed and unbeneficial.
We have the opportunity to find where the value lies in our family. We determine what is enough for us, really and truly. If we need to buy in bulk out of necessity to save $10 and make sure we don’t run out of toilet paper or peanut butter (you have to have your priorities!), so be it. I have a feeling other lessons and opportunities will follow regarding learning to live sustainably. Our awareness continues to broaden.
I am so grateful for our abundance.