The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Eating within our means...

So, the past few weeks, as part of our commitment to live within our means this year, we have promised ourselves not to unnecessarily eat take out or dine out. Take out has actually been a very big part of our lives. I track our spending on, I realized we spent over $5000 last year on eating out. This was more than 33% of our food spending! Whoa!  

      When I realized this, it seemed the only logical step would be to cut out that spending, or at least as much of it as possible. Like I have talked about before, it is redefining how we live. It is about re-defining the difference between necessity and luxury, and the fact that we can't afford luxuries at this time in our life. 

    Please, if you are reading this and don't know us well, don't think that we live a life of flippant luxury, having steak dinners at five star restaurants or anything like that.  Totally not the truth. It averages out to less than $100 a week, and I can pretty much tell you what that is -  family take-out dinner Friday + family take-out dinner Saturday (~30-40 each) + a few other meals throughout the week. There are a few main restaurants we eat at Freebirds, Urban Cafe, Sharky's. I eat take-out almost every Thursday because I have classes from 4-10pm. Add an occasional take-out lunch. A dinner out with friends every other month or so. How quickly it adds up. I just didn't really realize.  

     But now that we do, this is our opportunity to make a change. In some ways, it is sad for me. This is our lifestyle for a reason. Yeah, it's easy to cook every meal at home right now while I on break, but when I am working 40-60 hours a week... taking a break on weekends is nice. The saving grace is that Marc is learning to cook and getting pretty good. He can much more easily share the burden now.

     So, instead of finding my comfort in not having to plan a meal, in being able to enjoy a cayenne  tortilla wrapped burrito from Freebirds, I am learning to find joy in creativity and the comforts that certain foods bring me. I've experimented this week. I made baked chicken strips coated in crumbs of Tiana's favorite cereal (Gorilla Munch), and then, when I realized we didn't have any barbecue sauce, I quickly whipped up some of my own. I was able to give it just enough kick, and I loved it. That brings me joy.  Tonight, we had pasta - Marc's request - but I added my own little touches. I kicked the arrabiata sauce up a notch with some diced fire roasted tomatoes and green chiles. I made homemade croutons for the salad. 

     I could choose to be sad that we have to change our lifestyle. I could choose to be angry that there are so many people who can afford to spend $100 a week on fast food without going into debt. 

OR...  I could remember that I am among the wealthiest 5% in the entire world. Yes, you read that correctly. Recent figures show that the median income, when examining the entire world, is just $1,225 a year. The 1% figure in the U.S has come to mean all sorts of things and have all sorts of negative connotations, but when you look at what the 1% is on a global level -- well, most of my friends and family members are probably pretty close; the wealthiest 1% in the world take home $136,000 or more. Yes, here in California... that's pays for a house, two cars, and leaves a small budget for spending, but that is wealth to the world. While Marc and I aren't in that 1%...  I know we must be in the top five. How's that for perspective?  

     It's all on how you look at things. Is it strange that... after getting a "low balance alert" on my checking account today... my heart was just filled with gratitude at how fortunate I am?  I truly am blessed. 



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