We are at the fulcrum! The halfway point! It’s practically downhill from here, right? So far, this project has been both easier and harder than I really expected. Here is some insight from just a few weeks of eating at home. This is my personal list of the three best & worst things about this project. I did not consult Krista or Levi, so they may feel differently.
Three best things so far!
1. Family dinner at the table together every single night.
I admit it. We usually make Family Dinner at The Table happen about 50% of the time. With Krista’s complicated schedule and my occasional late nights at the office, we don’t always make it there. And sometimes it is covered in Projects-In-Progress. Family dinner at the table is really important to both of us, but we are imperfect and don’t always live up to our best intentions. Since the project started, though, we have eaten dinner at the table together every single night for 15 days in a row. We don’t keep a TV in our main living area, so we talk and listen to Cat Stevens records & Girl Talk. We have had some hilarious, gut-splitting conversations, rehashed our days at school & work, discussed food, money and time, and honestly? It has been really nice. The project has renewed my devotion to getting together once a day and breaking bread. Or breaking quinoa, whatever.
2. Sweetness of real food.
This ties into my sugar addiction issue (see below) but I am amazed when my mouth gets adjusted to less preservatives and HFCS and real food starts to taste awesome. I have been a vegetarian for almost two decades, and I have eaten many vegetables out of guilt, obligation or resignation. But this week? I’m excited about carrots in my lunch, possibly because they don’t have to compete with root beer for my attention.
3. We have saved so much money.
Make no bones about it, this was the whole point of the project – padding ye olde money collection – but it is still exciting to see the week roll over & have extra money to put into our savings account. It’s like we got second jobs – both in terms of financial and scheduling implications. In any case, I’m thrilled to feel like we’re closer to our financial goals for 2011.
Three worst things so far!
1. My Sugar Addiction is real.
My heart actually breaks when I look at that photo of a caramel brownie. I thought sugar was like coffee for me. I could take it or leave it; life is better with it but I would be fine without it; I control it, it doesn’t control me, etc. I learned on, oh, Day 3 of the project that is completely not true. Our $5/day project is not sugar-free, but we don’t budget for dessert more than once a week and we don’t add sugar to most of our food. I am on the verge of a sugar crisis breakdown at least once a day. My brain is a parade of confections, which sounds delightful, yes, but it’s actually torture. I’ve had more than one temper tantrum over the state of dessert this month. I’m not proud of it, but honestly? This is really hard for me! I miss sugar so much more than I expected to.
2. I prefer to eat like a restaurant customer.
I’m sort of a picky eater. I will eat a wide variety of food, as you know, since you have seen a parade of my every meal for the last two weeks, but I am a picky eater in that I don’t like to plan ahead and I don’t like to each a “scheduled menu.” I figured out around Day 5 that I like to eat what I want, when I want, as if I were at a restaurant all the time. Planning meals 4 days in advance and then actually eating them? That’s hard for me. Even though we don’t eat restaurant food that often in our normal lives, I prefer flexibility to change our meal plans almost every night of the week at a moment’s notice. This generates extra trips to the store, extra groceries, extra food going to waste. Krista has been good about holding me to our menu plans this month, which I know has not been an easy or fun task for her. I think I’m getting better, though. Yesterday it felt like a relief to have three meals planned and ingredients waiting in the kitchen.
3. It’s a second job.
Of course it takes a lot of time to plan, shop, cook, clean, photograph, blog and calculate every cent of your food for an entire month. I’m not an idiot. I expected that. Both Krista & I work full-time outside our home, and generating three meals a day, often entirely from scratch, is a significant time investment even without photographing, blogging, and all the math. Some of the chores will become habitual and more time-effective, but so far as I know, no one has conquered the problem of how many damn dishes you can generate cooking three meals a day. Levi tries to help, but he gets confused.
Cream of Wheat+Dish Washer
Just kidding. He’s a big help, but he also regularly brings home 3-5 hours of homework a night.
If you usually see our family socially and you’ve been missing us, this is why: It’s like we have second jobs this month! For all the time we’re investing, we are saving money, spending more time together and eating very awesome food. We are creating good habits we will carry through the other 11 months of the year. We will not calculate how much an ounce of coffee costs in February, but we will be conscious of budgeting, planning, and homemade goodness.
And so far, our January kitchen has stayed relatively clean. For all my bellyaching, we’ve washed 90% of our daily dishes the same day they are dirtied. The floor is mopped and the stove top is clean. The sense of accomplishment is fantastic, but it has driven home the point that it’s not easy to eat fantastic, healthy, cheap food for a family with two full-time jobs. We can definitely manage it (especially once we’re done photographing & blogging & calculating), but it’s not as easy as take out. Anyone who says it’s “easy” to work full-time jobs and feed your family healthy food on a tight budget is either lying or deluded. But it’s entirely possible, and more than that I’ve decided it’s entirely worth it.
I’ll revisit my feelings on these matters at the end of the month. In the meantime, send us luck, inspiration and dishwashing elves in the next two weeks.