It took me a little longer to recover from vacation than I had expected, but I’m back! Arrival back at the real world has been rough, but it’s actually a relief to get back on budget. Hawaii is incredibly expensive. When you’re used to pinching pennies, spending $50 on cheeseburgers for lunch or $20 for hotdogs, plus the constant purchasing of souvenirs…let’s just say, I felt like my checking account was hemorrhaging all week! When we got back home on Saturday, we still had some frozen and pantry items, so I didn’t have to go grocery shopping until Tuesday. However, as soon as we got home, I remembered a pledge I had made a few days before our trip: No more throwing away food.
It all started when I read that Americans throw out an average of 40% of our food. I was appalled. This is very poor stewardship. So many people go hungry, while those of us who have enough to eat throw out almost half of it. At this point in our lives, we certainly don’t throw out nearly 40% of our food, but there was a time when we probably got close to that. We worked long hours and planned to eat at home, but ended up eating out almost every day instead. So a lot of the groceries we bought ended up in the trash. Currently, I would say maybe about 15-20% of our food goes in the trash. The jar of queso we opened but never finished, that last helping of spaghetti neither of us wanted, the last tomato out of a pack of 4 that went moldy, etc. It’s just a little bit here and there but it adds up quickly!
Poor Eating Habits
I lost about 30 pounds from January to June. However, with quitting smoking and vacation, I’ve managed to rediscover 10 of those pounds. But it’s not just about losing weight. I want to feel better. I’m tired of being tired, of dragging through the days. Just a few months ago, I was eating fresh salads, fresh fruit and veggies, and grilled meats. Now what are we eating? Boxed dinners, canned soups, frozen lasagnas, and it’s all stuffed with sodium, sodium, sodium! Why did we deviate from eating fresh? Oh, right. Things didn’t get eaten. Veggies went in the trash by the bagful. Ugh.
It’s a big problem in America. We don’t like to think of it as a sin, but it is. It’s an excess, a deadly excess, and it’s something else I’m putting between myself and God. We need to be better stewards of what is given to us: our bodies, our money, our food. We need to exercise the virtue of temperance:
Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.
When I first converted to Catholicism, one of the things that really stood out to me was temperance. To know when to stop. For me, gluttony seems to touch everything I do. When I smoked, I would smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes in a row. Sometimes, I’d have 4 or 5 just getting around in the morning while I drank coffee. If I like a show on Netflix, I’ll watch 4 episodes in a row, every night until I’ve gone through the entire series. More, more, more. But the most stunning excess is what I’m willing to waste. How many times have I thrown food away just to make room in the refrigerator, when it wasn’t even bad? How many times have I lit a cigarette, knowing I could only have a few puffs on it before I had to throw it out?
According to our annual income, we’re middle class, but according to our excesses, we’re flipping filthy rich. It has to stop.
Eat Better Project
No, this blog isn’t going to be all about eating right and under budget. But I’ll probably check in about once per week with an update about my Eat Better Project. The rules are thus:
- Avoid throwing food away as much as possible. This can be difficult, because sometimes things just end up going bad before we get to them. Proper preparation and planning… I’m not hoping to drop our food waste to 0% by any means, but I’d like to bring it down to a minimum. I think I’ll keep track, even.
- Reduce canned meals, frozen meals, and boxed meals (veggies and fruits are okay canned). One exception on the frozen meals: if I prepare the food myself and freeze it, it’s okay.
- Eat breakfast!
- Reduce our grocery bill by at least $20/week (it’s currently around…$80-$100/week). Give at least half of that saved money to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Ideally, I’d like to get our grocery shopping down to once every 2-3 weeks. Depending on the expiration date on the milk, I suppose.
- Reduce eating out to twice per month.
Lofty goals? It can be done. It can certainly be done. Not on my own, of course, but God gives us grace to overcome every sin.