I have a friend who I’ve known for more years than I care to think about. She doesn’t live near me, so when we were in the midst of all the lockdowns we didn’t see each other for months. So once lockdowns were over I was excited to finally clap eyes on her in person.
She and her husband came over for a coffee. She walked into the house, dropped her bag on the table and went over to my pantry door, throwing it open and standing there gazing inside.
I looked at Ryan26 and he raised an eyebrow.
She stood there.
I knew she was probably waiting for attention, but I asked the question anyway.
“Beks, are you looking for anything?”
She turned to face me, saying, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”
A bit of background…
I’ve always bought our groceries in bulk. Back when the boys were little and we were living hand-to-mouth, it was a survival tool. In the years before Aldi came to Australia, I used to shop the specials at the supermarkets and buy 5 or 10 tins/packets/jars of our staple foods when they were cheaper.
This meant that, over time, we were eating a lot of our food at a discounted price. When you’re a struggling single mum with 4 hungry mouths to feed, not counting your own, every single dollar saved is worthwhile. Sure, it costs a little more up-front, but over time the groceries actually work out cheaper.
Having bought that food, it was imperative to keep track of it. No point buying bulk food to save money if you end up having to throw it out because you forgot about it! So my pantry was and is always well-organised. Everything stacked neatly, tins etc rotated with the newer ones going to the back so nothing goes out of date and labels to the front so you can see at a glance what and how many you have of everything.
I remember seeing an Oprah show back when the kids were small where she had a kitchen organiser go through people’s fridges and pantries. I remember him stuffing shopping bags full of one woman’s rotting produce from her crisper and saying, “If you don’t eat the food you bring home, you may as well take $50 notes and throw them straight into the garbage. It’d be quicker and it’d have the same result.”
I never forgot that.
I twigged pretty early on that the longer you stay out of the supermarket, the more money you save. It’s amazing how little treats get popped into the trolley whenever you go shopping. So if I make sure that my house is well-stocked with all of the things we use, then instead of going to the supermarket for inspiration each night for dinner, I can cook meals from what we already have.
Particularly now that there’s only 2 of us living here, I rarely go to Aldi more than once a week – and now that the garden is starting to ramp up, it’ll probably drift out to nearly once a fortnight. After all, if I don’t see those little treats, I can’t buy them! Money saved.
So my pantry has always been well-stocked. During lockdowns, this became a godsend. In between lockdowns, I’d drive to far-away shops like Costco and stock up on the essentials, which for this house is the Little Woofs’ dry and raw dog food, with coffee grounds and dried blueberries for the humans.
When I see tinned sardines in oil at Aldi, for example, I grab a heap because usually, only the sardines in tomato sauce tins are on the shelf. I feed the Little Woofs sardines every week… I’d hate for them to miss out because I didn’t think ahead. Tomato sauce with their sardines isn’t really their thing. (Is it anybody’s?)
What began as a survival strategy when the kids were small has morphed into a convenience thing now that I shop primarily at Aldi. There are no specials anymore, but the money and the time I save by not popping into the supermarket every day or so is worth the cupboard space I have for my zombie apocalypse stores.
Beks, however, is of a different mindset to me.
She and her husband are empty-nesters, so like my household, they’re also feeding just 2 people. The way we handle that job starts off the same, but then quickly veers apart.
We start off thinking about what we’d like to eat that night. Neither of us menu plans for the week or the month like some ultra-organised people do. We ask our husband/son their opinion (sometimes) and we make a decision.
Mine is usually based on what we have a lot of and what needs using up. At the moment, for example, we have a lot of diced chicken that I’ve put into 500g bags in the freezer. At least twice a week, I’ll be pulling out one of those bags to use.
Beks, on the other hand, decides what they’ll eat that night regardless of what’s in the house. She goes food shopping almost daily.
They also refuse to eat the same thing two nights running. Ryan26 and I have fallen into the habit of cooking one night, then eating the same meal again the next night, or freezing the leftovers if we need to. Beks just cooks half-portions of what she used to cook when the kids were home, so they don’t have m/any leftovers.
There’s no right or wrong to this. It’s just two different ways of tackling the “what will we have for dinner?” question that we all have to answer every day.
Beks turned away from my pantry and said, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”
I knew that there was no point in getting all riled up or defensive. She does her thing and I do mine. It’s all good. But I wasn’t going to let her get away with making a dig at me for no reason. A girl has to stand her ground in her own kitchen, after all.
I cocked my head to one side and said, “Comes in bloody handy during a pandemic, though. While everyone was dodging covid doing their shopping, I was here all safe and sound.”
She looked back into the pantry and said, “It’s funny, the way you have a bucket of Vegemite here.”
I chuckled. “Won’t have to even think about buying more for years!”
She shrugged and I moved past her to put the kettle on. She saw the bowl of used coffee grounds and eggshells that we have beside the kettle. When the bowl is full I blitz the contents and dig them into the veggie gardens to feed the worms. In turn, they feed my veggies, which in turn, feed us.
Circle of life. Hakuna Matata.
“You DO know that it’s not normal to have coffee grounds just sitting there?” she said.
“Of course it is, Beks… when you’re a permaculture household,” I said. I don’t know if she’s up to speed on what permaculture is, but as her husband came in from outside the conversation moved on.
As I made the coffees, Ryan26 and I exchanged a simple shake of the head and a smile. Ahhh Beks. Every now and then she has to try and take a dig…
We know why we run the house the way we do, and we know that the things we do work well for us. For me, the comfort of having a well-stocked pantry and zombie apocalypse cupboard gives me a sense of security that is a beautiful thing to live with.
It’s simply another tool for designing my life so that my retirement is stress-free and comfortable. And yes; 11 months in, retirement is still bloody wonderful!
Dad joke of the day:
What do you call a fat psychic?
A four-chin teller.