Burp (figuratively.) A while ago I celebrated finances that were good enough that I could take advantage of a sale on bulk meat – Thirty Steaks. You can probably imagine my doctor’s carefully tempered reaction. Polite and professional, but I could imagine the calm, caring demeanor covering someone rolling their eyes, grimacing, and generally not quite sharing in a red-meat bonanza. But hey, I know a deal when I see one. This evening I finished eating the last one. No burp required.
Go back and check the origin story, if you’re very curious. It basically comes down to a local grocery that is not part of a national mega-chain of supermarkets. It’s part of a more local group that seems to have criteria that are a bit more aligned with people than profits. That’s basically true of most of the groceries near my house. Maybe it’s a small town thing. Maybe it’s an island thing. Maybe it’s because this is a very charitable place. (See Feeling Charitable On Whidbey for the data – and applaud Greenbank for excelling at giving.)
On Whidbey it’s possible to find high-end, grass-fed, organic, locally-sourced, whatever-other-trendy-adjective-is-necessary food at prices that match. And, sales of more typical grades for far less money, if you time the sales right. One of my real estate clients runs restaurants on the mainland. As I told them the story to fill some time they politely and absent-mindedly nodded their head as we walked to a property; and then they stopped as it sank in. I was getting meat for less from a retail operation than they were paying for wholesale – they said. Island life is not the same as mainland life.
Frugality doesn’t have to be dull, stingy, or distasteful. Pardon me as I sip some box wine to finish the meal.
When I wrote about the steaks I didn’t expect much of a reaction. It was a sale they regularly hold. It was advertised in the papers and online. Where’s the surprise? Evidently, few folks actually take advantage of the opportunity.
Of course, many of my friends are vegetarians, vegans, or pescetarianism. And, no, that last one is not a Protestant sect, it means the only meat they eat is seafood, from what I’ve been told. My apologies to all, but I’ve tried the variations and my body rebels. Maybe I’m a throwback. So it goes. Biochemistry doesn’t make judgments, and I shouldn’t ignore what my body tells me.
So, tonight I finished the last of the steaks. It took me 156 days to eat them all. That’s about one steak every five days. They also weren’t very large, only about five ounces for each one, with a few that were about twice that for special occasions or really bad days. I guess bad days are special, too.
The reactions were interesting. Assumptions quickly went to extremes. To paraphrase entire conversations down to a few phrases: “Oh, no.”, “That’s not healthy”, “That’s gluttony”, “Don’t tell me you’re cooking them to well done. What a waste.”
It’s almost as if every topic is now taken to extremes. Moderation is not in style.
Frugal folk get to deal with such reactions from people more comfortable in the mainstream. A step to the side of the mainstream can be mis-interpreted as dancing along the top of a cliff. Advertisers emphasize artificial lifestyles because they have to fit their message into 15 second bites. There’s no room for nuance. It is assumed that everyone wants to live the same way. Frugal folk, however, get to make their own choices based on their own values and their own circumstances. Frequently that means explaining choices that may not make sense to others, or simply not mentioning how they manage to live a life that isn’t normal.
2020 proved ‘normal’ is bring redefined. Mainstream has turned from a smooth course into chaotic whitewater. People who may have been seen as extreme may find that they’re standing in the right place at the right time to become guides to people who are trying to find a new path.
The people I know who are best prepared for a new normal are also people who are not trying to grab the spotlight. They aren’t trying to be in the headlines or on the front page. They don’t have podcasts or blogs. They aren’t spending hours a day watching videos, movies, or shows. They don’t follow sports, but are more likely to be active outdoors, bicycling, gardening, or managing their projects. They’re living lives that make sense to them, and they don’t care if their choices make sense to anyone else.
I must not be one of them because I have a few blogs, a podcast, and end up in the news occasionally. (Though being part of the news in a small town community sometimes means simply showing up and smiling for the camera because you know the photographer, or providing a quote because you know the reporter.)
I’m also not going to list their names. I will, however, suggest that as we try to find new ways to live, we are lucky enough that we may already have guides nearby. Look around for the quiet people who had chickens before they became trendy, who bicycled because it made more sense than carrying around two tons of car just to get a pound of food, who enjoy and maybe even run thrift stores or recycle centers. Many of them in my community are some of the nicest and most generous people I know. You probably know a few, too. They might be the ones who can tell you how to make thirty steaks last five months at a price that others would spend on one meal.