Mar 4, 2011

Simply Cheap

I'm sick of being poor. Went to Whole Foods today and froze, unable to spend anything after a full day of eating nothing but my boys' 3-day-old muffin creations. $3.75 for a slice of pizza - forget it! Delicious-smelling ginger-glazed tofu sold by the ounce - probably costs a fortune, and will have to go into a disposable container. $5 Rainforest crackers, imported Irish cheese on sale, "natural" but not organic sirloin at the tasting table... I just couldn't feel good about buying any of it, even as my mouth watered.

Dammit, I'm not poor. I own a 5-acre farm and two houses and a car. I have a $15,000 line of credit I didn't even ask for. If we cashed in all our chips today we'd probably be worth about half a million dollars. And yet I still can't buy a $3.50 chocolate lava cupcake.

When I freak out about a $400 ski day, that's ok. Questioning the ethics of a summer ice cream cone may feel extreme, but it's a values-based extremism. But to not buy decent organic food for a hungry stomach while on vacation is just plain cheap. I truly would have been happier and healthier if I'd just forked out a little for a fork-full of that macaroni salad, and the social justice world wouldn't have crumbled at my indiscretion.

I watched the well-groomed, monied people of Yorkville walking through the isles of Whole Foods in their designer organic clothing (from the store upstairs where i'd earlier balked at a half-price beautiful organic sweater for my beautiful organic wife), putting Good food in their baskets without a care, and in that one moment wished that for one moment I could be as free as them. Free to just buy what felt right, what I needed, even what I wanted. To fly to Mexico just because it's cold and wet. To go skiing because it really is family fun. To buy a basement door latch that works.

Our life is blessed because of our disciplined, conscious consumer choices - consistently saying no to unnecessary "treats" and trips and trends is what buys us the freedom to work less, live where we do, be who we are. When done right it's not a labour and not a restriction; it's a pure deep breath of freedom.

But many a mickle makes a muckle, says my grandma, and sometimes too much Simplicity is simply mad. As I stood in line between my fellow shoppers overflowing wicker shopping baskets, I looked at the single organic carrot in my hand and knew I'd crossed the line. But as they hobbled out the door with 10 pounds of groceries and $100 less on their credit lines, I had the last laugh - at myself, as the cashier blankly politely ignored my philosophical ponderings and calmly asked for "eighteen cents please." So deep is my Simplicity conditioning that my aha! moment of dreamy self-indulgence wasn't to think that maybe I should have bought that pizza after all; it was a thrilling, daring, almost naughty thought that I could have even afforded 2 carrots.


  1. I have never set eyes on a Whole Foods. There isn't a single store in my state. However, I have heard my friends from Chicago refer to the store as "Whole Paycheck," and I knew right then and there that I would never shop at the chain so long as my farm store (run by a family farm that has existed in this area for 100 years) is here.

  2. Thanks for keeping on writing, sharing, challenging.

    Have to confess I recently had a little spending spree at our local equivalent (Joburg, South Africa). The final knock to our account still weighs heavy on me. Problem is, organic food is hard to come by, anywhere else. Somewhere there's got to be a balancing point - or maybe it's OK to flail around in the balance zone :)

  3. Thanks Rick!

    It is so much encouragement to know that there is someone out there (you) who thinks EXACTLY like us. We have had the same philosophical discussions almost anytime we go shopping.

    I would, however, recommend buying a guilt free Cadbury's Fair Trade Dairy Milk bar, the SAME PRICE as any other Cadbury's bar. (And it may be a multi national company that is now owned by Kraft that you are supporting, but we need to send a message to multi national companies that consumers want FAIRLY TRADED goods!!)


  4. Have you seen Famous Foods in Vancouver? They seem to have fairly reasonable prices.

  5. I've actually found famous foods prices to be quite a bit higher, strangely. I always feel as though i should be getting a good deal there, and come out stunned at the bill.