How much money are we saving? Here’s a hint: I rarely carry cash anymore unless I’m on a jaunt to the farmer’s market. I forget to put my money clip in my pocket and it sits on a shelf for days on end (image from thinkquest.org).
At first glance, to look at our food bill, you’d think we weren’t saving a penny. After all, we spend $30 a week for a pound and a half of artisanal, unpasteurized cheese made from the milk of happy cows who are grass fed and treated well. The eggs aren’t cheap either: $7 a dozen from pasture-raised hens. The lecture from the farmer on how chickens are carnivores who would rather scavenge for worms than eat bagged corn comes free.
That probably seems like a lot of cash for eggs and cheese, right? But we have to get our protein from somewhere and Marion Nestle, the famous nutrition writer, warned me that eating local was way too restrictive to try going vegan—no beans anywhere to be found. We remain vegetarian, however, for both ecological and humanitarian reasons.
Veggies and fruit, locally grown and milled flour, and milk from cows I personally met and petted at Ronnybrook Farm make up the bulk of the rest of our expenses. Michelle’s one extravagance, her quad espresso binges are, as you know, a thing of the past.
Add to our savings: no airplanes, no hotels, no car rentals, no gas, no subways, no taxis, no shopping for anything new, no designer clothes, no gadgets, no movies, no cable bill. On Isabella’s birthday, we went to a second-hand kids store called Jane’s Exchange, told Isabella she could have anything she wanted, and watched as she chose a pair of gold beaded slippers—total price $1. That means that our weekly living expenses, excluding our mortgage and a couple of bills, are about $120 a week for the three of us.
Breakfast alone used to cost us $20. Ashamed as I am to admit it, we used to Google the number for Bagel Bob’s every morning, and then dial for coffee in plastic cups and bagels wrapped in reams of paper. The scene was so familiar to Isabella that when she saw a delivery man on his bike on the street, she would point and shout “the man, the man” as though greeting a long lost friend.
Believe me, when it came to lunch and dinner, in terms of both cost and damage to the environment, it all went down hill from there. In fact, when the project began, we were without a dime in savings and, though not in credit card debt (I’ve been there, done that), we were both way too comfortable being in overdraft. Now, the money idles provocatively in our bank accounts. We’re living on one salary and stashing the other.
This post also appears in my Green Parenting column for Time Out