Adventure 9: Buy Nothing (recap)

Hey there, bloggysphere.

I’m sorry it’s taken me a little longer to compose this post than I (and, I’m sure, you) would have liked. Last night at this time, I was out buying groceries to restock our dwindling larder.

(Also, I should confess: I’ve been on an Internet binge of epic proportions this week that has really driven down my productivity and driven up my tendency to procrastinate. Hopefully it will be over soon, and I’ll be able to return at least partially to the magical land of Real Life.)

We made it! We successfully made it through one whole week without buying anything! Not one gallon of gas, not one box of cereal, not one pair of shoes, not one Happy Meal or Biggby coffee or vending machine candy bar. I’m so proud of us!

Actually, though, my primary thinking about this adventure has been: “Huh. That was not as hard as I thought it would be.”

It helped, I’m sure, that I’m pretty lazy and naturally prefer to spend most of my free time chillaxing at home or recreating out of doors. It also helped that I’m cheap. Also, I’ve never been what you would call a shoppaholic. Trips to the grocery store every few days and a visit to the second-hand store every few months usually satisfy most of my consumer urges.

It’s true, too, that if I hadn’t known the week was coming, it would have been trickier. As it was, we planned ahead, making sure to top off the fuel tanks on our cars and restock the pantry and the fridge before we began. After that, it was easy-peasy. We lived off our stores quite happily the whole week.

There was really only one thing I missed all week: eating out. I love restaurants — probably more than is good for me. We have a weekly family date night on Tuesday evenings, during which we all go out to eat and then do something fun together afterward. Last week, we skipped it. I never realized how much I count on Family Night to break up the middle of my week, but by Thursday I was definitely aware of how the entire work week was lumbering along.

Later in the week, I also found myself politely having to turn down an invitation to go out to lunch with some colleagues. This was hard. I work with some really fun people, and I love going out to eat with them occasionally on lunch breaks.

So, my “town food” cravings did leave me feeling a little deprived, then, but really . . . those two missed opportunities to enjoy restaurant food in good company were the only proper hardships I faced the entire week. We didn’t run out of milk (quite). We did run out of bread, but not until after I’d made the last school lunch on Friday morning. We ended the week without running low on any of our other household essentials: fruit, veggies, cereal, macaroni, butter, coffee, diapers, and toilet paper. (I don’t know what other people consider “essentials,” but those are the biggies for us.)

It was, all in all, though, a wonderful break from our usual ho-hum consumer mentality. If I hadn’t been on that nasty Internet binge, I would have found I had a lot more time to do stuff. Last week, all those little bits of time I would have normally spent running out to the store to “pick up a few things” were my own to use or waste as I saw fit. (As it turns out, I wasted them . . . but just imagine if I hadn’t.)

I cooked more proper meals, too — the result, no doubt, of an old habit I developed when we were really strapped for cash while raising small children in grad school resurfacing. Back then, the more broke we were and the less money we had to spend on food, the more thought and creativity I would put into my cooking — a gesture of positive defiance against our general poverty.

All these disjunctive musings are to say: with a little thought and planning, buying nothing for a week left us with better meals, more free time (albeit wasted free time), and a temporary detachment from the supermarket mindset. It was just the kind of rest I needed at the beginning of the hectic pre-Christmas season.

I think I just might make Buy Nothing Week an annual holiday tradition.

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7 thoughts on “Adventure 9: Buy Nothing (recap)

  1. The blogs make me want to regress to older times (and I am sure that was your intention in part) to simpler times, when to buy nothing for a week was the absolute norm. We lived in the country, had only one car, Jim was NOT going to a store as he came from work (we had no easy way like cell phones to ask anyway) and if you missed going on Saturday, you might go more than a week. The Blue laws made it hard to buy anything on Sunday, and we didn’t eat out except on trips. So why do I need to buy often now? Habit! and one I plan to break.

  2. Ah, yes, Emily, I remember those days also. Except Wednesday evening was grocery time (the stores were open Wednesday evenings, which is why they closed at noon that day for a break — and still do!). Daytime hours were for farm work. It was a real family event with Dad and his brothers sitting around the wood stove at the back of the store (yes! for real) chatting in German, Mom shopping for the few things not already in jars at home or the freezer down the street, then a stop at the locker (freezer) rented in the back of the hardware store after a treat at the ice cream shop. That was family night out. Why not a weekend night? Because weekend nights were for high school sports. Everyone went, whether you had a family member on the team or not. On Sunday morning, the drug store opened after church for a couple of hours so we could pick up our reserved coipes of the Chicago Tribune, maybe buy a quart of hand-packed ice cream and have a coke, pick up dry cleaning and then home. And the drug store closed by 2.

    • Wow. Thanks for sharing, Loretta. Those are the kinds of memories I do not possess (outside of what I’ve experienced through books), and it’s really mind-broadening for me to hear firsthand how things really used to be.

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