A storm is blowing in tonight. The peak will be before midnight, but the house is already creaking with the gusts. It shouldn’t be a problem, but this is November, the stormiest season for the Salish Sea. Power outages are possible, but unlikely. Tonight’s storm is a Storm. In a couple of days we’re supposed to get a STORM. At least this is happening as I’ve reached a milestone on my financial recovery. My pantry is full. It’s been a while since that was the case. At times like this, it is comforting. There are several comfortable necessities yet to come.
Sale is a nice word. I like it. I don’t go shopping because something is on sale, but when I’m shopping I hunt for 20% off, at least. A skill practiced by many frugal folk is stocking up when things are cheap. That sounds easy, but that tactic falters when money gets as tight as it was a few years ago. I ate my way through my pantry. It was a necessary culinary exploration and experiment. It costs money to go shopping, even if you don’t buy anything. I only shopped when I was running other errands. Even then, I didn’t buy in bulk because I had to steward my cash and try to not put anything on the credit card.
Fortunately, I like to cook from scratch, buying real instead of packaged food is frugal and healthy, and I have simple tastes. It is fun trying to see what combinations can be made from variations of beans, rice, potatoes, onions, carrots, some herbs and spices, a bit of oil, and whatever meat was on sale. The past-date meat bin is a place to be cautious, but my best find was a mislabeled steak. It was supposed to be marked down to $3.40, but they marked it down to $0.34. Steak with gravy and roasted veggies for dinner!
There are many ways to measure wealth or its lack. Shopping without regard for prices is marvelous for cooks. Pick up the seafood, mushrooms, organic produce, and a good bottle of wine, and create a treat of salmon with asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, and some quinoa tossed with pecans, top it off with freshly grated parmesan, and wash it down with something with a dusty cork and the meal becomes an event. Some people can do that every night. For a while there, I would make a meal from a can of tuna, pasta, frozen veggies, and the splurge was a sauce. Now, I’m in between.
I knew finances were improving the first time I bought enough of something that it was silly to store any more. Yes, pasta is on sale, but when there are already six boxes at home, it may be time to stock up on something else. Which, I did. I don’t think I recorded the event, because it felt like a fluke. Within the last month, though, the freezer, fridge, cupboards and closets are full enough that I realized I’d have to eat my way through some of it to make way for Thanksgiving. No, this isn’t a hoarding situation; but after an empty cupboard, having to shift things around on the shelves feels like wealth. It didn’t happen all at once. Each shelf filled as sales happened, until finally, filled.
There are other ways to measure wealth or its lack. Are things repaired as soon as they look like they might be getting a bit of wear, when they’re wearing out, or after they’ve broken? Or, are things only repaired when they absolutely must. Or, are they jury-rigged in layers of temporary solutions that must be repaired again, but hopefully not too soon. The list is long, but the fence is the easiest thing for people, especially my neighbors, to see. Of the twenty 8 foot sections, about half of them have fallen at various times. a few construction flaws before I got here, plus the inevitable wood rot, plus the storms we get on the southern half of the island means the fence gets repaired almost every year. With enough money, some would have the entire fence replaced. With some money, I could see hiring someone to do the job right. With a bit more than I have, and the time to do the work, it could be gratifying to properly replace and repair, only getting rid of the rotten pieces. As things are, I propped up a support or two buttressing the wobblier sections, particularly the piece that holds up the shed roof, which is attached to the side of the house; which, if it failed could pull the siding off the north wall.
As I wrote that, a gust blew through hard enough to trigger my neighbor’s car alarm. It’s dark. I’ll check the fence later.
Wealth and poverty hit the news as statistics and anecdotes. Either it’s factual governmental economic reports, or human interest stories and celebrity gawking. Numbers are necessary, but they miss the reality. The amount you have in your bank account isn’t as important as whether you have food available. Your retirement fund isn’t as important as whether you’ve been able to get health care, not just health insurance, and whether you can afford the treatments prescribed. If your car has steering and braking issues, they have to be fixed or everything else can become permanently moot – unless you can resort to walk, bike, or bus. Financial planning for the long term is important; but, when the power goes out it is good to have food at hand, when your body does something unsettling it is good to get advice and treatment from a professional, and when basics like transportation are threatened it is good to get it fixed and afford alternative transportation in the meantime.
I’m getting there, but for now, I am glad I have a full pantry. On the list of life’s necessities, food and water are vital. I’m glad I’m developing that basic resource again. It can even be fun giving myself the occasional splurge like my Maxwelton Meal, and the holiday feasts.
The wind is cranking up. The Edmond ferry is reporting 33 knots in the middle of the Sound, just a few miles south of me. The peak is a few hours from now. I’ll hit save and publish before the power flickers.
The heat is up a bit, so it starts higher if it has to drift down. I’m glad I can afford that. Dinner is made. A nice, frugal, lentil soup made with beans from a few years ago. Food is sitting outside in a cooler, so if the power goes out I don’t have to open the refrigerator door. Aside from that, it is a good time to back away from work and pull out some other valuable resources: a good book and a nice cocktail. One of these days I’ll get back to buying new books. Tonight’s read is something I bought about twenty years ago. One of these days I’ll get back to buying local hand-crafted whisky. Tonight’s drink will be home-steeped spiced vodka. Not as fancy as possible. Much better than what many have. It is all good enough, for now.