Rather than repost yesterday, I spent a lovely and productive morning with Fedco and Seeds of Change. I went over my seed collection (thank you Andrea) and found I really do not have to order much. My seed plan is this. I have several cans of storage seeds. They are expensive but will provide the basics of a garden for three years should I not be able to access any other new seeds. I have a box of seeds that I keep for a maximum of three years. (I don’t have many that are so old, mostly beans. I buy too many beans). I use the oldest seeds first but I do try germinating several before planting to ensure freshness. Each year, as seed go on sale in our little store, I pick up new varieties and multiple packs of old favorites. With this system, I rarely have to pay full price for seeds and always have plenty for myself and enough to share should the need arise. On nasty, cold afternoons I sometimes just peruse my seed catalogs and dream of spring.

Yesterday was our anniversary. We went out to dinner last night, splurging on steak (we don’t generally eat beef). It was really delicious. There is something to be said for making some things special occasion foods. As we don’t raise beef and find the local, grass-fed stuff out of our price range for the most part, beef falls in that category. We also walked through the mall on a hunt for a living room carpet. It was sad and a bit scary.  Bruce and I don’t go to the mall as a rule, shocked at how empty it was. Old Navy-gone. Limited 2-gone. 5 other empty store fronts and a lot of bored looking clerks who probably knew their days of gainful employment were numbered. Then we went looking for a restaurant. Closed, closed, closed. Pittsfield, Mass has been a town on the way down since the General Electric pulled out. There is reason we rarely go there, preferring the Northampton, in the opposite direction.

My post yesterday was about a notebook I am putting together for my daughters and daughter-in-laws. It is a kind of thrifty mama’s guide to food shopping. I had a bunch of office supplies I had gotten from some clearance rack. I only had the 1 inch notebooks. Three inch would have been easier to work with but taken up a lot more space. I divided the first section of the notebook into categories (dairy, staples, meat, condiments, toiletries, ect. Each section has a page of information on shopping possibilities ( grocery store, bis box, co-op, discount house, local farmer and so on and the price point in each location. Then I put in a place so the girls can calculate the best price possible. Here’s an example.

Peanut butter

Grocery store: name brand, store brand, price with double coupon coupon, bulk purchase, co-op price. If they add in the price they find in advertisements as well as the price from the other sources, they should be able to calculate the best possible price and stock up only when the price is at the lowest. It is really just a fancy price book but it has some extras. I wrote a short essay on remembering to calculate the environmental cost of food that is shipped rather than local and the rewards of supporting small businesses over Wal-Mart.

After the price book part of my notebook, I added pocket folders for a section on coupon use, complete with a resource listing all of my favorite coupon sites, a folder for menus and a final one for recipes. I put in a some of my favorite cheap eats and cards with the recipes for making mixes too. I am having a lot of fun with this project and I hope the girls will get a lot of use from it.

All of this leads to an important point that I would not have added without my experience in Pittsfield last night. We  eat good food. We can because we are blessed with land and skills and the time, will and experience to garden. The few things I purchase, I can afford to pay a premium for to indulge my desire to east local, organic food and to shop at small stores when I can. If I was a dad who had just lost his job and concerned with keeping a roof over my family’s head or a single mom feeding her kids on food stamps, these would be luxuries I could not afford. It is easy to talk about feeding your family on rice and beans but if these foods are not familiar nor do you know how to properly prepare them, it will feel like a deprivation. I only spent a few hours in a depressed environment last night and it was not personal. I did not talk to the unemployed nor see anyone who looked hungry but it still weighed on me. I think that what looks like lack of initiative is often depression. What can seem like lazy is really just the inability to see how your actions can affect real change.

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