Wednesday, February 2, 2011


We are, unfortunately, a typical fast food family.  I'm ashamed to admit it.  I blame part of it on my children as they never like what I cook and my husband is almost as picky as the children.  Mostly I blame myself, as I am the kitchen gatekeeper and I have 95% of the say on what goes down my children's throats.  Like a lot of people, though, my kids are involved in activities.  They aren't over scheduled -- each is allowed one activity, two if they're not too time consuming.  For instance, my daughter takes gymnastics one night a week and is a Girl Scout Daisy.  The latter has twice monthly meetings and the occasional weekend activity, so it's a very moderate time commitment.  Even with a relatively sane schedule, we inevitably find ourselves rushing through dinner time.  My daughter has to leave for gymnastics by 5:20, my son for twice weekly karate by 5:10.  Throw in the occasional doctor's appointment, dentist check up, or after school activity and dinner time becomes a nightmare.  My solution, unfortunately, tended to be a quick trip through the drive-thru.

I know the obvious health problems associated with over consumption of fast food.  In addition, as I always say to my husband, "Geez, they charge an awful lot for lousy food."  Between fast food and convenience foods, our monthly food total was very high.  Last year, for instance, our average monthly food expenses were $957.  That includes eating in, drive-thru runs, restaurant meals, and any purchased snacks (such as amusement park candy) for myself, my husband, and our 11 and 7 year old kids.  We go out to eat almost every Saturday afternoon with my mother and sister and I have no intention of foregoing those meals.  We've done it for almost 40 years (i.e., my entire lifetime) and it's an enjoyable part of our week.  As a result I know I'll never have a rock bottom food budget like some.  Since we're fortunate enough to be going the frugality and simplicity route voluntarily my food budget goals are more moderate.

I knew training my children out of the fast food habit would be difficult.  My daughter in particular likes so few foods, especially protein, that Chicken McNuggets sometimes almost seem like a healthy option.  Since they dislike my cooking, have a limited number of meals they'll even try, and we have those rushed evenings, I knew we'd need some inspiration to change our ways. 

We're all huge animal lovers in our house and support a number of animal charities.  One close to my heart is the Grayson County Humane Society in Leitchfield, Kentucky.  They are, unfortunately, not a no-kill shelter, but they do the best they can with extremely limited resources to care for abused or abandoned pets and find them homes.  They get no government money, so they stay open solely through donations and volunteers.  On their website they had a link to become a Grayson Angel.  To be an "angel", you commit to giving $1 a day, regularly, to the shelter.  Knowing how much my children love and are concerned about these dogs and cats, I told them we were going to cut back extremely on our food budget for the month.  (I originally tried to do a "Food Stamp Challenge" similar to Katy Wolk-Stanley's on The Non-Consumer Advocate blog, but we failed in that one.)  I told them if we stuck to it for a month we could save enough money over what we spent last year to be an "angel" for the next year.  This they were enthusiastic about, particularly my son.  I can easily win them over by showing them a picture of one of the little doggies at the shelter.

For the month of January we spent a total of $561.47.  I know, this is hardly a great accomplishment for a true frugal gal, but considering our average last year of $957 per month, we shaved just short of $400 off of our food bill.  More importantly, I'm signing us to become Grayson Angels.  The little bit of sacrifice or deprivation we might have felt from the lack of trans fats in our diet were more than offset by the good feelings we have knowing that some animals are going to get a little bit of help.  I guess it's all about finding the right inspiration.

Snickers, who turned up at our door on Halloween 2002.

Milky Way, who turned up in our front yard just before a blizzard in 2008.

Franklin, who turned up in the neighborhood wearing a choke collar with no tags in 2003.

1 comment:

  1. That's a major reduction in the food budget and the fact that the money will be going to a shelter makes it even better.