Monday – Shopping day at last. I wasn’t desperate for food, but if I wanted something other than rice and chickpeas tomorrow I needed to hit the store today. I ate the last of the peanut butter for breakfast and polished off the last of chickpeas + green bean stir fry (left over from Saturday) at lunch.
I consulted with my wife about what might be the best thing to spend my “extra” money on this week – and if she had any coupons that I might use to help my dollars stretch. We decided that (1) an onion would go a long way to adding some flavor to stir fries. Onion is also surprisingly good for you. (2) A can of diced tomatoes would go well with the chickpeas, and add a splash of color – not to mention vitamin C. (3) Another vegetable would be a nice addition to the rotation, too, if there was any room left in my budget. Turns out my wife had a few different coupons for canned tomatoes that might help open up room for that additional veggie. However, each coupon required that you buy two or three cans at a time to get the discount. I don’t think I can afford to buy two or three cans: another example of the compounding effects of poverty. Those who are most in need of good deals often don’t know about them or have trouble accessing them.
The best deal I landed was on bread Giant had their Nature’s Promise (store brand) organic/natural bread on sale for $2.00. It’s a healthier, multi-grain product with fewer artificial ingredients/preservatives than last week’s more conventional bread – and for $0.19 cheaper. Here’s how my bill added up:
1 loaf of bread – $2.00 (“organic” store brand, on sale)
1 jar of peanut butter – $2.79 (store brand)
6 Bananas – $1.54
1 onion – $2.09 (the onions were sold by weight and all of them were HUGE. I got the smallest sweet onion I could find)
1 can of tomatoes – $0.75 (store brand, on sale; turned out to be a better deal than the coupons for the name-brand tomatoes)
1 block of frozen spinach – $1.00 (store brand, on sale)
1 quart half-n-half – $2.69 (store brand)
Total – $12.86
Before going to the store, I spent a couple of hours watching the new documentary A Place at the Table. While it shares the same title, the film is unrelated to the book I am reading for my fast. The book explores a spiritual discipline. The film investigates the growing problem of food insecurity in America. Both push their audiences to empathize with the poor, and in that they complement each other quite well. Watching the film made me sad and angry. I’ll have more to say about that in future posts. For now, I begin this third week of my fast with a renewed conviction that the words of Isaiah 58.1-8 are as pointed and poignant today as they were when the prophet first uttered them. Is not this the fast that I [the Lord] choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.
Lord, may these words of the prophet pierce my heart and embolden my faith now and in the days ahead. Amen.