I have a tendency to keep a lot of food in my home. Way more than I need. Not in a wasteful way. In fact, I have such strict portion control that I throw away very little food. I basically know how much fresh produce, dairy, and meat I will eat, and I buy an appropriate amount. (Okay, maybe a little more if it’s cheap and can be frozen.) I don’t make a lot of impulse buys at the grocery store. If I do, it’s probably for my husband. And it’s usually chocolate peanut butter cups, so I know they will get eaten.
It makes me feel safe to have an excess of the non-perishable staples I eat. The few times I was under some sort of severe weather watch, and people were rushing out to stock up on basics, I was already stocked. But I especially tend to overbuy when I am feeling emotionally vulnerable, when I am scared, or when my life is chaotic and unpredictable.
Let’s just say that in the past 3 months or so, I have acquired a lot of food. But now, I have to get ready to leave this apartment and it is time to use up that overabundance of food. And it makes me a little uncomfortable.
Part of the reason I think I hoard food (sort of hoard…it’s not spilling out of my cabinets or anything) is that it makes me feel like even if everything goes wrong, I can keep my food boundaries. And that is the most important thing in my life.
At 30, I ended up homeless for a few months. I slept on people’s couches and used their kitchens, and just sort of dealt with being homeless. It was a weird thing to ask people to help me, and also make a point that if they were willing to do it, they could not touch my food. The “good girl” inside me thought this was ridiculous. In my head I could hear my grandmother (the less nice one) telling me that beggars couldn’t be choosers. And there I was literally begging. I could hear her asking me who I thought I was. Telling me I was awful big for my britches. But repeatedly, I swallowed my pride twice, once to ask for a couch to sleep on, and once to ask that my food be left alone. And people were amazing. They were generous, gracious, supportive and loving. Nobody seemed to think twice about my having caveats.
And one of the most important things about this story is that those food boundaries were exactly what kept me sane in one of the most stressful times of my life. I was worried all the time about my future, and how I would make enough money and find a new home. So the one thing that made me calm, the thing that was predictable and unchanging, was my food boundaries. It was something I didn’t have to make decisions about. It was an area of my life that was not up in the air. It kept me grounded. It was a foundation for my life and a sanctuary from my anxiety. So having more than I need is like tending to that sanctuary.
But there is also reality. Like the reality that I am not going to cart an excess of frozen butter, Italian sausage, and pork tenderloin 1100 miles over three days.
What is important for me to remember is that keeping my boundaries is a choice that I make new every day. It doesn’t matter how much food I have on hand at any given moment. It is a matter of what I am willing to do to keep my boundaries in any and all circumstances. I don’t rely on that excess. I simply enjoy it.
So the next few weeks will be an exercise in moderation and frugality. The goal will be to buy less and use what I have so it doesn’t get wasted. But I will tell you this, I am still going to be traveling with a few cans, bottles, and jars, because even reality has a little wiggle room for a neurotic girl like me.