Saturday, October 11, 2008

Forest Hill market, this week - and more

We had a small, but productive trip to the market this week. We came home with some nice lettuce, broccoli, peppers, amazing carrots, some bread, and apples. A few of the vendors reacted with dismay, however, when I mentioned in casual conversation that I had begun to trim my market purchases. Why, they wanted to know, would I do that?

The answer was simple: through the early and middle parts of the summer, I overbought. This meant I spent money on food I ended up throwing away. The simple and sad truth is that, as a single parent with a (small) commute and a demanding full-time job, I can manage only so much meal preparation during the course of a week.

With various fresh vegetables and fruits that go bad at unpredictable rates—from the lettuces that can last three weeks when stored properly to the strawberries that suddenly go bad in a day—it is hard to base your entire meal planning around a market trip. And when things get busy and exhausting by the middle of the week, going out or making a quick, simple pasta dish takes precedence over the creative use of that eggplant that seemed like such a good idea at the time. Add the unpredictability of a six-year old's palate—one week zucchini is great, the next week it is devil-spawn—and you have a tough juggling act.

Too often, the result of that juggling act was food that went bad. (For example, there is currently chicken in the refrigerator I may have to throw out because the past few days ended up being busier than expected, and some unfinished pac choi from last week went into the trash.)

Given that August and September were extraordinarily difficult on the Impolitic Eye bank account and given the strange and difficult financial straits internationally, I've decided to pull back a little bit. There are still a few things that I will buy at Whole Foods, but we will return to stocking our cupboards heavily with Trader Joe's items that are inexpensive and easy to prepare. It's a tough thing to accept that I can't always afford either the money or the time for everything I'd like to make or do, but the reality is I have two hours in the morning to get us both showered, fed and out the door and three hours between picking Banana up from after-school care and her bedtime. And dinner needs to be on the table in that first hour and a half.

My life falls into some pretty narrow constraints. No matter how I try to game my own system, those constraints don't appear to be changing any time soon. Time to live with in my means. And those "means" are financial, chronological, and physical.

To some extent, this is the ultimate lifehacking.