|3 huge bunches of cardoons, a bunch of radishes, a lot of scallions, |
TONS of bananas, are among the many, many, many things I
gleaned/rescued at the market
I get that concern, I really do. No one wants to be seen as an outcast in their social circles, or be seen as someone worthy of pity. This is why I think its so important that people live with others in a similar financial standing.
If you live in a wealthy, high class community, you'll generally feel pressure to have the same expensive items and live the same high class lifestyle, and if you stand up to the pressure and do your own thing, you'll likely stick out like a sore thumb, and may not be fully accepted or respected by the community. On the other hand, if you live in a community of frugally minded people, not only will you not have the pressure to live beyond your means, you'll often have more frugal resources available as well as people willing to pitch in to help save you money.
Note that poor communities and frugal minded communities are not necessarily the same. In some poor communities, even without money, people live "the high life" paid completely for by credit cards; conversely, in some places, even wealthy people live simply and frugally, because they live according to their non-materialistic values.
When choosing a community to live in, I cannot stress enough how important it is to pick a community with similar values. And if you value things other than materialism, if you value living simply and within your means, make sure that the community you intend to be part of shares those values. Especially, especially if you have kids or intend on having kids in the future.
While we homeschool our kids, I'm always on the lookout for schooling options in case we see homeschooling isn't working for us anymore. I have a lot of things I'd insist on before I'd considering sending my kid to a school, and its really hard to find such a school here. Finally I heard of one school that meets all the requirements I made... and then I heard that the parents who send their kids to the school are very wealthy, high class, and there is lots of pressure there to “keep up with the Joneses” there. That school became a non option.
Because its imperative that the people that you surround yourself with have similar values.
A community isn't just the people living in your immediate vicinity. Communities can be based around a church or other place of worship, they can be a neighborhood, a school can be a community, and you can have a community based on other common interests, such as farming. Whatever you do, try to immerse yourself into one community that values non material things more than materialistic things if you want to be able to live within your means happily.
If you don't have a local community like that, even being part of a virtual community can help you feel more “normal” in your frugality, giving you the confidence to keep on doing whatever it is that you're doing, even if some other people outside your “community” may look at you funny or whatever.
Today I was in the city and passed by the open air market at closing time. As I usually do, I waited near the dumpster for the trolleys of stuff heading to the garbage to come. A trolley arrived, carrying 2 cases of bananas, among other things, about to head into the dumpster. I took them and inspected them- their problem? They were browning. Perfect! I could use them to make all my yummy sugar free gluten free desserts. And it was 2 huuuuuuuge cases of bananas free! (In case you're wondering the size- once I got home and peeled them, I was able to fill 6 freezer bags with bananas from that.)
Then I went and got some chicken scraps that were going to be thrown out.
“Oh, you have a cat or a dog? This is for your cat or dog?” the man asked. In the past, I just said “Yes, a cat” and even lied and described an imaginary cat when I was asked further questions about my “pet”. But now, I didn't feel like lying. Why not get someone else to change their perspective?
“No, I'm not a dog and I'm not a cat, but I still think its a shame for all this meat to go to waste, and to go to a landfill. Its not that I'm poor and can't afford to buy it- I can- I just think its terrible how much perfectly good food goes into landfills when I and my family can eat it.”
Then I went back to the dumpster, waiting to see what other treasures the trolley would bring. While I was there, my friend Eve walked up to me and said “Are you getting free stuff today?”
“That's the plan..”
“Can I join you? I want to see how you do it.”
So we hung out together, and went and got tons of perfectly good food that was being thrown away. Eve got a whole bunch of pitas and flatbreads and rolls and loaves of bread, there were lots of peppers, a huge amount of scallions, lots of radishes, a few avocados and persimmons, etc... As we scavenged, we talked.
Eve brought up the concept of the difference between frugal and cheap. Frugal is being money smart, being money mindful, whereas cheapskates/misers have a hard time parting with any money, ever. They want to spend as little as possible no matter what.
Eve and I, though we scavenge for free food that would otherwise go to the trash, aren’t cheapskates- we're frugal. Examples that we gave each other that showed that is that Eve likes her cheeses. She'd rather save her money on groceries and get free food, so she can have extra money to spend on some good Parmesan. And, similarly, I will get free food, scavenge for and rescue sub-par foods instead of letting it go in the trash, but I am not always looking for the cheapest no matter what- because I save money on my standard groceries, I am able to have more money available to spend on gluten free items, unrefined sugar, etc...
Eve and I were talking about how it's easier to be extremely frugal when it's a choice you make, and not because you're destitute. Which is why I'm not embarrassed to do what I do. I fortunately am not destitute or anywhere near- we have enough money for everything we need. So I'm able to hold my head high and not be embarrassed despite doing things that others might consider embarrassing.
Now you might be wondering why I brought up the concept of community at the beginning...
When I was asked if the chicken was for a cat or a dog, and I said “It's actually for me”, I could very easily have gotten confused or flustered, etc... embarrassed if the guy thought I was weird. But I didn't care at all what he thought of me. Because he isn't part of my life, he isn't part of the community. I care what my community thinks of me more than what random strangers think of me.
But Eve is a part of my community. When she showed up, I wasn't embarrassed, because Eve knew me already by then and respected what I did to save money, even the extremely frugal methods... My community respects frugality, and predominantly want to learn to do similar things. (I can't count how many people have told me that they want to come with me on my gleaning trips at the open air market.)
Because I have a community of like minded people that I am part of, it gives me the confidence to stand up for what I believe in, for the truth as I see it, and be able to share what I'm doing, to tell the people “No, I plan on eating this”, even if some people might look down on me for it. I don't care what they think of me, because the people that I do care to have in my life respect me for what I do.
Now I feel I need to address something that always gets brought up by commenters every single time I write about my gleaning trips.
“Its not fair for you to take those stuff for free- you should be paying for that- why are you taking away from the store keeper's income? That's morally wrong.”
Lets expand on that topic a little more.
There's person A, lets call her Sarah, and there's person B, lets call him Steven.
Sarah has money, a moderate amount, enough so that as long as she spends wisely, she has more than enough to cover her expenses. But, of course, if she spends recklessly, she will run out of money and go into debt.
Steven is an artist. He paints beautiful photos and creates beautiful sculptures, and sells them for a lot of money.
Does Sarah have a responsibility to buy Steven's art so that he has an income? What if buying Steven's art is going to give Sarah financial issues? What if buying his art won't give her financial issues, won't put her in debt, but will make her more strapped financially so that she couldn’t afford the extras she really wanted, like that hotel stay she'd planned with her husband?
Personally, I think Sarah has no responsibility to support Steven.
Now, if Steven was someone that Sarah was friend's with, and Sarah knew that Steven was struggling to put food on his table, and she went and bought a sculpture of his, specifically to help him out financially, I'd consider what she's doing a form of charity- charity that Steve will accept more easily, because he feels like he's doing something in return, and isn't just a pitiable person. But this sculpture that Sarah could easily do without, but that she's buying in order to help him financially- its charity, optional, and not a moral obligation.
You're not morally obligated to support every single person out there who is trying to earn an income. That claim is so ridiculous, its preposterous. If you were morally obligated to do so, that would mean that you would have to walk into every store you passed, bought something significant at every store, use and pay for every service available to man, etc... regardless of your own financial abilities- because you should be supporting these people!
You see how ridiculous that claim is?
Ok, lets bring back Sarah and Steven.
Lets say Sarah, as much as she likes Steven, doesn't have the cash to buy some artwork from him, or chooses to spend her extra cash on something else she would prefer to spend it on.
Now Steven, when making his art, ends up with lots of scraps that came out badly, that he no longer wants. So he chucks it in the public dumpster.
Sarah passes by the dumpster, sees some art scraps there, and says “Hey, with a little bit of loving, I can make those scraps look beautiful!” so she fishes them out of the trash, works on them, and uses them, and puts them on display in her home.
Is Sarah doing anything wrong?
If so, what?
Is she taking anything away from Steven?
No. He threw it out, he no longer wanted it.
Is she preventing him from earning an income by taking his scraps?
No. We've already established that she won't be buying artwork from him, that's not where she wants to spend her money.
Is Sarah required to buy the artwork that she didn't want to spend money on, just so that she can support Steven?
No. We've already established that while it may be nice to buy something from someone in order to support them, doing so for that reason alone is a form of charity, and isn't an obligation in any way, and to require someone to support everyone trying to earn a living is a truly ridiculous idea.
Sarah taking Steven's scraps- no one is hurting, and Sarah benefits.
Nothing wrong, in my opinion.
Similarly, when I get some veggie or fish scraps from the open air market, I'm not taking anything away from anyone.
I'm just like Sarah, taking what “Steven” no longer wants. I wasn't going to buy from “Steven” in the first place, so my taking his cast offs hurts no one, and benefits me.
Yes, if I wanted to do the store keepers a favor and support them by buying stuff from them, I could, but personally, I know enough people that are in rough financial situations that my charity would go first to them, and not to random guys running the stalls in the market.
I have limited funds, and if I can stretch my funds further by taking cast offs that no one wants, I can have excess money to spend on the things that are important to me, like expensive unrefined sugars instead of refined sugars, healthier oils instead of cheapo GMO oils. While it would be nice to support as many shopkeepers as possible, if I don't take care of my own finances and my own needs, no one else will.
Are you part of a community that values frugality, looks down upon frugality, or doesn't care either way?
Would you have the confidence to say "No, this is for myself, not a cat/dog"?
Do you think its an obligation to support shopkeepers?
Do you agree with my assessment of Steve's and Sarah's situation? Do you think it would be immoral for Sarah to take Steve's art scraps from the dumpster?