Confession time: We finished Rice & Beans month meals two days early so that we could leave on our much-anticipated family vacation, our first road trip since moving to Europe! Nevertheless, I feel we accomplished a good thing as a family, and before I begin recording our family adventures on the road, I wanted to take time to process a few of the lessons we've learned...or at least, a few things that have been on my mind personally throughout this experience.
Two years ago our family began a 9-10 month period following the GAPS diet. It was something Ted and I both felt that God wanted us to do--even though physically speaking, we didn't have any particular need (though we were initially trying it to see if it would help with the boys' allergy/asthma symptoms). We read and read and read some more, trying to make sense of various conflicting theories about what foods are and aren't healthy for us. (Wheat? No wheat? Soaked and sprouted wheat?) Our GAPS journey is a "whole 'nother story," as some might say, but I feel our experience with GAPS eating is an important backdrop to the whole food issue of Rice & Beans month.
Rice, especially white rice, has not received great press in the health food world lately. But it's cheap--at least where we are. (Did you know some folks in parts of the world can't afford rice and it is actually a luxury?) I confess I struggled quite a bit with how much rice we would be consuming during our 4-week R&B diet. We've resumed eating rice, pasta, and other grains following our GAPS stint, but it has been pretty sparing. So I wasn't sure what to think about all this.
But you know what? I did what I could with what I had. I soaked and rinsed our rice, then cooked it (usually in bulk a couple of times a week), ate it, and thanked God for it. I set aside the prejudices I had against this particular food in favor of pursuing something more far-reaching.
So my thought on the FOOD part of Rice & Beans month is this: we over think this issue waaaaaaay too much. We have SO much variety and access to SO many good, healthy options (yes, and many unhealthy options too!) that we often become paralyzed by and obsessed with our choices. Do I believe we need to practice good nutrition habits? Of course. And sure, it helps to read and stay informed. But the food people of the world change their recommendations every decade, if not more frequently. So I'm not going to get too spun up about what the latest health craze is. I will feed my family, making the best decisions I can depending on our location at the time, and we will thank God for whatever it is we eat, trusting that we can glorify Him whether we are consuming a mound of white rice or a hill of vegetables.
TIME VS. MONEY
One thing about our meal plan over the past month...it didn't involve any pre-packaged food options! I confess I've fallen into the habit of having some frozen meals on hand and prepared sauces for "those" days when we are running around and/or I'm just too spent to cook from scratch. Those weren't an option for us, because I know they are budget-busters. I bought dried beans (mostly--I did have to use some canned black beans, but only because the commissary doesn't carry plain dried black beans), soaked and cooked them in bulk, and then put them in containers in the fridge or freezer. I made sure we had homemade bread for lunch sandwiches. I made soup. I made flatbread. I made hummus. I made pita pockets. I washed, peeled, and chopped veggies.
I spent a LOT of time in the kitchen.
And while I was mixing, peeling, or chopping, I had a lot of time to think. Using prepared foods CAN be a great time-saver. But...what do I do with the time I save? Do I invest that into God's kingdom purposes? One of our goals for R&B month was to see a savings in our grocery budget, which we will then share with our friends at Lahash to use to help care for God's children who are in need. Saving money to give away is a pretty tangible result of R&B month. Saving time to give away...well, it's harder to measure, for one thing, but I had to realize that on the days I have "easy" meals...let's be honest. That extra time is usually spent on ME! It's been a long day; I'm too tired to cook; so obviously I'll pop in this frozen dinner so I can sit down and put my feet up and spend some "quality time" online!
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with that. I think busy wives and moms need some quick and easy meal options in our hectic world. But I was convicted about being more purposeful in the way I spend my time...just as I was being purposeful about choosing the least expensive meal options so that we could cut back on our grocery spending.
I have to be honest...there weren't too many times I felt THAT deprived during R&B month! We found some great recipes (a couple of duds, too, but we managed), and there was always plenty to eat. We did cut way back on the times we allowed ourselves snacks, and post-dinner eating was pretty much non-existent. So...ok, I did miss cookies and desserts! And there were some afternoons that I really, REALLY wanted a snack...but since I had to start cooking earlier than usual, I often found that keeping busy (while drinking incredible amounts of water) helped keep my mind off my tummy rumblings.
Having some celebration meals probably helped with not feeling deprived, but I also thought a lot about how much we DO have. I have an indoor stove! I have an oven! I have a refrigerator! (Two, actually.) I have lots of freezer space! I have a microwave! I have running water! I have plenty of kitchen utensils! I have lots of table space for my family to sit around!
Where's the sacrifice in THAT?! If I REALLY want to identify with the way folks in other parts of the world live, well, I think a lot more would have to change than simply our food choices.
As I mentioned in a previous post, despite all our blessings, we, like the children of Israel, did some grumbling.
And so the final lesson I'll share here is an ongoing one. We are learning to offer a true sacrifice of praise, learning to be living sacrifices. Praising God when we feel like complaining...giving Him glory when we're grumpy...choosing to love the ones around us even when they are driving us up the wall...these things may seem little, but really, such actions are indeed sacrifices! In order to fully pursue Christ, we sacrifice our earthly, fleshly desires and tendencies, nailing them to the cross, begging for God's mercy to make us more like Jesus. The exposure of ugly attitudes beneath a veneer of self-righteousness is a painful one, but it, too, is a sacrifice...one that leads to repentance and transformation when we are willing to humble ourselves before a God who gave the Ultimate Sacrifice for us.
So. R&B month for us is officially over for 2013. Will we do it again in 2014? Our current plan is YES! When all was said and done, the kids agreed that it wasn't so bad after all, and there were parts they actually kind of liked! Lord willing, we will join with the larger Rice & Beans community during the month of March and enjoy sharing the experience with folks across the world who are doing this together.
Now for the exciting part. This to me was pretty unbelievable...although our numbers may be a bit skewed since we didn't actually purchase R&B groceries for a FULL month. Plus, leaving for vacation at the end of our experience meant that I also made an effort to simply use up what we had in the fridge, meaning I spent much less on groceries our final week than I may have otherwise.
Our total savings on groceries and eating out (or not) for the month...
...Our total savings that we get to share with our friends at Lahash...
...Drum roll, please...
How exciting is that?! One final lesson, I guess I should add here, is that obviously I can be more diligent about cutting back a bit more regularly on the grocery/restaurant part of our budget!
To God be the glory!