Monday, January 14, 2008

Is Exotic Eating in Harmony with Frugality?

When Meredith over at Like Merchant Ships asked me to include the prices of the foods we buy – it started me thinking.

I realized a few weeks ago, that even before we began this blog, our family had already been buying/eating/testing exotic or ethnic foods for a long time. Since a lot of grocery stores now carry ethnic foods – they are pretty easy to find. Some are expensive. Some less so.

Being that I have talked of being frugal and have even participated in some “Frugal Friday” tip giving – I thought I ought to explain my reasons behind purchasing these items, that are not necessities, that are purchases many would not consider frugal and are not always the cheapest foods I can buy.

1. It’s education for the mind. You can use the foods as the starting point for discussing the countries they come from, the nutritional contents, and the people that eat them. A great book for further using foods as “education for the mind” is the book by Peter Menzel – “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats”. This book includes photos and essays on people in different countries and what they buy/eat in a week.

2. It’s education for the taste buds. Kids can taste foods from far-away places, without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Cheaper than flying to Mexico. Kids that only eat sweet foods or only eat bland foods – are missing out on a whole range of flavors. Sometimes kids grow out of their picky eating habits, sometimes they don’t. I’d rather introduce tastes and flavors and textures to our children while they are still young – and hope to “expand their taste buds”.

3. It's frugal to me. What does frugal even mean? Some people are frugal out of necessity (too little money or too much debt), some people are frugal by choice. Being frugal does not mean that you are cheap or miserly or greedy or selfish. It doesn’t mean that you forgo pleasures and entertainment or that you suffer – but rather that you weigh your purchases and spending against your overall goals. Being frugal gives you options to use your money in areas you believe it could be better spent – like in an “edible education” fund. :)

In a society where we want things NOW, - it’s hard for folks to understand a restraining hand when you have the money for what you want. And I place myself in that category at times too. There are a lot of things I’d like to have and I could afford to buy those things if I wanted to. But we realize that things are not always what are most important to us. Instead of spending $50 on a new shirt at the mall – I’d rather spend $5 on a “new” shirt at the thrift store (same end result – a new shirt that I like) and use the remaining $45 for something else…that something else might be a hobby, savings account, some form of entertainment, charitable giving, travel, retirement, our kids college education or even some “edible education”.

I love this definition of frugality from Wikipedia…"Frugality (also known as thrift or thriftiness)… a traditional value, life style, or belief system, in which individuals practice both restraint in the acquiring of and resourceful use of economic goods and services in order to achieve lasting and more fulfilling goals. In a money-based economy, frugality emphasizes economical use of money in meeting long term personal, familial, and communal desires."

In order to taste new and exciting foods – it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You don’t have to buy $3.00 passion fruits. You don’t have to buy exotic foods daily or even weekly. But one .60 blood orange isn’t going to break the bank. Even stores like Aldi carry some ethnic foods – throughout the year they carry German, Mexican and Asian foods.

4. It’s fun! Our lives are pretty dull out here in the Midwest – especially during these cold days, so a little food experimentation, and blogging about it – is entertainment for us.


Mrs. Mordecai said...

Hear, hear! Save in some areas so you can spend in others . . . that's the way to have fun!

MondaythroughSunday said...

Interesting! My Mother was so into trying new foods..ALL the time. I remember when I met my husband and they had spaghetti every Tuesday. I could not relate!