What’s it for?

I remember joking with my brother and sisters as we were growing up about the fact that once we were old enough to drive, our parents expected us to get jobs in town, so we could earn enough money to pay for the cars that we had to have in order to drive to our jobs in town.

Back when I was bringing home the lawyer income I ate a lot of meals in restaurants. It was expensive, but I didn’t have time to grow and prepare my own food. I was too busy earning the money I needed to buy food.

Nowadays it is very rare for us to eat in a restaurant. Restaurant meals aren’t in our budget and even if they were, why would we? We raise nearly all of our own food here now and the food we eat every day would be an expensive treat at a gourmet restaurant. The fact of the matter is that our everyday meals are superior to nearly anything we could get at a restaurant.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from our downward mobility is that much of what we earn money to pay for becomes unnecessary once you step out of the rat race. Food is an obvious example but there are many more. Just as in our teenage years we had to have jobs to pay for the cars we needed in order to have jobs, we discovered that we were still doing that in many ways. Once we stepped away from that life and took at hard look at what we really needed to buy, we found that it was very little. It was disconcerting at first–we’ve been conditioned to believe it just isn’t true–but once the truth of it settled in, it was liberating.

On our current income we can’t afford to eat out often. But the truth is that we’re wealthier than if we could.

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32 comments on “What’s it for?

  1. Reading this reminded me of the words ‘rate race’ which we all participated in or have participated in. 🙂 It is always good to get off the race track and there aren’t many meals out that can beat those in. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      As my wife Cherie wrote elsewhere, there comes a day when you look in the mirror and discover that you’re not a rat and you don’t want to be in their race. 🙂

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  2. Cro Magnon says:

    I have no doubt that my life-style is far better, and more fulfilling, on a smallish income than that of most who earn huge fortunes. For a start I have perfect silence, with a perfect vista, right outside my front door (see header photo on my blog).

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  3. Chris says:

    “Dear God, you made many, many poor people
    I realize, of course, that it’s no great shame to be poor
    But it’s no great honor either
    So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”
    -Tevye

    Liked by 1 person

    • BeeHappee says:

      🙂 My favorite.
      Had you guys seen “Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick”, 1952 with Dinah Shore? My kids love the bull scene, reminded me of some of your writing.

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    • Bill says:

      Saw a fine production of that by our local youth theater group recently.
      A much older lyric says,

      Whoever loves money never has enough;
      whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
      This too is meaningless.
      As goods increase,
      so do those who consume them.
      And what benefit are they to the owners
      except to feast their eyes on them?
      The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
      whether they eat little or much,
      but as for the rich, their abundance
      permits them no sleep.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. avwalters says:

    We eat out once a month. There’s a local restaurant that features gluten-free entrees and I feel compelled to support them in that effort. The food isn’t as good as what I make at home (but the wine is incredible–they are attached to a local winery and they make their own beer, which my husband enjoys. So far, wine and beer are beyond our homemaking skills.) Eating out, albeit rarely, is one way for us to engage in a new community. Mostly, “eating in”is a way to enjoy gourmet quality and healthy food on a sustainable budget. We just need to broaden the horizon by inviting like minds to enjoy it with us.

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    • Bill says:

      We host a potluck supper once a month for people interested in homesteading and sustainable living. It’s been a great way to form and develop community and the food is always amazing. Once you’re settled in you might consider something like that.

      I like your once-a-month routine. We try to have a “date night” once a month, but we don’t usually go to a restaurant. A friend and fellow farmer started up our area’s first farm-to-table restaurant recently and we haven’t been to eat there yet, even though we’re one of the farms supplying the food. Now that’s the kind of restaurant I don’t mind supporting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Laurie Graves says:

    I agree with what you wrote. However, you do have land to grow food, and in Maine, at least, it takes quite a bit of money to buy land, money that many people don’t have. I think this post encourages a discussion of what is enough and what is not enough. Many people in this country have too much. Others don’t have enough, and they are so busy working at low-paying jobs that it is unlikely that they will ever have enough.

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    • Bill says:

      There are lots of people who are working for wages needed to meet their basic needs. But there are also lots of people (probably far more) whose basic needs are met but are continuing to work jobs they hate to buy things they don’t need, or who to buy things necessitated by the job. As you say, the key is to be able to say “enough” in a culture that tells us we never have enough.

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      • Laurie Graves says:

        Yes, indeed! In Maine, there are so many people working at low-paying jobs, and the rat race for them is something quite different than it is for those who are making good money at jobs they do not like.

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  6. ain't for city gals says:

    I agree with what you wrote also and we practice pretty much the same lifestyle. But I also agree and think about a lot of what Laurie Graves wrote in her comment….for me part of the “organic lifestyle” is to try to help others when I can and I know you and Cherie do this also. A few years ago I decided we had “enough” ….different for everybody…and from now on I was done trying to earn money….it has indeed been liberating…

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    • Bill says:

      As a friend of mine put it, it seems unAmerican to say you have enough. What we’ve come to realize is that a lot of what we had come to think of as necessities really weren’t.
      And of course we certainly agree that living well includes helping others.

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  7. Sue says:

    Hubby and I save restaurant meals for when we are on the road or for that RARE morsel that I have been unable to find a decent recipe to make it at home. But you are so correct–the quality of what we raise ourselves is so high, there isn’t a restaurant out there that can compete.

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    • Bill says:

      A couple of days ago we had to go to a nearby town for a meeting and it ran till lunchtime. So we ate at a little restaurant. I had an oyster po’ boy–something I can’t get at home. It was OK, but I would have eaten better at home and saved $10.

      Tonight is our “pizza night.” First we had a spinach salad from the garden, then a homemade pizza with tomatoes, goat cheese and pesto. What would an organic meal like that have cost in a restaurant?

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  8. BeeHappee says:

    It took me some years of driving that car back and forth and being drawn into the system step by step to realize how really absurd it is when it gets more and complicated, more and more ‘crap to upkeep’, etc. Sadly, most conventional farmers are just as badly drawn into debt, upkeep of equipment, credit scores, and still eating the most unhealthy food.

    I am currently reading “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball, the NY girl turned farmer, and your post definitely reminded me of her thoughts in the book. About the food, I can so relate how she (and you) talk about the food. This summer I had totally fell in love with food, the dirt covered carrots, and the endless display of colors in beets, salad mixes, and radishes. It is the whole process that gets you, from seed, to harvest, to creating something with it, to the subtlest differences in 7 garlic varieties, to the sizzling sounds, and smells. We love food movies and had watched most of them: Julie and Julia, Mostly Martha, Tortilla Soup, the Chef, Today’s Special, Eat Drink Man Woman, etc… If anything is worth living for, it is the real good food. 🙂

    Kimball writes:

    “Everywhere I looked, there was plenty. I felt some ideas moving around in my head, big and slow, like tectonic plates. This was only a six acre plot, the size of a large playground, but there were vegetables here for two hundred families. It all seemed so much simpler than I’d imagined. Dirt plus water plus sun plus sweat equaled food. No factories required, not a lot of machinery, no poisons or chemical fertilizers. How was it possible that this abundance had always existed, and I had not known it? I felt, of all damn things, safe. Anything could happen in the world. Planes could crash into buildings, jobs could disappear, people could be thrown out of their apartments, oil could run dry, but here, at least, we would eat. […] Food, a French man told me once, is the first wealth. Grow it right, and you feel insanely rich, no matter what you own.”

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    • Bill says:

      That’s a great quote. I haven’t read the book but it’s a favorite of Cherie’s. She saw them speak at an ag conference we attended a couple of years ago. Fascinating story.

      Nothing beats real, good food. I want everyone to discover that truth. I’m fortunate to have 3 great meals every day, despite having a “low income” job. Back when I had a “high income” job I ate very poorly. An alien observing that would probably find it puzzling.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Joanna says:

    It is eerie how often we discuss similar topics. I met a lady in person today, who I had met only online before and we were talking about how much is enough and what we need to live on. We both agreed with your thoughts today, it is a lot less than most people imagine.

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    • Bill says:

      We once lived on little because we had no choice. Then we gradually found ourselves getting sucked into the spending trap as our income increased (even though we were always seen as eccentrically frugal). Once we made the lifestyle switch we had to unlearn some things. But by going through our spending and questioning the necessity of everything, we discovered that we truly needed very little money. Property taxes and insurance are our biggest expenses and they are a challenge. Everything else is pretty easily manageable on a small income, in our experience. I’m convinced that lots of people who feel trapped in jobs they hate could escape them if they took that same approach. Of course being out of debt is a necessity.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, wealth is a term that is usually equated with money but I say it’s more that just money. It is nice to have enough money to keep the bills paid. I’ve been in situations where that was not the case and it isn’t comforting or peaceful. In my case I have great wealth in relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. Wealth to me can mean having just enough to be satisfied but not so much as to get into trouble. I feel wealthy just to be in good health. Spreading the wealth can be done monetarily but more times than not it’s about time and a listening ear. I am far from being considered to have wealth but contentment doesn’t come from having more money. You and Cherie have touched on something far greater than being able to spend money.

    Have a great “What’s it for” day.

    I’m off the grid for a couple days to attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas.

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    • Bill says:

      Have a great time at the fair Dave! I’ve never made it to one of those but still hope to go someday. Hope you soak up lots of wisdom–and have some fun. 🙂

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  11. shoreacres says:

    You know, the irony is that most people commenting here are well-to-do. Not eating out by choice is quite different from not being able to eat. It’s worth pondering.

    And by the way — I caught the title reference. At least, I think I did. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      All of us are rich. But many of us are led by culture to believe we aren’t. Like you, I’ve seen poverty up close. Most of us have no idea.

      I’m a proponent of work. I think it’s good for us and an essential part of what it means to be human. As we are able, we should work for the things we need, for pleasure, for self-fulfillment and to help others. But I know that lots of us in our affluent society are working for things we think we need, but really don’t. And sometimes they truly are things we need (like food, child care, education, etc.) but the job we’re working to get the money to buy them is actually creating the expense, rather than relieving it. It’s an easy trap in which to get caught.

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  12. Dear Bill,
    How refreshing to read here about kindred spirits.
    We too live off one pension, with 3 adults, for 32 years my husband pays his ex-wife.
    But we are happy and if you can be content and cook your own meals, mend your own clothes etc. you got more than the biggest part of the world’s citizens. We’ve seen real poverty during our years as international consultants. That teaches you about the real essence of life.
    One of the pursers of Royal Dutch Airlines once said it so well: ‘We only have a prosperity problem in the Western World!’
    Have a great weekend.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Mariette. Contentment, I think, is the key. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of never being content, never feeling secure enough, always wanting a little more, etc. That kind of discontent drives our economic engine. It’s a journey for us and we’re still on it, but what we’re trying to do is step away from that and find contentment. We still have to work and earn incomes, and I think that’s a good thing, but we’re finding that we don’t need as much as we once thought we did and that we therefore have more economic freedom that most. Our motto has the acronym GEEP: grow our own food, educate the public, enjoy life, pay our bills. We no longer are striving for anything beyond that. By the way, it took us a LONG time to figure this out and implement it in our lives. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. EllaDee says:

    Riches are deceptive. It became apparent from a recent conversation that we have family members who think we are far wealthier than we are, and who also think they are far poorer than they actually are. The difference is we don’t want the Things they do. All the things they want but can’t afford make them feel poor. What we value you can’t buy from a store nor is it quantifiable in dollar-wealth terms.
    We’re not rats either 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      This is very well put Ella and that’s been our experience too. A wise person once said, “The wealthiest person is not the one with the most possessions, but the one with the fewest needs.”

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  14. Sh, Bill. You don’t want to whisper that too loud. America’s capitalists and advertising firms will be coming after you for being unAmerican and possibly just a little pink.:) –Curt

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