Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Baking Trend

Lately, with Wall Street doing its thing, I seem to be baking more. Not as a comfort measure, like I usually do, although who can complain about the smell of pumpkin bread wafting through the house on a cool October day, but as a calculated way to save money on store-bought cookies.

I admit, this could be less about Wall Street and more because somehow I inadvertently scheduled the family’s dentist appointments all within a two-week period and our entire discretionary income this month has gone straight to our dentist (we don’t have dental insurance). Also the four stitches I got that Sunday at the walk-in clinic, whose bill somehow came due at the same time (yes, we have health insurance but we still manage to pay an inordinate amount out of pocket).

But even though I won’t be writing checks to the dentist next month, I feel a shift in myself, a new way of looking at the cost of living, as, every morning, I read the news about the Wall Street debacle yet again and the Dow bouncing around and references to 1931 and such. Although we haven’t been personally affected on a daily level in our house (we have yet to read our stock statements), the shift I feel is this: the urge to cut back on optional spending, hunker down, protect what we have, live well within our means, make do. Right now I’m thankful we don’t have more house than we can afford, though as recently as last summer I was known to complain there’s nowhere for the kids to go play except their rooms. Right now, having a room feels like plenty.

When I was a kid, my family lived on much less than we do now. My parents were experts at living on not very much, and one of the ways they saved money was on processed, packaged food. In other words, we didn’t have it around. We had to make stuff from scratch. Hence, my new habit of baking, which is actually an old habit I took up at the age of 7 so we would have tasty treats in our house. (No, not really—my mom baked a great rhubarb cake. I think I took it up because I loved doing it, but having lemon bars around was fun, too.)

Not that I don’t bake now, but I’ve gotten lazy with those endless school lunches. But now with the economy such as it is, baking feels like something I should be doing as a matter of course, not as something fun on a rainy afternoon. Bypass all those processed products, right? Cook from scratch for your health. And I do mostly, but I’m still a sucker for convenience, because, well, it’s just so easy when you’re in a jam, and it’s fun—my kids think so, anyway—and I like the option of buying these things even I choose not to, and I especially love, I’ll just say it, Costco. Being frugal all the time is just kind of painful.

But there’s that shift thing I keep feeling, and all those checks I’ve already written. So yesterday, when I was grocery shopping (not at Costco), I consciously stuck to my list—no impulse buys at all—and also bypassed those packaged things that I’ve been known to put in my kids’ lunches like fruit cups, individual fruit leathers, granola bars, and the like. And what you know, that grocery bill was small, about half of what it usually is. Less than I expected, even. Wow. Gotta like it.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still run into me at Costco, probably next week after payday. And I don’t plan to start baking bread anytime soon. If I start baking bread, you’ll know the economy is truly in the toilet. But that careful shopping thing is still with me…

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