What Food Storage Taught Me about Faith

What Food Storage Taught Me about Faith March 13, 2015

My guilty pleasure is not The Bachelor, Fifty Shades of Gray, or the Kardashians. No, when I wake up on a quiet Saturday morning and find myself with free hours stretching ahead, I settle down into our comfy red recliner and scroll through the blogs of extremely frugal housewives. My guilty pleasure is The Prudent Homemaker. The Prudent Homemaker, Brandy, lives in Nevada with her husband and seven children. She has been blogging since 2012 about eating on the tiniest budget you can possibly imagine—at one point, it was 40 cents a day for her entire family. Her current grocery budget is $300 per

up close photo of bright red strawberries
Strawberries c/o Tallapragada

month (which includes toiletries).  It used to be $25. ?!?!? Yesterday, I spent $109 on groceries without batting an eye. I was just restocking for the next week or so. I had to make dinner. Plus frozen fruit was on sale and I’ve started craving almonds with weird flavorings… How does Brandy do it? Here’s a list of things she doesn’t buy, for starters. She grows tons of vegetables, herbs, and fruit in her massive and beautiful garden. She collects the water from her shower to feed her garden. She waits until turkeys goes on sale for less than $2 a pound, then buys as many as she can and freezes them. She typically only buys toiletries if they are on sale and she has a coupon. She shops ads beforehand and runs all of her grocery errands at once to save gas. She swaps food with neighbors and family. She buys birthday presents at garage sales, or makes them herself (she is a beautiful sewer and embroiderer. I am envious of the gifts she made her daughter for her birthday this year). Why does Brandy do this? Of course, Brandy does this because she has to: Her husband is a real estate broker and the economic downturn forced the family to cut waaaay back in 2007. Brandy cooked almost all of the family’s meals from their food storage for two years. Her post about living on food storage is what caught my eye (though I have no idea how I came across it in the first place. Pinterest?). But beyond circumstance, Brandy’s choices also led her to lead an incredibly frugal life. She is a homeschooling mother of nine, supported by

five bulk containers of flour and other dry goods
Bulk food, c/o Tim Patterson

her husband’s unstable salary. She is also a graduate of BYU, a Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS, or Mormon) university. Though Brandy doesn’t write much about her faith,her beliefs have certainly contributed to her circumstances. She is committed to sustaining herself and her family through hard work and sacrifice; the LDS spirit animal is a worker bee. She spends her time teaching other women, going to church, and raising her children—all encouraged roles for women in this church. And though the LDS is fine with birth control, they are certainly big on family. I am addicted to reading about Brandy’s life in part because it is so different from mine. Of course, that is mainly because I have been blessed to find a good part-time job and marry a person who has a great full-time job. But the differences between Brandy and I are not merely socioeconomic; they also stem from our life choices.  Brandy has seven children; I have none. Brandy homeschools; I intend to send my future children to public school and work full-time when they are grown. I’m not passing judgment. I’m just musing on how our decisions lead to massively different lives. Frankly, I’m in awe of Brandy’s ability to survive one day as a mother of seven without leaving the house (which, on most days, she doesn’t). I cannot imagine making the daily sacrifices that she has to in order to keep her home and feed her family. And I really can’t imagine being happy about the situation. Yet Brandy’s life is full of beautiful things like embroidery, flowers, and homemade jam; the tagline of her blog is “Making life beautiful for less.” Brandy’s blog is full of descriptions of cutting corners, but the plethora of handmade gifts, embroidered table linens, and dried herbs that

a photo of a small cabin in a field with a red sign in front explaining Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie replica, c/o David Hepworth

come up in weekly photos make it seem like an abundant life. It shifts the discussion from panic at potential poverty to “making do” in the best sense of the phrase. It evokes the Ingalls family did it in Little House on the Prairie: a life full of hardship, but also full of family, happy times, and satisfaction. As an environmentally-minded person, I could learn a lot from Brandy.  Her budget-saving tactics like saving up errands for one trip, cooking with a solar oven, and using air conditioning as little as possible are also good for the environment. I should start saving the water I use to heat up the shower for watering my plants. We all should stop running errands inefficiently. And air conditioning in places like Seattle should be a crime; surely we can suck it up for the four above-90 days of the year we get. For me, the byproduct of a green life would be a lower utilities bill. For Brandy, the byproduct of a lower utilities bill is a smaller impact on the environment. We have complementary viewpoints—and yet, the actions required to achieve each goal are the same. Because of her commitment to her budget, Brandy’s faith seems to be deeper than mine. When I read about Brandy’s cooking a chicken in a solar oven, I think, “Oh, that’s something I could possibly do.” And then I forget about it. My commitment to having a minimal impact on the environment stretches only far enough to limit my family to one car. One car for two people and a cat is a far cry from watering your plants with lukewarm shower water. Brandy’s blog is focused on teaching others–many of her commenters also post tips on how to save money. I’m happy to fall in with her audience–and not so secretly, I suppose, anymore.

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