Chapter 11 – Noble Sacrifice


In the same way “You look good!” from a friend boosts your flagging willpower so you stay on that diet, the support I’ve gotten for vowing not to shop this year has kept me on the straight and narrow. Mostly.

Weak moments happen. I was at the dollar store picking up poster board for a friend when, without thinking, I tossed a handful of file labels and sticky notes in my shopping basket. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed me violating my practically-no-purchases parole. I felt like a Level 3 sticker offender. Stationery porn gets me every time.


Okay, I admit it: I didn’t put it all back.

I bought something.

One. Thing.

Just. One. Thing.

Red-bordered labels with two lines inside so I could categorize items I keep in boxes. Yup, that’s a thing, me putting junk in boxes and slapping on a label. As if organizing your junk makes it more valuable and less…junky.

Totally worth it for 47 labels — barely two cents apiece!

I rationalized that I didn’t have something EXACTLY like it at home — that I had been making do a long time, tracing red Sharpie along the edge of standard file folder labels because I saw Martha Stewart organize neat boxes with red-bordered labels in her impeccable home office. (As if red labels would help me corral my bazillion boxes. We all have our private, hopeless fantasies.)

But back to the support of others, not my feeble almost-accomplishments.


Last night I had an event at a writing studio that I oversee. People come, pay good money, they write and I pocket the cash and give them four prompts in return. (Everybody seems happy, so I’m not telling them they’re getting the raw end of the deal.)

There’s some chitchat in between writing, and last night there was a lot of sharing and support — for me and my cutting-back initiative.

A friend told me about her shopping trip to Target that morning. She picked an item off the shelf and was about to put it in her shopping cart, then thought of me and put it back.

And just like that, the economy tanks again.


Another friend mentioned that he’s not buying food until he and his wife eat what’s in the freezer.

This impressed me. Partly because he must keep better stock of his frozen inventory than me. My items are so old the Sharpie marker ID-ing the contents of the freezer bags has long worn off. And partly because I change my dietary habits so often that what I willingly ate last month I regard as poison today.

Just call me a MF — moody foodie.

Then a third friend read from her work at the end of the night and described her adventurous culinary explorations, trying new things she had previously avoided.


Well, that was inspiring. Both his story and her essay. Why not do both? I vowed to go home and practice my own adventurous culinary explorations in my freezer, trying very, very old things probably long past their expiration date that I had previously avoided.

The Hefty freezer bags full of rock-hard liquid (broth? sauce? an ostomy bag that accidentally fell in somehow?) left me cold, so I opted for something in store-bought packaging so I could at least know what I was consuming.

The oldest, most daring item I came up with was a loaf of Ezekiel Sprouted Bread. Probably left by my younger daughter who moved out four months ago. Probably purchased by her and stuck in the freezer a year before that.

The bag was open, there was no inside plastic wrapper, and the two end pieces were rock hard and (even frozen) had that ‘been in the freezer too long’ smell. They felt and looked like particle board. I was this close to pitching them in the garbage.

But then I thought about my two brave friends, and the third one who’d put her purchase away because of me, and I had to make the noble sacrifice.

I had to eat these sad freezer-burned carbs.


See, that was the saving grace of the situation. I have pretty much given up carbs since the end of last winter, and when I do eat them now, I enjoy them far more than is warranted.

When my younger daughter (she of the abandoned Ezekiel Bread) brought home some Christmas cookies a coworker gave her, she warned me away. “Mom, these taste like crap!” Yet I inhaled a misshapen reindeer slathered with frosting and groaned with happiness. She looked disgusted. “You don’t eat sugar so you don’t know any better!”

True, very true. The cookies tasted salty, the frosting tasted lardy. Lordy lordy.

If I was going to blow my carbs on some lousy freezer-petrified particle board bread, I might as well make the best of it.


I layered it with 27 folded rolls of deli ham and topped it with four slabs of old cheddar cheese, then for extra flavor I slathered on some dijon mustard, inspired by another friend who struggles to cook for herself and who puts mustard on everything, including stuff you don’t want to know about. She’s a vegan, so at least nothing died for her sins.

There was so much meat, cheese and mustard on my ‘sadwich’ that the taste of the bread was pretty much masked. I ate it with real enjoyment. I briefly contemplated doing a Facebook Live event and starting a new trend, the Eating-Unidentified-Foodstuffs-From-the-Freezer Challenge, but doubted any charity would have anything to do with me.


I wish this had a happier ending. The ‘sadwich’ has not sat well with me today, and I’ve decided that if I can’t shop, I need to eat some carbs. As of this writing, my husband is winging his way to Pizzeria Uno’s for a BOGO deep dish pizza deal so I can get the taste of that yech out of my mouth.

And notice the other nimble bit of trickery at work? It’s my husband who’s doing the spending. Not me.

Photo by Thomas Tucker on Unsplash

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