Thrift is the new Black

It seems in the past few months every where we turn, we are hearing about how ordinary Americans are looking to save money, and basically live a frugal and even sustainable lifestyle. Its clear that as the US and even world economies continue to tank that folks are looking to cut back either by force such as a decrease in income or just the realization that constant consumption is no longer the in thing.

In fact with the announcement that First Lady Michelle Obama is using part of the White House lawns to start a garden, I suspect that one of this season’s hottest new hobbies will be gardening. Yep, no longer will folks be coveting the latest pair of Jimmy Choos or some other high end item, instead folks will be talking about the latest heirloom tomato they are growing. Ok, that might be a tad much but seriously, I do see things such as gardening becoming quite popular.

Already in my little town it seems there is talk of establishing a community garden, which I must admit I am excited about. I don’t have much usable land that gets sunlight so the idea of a plot of land to garden in is actually making me excited.

I must say that I am glad to see Michelle Obama taking up the issue of healthy food, I suspect as a native of Chicago’s south-side she is quite familiar with the lack of access to healthy foods that many poor folks and folks of color have to live with….in my Grandma’s old neighborhood which was on the south-side of Chicago, you could find whatever type of alcoholic beverage you wanted to quench your thirst and take away your sorrows. However finding the fixings to make a tossed green salad that was not made of iceberg lettuce was comparable to getting the winning numbers of the lottery. Hard as hell to do.

While organic foods have been in style for a while, fact is that for a large segment of the US population, organics are no more acessible than a lobster dinner to most folks, so seeing Michelle’s face along with area DC school children in the dirt looking to plant food is a good thing.

It seems as a culture we need role models to guide our process. Anyway for those of us who practice being thrifty and already had plans to grow some food, we are trendy. Let’s just hope that like Starbucks took over our lives for years that this quest to live simply catches on like a $4 latte.

Get ready….the world is ending or is it?

By now just about everyone in this country is either feeling the impact of the economic downturn or knows someone  who is intimately acquainted with the current financial woes that are gripping the nation. It seems even the rich are starting to scale back, even if its just cutting back on the number of designer duds that buy on a regular basis as evidenced by the fact that in places like New York, even the swank stores are having sales.

Now lets be honest for a second, the past decade or so in this nation, the quest to consume had become not only the national past time but the national religion. Feeling bored, hop in the car and head to the mall….feeling down, well go shop, better yet having a great day, time to shop. You get the picture, for a while there everyone was shopping, shit for some of those years even yours truly listed shopping as a hobby. Well the church of consumption is suffering from a lack of members as folks have realized maybe the central message of shop till you drop is really a bad idea.

That said, as many of us look for ways to downsize our lives and live within our means most of us are looking for meaningful activities, activities that won’t leave our pocketbooks empty and leave us with useless crap.

On the flip side though is the growing number of folks who are wondering if the end times are coming and are starting to get ready. A few months ago I started to stumble across the blogs of folks who were looking to get off the grid and become self sufficient. I admit initially I had a few laughs, after all who would willing give up their wash machine to start start hand-washing the family laundry on a scrub board in the bathtub? Turns out quite a few folks…yep there is a growing number of folks who are getting ready to live a Little House on the Prairie existence.

I must admit there are times I wonder if I should be making such preparations, but while I think everyone should have some extra food on hand and maybe even some cash laying around. After all natural disasters do happen and I have learned in my 7 years in Maine where a winter storm can shut everything down, it pays to be prepared. I do think we can take things too far though.

Case in point, I saw this list of  skills someone suggested everyone should have to prepare for the coming rough times, Soap making.
Wood chopping.
Candle making.
Canning and preserving.
Butchering animals.
Cooking/Baking on a wood stove.
Tanning skins

Now I don’t know about you, but should the world as we know it go to hell in a hand basket ASAP, my ass is going to be shit the fuck out of luck. Both the spousal unit and I are not handy folks, I mean my man is a writer for crying out loud and I am a non-profit administrator, neither of which are professions that might serve us well in a Little House on the Prairie scenario.

Then it hit me should the world end as we know it, there are plenty of urban folks and Black urban dwellers both of which I have been who wouldn’t know the first thing about any of this shit. Even my Pops who grew up in rural Arkansas but has been a big city man almost 40 years now probably wouldn’t know the first thing about butchering any animals. As I joked with the spousal unit, should the end come, then this woman would probably become a stone vegetarian if I had to go kill a animal and then figure out how to turn Bambi into a burger. No, it would be easier to scout out weeds and eat em, of course with the chemicals that have been put on most lawns including my own, I would probably die.

Which brings to the next point, if you are stockpiling a year’s worth of food (yes, I know folks who are doing this) what the fuck happens when the grub is gone. Ideally you would be growing some grub during that time but if you are like me, you might have a black thumb. Or better yet, if the neighbors see you eating hardy, whose to stop them from coming over and ganking your shit?

Nah, while I want to be prepared for the worse I think we can take this too far, look if all systems fail and food is scarce and life reverts to some 1800’s scene, it might be around that time I start praying to get beamed the fuck out of this life and onto the next.

Downsizing and living a simpler life, these are things I am down for but fanstastic end world visions, no….

That said, it is a great time to look into gardening if you have the space or in my case buying into a CSA and eating food grown close to home. For starters fresh local food is better for you and the environment. Really lettuce trucked thousands of miles taste like shit, I know because ever since I started eating locally a few years ago, I hate buying meat and veggies from the chain store and only do it during the winter time since not much grows in Maine during the winter. I may save some of my local veggies this year for the winter but I doubt I will have more than my normal month or so of groceries in my freezers and pantry.

So are you ready for the end of the world?

Broke? Its the new trend

This morning as I do every morning, I woke up listening to NPR’s Marketplace. They had a guy talking about his financial life, seems 6-7 years ago, this chap was living the good life in Manhattan, earning six figures in the tech industry and basically no financial woes. Now this fellow lives in the Catskills, earns barely enough to get by, has no health insurance but in some ways is happier than he’s ever been. It appears he calls his new and some might say not improved lifestyle, living a sustainable life.

See, he gardens, composts, and is a vegetarian. I must admit I had a good chuckle while listening to this piece. Shit, it was only about 8 years ago that the spousal unit and I were in Chicago earning good money ourselves, with full coverage insurance and pretty much no financial woes. Only thing is as my life style has taken a detour, I am not calling it living a sustainable life but living a financially insecure life or as my folks used to say…I’s broke.

I love how folks like to dress shit up especially white folks, see as a working class Black woman, being broke is the way I was raised, we didn’t need fancy words to accept our condition. Yet it seems some folks do, heck today I was at the kids consignment shop and ran into a woman I know who isn’t the kind of person I would expect to see there. However times is tough so we are all looking for bargain, she looked a tad embarrassed to see me, as if I would judge her for buying her kids used shit. I see a lot of that same behavior at the local Goodwill which now on Saturdays is packed full of folks who are more used to dropping off at the Goodwill rather than shopping there.

Folks, its all good, you are not alone. Truth is many of are broke as shit these days, hell I just got off the phone with my daughter’s doctor who confessed he doesn’t have health insurance and is running tight these days. Damn, you know we are fucked when the doctor doesn’t even have health insurance. At least he can treat his own kid unlike us average folks who need his services. Of course as more of us are without insurance we can’t afford to see the doctor.

Nope, I am convinced that this season’s new fad is brokeness, all the hip and not so hip kids are participating. Yeah, you may say you are living a sustainable life but some of ya’ll are just faking the funk…as for me, I am embracing the moment.