Last night's meal was salad, a small loaf of bread I'd bought on the markdown rack at the grocery and stored in the freezer, and homemade Great Northern beans and ham soup—the ham from the bone which had graced my brother Mark's Christmas spread and then made its way to our soup pot.
Estimated total cost? Maybe $2.50. Possibly less, but maybe not. There were, after all, five olives (on my salad only) from the olive bar at the grocery, and that's an indulgence.
The point is, it was cheap. Wonderfully filling and delicious, but cheap.
I am headed back to Rochester, Minnesota in under two weeks. I'll have a day of testing at the Mayo Clinic, then labs and my oncology appointment the next day. I am reacting to this upcoming visit the way I normally react to my Mayo visits: by hunkering down financially. For me, that means scaling back on our already intentionally lean grocery spending. In a typical month, we spend around $200 on groceries and household items; this month we are closer to $100. It also means reading or rereading books about frugality (think The Tightwad Gazette) or memoirs about hard economic times. My book this weekend is Made For You and Me, Caitlin Shetterly's account of her husband and her losing their financial way in the Great Recession of 2008.
And if I am feeling really anxious, I'll pull The Long Winter off the shelf and read the chapter where Laura braces herself and asks Ma if they are going to starve.
I'm not exactly sure why going to Mayo makes me feel the wolf is at our door, trying to thrust his great shaggy head into our home. I have excellent medical insurance which covers Mayo. We can afford the gas to get there and back and the lodging and meals while there. Our car is reliable. My bank account, while not plump, is stable. Compared to many of the people I come into contact with through my job and the Legal Clinic, I am financially secure.
So why the wolf? Why the stress?
I think the wolf appears because I don't want to think of who more appropriately is hanging around the front door. That would be Death, who I have come to personalize in my poetry. Death has a persona when I write about him, somewhat of a callous trickster, a Coyote without the grin. Unlike the wolf at the door, which I can shoo away by throwing rocks at, Death is inviting himself in for tea.
So, I am off to Mayo and feeling frugal. But don't worry: we're eating well. And yesterday afternoon, I tried out a new lemon bar recipe with a thick, rich curd calling for not only butter but also olive oil. We had the aforementioned delicious meal, an evening of plumbing work (Warren) and writing letters (me), and then sat down with the inaugural slices of the dessert.
We savored every sweet, tangy bite. And the wolf slunk off, gnashing his teeth.