the agony of $5.21

Every Tuesday evening, I have “office” hours at a local coffee shop from 5:30-7:30. I also have an appointment with my therapist (every pastor needs one, y’all – caregivers need caregiving) every other Tuesday from 3-4. Both are on the opposite side of town from my house, so I usually fill that hour with a labyrinth walk (at an Episcopal church around the corner from the therapist’s office) and a quick dinner somewhere. Then, I usually grab coffee and dessert at office hours, because they make pie. Delicious, delectable pie.

This was not a therapy week, so I had time to cook dinner before heading to office hours. And dinner – Red Lentil Curry from the Simply In Season cookbook – was a HIT. Spicy, full of veggies and protein, and super easy to make. I downed a bowl before heading out the door.

I’d debated whether or not to buy anything at the coffee shop, since it’s clearly outside the SNAP budget parameters, but I LIKE those guys (Bean Traders Coffee). I like that my office hours support their local business that pays a living wage and has pointedly gender-neutral bathrooms in the heart of a state still arguing about HB2.

So, I decided to go with my regular routine and add the cost to my CROP donation. Coffee and a coconut brownie ran me $5.21.


That’s more than an entire day’s food budget, for completely unnecessary sugar, fat and caffeine.

And I do that every week, y’all.

This is the divide I come up against every time I begin to think seriously about how I eat: is it nourishing my body or is it nourishing my relationships?

It’s an unfair question, of course. Food can nourish bodies and relationships – I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about it. In church, we take communion and practice the Love Feast because we know, deep down, that eating together creates stronger bonds and deeper intimacies.

That $5.21 contributed to my pastoral availability. That weekly expense allows me to be out in the community, available to my people in a casual, non-threatening kind of way. I have had intense conversations at coffee hours – conversations of joy and grief and spirituality, discussions about hopes and dreams for our congregation, stories of spiritual wounds and tales of redemption have been shared there.

And, of course, that $5 every week also keeps people employed in good, living-wage jobs in a good, fair employment situation.

But $5 could have bought 5 dozen eggs or 2.5 giant canisters of oats or 6 cans of black beans. That’s so much protein – a thing which I am sorely missing this week!

It’s a middle class privilege to do this kind of agonizing over $5. And it’s a middle class privilege not to have to do it every week. I have never thought about those $5 before now, the value of what they buy, whether or not they could be put to better use. But I promise you, next week’s $5 expenditure will feel different.

The oatmeal game is slowly improving. Yesterday was cocoa oats and banana bread for breakfast, disgusting .99/dozen Aldi scrambled eggs (Seriously, they were AWFUL. Farmer’s market eggs from now on.) and toast for lunch, aforementioned lentil curry for dinner and a couple of cheater snacks in between.

I am missing meat. I am missing protein.


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