After making it through our 30-day Local Food challenge, and deciding to make it a bit more permanent (but also a little more flexible), I’ve decided that I really like the simplicity of buying only a short list of food items each week and eating simple, somewhat repetitive meals. Granted, when the subject of furlough came up in a recent conversation, we suddenly began discussing all the favorite eateries we might like to visit if we ever went back to America. Yeah…moments of weakness, but I digress.
I’m still pretty surprised that we seem to be doing so well on plus-or-minus 12 grocery items per week. What I think of as our “dirty dozen” includes staples from our grain storage: maize, beans, and rice, as well as items we can easily buy at the local shops: baking powder, salt, eggs, and milk. We go to the market once a week for the remainder: tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, and cabbage. We’ve ended up making somewhat permanent exceptions for the following items, which we pick up in Kitale: a few seasonings (Italian seasoning, chili powder and cinnamon); Ghee or margarine; quality vegetable shortening (the locals call it “cooking fat,” and though we can buy it at the our neighborhood shops, it’s a bright yellow, sub-standard variety and I just can’t bring myself to use it unless I absolutely have to); and cocoa (for our morning hot chocolate, which is one of the few ways we get milk into our diet on a daily basis…we have to boil it but then can’t refrigerate). We’ve gotten a little more flexible after the 30-day challenge and also occasionally have spaghetti…and pizza was a must-have for Hannah’s recent birthday celebration. I’m also trying to get fruit once per week at the market, since the avocadoes and bananas that had been coming to our door somewhat regularly have now been out-of-season for a while.
Along with wanting to eat more locally/more inexpensively/more simply, we’ve also (within the past couple of months) eliminated beef and store-bought chicken from our diet. This was a decision made in light of Biblical teachings because of the culture we find ourselves in. We either slaughter a chicken or buy pork from the local butchery once a week, and recently we found a good source for mutton that we’ll probably have now and then.
Our “dirty dozen” shopping list and the resulting simplified food menus have been good for our food budget but more than that, beneficial in reminding us that what we were once used to in terms of meals are certainly not “normal” to the vast majority of the rest of the world. It has also been a very helpful spiritual discipline in terms of conquering the flesh. We want to continue to challenge ourselves to be increasingly less indulgent in terms of food so that we will not find ourselves slaves to our stomachs. Throughout this process of streamlining, I have found myself thinking often of Finny Kuruvilla’s words in King Jesus Claims His Church (p. 205):
The world and the media exert considerable force on our minds. Unless we are consciously resisting its pull, we will be prey. The world promotes stimulation and thrill-seeking through the palate. The world chases after a new delicacy and flavor with nearly every meal, fostering the lust of the flesh. Thus while all foods are clean and to be received with thanksgiving (Mark 7:19; 1 Tim. 4:4), believers should be content to eat simple and repetitive meals. This battle is more easily won if addressed early; one’s tastes are developed in childhood. Insofar as possible, parents should provide simple, nutritious meals that emphasize vegetables, legumes, and while grains, rather than fats, meats, and sweets. Restaurant patronage should be minimized to teach children contentment with simple home cooking. Few people think of these disciplines as connected to spiritual victory, but they surely are.
…The connections between food, self-discipline, and spiritual power are profound.
They are profound, indeed…
4 thoughts on ““Dirty Dozen” shopping list”
Thanks for this challenging post. I have just recently found your blog. I was really challenged by your excerpt by Finny Kuruvilla. Very challenged to keep my meals more simple and my husband is also agreed. We spent about 4.5 years in Liberia, West Africa. We have also been to Kenya to visit some friends that were there in mission work. God bless you as you continue to serve Him there.
Thanks for the encouragement, Hannah, and so glad that God is challenging you as He has us! Praying for you as you press on living for His Kingdom and His glory!
I was very interested and excited when I found your website. My husband and I, along with our four children have lived in Tanzania (south western) for the past eight years. We live in a village about 6 hours from town and in reading your blog posts can relate to everything from the challenges of accomplishing a proper home school to a limited diet. It is very encouraging to read of others who are taking on the challenge of village ministry and doing it with such vibrancy! I also went thru a stage of trying to do “everything”….the medical needs that came to the door, the visitors, homeschooling, scrubbing my own laundry, having babies, carrying water from the river etc. I was passionate about identifying with my village friends and living life as they do and in the process showing them who Jesus is. It is a good thing. And I am still passionate about ministry in our village….but I had to let go of taking so much on my own shoulders. I hired a laundry lady, village children haul my water, other missionaries came to take on the medical work….and I turned my attention on to my house and children, which is my first calling. When my health broke we also had a young girl from the states come in to teach our two boys and we were blessed to find two single girls who felt called to women’s ministry. With living right in a village I still had a lot of interaction with people in the course of a normal day, which I was very thankful for.
It took a lot of letting go….my dreams were to do everything! But I realize that my children were the most important and my first calling. The village ladies neglect their children in order to keep thier households going….and I can’t live like them to the extent that the same happens to me.
We lived on a very basic diet….much like you describe yours to be. We lived for weeks at a time without eggs and milk and sometimes meat. It is a lovely simple way to live! Our children are so unspoiled. It doesn’t take anything to delight them. But after I lost my good health and started with severe adrenal problems we realized that we need to put more priority on a balanced diet…. keeping milk and eggs and meat on hand all the time. It takes so much wisdom to live in the obvious disparity between our village people and our rich american culture….
This year we are “home” in the states trying to get my health back to where it used to be. It was a hard decision to make, but we are trusting God and longing with all of our hearts to be back home in our village with the people we love!
We were also encouraged and blessed by your simple dress and head coverings. We are also passionate about being radical kingdom christians. God bless you and your family abundantly and keeping writing! Maybe some day we can meet each other and encourage each other as only fellow missionaries can. =)
in christ’s love,
I see you submitted comment some time ago and, sorry, I am just getting around to approving it. 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I am always so encouraged by others’ experiences and it’s good to know that some of us are going through similar struggles and growth experiences. Praying for you as you transition back to the states!