Monday, November 22, 2010

Rice and Beans, Beans and Rice

We're on the rice-and-beans diet.

We started last Monday by eating evening meals of rice and beans, but still eating whatever else we wanted during the day. Of course, we also eat fruit and vegetables. This week we have further restricted our diet by eliminating store-bought bread and bagels. So anything we eat that is baked is now homemade. This is not that hard, since I make bread already and the girls are happy to eat homemade muffins, cookies and treats.

We aren't starving, that's for sure. So far we've eaten lentil soup, vegetable curry with chick peas, kidney bean stew, tacos with refried beans and black-eyed peas sauted with onions and green peas. Only once have we eaten a meal of plain rice mixed with plain kidney beans and frankly it was pretty good too.

I'm not sure where I first heard about the rice and beans diet. It might have been in Natural Life Magazine or on someone else's blog or maybe on Oprah a long time ago. When I tried to find out more about it (try to Google 'rice and beans challenge') I discovered that there is an American financial advisor with a radio program who tells people to save money by eating rice and beans and then use the extra money to pay off their credit cards. Good advice, I guess.

But we aren't on the rice and beans diet to save money, although we'd be delighted if that happens! We're on the diet to teach ourselves to live more mindfully. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to live a purposeful life. Or a meaningful life. I constantly flip back and forth between wishing we had $1000 more every month and feeling guilty for how affluent we are. On Sunday night we watched a documentary made by Prince Charles about the environment and in it he states that 1/2 the entire population of the world lives in poverty.


That is startling. And here we are eating like gluttons and spending like crazy and wishing we had $1000 more every month so that we could buy a bigger vehicle and save more for retirement. And I think of the little girl I read about who received a meal from a humanitarian aid worker and commented "Thankyou. Life is better with food." No kidding.

So we are eating rice and beans from now until Christmas Eve to make ourselves mindful of how wealthy we are. And we're giving ourselves until the New Year to figure out how to trim our spending and come up with as much as $500/month in savings. I think we can do it. We can spend less on groceries by eating no meat or sugar. We can cut $60/month off our Rogers bill by cutting back to basic cable. We can start unplugging everything at night to save on hydro. (We already keep our furnace set to 67F, so I don't think we can trim that any further.) We can stop indulging the kids with new books and toys on a regular basis.

The idea is to live richer with less stuff. And on a grander scale, the idea is to figure out what we value and what our values are. I don't want to set rules for my family; I want to live my values and help my children figure out and live theirs.

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