What I really need is a vacation.

Yesterday, I was going through what seems to be a monthly ritual of feeling like I need to buy more food.

(It usually coincidentally falls around pay day, when I work through my already set monthly budget.)

After making sure my debit orders (for insurance and retirement investments) were correct, I transferred the rest of my planned savings, thought about my other recurring expenses and services, then made sure I had enough left for my biggest “day to day” expense: groceries.

This automatically had me thinking that I needed to go grocery shopping.

Mistake #1. Having money available doesn’t mean I need to spend it.

The problem is that, because I cook most of my meals, I often use an ingredient and think, “Oh, I’m going to need to replace this.” Then I start convincing myself that I have run out of food because of all these little “replace me!” triggers. This time, as I was thinking through my budget while defrosting some leftover lentil soup, I held up my almost finished bottle of olive oil and thought, “Oh, I’m going to need to…wait a minute.” Mistake #2!

You see, I realised at that moment that although I was almost out of olive oil, I still had a half a tub of coconut oil sitting in the cupboard. It was oil that I used for various functions, sure, but there was more than enough of that left that I wouldn’t need to buy oil for a while. Why is this relevant?


I know that it takes me one trigger (“I’m out of olive oil! I need to buy olive oil!) to go grocery shopping. This is because that trigger is usually something I use often, and then I decide that if I’m going to go to the shop to buy that I might as well write a list to make the trip efficient. Then I suddenly feel like I need a whole list worth of stuff! Then I end up in the store and…”Oh! I forgot that I need this thing too! Good thing I saw it!” It’s just a downward hedonic hill from here.

Once I realised this quirk in my psychology, I resolved to make a different list. I got up, went to the kitchen, and listed the food I have. This list was both eye-opening and embarrassing. Here’s just a teaser of what my list revealed:

  1. Avocadoooooes (the multiple oooooooo’s represent that I had at least five really ripe avocados from when I’d bought a bargain pack!)
  2. Bread (a loaf and a bit)
  3. Peanut butter (TWO JARS! This was the result of thinking I needed some at the store but never having checked what I needed! Fail.) and, of course, jam
  4. Stuff for hot chocolate (cocoa, sugar, ginger and cinammon, mmm…)
  5. An unopened pack of plain wraps
  6. OATS
  7. Pasta (spaghetti), rice, couscous
  8. Cook-in-sauce (which I sometimes turn into a pasta sauce)
  9. Snacks galore: cookies, peanuts, snack mix (toasted peanuts, cornflakes, fried dough strips, fried peas, chili powder…it’s a popular Indian snack mix that I’ve never known the name of), yoghurt, chocolate spread (a jar that’s been sitting in my cupboard since I bought it under the impression that I’d be getting a cheaper nutella…disappointingly, it tastes nothing like nutella)
  10. Frozen fruit (some frozen berries, frozen grapes, frozen papaya)
  11. Kumquats (bought on a friend’s recommendation since I’d never heard of such a thing)
  12. Frozen veggies (a grill pack, frozen butternut, frozen sweet potato, frozen mushrooms)
  13. Potatoes (admittedly only a single meal’s worth)
  14. Pantry staples (flour, spices, the oils)
  15. Feta blocks
  16. A random can of condensed milk
  17. A random tub of frozen milk
  18. A random can of barlotti beans (my bean stash is sadly quite low)
  19. Dried lentils
  20. Two small containers of frozen leftover lentil soup

Believe it or not, there’s more that’s not on this list.

Disgusting, isn’t it? A house full of food and I nearly went grocery shopping for more.

Why do I write this? Because I think money management holds a lot of powerful object lessons and principles. For one thing, contentment is a huge factor. Contentment isn’t settling or deprivation; contentment is actively deciding that instead of focussing on where one lacks, one actively takes stock of what one has. Before I made my list, I convinced myself that I didn’t have what I needed, and I was ready to use money and my precious time to solve this. If I’d tried to hold back from buying anything, I would have felt deprived and miserly, and it would have been just a different way of making myself miserable. Instead, I put in the effort to figure out what the truth was. Was I truly lacking the things I needed, or did I just need to actively search so that I could remind myself? As it turns out, not only am I not lacking, I have more than I need. I am drowning in abundance and need to start putting in some deliberate work to enjoy all the options that I have at my disposal.

I feel this way about many other things in life other than food. I was feeling really down about how far I am from all my creative soulmates last month, to the extent that I was not fully enjoying the fact that I was thriving in the professional aspects of my life and falling into a would-be speciality. Then, I started being more mindful about all the ways in which I was still surrounded by a bounty of music. An old friend who loves 90’s jams as passionately as  I do, so we are always blaring them in her car and screaming at the top of our lungs. A new colleague/friend that has an incredible voice and has expressed a genuine interest in writing together when she gets back from leave. A daily taxi commute (which has come to a bittersweet end now that I am switching to a different department) where the taxi drivers’ tastes range from car-thumping, seat-shaking bass (ugh) to ear tickling slow jams (yaaassss) and each gear change and speed increase is a semitone in the scale. A daily walk (which, sadly, will also be a thing of the past) where the traffic was so loud that I could sing at the top of my lungs and not bother a single soul for twenty to thirty minutes a day. Music everywhere, and it took looking for it for me to see it.

There are so many things that I know I need. But it’s clear to me now that what I truly need is to realise what I have. If I’m still lacking after that, then sure, I can take active steps to fill the deficit. But if I’m not mindful about it, it’ll just be like adding a duplicate jar of peanut butter to the shelf where an unopened jar already sits.


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