Saving for Someone Else’s Rainy Day

photo from Flood at yeahwrite.me

It’s almost always far more than any one person can handle, let alone a child. More than once, we’ve left plates half-full of pancakes and eggs and toast and fruit behind.  Have portions – especially child portions – always been so humongous? Near us, we go to The Nevada Diner for an easy, relatively cheap, breakfast. And when we travel, we always stop at “The Shiny Place” on Route 84 for lunch. We never manage to finish what we order, so it goes to waste. Plates of excess soaked in the guilt of privilege are bussed and tossed.  Yes, yes. We could doggy-bag it and eat it later. But really, we wouldn’t. Syrup tends to make pancakes soggy, and Moussaka doesn’t travel well in a car packed with the various long-weekend needs of a family with young children.

I have come up with a brilliant (if not entirely original) idea to attempt to balance a small part of the abundance inequity: I’m going to start a rainy day fund to donate to the Human Needs Food Pantry. I recently read this thoughtful post about being faced with great need in the face of more-than-plenty from Liz Gumbinner (@Mom101) on the same day I heard WNYC tell me where the most charitable giving areas were.  It got me thinking about giving from those of us not involved in religious institutions. And it got me thinking about how monetary donations to specific organizations can make a great difference in a Star Thrower kind of way. I’ve found the Human Needs Food Pantry to be well-run and its clients receive a wide variety of food and supplies, so it’s my choice for my rainy day fund.

So here’s what I plan on doing from now on: Every time we go out to eat or order a pizza or call up Sushi Koshi for some rolls, I’m going to put the same amount as that meal into a Virtual Cookie Jar. If I can afford to feed my family takeout instead of cooking from scratch, I can afford to donate the same amount to the local food pantry. I realize that not everyone is in the same position to give, but I also know that many people are.

I challenge all of us to at least look at the things on which we spend discretionary money (iPhones, cable, Baked Ziti with Meatballs, super-sized popcorn at the movies, frozen yogurt…) and consider doing the same.  Even if it just forces us all to realize how lucky we are to be able to spend a certain amount on unnecessary items, it will be worth it. Will you join my family for September? Try it for a week, just keep track. I’ll bet it’s illuminating, if not shocking.

I found a food related charity most appropriate, but here are a couple of other trustworthy organizations that will make good use of your rainy day charity fund:

The Fresh Air FundWounded Warrior Project, The March of Dimes, Feeding NYC, NJ Community Food Bank, or do a search for a charity or organization near you. What are (or would be) your choices? + Update + just added: MESH (Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless).

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
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37 Responses to Saving for Someone Else’s Rainy Day

  1. Erica M says:

    As soon as I start bringing in disposable income again, I’m all over this. For now, my charity is the servers who clean up after my kids on the nights we do go out. I figure they could also use the extra money, so I fold it into the tip.

    • Absolutely. I feel that any time someone who does something for me (serves, paints nails, cleans, carries heavy furniture) that I could do for myself, I MUST tip and tip well. I am so uncomfortable with being served that it’s almost uncontrollable. Weird, right?

      • In fact, I truly don’t understand people who don’t tip, or who always tip poorly. I experience guilt for the few times when I’ve forgotten or miscalculated. When people come to the house to install or fix, I really want to tip, even though I know it’s not appropriate. I’ve trained myself out of it because the response has been real offense at times. It’s complicated.

      • Yes! We had a piece of furniture delivered, and I totally over-tipped. They were very happy, but I’ve learned to ask first. Also, with work that’s long and on-going, and when I know they are well paid (benefits, on the books) I tend to not tip for work. Not really fair, but I figure it’s built into the price of the work then. It’s complicated!

  2. This is such a neat idea! Our school has bins and usually I bring stuff in regularly but that’s pretty much peanuts.

    • Yes! We do a food drive every year, but when I spoke to the pantry director, she explained that they can buy more in bulk with cash than we can donate in food. We still do the drive (I think people feel good to give a THING, I know I do.), but we also encourage people to take the “easy way” and donate cash. Not as romantic, but more useful.

      But I’m still running a food drive! :)

  3. johar1 says:

    Love this idea and the fact that it gives a solution to something that bothers me so. Since I was a kid and I first saw on cable TV a food fight I’ve wondered about how many things in our World make no sense. I think I will feel good giving back even if I can only afford to match our ice cream outings. It will give us an opportunity to teach the boys to give back too! Not to mention more reasons to go get some ice cream ;)

    • Haha! I was thinking about it when we were at the San Sebastian fair. One ride was $3 each, and some were $4. That’s an insane amount of cash to spend for two minutes of thrills. (Although the Tilt-a-Whirl is totally worth it!) It’s a way to 1) control spending and 2) control guilt. The icing on the cake is helping others. :)

  4. Shosh M says:

    This is such a Jewish idea! The main focus in Judaism (especially my movement, Reform Judaism) is tikkun Olam, repairing the world. Basically, are point on earth is to make the world a better place, and we do this through our acts, but also through Tzedakah (charity). The highest form of Mitzvah is to giving anonymously. I love your idea. I think it is something all of us who have, can do just a little bit more for those who don’t.

    • Thank you for the information! I am a big fan of giving anonymously. I understand the need for tax receipts and whatnot, but I think that in order to remember that luck – paired with hard work and stubbornness – had a lot to do with my ability to share and not take. Now. Tomorrow may be another story. Tomorrow I may rely on the generosity of others. For today, I want to be the giver.

  5. anna says:

    What an awesome idea. I do this on my kids birthdays – our family’s worst time of excess, and for me guilt about this excess – I read once that food pantries will sometimes (often?) have families looking for something special for a child’s birthday, so you can donate gift bags and similar. You can work directly with a local organization or donate to a national one, CheerfulGivers.org. My kids aren’t really old enough to get why/how we give on their birthdays, but one day hopefully they will.

  6. Flood says:

    I try to discourage kids from using food for art projects at school. I find it kinda obscene that schools use food as a medium while trying to keep a breakfast club afloat. Yikes. No gold-painted pasta necklace for me, thanks.

    Great idea Kristin, I hope it catches on.

  7. Mom101 says:

    This is so incredibly wonderful. It’s the kind of thing I bet a lot of people think about but never actually do…and here you are doing it. I also love how it’s teaching your kid to think about food and abundances and have and have-nots. Maybe we’ll have to try something similar. Thanks Kristin.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and the compliments. Still, I have to take a self-deprecating stance: I don’t know how incredible or wonderful it is to share. It’s what we want to teach our children from day one – or maybe day 181 or so. I alluded to a less-than-wonderful motivation: alleviating guilt at our excess. In this case, however, I think it’s the destination and not the journey that counts. Guilt CAN be good for something!

  8. jamie says:

    This is a great idea! It’ll be fun to do it together as a family…

    • I’m not sure how much my kids get it – since they are still very young. My almost kindergartener gets it a little, I think. And I’m sure older kids could understand. I really want my kids to know that what they have is not what everyone has. Not to mention that diner portions are not created in normal meal proportions!

  9. I have done a few articles on an organization in a neighboring county that takes good food that would be thrown away because of store/restaurant policy and distributes it to local shelters and food banks. They take food that you might fix — say you are having folks over and fix two casseroles and only use one. You can donate the other. There are so many little ways to help if we open our eyes and take the time. I think this is a great idea. Especially, if it is for something that I really don’t need like a coffee — I should donate the equal amount.

    • The waste at restaurants is so sad. I understand why it happens – having worked in food service for many years. But if it’s a management priority, good things can come of it. Things like Starbuck’s coffee totally work with this idea! I mean, take the difference between a bodega coffee at $1.25 and a fancy coffee at (???) and sock that away, right? It’s small, but it builds up quickly. I’m seeing that in my tally so far. It’s eye-opening and staggering!

  10. Great idea. I, when eating out in particular neighborhoods where the hungry are easy to see have often forgone ordering myself something and order 2-3 meals to go and hand them out. As you have said, portions are so big and to this end I share with my kids and it teaches them a valuable lesson on giving.

  11. Larks says:

    This is a really great idea. It is so crazy to me that we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic but something like 15% of households are food insecure. It’s not that we don’t have the food or the resources, it’s that we’re not doing enough with them. This is also a great project to get kids involved with. Go, you!

  12. I think you’ve brought up a good point in a very doable way. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the idea that so many need so much. I find it paralyzing most of the time when I think about it.

  13. TriGirl says:

    Great idea! It’s so easy to get used to the excess. I tend to overeat in restaurants because I don’t want to feel like I’ve left a ton of food that will get thrown out. I do box my food when I can, but that’s not always feasible like you said. I like the idea of ‘matching’ your donation to what you spend on yourself! I really like it–I think i might do it! (It will either make me feel great, or I will see how much extra money I spend!)

  14. Kelsey says:

    This is awesome! I love your conviction & think its phenomenal that you are encouraging others to join you. I have a similar conviction & execute it in a different way. I donate a portion of the sale of all my photos to one of the 5 non-profit organizations my company supports. If we all pitch in, we can make such a difference. Rock on mamma!

  15. Rachel J. says:

    You are a genius. If I had a pinterest account, I would do whatever it is to put it on my page.

  16. Really thoughtful post. You are so right about the waste, it is so wrong when there are so many people going hungry. I like this idea a lot.
    In a similar vein there’s a Bake Sale for Toni’s Kitchen for the Battle Against Hunger – http://kids.baristanet.com/2012/09/bake-sale-for-tonis-kitchen-and-chance-to-win-a-new-stylish-lunch-tote/ Just in case you get any sweet cravings this week!

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