Loaves and Fishes for the Journey
Updated: May 16, 2019
The Peasant Pantry Experiment:
Six months without the grocery store - surviving the winter peasant-style.
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When I began my planning for the Peasant Pantry Experiment in October, I could have never imagined the changes that would take place in our lives over the coming months...
“Can you pick Mom up from the hospital?”
I could hear my sister-in-law’s voice on the other end of my husband’s phone conversation.
I looked up from my computer screen.
Mary was in the hospital again? That’s strange. She was just there a few days ago.
Max agreed to go, but before he could leave the house, his sister called back to say that her fiancé would go. Max settled back into his desk and I to my writing, neither of us knowing that our lives were about to change forever.
Within days, we lost Mary. The mystery pain in my mother-in-law’s abdomen had not been a loud enough warning for anyone to surmise that she was on the cusp of a brain aneurysm. She had been active and healthy, baby-sitting her great-granddaughter just the day before.
After several long days and nights of waiting and wondering and sleeping on chairs, Max and I left the hospital in shock. It was the same shock that had enveloped us from the moment we found out Mary’s third visit to the hospital was by ambulance.
Amid the turmoil of those days, God carried us. We saw countless blessings and did not take for granted the opportunities to share about our Christian faith with others. Even after the memorial service, we were still being showered with kindnesses by dear friends and strangers alike, and we felt their prayers. The peace we knew in our hearts was beyond understanding, and without God’s grace to us in that time, we would have been lost.
The service was a lovely tribute to sweet Mary, and though we said goodbye, we left the serene, mid-winter graveside knowing we would keep her memory alive by emulating the things she had taught us in life. Her skills had abounded, and none would come close to her talents nor attain her beautiful class, but we would do our best in memory of a woman who had courageously taken on life’s challenges by learning the required skills, no matter what they were.
The days soon turned to months. The winter ebbed on while we began to sort Mary’s closets and cupboards with diligent, frozen fingers. Max and his siblings recounted memories. Treasures were disbursed. Items were designated to the places where they would provide the most blessing. And Max and I moved in.
Now locked in transition, surrounded by boxes and with no end in sight from the tasks that needed done, the most basic task of all constantly demanded my attention. What were we going to eat that day?
When I first started my planning for the Peasant Pantry Experiment in October, I could have never imagined the changes that would take place in our lives over the coming months. I had prepped food to carry my husband and I through the winter months so we would not have to worry with grocery shopping during dark, blistery days, but in my diligence, I had somehow over-prepared! After all, how long could $700 worth of food really take us? As it would turn out, much longer than six months.
All the work I had done to preserve soups as well as fresh ingredients would carry us through not just the winter, but now a season of grief and ill-health. Not long after Mary’s passing, we caught our first colds of the winter. I was not surprised to find myself finally sick despite all the nutritious meals I had consumed in earlier months. I knew the stress and sadness had been hard on us, as well as the time scrounging for food between the constant trips back and forth between hospitals and then the houses. It was relieving to simply thaw a frozen home-made soup. On the days when we had nothing thawed, others often came forward at just the right time to provide a much appreciated meal.
In time, spring burst to life. The chill that tried to cling to the shade eventually dissipated while leaves and buds shot from tree limbs and green grasses woke from their slumber. Only at the end of April (the official end of the experiment) did I begin to venture to the grocery store again, but only to pick up a few staples here and there. I still had everything else that I needed.
Lent passed, then Resurrection Sunday, and now surrounded by May blossoms, I can tell you that my winter food supply is going to take us deep into the summer! Miraculous, really. I had intended to have a better garden this year than last, but with the changes and the new house, we won’t be having a garden this year at all. But that won’t stop us from enjoying some of the nutrition from our harvest last year!
My original experiment was to find out if I could save money by prepping and storing large quantities of food at a time. I also wanted to move toward cutting out the mainstream grocery store altogether. So I believe the experiment more than proves that the hours of prep work were well worth it. I also realize now that when unexpected circumstances happen, having a stocked kitchen eliminates worry, time, hassle and expense. It will serve me well in the future to continue this vigilance.
However, it has not escaped my attention that God’s graces to my family did not stop when we began the healing process. After all, it was the Lord who put the project into my mind to begin with. It was Him who provided the garden goodness from our small vegetable patch. It was Him who taught me how to preserve food, and Him who gave me strength for the long hours of prep. And it was Him who caused the food I did preserve to sustain us all this long while, just as the five loaves of bread and two fish of long ago had fed those in need of sustenance so that they could continue to focus on the more important matters. (Matthew 14:13-21)
I thank you for following my journey so far! The Peasant Pantry Experiment was not only a success, but a testament of the love of Jesus Christ for His children. I pray that every new project of mine also reflects His glory and love that I may continue to share them with others.
As I move forward in the next steps to becoming a modern “peasant,” I will now be embarking on the long-awaited dream of soap-making. My research is at its end. The supplies are being shipped to me as I write these words. If you have ever been intimidated at the prospect of dealing with lye and making your own soap, don’t despair! I’ll go first and let you know what not to do! That’s what makes this adventure blog different than “how-to” blogs by those who are already professionals. Here, you get to know what the beginning of the journey looks like, not just the end. And maybe, just maybe, you will have the courage and faith to take your own step into the unknown.
Don’t worry! You’re not alone. There is someone who loves you, who knows the way and what lies ahead, and He's already working on the provisions that you will need.
Meg Grimm is a writer and folklorist who loves Jesus, tea time, history and fairy tales. In the real world, she works in a castle - at least some people think so. She is married to Max, and they have a cat-dog named Bill. One day, you'll find her living in a cottage deep in the woods writing your next favorite book.