47. The Lenten Experiment: final grocery bills

We did it!

The only shopping I'm going to do tomorrow will be a couple of items for Easter Sunday, and I've decided that doesn't count--it's a celebration and should not be part of the Lenten Experiment.

So, here's the bottom line for 5 1/2 weeks--39 days--from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday (tomorrow). Lent, of course, is a week longer than that, but we took a week off in March to celebrate our anniversary and visit our kids and grandkids.

Our aim: to spend an average of $11/day for the two of us and any guests we might have during Lent, which is roughly what the US Department of Agriculture thinks a thrifty older couple needs for a healthy diet (thrifty: $11.17; low cost: $14.36; moderate cost: $17.69; liberal: $21.23).

We had company three times during Lent and were company three times. We attended two soup suppers and provided all the bread for one of them. I believe I ate in a restaurant twice and Mr Neff did once. Maybe I've forgotten something, but that's what our records show. And we were maniacal about recording grocery purchases.

Our results: Counting only groceries, we spent an average of $9.39/day. (Compare with the $12.00/day we spent during the month before Lent, when we were already tightening our belts but not quite as seriously.) Counting groceries plus restaurant meals, our daily average during Lent was $10.02 (two of those restaurants were really cheap).

I hadn't planned to include wine in the calculations, since wine is an extra that is neither covered by food stamps nor included in the USDA's figures. Also, I didn't keep track of how much we drank during Lent (it wasn't much), and my wine purchases are mostly undrunk or given away. But just to find out how wine might affect the total, I added the amount we spent on Chianti and Dolcetto at Caputo's Cheese Shop March 7--$43.53 for seven bottles--and am hoping that's somewhat accurate. If so, counting groceries plus restaurant meals plus wine, our daily average was $11.13.

Next week I may analyze the Lenten Experiment a bit. What exactly did we eat? What did we miss? What did we learn? What will we be eating as soon as it's over? But for now, just one observation: The Lenten Experiment was really easy. If you want to do an experiment worth blogging about, try keeping an Orthodox Lent. Here are the rules, which the web site says are "not widely known or followed in our day." I can see why.

The Lenten Fast
Great Lent is the longest and strictest fasting season of the year.
Week before Lent ("Cheesefare Week"): Meat and other animal products are prohibited, but eggs and dairy products are permitted, even on Wednesday and Friday.
First Week of Lent: Only two full meals are eaten during the first five days, on Wednesday and Friday after the Presanctified Liturgy. Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening, the longest time without food in the Church year. (Few laymen keep these rules in their fullness). For the Wednesday and Friday meals, as for all weekdays in Lent, meat and animal products, fish, dairy products, wine and oil are avoided. On Saturday of the first week, the usual rule for Lenten Saturdays begins (see below).
Weekdays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: The strict fasting rule is kept every day: avoidance of meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine and oil.
Saturdays and Sundays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: Wine and oil are permitted; otherwise the strict fasting rule is kept.
Holy Week: The Thursday evening meal is ideally the last meal taken until Pascha. At this meal, wine and oil are permitted. The Fast of Great and Holy Friday is the strictest fast day of the year: even those who have not kept a strict Lenten fast are strongly urged not to eat on this day. After St. Basil's Liturgy on Holy Saturday, a little wine and fruit may be taken for sustenance. The fast is sometimes broken on Saturday night after Resurrection Matins, or, at the latest, after the Divine Liturgy on Pascha.
Wine and oil are permitted on several feast days if they fall on a weekday during Lent. Consult your parish calendar. On Annunciation and Palm Sunday, fish is also permitted.

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