I did it. I managed to find some Alaskan grown flour at the AK Feed Co. by the Alaska Flour Co. (Alaska, Alaska, Alaska...sheesh!) 10 lbs and it came in a plastic bag, but I saw on their website that larger bags are in paper instead of plastic. So I asked the checkout guy if bigger bags were available and he said no, but he can make them available. I said, awesome! So sometime soon, I'll be able to have AK grown flour in a paper bag.
Is there a catch? Of course! I didn't realize until I got it home that it's barley flour, not wheat flour. So I shrugged and started making bread as usual (a little over half barley flour, a cup of oats, and the rest unbleached AP flour), thinking that one was just as good as the other. Wrong! It didn't rise very well at all on the first rise, but I figured I'd give it a little more time than normal with the second rise. I did, but it didn't work. I have two very small, rather dense loaves of barley bread which are, nevertheless, amazingly tasty. And I used a little bit of this barley flour in each of the cakes I made on Sunday with no texture difference and no noticeable change in flavor or the rising of the cakes. So I really would like to continue using the barley flour. It has a good amount of fiber and other nutrients, so it's pretty good for you. And like I said, it's quite tasty. But I'll need to work out a way to get the bread to rise properly, or just start using it in other things (like pancakes and waffles) instead of bread. Maybe I could write to the Flour Co. farmers and see if they have any suggestions?
When I went to roller derby on Saturday night, the friend I went with is also looking at a summer spent mostly without her husband. He being a theater geek, he got a job in New York state at a summer camp for rich kids (seriously--apparently it costs over $8000 to send one kid there!) teaching and/or managing the theater stuff. She'll be travelling (to see other friends, him, family in New England, him again, then family in Anchorage at the end of the trip for dipnetting and halibut fishing) but the most they've ever been apart is four days. So we were consoling each other, and trying to look at the upsides. Like me, she's going to do her best to ditch her car for the summer and bike pretty much everywhere so that she can both get in shape and save money by not paying for gas. In addition, we were talking about the food savings. I totally understood her when she said, "I just don't have the same metabolism he does!" And I laughed out loud when she mentioned how much cheese he eats because it's about the same amount of cheese that Shane eats. About a block to a block-and-a-half per week! With each block of cheese being around $8, that's an expensive habit. She and I both prefer more high-nutrient but cheaper foods, like lentils and beans and lots of veggies. In the last three weeks, I've only spent about $75 on food (including the flour). Granted, I've gone out to eat several times. But I still have plenty of things that I'm planning to make this week and I know our food bill is going to drop off a cliff without Shane. I know my friend is looking forward to losing some weight (she's gained about 15 pounds since they started dating, she said, but she's lost ten of it already) and that might end up being a side benefit for me, too. It was just nice to laugh about this, though, with someone who completely understands what I'm talking about.
And hey, I have to look on the bright side for some benefit of Shane being gone. :)
All this being said, it might still be a struggle to keep some of our spending as low (or almost as low) as it's been. I didn't have many options for lunch stuff for Monday when I was looking around on Sunday evening and the thought popped into my head that I could always just go to the cafe across the hall from my office. They have good food (I've been there as a "last resort" type of thing) but the food isn't cheap. Over $6 for a sandwich and a pickle! About $4 for a small bowl of soup. I realize that they need to make money (and they've had a lot of trouble with that the last few years, with more people brown bagging it) but I don't really want to get into the habit of buying expensive food. I really, really didn't want to eat it, but I pulled some leftover red beans and rice from last week out of the freezer. And I ate that, even though I just wasn't feeling it. It's such a first world problem to be concerned more for appetite fatigue than simply to be grateful that I have nutritious food to fill my belly with.
Knowing that I had leftover cake waiting for me at home helped a lot. :P
We do expect that some spending will increase--such as eating at SilverGulch more often as a way to see each other. When Shane is home, it would be nice to go see a movie once in a while. (We've seen, I think, about four movies in the last year, and one of them was paid for by Shane's parents at Christmas--as a family outing, they insisted on paying. Another was only "affordable" because we had gifted movie passes.) The real trick will be for me to stop myself from the mindset that says, "We can afford this now," or, "But it's cheap!" Now is the time when I'll learn if all of my frugal habits have really taken hold or if it was just a passing phase.
I guess I never thought about it before, but having money and not having money are equal tests of a person's character. One shows what a person is willing to do under duress, and the other shows where a person's values truly lie based on how they spend (or don't spend) their wealth. We are wealthy. Not by American standards, but by worldwide standards we are very rich indeed. I don't want to let it go to my head.