Do you know what’s in your pantry? What about your refrigerator? Could you name the basic staples, the brands, and their prices? Do you even care? When it came to the pricier electronics and furniture in my house, I had photos. My realtors also had photos of the rooms to post online for potential buyers. But who takes pictures of the inside of their cabinets? Or their pantry? Or the fridge and freezer? Only very odd people, I’m sure. And now I had to create a list from memory so I could get reimbursed by my insurance company. The contractor had listed a few things taken from the pictures they took, but it wasn’t much. I almost felt like blowing it off, but my contractor convinced me that it would be worth it. Let’s say you have 20 bottles of spices that cost, say, $5 a bottle. That’s $100 for spices alone. Point taken.
Have you ever stood in the grocery store check-out line and looked at the cart in front of you and thought – Man, what a lot of crap they’re buying! When you put your life on a spreadsheet, it feels a little like someone, in this case the insurance people, will be judging your character based on the contents of your cupboards. Should I mention what’s organic or whole grain or just the food itself? I decided from the beginning that I wouldn’t attempt to list foods specific for the week of the fire. I sure couldn’t remember what I had bought for the week’s meal plan or what my son might have eaten while I was away. It didn’t occur to me to check out the pantry and fridge when viewing my ruined kitchen either, so I decided to stick to the staples I keep around most of the time. Some of this was easy – flours, sugars, oats, pasta, spices, rice, oils, cereals, beans . . . and more. In the fridge were salad dressings, butter, condiments, eggs, milk, juice, etc. The more I wrote down, the more I remembered. Before I knew it, my spreadsheet had expanded by 50 rows or so. Who knew I had so much stuff? And why had my kids always complained there was nothing to eat? Why had I?
The next step was to head to my local grocery store for prices. I took my current shopping list, thinking it would be a breeze to combine the two chores. One and a half hours later I called it a day. I still had some blanks in the price column, but I’d had enough. The worst aisle was the baking goods one. I went up and down several times gathering prices and adding more ingredients to my list, stuff like cake decorations, baking soda, nuts, chocolate chips, and other items I had first forgotten but knew that I had owned. Ingredients for baking that I take for granted but don’t have any more. When my daughter wanted to make crepes one day or my son a recipe calling for flour, they had to change plans. I haven’t restocked the rental house pantry with baking ingredients yet, and I don’t really want to because it means hauling even more stuff back to my house when it’s rebuilt.
The most unusual entries on the insurance appraiser’s spreadsheet came about five rows down: Manischewitz products. I wonder if he knew why I had bought overpriced cake mixes that included their very own tin foil baking pans. Most Jews recognize this brand, no matter how secular they are. While Manischewitz products are available year round, here in the relatively small Austin Jewish community, they invade the shelves mostly around Passover. I tend to overbuy these kosher-for-Passover products because I have memories of running out of them in the last few days of the week-long holiday. This was the first year I didn’t have two kids for the holiday, so I had a surplus. I kept them just in case my son Jacob decided he was starving and needed to bake something for a snack. I guess he hadn’t been desperate enough because there they stood, having survived the fire, as memories of our holiday last spring. L’chaim!