Hysterical Interpretations Notwithstanding

If you’ve been paying attention you have probably noticed that panic mongering is everywhere and “we’re all gonna die” level hysteria screams at the Internet user from every other website.

“American’s are running out of money to buy food,” read the headline of one forum post. Hmmm… that sounded serious and so I did a little digging. Turns out that, yes, indeed, the news came out in the early part of the year that Americans were cutting back on food expenditures and the amount of money being spent on food has continued to drop through this spring.

So is that evidence that Americans are “running out of money to buy food”? Is this TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it)? Has the SHTF (fecal matter collided with the rotating ventilation device)? Is famine right around the corner? ARE WE ALL DOOMED?!

Let’s have a bit of perspective.

It helps to know that the average family was wasting over $1000.00 of food a year. Just recently. I mean like less than one year ago — during the good times. Wasting. As in buying, not eating, and throwing in the trash. I kid you not .

So just being more careful, eliminating waste, would make a major dent in the average food expenditure.

But then there are all those lay offs and job losses. And guess what people who are laid off work have more of than they had before they got laid off? Time. Time to cook instead of swinging by the Fast Food Emporium. Time to slice and shred instead of putting an order in at the deli. Time to cook dried beans instead of opening a can. Time to cut up a chicken instead of buying prepackaged parts. Time to peel and slice potatoes instead of buying frozen French fries. Time to move grocery purchases away from higher-priced prepackaged and processed stuff and toward less costly, but more time-intensive, basic ingredients.

And we have to throw this little interesting tidbit from the vegetable seed industry into the mix:

By some estimates, garden seed, especially vegetable seed sales, were up by anywhere from 40 percent to well over 100 percent compared with recent years. In fact, some industry watchdog organizations suggest that seed companies in North America and much of Europe experienced their best year ever in 2008. We’re talking record seed sales … AND they project another record for 2009

And this :

The National Gardening Association predicts that 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs in 2009 — that’s up 19 percent from 36 million households in 2008. In addition, 11 percent of households already active in food gardening plan to increase both the amount and variety of vegetables they will grow in 2009; 10 percent said they will spend more time food gardening this year.

Now people who are growing some of their own food will spend less in the grocery store. A 20-foot by 30-foot vegetable garden can yield more than 300 pounds of produce valued at more than $600. From an average cash outlay of $70, by the way. A rate of return to die for.

It helps to know that harvesting season has been under way in large parts of the country for months already, starting with the fast maturing autumn crops, spring cabbage, spinach, turnips, oriental vegetables, then the over-wintered onions, shallots and garlic followed by the early spring lettuce, peas, and radishes. It’s logical to think that some of the decline in grocery expenditure can be accounted for by people turning to their own gardens.

However, Americans are not just growing vegetables; they are raising consumable animals in record numbers as well. NPR recently reported about the explosion of interest in raising chickens, even in urban backyards, and they ended the report by noting that orders for chicks were so high that there was a four to six week wait for them.

Maybe they’ll get me next time, but I’ll pass on this hysterical ride. I don’t think my fellow Americans are running out of money for food, as much as they are turning toward self-sufficiency. They may be making less use of the massive corporate systems that produce, transport, and market food in the grocery stores. But they are making more use of shovels, watering cans, and gardening gloves — and chicken coops. Sounds like good news to me.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Kathryn

    Nice article Mary.

    The one thing you won’t see much of, at least in the mainstream medida, is the very real problem of “demographic winter–at least for those of us in Japan, China, Europe, and the Americas. Last night a pro-choicer/environmentalist accused me of being a fear monger in my local paper’s blog section for linking abortion with assisted suicide/”euthanasia” of infirm nursing home residents.

    Of course, just because we are headed into “winter” does not mean the end of the world. I know some people who are convinced it is the End Times, which I highly doubt. Rome faced what we face 2000 years ago. The Roman’s became Italians and gave us great pasta. The Italians will become…something, not sure what yet. As will the rest of Europe. And Japan, and China.

    Spring always follows winter. There are brighter days ahead.

  • goral

    Mary, careful with those gardening, self-sufficient types, they’re packing a gun.
    Yes, my industrial technology students tell me that they can’t buy ammo or certain guns because the stores are out of stock. There’s a waiting list.
    Why do you suppose that is? I ask them. Oh! it’s because of Obama.
    Really?! I say. In a class setting one does not to want to go deeper than that.

    I also heard on the news that Americans are getting fatter.
    Yep, it’s because of the economy. In order to stretch their dollar the report said, more Americans are turning to fast food which is less healthy and more fattening.

    So we have the self-sufficient types and the self-indulgent types for the first time in American histeria. The S has HTF.

    Time to go out there and pick the best crop of radishes I ever grew.
    Now where did I leave that gun?

  • Mary Kochan

    So what are you doing with the radishes. I mean after you have put some in salads, what can you do with them? I am growing radishes all around the summer squashes and the cukes this year because I read that that deters squash borers and I had July devastation last year. Gr-r-r. But I don’t know what — besides give them away by fistfuls — I am going to do with all of them.

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    There’s no hysteria of any kind in my community, just two large, successful community gardens and any number of backyard vegetable plots. My Mom and I are going in together on a community garden plot for the first time this year, and it’s been wonderful so far.

    The best thing I’ve found for radishes is to clean ‘em up and serve them crunchy with a little Ranch dressing (or plain old salt) as a midafternoon snack–it’s better and healthier than chips or other junk food and gives you the roughage you need.

  • goral

    We just feast on the radishes, Mary. I grew the long white-tipped variety this yr. I think they’re called icicle radishes. I eat a handfull for breakfast and another handful in the salad.
    No, I’m not as red as a radish.
    They’re a quick crop but they store very well in the frig. So many people want them that I really don’t have enough. The slugs are feasting on them too in this wet weather.
    In a week we’ll miss them.

  • Mary Kochan

    Where are you? Can’t you keep growing them?

    Mine are just coming up because I just got my summer squashes in and I am using them for a deterent. Usually I start earlier, but I rearranged plots this year to add more vertical space for beans. Besides my husband built a garden shed and I had to add space to make up for its footprint.

    Anyway, the radish seed packages say to keep planting them at ten day intervals. So that was my plan.

    I just got the beans planted the other day and my last thing will be the winter squashes. I am going to plant a ton of them this year.

  • mamamull

    I call my younger son a Radish – he has reactive attachment disorder – RAD-ish.

    Anyway, my take on it is that credit is spiraling out of control on a national and personal level.

    We are just growing tomatoes – as usual – even though my husband has taken a pay cut and reduced sales commissions. We haven’t always lived at our previous level of income and I know how to be a guerrilla grocery shopper. Buy big on good sales, keep the pantry loaded, just say no to restaurants, and make a shopping list and stick to it.

    We do have weapons – but not of mass destruction – have had them for awhile and inherited some of them – pistols, rifles and shotguns. We even have a side-by-side double barrelled shot gun. Conversation starter on the few times we have ever brought it out from locked storage.

    Not all of us are goons and anarchists – but the government is causing more black market weapons purchases with realization that guns are being outlawed. Now just the criminals will have them for sale.

    I am Catholic and don’t go around inciting violence, actively pro-life – we have adopted three special needs kids – and trying very hard to bring manners, charity and kindness back to the world one action at a time.

    Just my humble opinion,

  • Mary Kochan

    Denise, you are making this a stronger and better country by what you are doing. God love you and keep your family.

    We must remember that gun rights are essential to our liberty as a people, not sufficient, certainly, but essential nonetheless. I would argue that you should ask any politician if he trusts you with a gun. If he says he does not, why would you trust him with public office, since every public office is backed with the power of a gun? Why should you trust him with a gun, if he does not trust you? Does he intend to serve you or master you? I have greater peace of mind knowing that ordinary citizens of ths country are so well armed and that we are not in the position of these people:

    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those Bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting there on the street with one lonely chauffeur–what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked? The Organs [of state] would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, not withstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    Armed defense is indeed necessary at times in a fallen world, and I would argue that the right to own guns is truly a civil right that is and ought to be enshrined in our Constitution. However, I have made the choice for myself not to own a gun. The Christian mystery points us toward something better, something higher–toward a time when “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Isaiah 2:4). I trust God to keep me safe, even if I someday end up in some kind of American gulag. And I think we have the witness of the Saints, particularly the martyrs, none of whom lifted a finger in their own defense.

  • seawood


    When I was a kid (40 years ago) my dad taught me to eat radish sandwiches. Take buttered white bread and cover with sliced radishes, then cover with more buttered white bread. They taste good and the butter takes the hot taste out of the radishes. Poor man’s food. We were poor but just didn’t know it cause we were better off than a lot and tried to help those less fortunate.

    I’m still poor materially compared to many but now have SO much thanks to all the Lord has given us. I just finished my conversion to the Catholic faith this Easter and am learning how fortunate I really am. I just hate that it took 50 years to get here.

  • Mary Kochan

    Well a most rousing WELCOME HOME! to you. I just ceelbrated the annivesary of my coming into the Church on Trinity Sunday 1996 and sometimes I still want to pinch myself at the incredible blessing it is.

  • goral

    I thought this article was suppose to be about panic mongering. This bunch is not that easy to frighten. They have gardens and own guns and believe in a better life after.
    Solzhenitsyn would have been proud of us.
    “The cursed machine would have ground to a halt!” and it will at some point but in the meantime let’s enjoy radishes and radish sandwiches. (yum)
    Bread and butter with radishes is one of the delights of the poor.
    I know it too. There are many others.
    Just gardening is a delight. The baby leaves of carrots coming up are a sight to behold.

    To answer the question of our gardening editor, my garden spot is somewhere between NYC and Boston. I realize I could keep growing the radishes but I go on to something else once I had my fill.
    Everyone wonders when I find the time to work the soil.
    It’s like with prayers, the less time you have the more time you need to put in.

    Four to six weeks wait for chicks? that’s longer than the ammo that I didn’t order.

  • Mary Kochan

    So folks, should we leave off the movie reviews and theology and politics and turn CE into the Catholic (Seed) Exchange? LOL. Gardening really is my favorite subject!

    (Like you didn’t know.)

  • DonnaMaria

    My teens just learned how to slaughter and prepare duck today, with a knowledgeable friend! We kept a trio–a drake and two hens (I hope) and aim to have eggs. Ducks lay nearly as many as chickens, and they’re heartier. We built a duck house to protect them from our local raccoons, feral cats, bears, etc. We also have a garden–broccoli, cauliflower, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers. I thought I was the only one going for this suburban homesteading! Glad to know I’m not alone…

  • Mary Kochan

    So-o-o… Does it taste like chicken?!

  • Mary Kochan

    Ya know what I want?

    I want a zebu.

    Check this out you suburban homesteaders: http://www.buffalohillexotics.com/zebu.html


    A gallon of milk a day. And no more lawn mowing.

  • DonnaMaria

    Don’t know yet–you’re supposed to “age” it for a day or two… plus it’s Friday! I’ll let you know. Some duck (Muscovy) is said to taste like the best beef. We’re raising your standard Pekins, or Long Island Duck (classic white duck).

    Would love to have goats, but any milk producers HAVE to be milked twice daily… I’m not quite ready for that! But I have milked my friend’s goat, and she’s a homeschooling mother of 7!!!

  • DonnaMaria

    OK, now I want a zebu… very cool!!! Is that what Larry the Cucumber was singing about in the Veggie Tales silly song? Sounds like “say-boo”…. just wondering.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    Even if TEOTWAWKI and SHTF prognostications are all true, what does it say about our society that many (perhaps most) people prefer to impose even deeper TEOTWAWKI and smellier SHTF by borrowing trillions of dollars that only our children and grandchildren will ever be able to pay back? Whatever happened to the ethic that each generation must shoulder its burdens courageously so that the next generation can live better?

    I personally am hoping for some serious TEOTWAWKI, if only because the world as we know it is now very, very dark. End this madness and perhaps abortion will go down, too.

    And if SHTF gets smellier and smellier, it can only be due to a large increase in the number of babies born to produce the smelly stuff. What’s not to like?