My husband and I are of the belief that a healthy diet composed of fresh, local foods and limited preservatives is the key to a healthy lifestyle. We buy locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables; organic meats and dairy products; and limit the amounts of what we buy to what we can eat within a few days. We don’t mind going to the grocery and the farmer’s markets three times a week; in fact, we enjoy it. My problem is that I cannot convince my mother-in-law of this.
“Darlene” lives a few hours away, and will come to stay with us for a long weekend every month or two. The first thing she will do after she arrives – before she even unpacks – is look through my cupboards to see what is in them. Since I do not believe in buying canned goods (with the exception of locally preserved food) my pantry contains dry goods – flour, raw sugar, dried pastas and beans – but little else. My refrigerator has fresh food to sustain us for two to three days, but no more since my husband and I prefer the taste of food at its freshest. Darlene seems to think that the reason we have so little food in our house is because we cannot afford it. She is constantly telling us we could afford more food if we stopped buying such expensive groceries. We have explained to her that cash flow is not a problem; we are financially comfortable and simply choose to live differently than she.
During her last visit, Darlene showed up early – while my husband and I were still at work – and went grocery shopping. She purchased id="mce_marker",200 worth of canned goods, fresh meats (which she froze!), processed snack foods, soda, and other foods neither my husband nor I eat. She informed us that she did not have enough cash to pay for it all so she put the charge on her American Express card and will need the money for the purchases before the end of the billing cycle. I told Darlene if she wanted the money she could return the groceries and the store would give her back the money she spent. I realize this was not the best reaction, but I am not about to pay over id="mce_marker",000 for food that will not be eaten.
Darlene spent the entire weekend complaining to my husband about how rude and ungrateful I am and how I did not appreciate all that she did for me by purchasing a month’s worth of groceries, plus extra in case of an emergency. Tazi, as my husband explained to her, we keep dry goods in the pantry for emergencies and we do not freeze our meats. He, too, encouraged his mother to return to food; since she charged it to her credit card the food cannot be returned without it and Darlene refuses to cooperate.
Obviously, by the time this letter is printed, it will be too late to return the food. In the meantime, Darlene is demanding we reimburse her for the full cost of all she purchased; my husband has suggested to me that we split the cost; and I think Darlene should be held fully responsible for the items she billed and refused to return. What do you think is fair, Tazi?
I admire the lengths to which you go in order to commit to the diet that is right for you, and agree with you that fresh food tastes better. Darlene was wrong to fill your fridge with foods that you do not eat, especially since you have told her (on numerous occasions, I am certain) why your pantry is rather bare. It sounds to me like you want to teach your mother-in-law a lesson for meddling and your son wants to compromise to keep the peace. Meanwhile, a id="mce_marker",200 American Express bill is coming due soon, so here is my solution: compromise.
Obviously, you are not going to eat the food your mother-in-law brought into the house, but this does not mean that it must go to waste. The perishables will have perished by the time this letter is printed, so there is nothing that can be done with those, but you can pack up the frozen goods and send them home with Darlene after her next visit, along with any canned and packaged goods she might want. The remainder of the food can be donated to your local food pantry. Too many people go hungry due to a lack of food (not because they are dieting, like me). A pantry full of food that you will not eat will keep several tummies well-fed and your donation will be appreciated. The value of this donation may even be tax deductable, which will ease or even erase the burden of splitting the bill down the middle – which is what I am suggesting you do, if only to keep the peace with your mother-in-law while simultaneously teaching her her not to meddle in your affairs.
P.S. Should there be a tax deduction, your M-I-L might ask to split it. That will be up to you, but it might be the fastest and easiest way to avoid another disagreement.
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