Ask the grumpies: McConnell and Russian campaign funds

Rose asks:

What is true about the rumors I have seen that Mitch the Senator has been given billions/millions in campaign funds filtered from Russian plutocrats?

Here’s what politifact says about this story.  To quote the bottom line:

A post says McConnell’s “biggest donor” is a Russian oligarch who was released from U.S. sanctions.

Blavatnik is involved in Deripaska’s businesses, on which sanctions were lifted recently, but it is inaccurate to call him the Russian oligarch “that the GOP just lifted sanctions on.”

Blavatnik also donated money to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund, but he wasn’t the highest donor, records show. He also contributed to other Republican leaders and GOP-affiliated PACs.

So yes, it looks like he has been given quite a bit of money from Russian plutocrats.  Some portion of the $7.35 million given to the GOP in 2017 by a Russian oligarch, according to this Dallas News story.

Ask the grumpies: Should economists not teach anything about race?

SLAC prof asks:

In a tweet, Trevon Logan says

The whole thread has more information.  It makes me want to give up.  He says economists do race all wrong.  What do you think?  And what does one need to do/know to be qualified to teach about race?

Ok, so first off:  I am not black.  Also I know and hugely respect Trevon Logan and his work (and I’m fairly sure we referee each other’s papers and I’ve always been impressed with his!)

But I disagree with him.  I think this is ok for two main reasons:

First, I have had a relatively large number of black (mostly female) students, many of whom have taken some of these cross-campus classes he discusses, and they have always asked me for more on race, not less.  You just cannot teach health economics without discussing disparities (and many of the big papers in this area are from epidemiologists and demographers, not economists).  You cannot teach labor economics without having a huge section on discrimination, and while many of the white male economists working in this area have blinders on, it is fairly easy (if you have been listening to people, or if you’re female/minority) to point that out and modify their theories into something more realistic and less bigoted.  Like, of course taste-based discrimination exists, we don’t have competitive markets, duh.  (And current US events during my last semester’s class made it very clear that discrimination can lead to monopoly power, not just be a consequence of it.)  Theories of statistical discrimination should include incorrect stereotypes because we don’t have perfect information, honest to FSM.  Your (not privileged white male) students can generally point out these flaws themselves just using their own experiences and common sense.  You cannot teach public finance without talking about the political economy of race and how these programs affect different groups.  Heck, Political Economy is less than half a class without discussing race.  Similarly, Law and Economics (even if you’re planning on limiting to patents and contract law, race is still a factor!).  Sports economics!  You just cannot do justice to any subject that affects money or people without discussing how race impacts it.  So I include these topics and every year my students have more ideas for things to add.  (Like yes, in health economics we do need to talk about how white doctors have used black women’s bodies and DNA without their permission, you are absolutely right.  That would be a great addition to the Tuskeegee paper we already discuss.)

Second, I have listened to the troubles of our young black female faculty across campus (I was on a university-level thing to improve things, which we sort of did but also mostly didn’t … in any case, we did a lot of listening in addition to convincing the university to allow salary equity bumps and a few other things) who primarily teach these classes that Dr. Logan is suggesting we send our econ majors to.  It is really unfair to them to inundate them with mostly white male econ majors who have been taught that it’s just fine to play devil’s advocate and haven’t really examined their implicit biases at all.  I have enough trouble breaking them in in my intro stats classes.  Can you imagine how disruptive they would be in a discussion based class with women and minorities from what they consider to be lesser majors?  That is going to have huge negative spillovers.

I have other reasons to disagree which may be less ok, and I would modify his advice some.  (Note that since I wrote this post– several other people in the comments of the twitter thread have made these or similar suggestions.)

First off, I agree with him 100% that most of the white dudes in econ who gatekeep and work on racial discrimination start from racist assumptions and for many of them, their main goal is to show how it is Black people’s fault (or women’s fault etc.) for not being more like White men.  It’s only recently that economics has started thinking that no, maybe Black people and women are rational, they’re just playing a different game.  This problem can easily be solved by just saying, “Don’t teach any papers on race by white men (or by Roland Fryer who may be black but has serious issues).”  You can even modify this advice to “Teach only papers on race by black scholars (except not Roland Fryer).”  There’s plenty of great work by black scholars and some by other minorities and women that don’t start with racist assumptions or trying to bend evidence to “prove” racist ideas.  There are even textbooks and summary articles that would be great for lower-level undergraduate classes (William Darity Jr. is a good author/editor to start with).

And there are a LOT of white economists who could themselves benefit from reading this work.  Maybe they should start with So you want to talk about race and/or White Fragility and following Black scholars on twitter.  Then they can move on to articles in academic journals.

In terms of whether or not economists think about discrimination incorrectly… some of them do, but I think we benefit from looking at how different social sciences deal with race and discrimination.  NONE of them give a complete picture.  The assumptions and questions asked are different.  We gain tremendously from thinking about these different viewpoints and different ways of modeling.  (I took Race and the Economy from an amazing Black woman and she incorporated overviews from other fields in the class.  It can be done.)  I could go into huge detail about this, but that would get too long… suffice to say that these different viewpoints complement each other; they are not substitutes.  An economist can learn a lot from how anthropology, sociology, psychology and other fields conceptualize discrimination and other questions involving race.  (Insert rant about irritating white male gate-keepers in labor economics here who think innovation and interdisciplinarity is incorrect.)

Maybe the better advice would be for economist professors themselves to take a few classes across campus, or at the very least, read a textbook from another field, before adding race to their classes.  They should also read up on how to make their classroom more inclusive so that students don’t feel scared to speak up when the professor screws up.

As for me, I have been including race in my classes since I started and I cannot imagine stopping now.  The more I teach, the more I listen to my students, and the more I learn from them, which helps students the next time I teach.  It is a learning process for everybody.  Did I have some cringeworthy moments when I first started, probably, but minority students have been gentle with me and each year I’ve learned more and gotten better and future students benefit from that.

Update:  The more I talk with my colleagues interested in adding a race unit in their classes, the more I’m convinced that my suggestion about only using papers written by minorities is the correct one.  I had no idea that people didn’t know Becker was a huge racist misogynist jerk(!)  I mean, I thought everybody knew that.  People knew it back when he was still young, like decades ago.  So no, DO NOT read Becker in the raw original.  Many of his theory structures are lovely, but read them with the sexist and racist assumptions removed by someone else; there are great minority scholars who have explained the baseline theories and added to them, so go with them.  (William Spriggs talks about some of the problems still inherent today.)

I swear, my colleagues are all going to give up and just end up covering Bertrand and Mullainathan, though I did convince one to try Quillian et al. (in PNAS) instead.  Look, it’s not that B&M isn’t a great paper, it is, but the really horrible overlying thing is that it got into the AER because everybody, including labor economists who should have known better, thought this was the first time a correspondence audit had been done, completely ignoring ALL of the correspondence audits done by Black scholars or non-Americans– I learned about them in my undergrad economics class on Race in the economy.  What I mean is, I’m fairly sure that racism is the reason those earlier audits by black people aren’t known at all.  Quillian and coauthors do a good job of collecting them and plotting their results over time.  (It should have been published in Science, but the racist editor overruled like 7 referees who all said it was must publish.)  Quillian is also white, but he’s a sociologist, so maybe he gets a pass?  Plus he’s very nice.  I’m not sure if there are any minorities in the “et al” portion.  (Plus the econometrics textbook we use has B&M as one of their datasets and students replicate all the ttests and regressions, so it’s not adding that much for our majors.)  Any time I explain this to a White labor economist they get really mad at me because B&M is somehow the first hardcore proof they’ve ever seen about racism against black people other than those small scale in-person audits from like the 70s that somehow Jim Heckman “disproved”  in the 1990s (spoiler:  he didn’t really).

Update 2:  Last night we talked to a number of students and alumni (mostly underrepresented minorities) and they said to be careful to make sure that the lesson is integrated into the curriculum, and to not just have it as a separate unit unconnected with the rest of the class.

Ask the grumpies: College sports and money

Rose asks:

How many College/University athletic programs are not fully supported by attendees at games. How many of them are paying the highest salaries on campus to sports coaches? How many are funding stadiums and special gyms for athletes by increased student funds over the past 20 years? What are the debt rates for such athletic programs?

Here’s a report from 2013 on how athletic programs are paid for.  Only a minority are self-supporting.  There are also graphs for increased funding and increased student funds.

Here’s some info on coach salaries from 2019.  I don’t know of any schools with football programs in which the highest salary isn’t a coach salary (though sometimes basketball), but I don’t have exact numbers.  Not all schools have football programs.  In 2018 the highest paid public employee in 39 states was a coach.

Here’s a 2017 article about sports debt from bloomberg.  Here’s another from 2018 from USA Today.

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2020.  I know that my school has said even if all classes are online, we will still have football.

Ask the grumpies: hate crime rate statistics

rose asks:

I have read that hate crimes have been rising ~ quite a bit since 2015-6. Is the same happening for sexual crimes against women, does that vary by race of attackee, what about age of attackee? Any changes in conviction rates and prison times for those convicted of rape and/or pedophilia?

We don’t actually know the true rate of hate crimes.  Crimes that are not reported or crimes that are reported but the report is “lost” will just not show up.  This would lead to a paradox in which when things get better it looks like they’re actually getting worse.

Now, that said, I doubt that’s what has been going on since Trump was elected.  Reporting hasn’t gotten easier since then.  Offending has gotten easier.  So if anything I would guess these statistics provide an under-count.

The Department of Justice currently tracks Hate Crimes.  One used to be able to trust such sites, but it’s hard to say these days what is trustworthy coming from the Federal Government.  In any case, they report the 2018 hate crime statistics, which are reportedly the highest in 16 years.  Here’s a summary of the NYTimes article summary.  These crimes include rape.  Hate crimes against transgender people have gone up.

Here is information about the victims.  Here is information on the offenders.

I don’t know where to find recent information on conviction rates and prison times for those convicted of rape or pedophila (which is also rape).  We have information up to 1996, which isn’t helpful.  The wikipedia article has conviction statistics up to 2003, but apparently the UN Office on Drugs and Crime stopped collecting data in 2012.  ICPSR data only seem to go to 2010.

So, unless I’m missing something big, it looks like we don’t even have the data we need to know what’s going on.

Do any readers have more information?

Ask the grumpies: What is your favorite board game?

Leah asks:

What is your favorite board game?

#1 doesn’t play board (or really any) games, and #2 does but I’m not sure what she likes.  Pretty sure they’re mostly Eurogames– she played Settlers of Catan when it was still only known as Die Siedler.

Here’s pictures of my DH’s board games.  I just made him order another game along with other paraphernalia (from family funds) in order to support his favorite game store in The City since who knows when we will be able to return to The City again.

Back when I did play games, I preferred card games, particularly the kind where there’s a lot of short games played in a row and there are penalties or rewards to having won previously.  In high school I played a LOT of three person spades, and in college I replaced that with The Great Dalmuti.

Update:  You may also be wondering about children’s games.  We have those too.

Update 2:  DH told me I’d missed some of his.

So if anybody is still wondering why DH gives himself an allowance.  This is why.

Ask the grumpies: Bang for the buck with stimulus funds

Becca asks:

What are you doing with stimulus funds? Do economists know which kinds of ways to spend it will ripple the furthest?

The very short answer is that economists don’t get stimulus funds (they earn too much).

Right now donating to food banks is probably the best bet because getting people fed has huge beneficial effects on everything that creates or costs.  Basically anything that helps kids will have bigger bang for the buck than things that help adults (There’s a really interesting not technically meta-analysis, but colloquially meta-analysis, on this by Nate Hendricks and Raj Chetty and someone else, I think, but basically programs to help kids help the economy in the short and long term by more than anything else).  Feeding people makes them more productive, less hangry, helps their mental facilities, decreases their stress, increases their growth etc. etc.  There’s a reason it’s near the base of the hierarchy of needs.  An email I just got says that “40% of households are reporting moderate to high levels of food insecurity and 20% of children are experiencing food insecurity.”  Many food banks (at least those in the Feeding America network, according to an employee who gave a guest lecture in one of my classes a few years back) also have access to the wholesale food markets, meaning that all that food that isn’t getting bought by restaurants can be distributed to foodbanks from the larger networks.  Money to grease those wheels can do a lot of good.  (Here’s a webinar.)

Also (less mainstream economics opinion now): activism is going to have a huge impact over the next year—if we lose the post office, if they don’t take steps to make outside safer, if they re-elect Trump, all of this will have lasting impacts on the economy for generations.  So… call your congresspeople about the post office.  Buy some post-cards and stamps or printer paper and stamps and do post-cards to voters or letters to voters.

In terms of buying things that you want and not just giving money away?  That’s harder… I mean, oil prices are down, but long-term we don’t really want more driving because climate change is bad for the economy long-term.  Stick to buying from small shops not through amazon or places like instacart or grubhub.  We want to decrease the monopoly power of these companies– competition is a good thing.   I have been using amazon as the last resort these days even if it takes longer to get things elsewhere.

What are you doing with stimulus funds?  

Ask the grumpies: Things for an 8 year old to look forward to this summer (that don’t involve leaving the house)

Z asks:

My daughter (age 8) has been complaining that now that our summer trip has been canceled, there’s no longer anything to look forward to.  I have to admit I feel the same way too.  We’d been planning on meeting up with the grandparents in Florida and she had fun summer daycamps planned that are probably cancelled.  She’s been asking how Belle can sound so happy when she’s singing, “every day like the one before” and how can Belle feel lonely if she has so many people to say hello to every morning. (If you can’t tell, we purchased a Disney+ subscription.)  Do you have any ideas for things that she could look forward to that don’t involve things that could increase Covid 19 infections?  Any ideas for things that *I* (middle-aged woman) could look forward to?  Our library is still closed and it has been taking a lot longer than usual to get e-books.  We have some extra money that we would have spent on Florida and camp, but not infinite amounts.

I feel your pain so hard.  Our 7 year old has been similarly mopey.  DH and I have been talking about it.  Could we *drive* to see grandparents if we’re good about social distancing?  But that would really involve avoiding gas station restrooms (do not want to inadvertently kill grandparents) and I’m just not ready to go by the side of the road or the even more unnerving things one reads truckers doing.  :/  We have been face-timing and zooming with relatives but it’s just not the same at all.  (Maybe we could set up time with grandma to work on the same crafts?  But that seems like something more fun in person than long-distance.)  So… that just doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

So DH and I have been thinking really hard and tried to remember the kinds of things that we looked forward to when we were younger and our parents couldn’t afford regular vacations.  I was like… books?  But without the library that’s hard.  One can buy books, but new books are usually hardback and I’m not crazy about hardback (this is a me problem, not a universal problem).  Still… we’ve got the third Nikki Tesla on the list once school ends and it comes out in July.  I may order the rest of the Jim Benton books that DC2 doesn’t have since they’ve taken over my electronic wishlist and I’m only allowed to have 10 books on hold at any time.  There’s also a few Gordon Korman books that zie would like, but I have to be more careful with those– Son of the Mob is neither age nor interest appropriate (I still maintain that the best Gordon Korman books were the ones he wrote as a teenager, but those are harder to get).  (All amazon links are affiliate links.)

DH immediately thought about games and looked at the list of things coming out for various video game outlets this summer.  DC2 is seriously into Pokemon, so we’ve decided to tell hir that once school is out we will get hir the new paired Pokemon games for the switch.

Another suggestion:  Does your daughter want to redo some or all of her room?  We recently repainted the shelves in DC2’s closet and it really brightened the place up.  Depending on your daughter’s preferences, now might be a good time to upgrade a bed or paint furniture or add a bookcase, or even just rearrange the furniture (maybe remove some of the stuff she’s outgrown) etc.; if she is interested, it might be fun for her to do a lot of the planning.

One of the most exciting things that has happened with us since the pandemic was when my sister sent us frozen stuffed pizzas from tastes of chicago (not an affiliate link)– I’ve definitely upped my ordering from specialty places like and vomfass and southernseason and penzey’s and our favorite tea place in the local city so on (not affiliate links).  I’ve been contemplating getting something crazy like mail ordering fancy ice cream or something baked even though grocery stores have decent premium ice cream (though generally only Ben and Jerry’s and Haagandaaz) and DH has been baking up a storm… but you know, just to have something made by someone else.   We thought about ordering sushi grade fish online, but balked at the $50 s/h fee.  We’re not quite there yet.  To be honest, right now I’m feeling a little sad that I’ve run out of things I’m dying to get at  I want more variety!  But retail therapy had been working for me for a while there.

I would also love any ideas that anyone from grumpy nation has.  I saw an awesome comment on a blogpost about having a treasure/surprise bag to go through for younger kids with toys and activities after chores are done (I can’t find the specific post– will link here if anyone remembers).   Our DC1 (age 13) was already planning on starting a youtube channel and learning video editing this summer, so those plans haven’t changed– zie is mostly focused on the AP World History exam right now and hasn’t had a chance to be angsty, unlike poor DC2.

What are you and yours looking forward to this summer?  Do you have any suggestions for things to plan or places to buy random fun stuff from?

p.s.  my dc2 has a birthday in late summer and usually gets 2-3 celebrations over the month—in-laws, us, my sister … need to be thinking how to make our single little family celebration more special than just presents, a cake and a song with dinner since zie usually also gets a party at grandma’s with the cousins during summer vacation and a day out with my sister on a later weekend.

ask the grumpies: What art do you like?

Leah asks:

Do you like art? If yes, what is your favorite period of art? I really enjoy modern Dutch art from the Mondriaan era.

Of course we both like impressionist paintings because you have to if you live in the Midwest. Similarly Magritte.  I don’t think there’s a choice, for the same reason.

I love Dutch masters with a bazillion things going on in them… think Bruegel and Bosch.  Though there’s this one dude who has a ton of paintings of monkeys named Teniers  who I first saw at the Prado and I immediately got a poster of his work– a painting of a zillion paintings in it.  I guess I love clutter?

I’m also a fan of the opposite– I like Miro a lot, especially the ones with the long squiggly lines and bright bold colors.  Generally I prefer whimsical and cheery modern/post-modern art to darker emotions.

Really there’s not much art I dislike except the stuff that is obviously misogynistic/racist or smells bad.  There’s a lot of truly modern art that is just meh (I like to joke that if I don’t understand something, it must be art), but it hasn’t stood the test of time.  I really loved the art history class I took in high school.

Magic cards…

Grumpy Nation, what art do you like?

Ask the grumpies: Why are you mostly against red-shirting?

J asks:

Do you see any benefits for me holding my daughter back from starting kindergarten? Her birthday is a few days before the cutoff.
Reasons for holding her back in my head: another year of relaxed preK learning, slight advantage for her getting into gifted programs, more confidence (potentially). Drawbacks that I see: 1) she might be bored academically if she is the oldest and this might lead to behavior problems, 2) it would cost more money to pay for another year of full-time preK.
I don’t see much research on girls being held back. It’s mostly about boys.

So… this is really the wrong place to ask for positive things about red-shirting (the term for starting a kid late in K).  #1’s kids are both grade-skipped (even the one whose birthday is a few days before the cutoff) and #1 and #2 both wish they’d been grade-skipped.

Kindergarten programs vary tremendously across the country, but most of them are still a transition into first grade even in the places where kids are expected to be reading and doing simple addition by the end of the year.  That’s because a lot of kids still come in without having had any pre-K and they need to learn how to do things like sit still, take turns, follow instructions, stand in lines, and so on.

On this blog, we don’t see learning as inherently a bad thing.  The idea of not getting to learn when you could is anathema.  Why start a year behind when you don’t have to?  If not already reading, why hold back the phonics tools to read and all the joy that comes from that?  Why not get challenged while you’re still young and it’s still fun and you’re not expected to know everything already?  Starting later always seems less relaxing because there’s more pressure from expectation.  It is easier to drop back than it is to jump forward should troubles arise.

Academic advantages from redshirting tend to disappear by around third grade (athletic advantages persist).  For kids on the margin of finishing high school, redshirting can make the difference between not graduating and graduating simply because of compulsory schooling laws– that is, a kid who is a senior age 17 is more likely to graduate from high school than one who is 18.

I’m not entirely sure what the advantage of being in a gifted program is for someone who doesn’t need to be in a gifted program?  If a kid needs to be in a gifted program, then they should be, and if they don’t, they shouldn’t?  The idea is to address a special need.  Depending on the tests they use, an additional year may or may not help because many gifted tests are age adjusted.  I guess there are arguments for it if it’s not actually a gifted program but a program for academic achievement, but so much more would be gained in terms of learning by being on grade-level rather than being behind.

Schools are also more likely to diagnose special needs than preschools and get kids with special needs intervention, so that is another benefit of starting on time as most interventions work better the earlier they start.  (I vaguely remember my sister getting speech therapy for a lisp.)

In terms of confidence, I don’t know about the research, but I do know growing up, we knew who was a year older because they “flunked kindergarten” or started late.  That was definitely worse than being on the younger side.  People against grade-skipping are always asking about what happens when our kids hit puberty age etc. (answer:  it has not been a problem for DC1), but being on the earlier side of physical development also has the possibility of being unpleasant… much better to not be the first person in your cohort going through it.  Similarly with grade-skipping folks are always asking “what happens when it’s time for college” (answer:  we’ll figure that out), but as someone with a PhD, I can say I had more options for timing fertility than my friend in the same program who had started kindergarten late (and I needed that time since it turned out I was infertile).  And… if something goes wrong in K-college (ex. mono), there’s more options if you are on the younger side than the older… nobody wants to be 19 or 20 and still in high school.  It’s easier to delay going into the labor market during a recession with a masters degree or stay another year in college to pick up a different major etc. if you’re younger rather than older (unless you have wealthy parents willing to support you for years, of course).  There’s just less room for mistakes and changes when you’re older and wanting to start an adult life.

And that’s why I don’t see the point in red-shirting unless there’s a really good reason, or sports are super important (like, professionally important) for a family.

In terms of actual advice:  Take things a year at a time.  It is far easier to drop back if things aren’t working out than to get back to a normal grade.  Since your kid has been in pre-K (and thus knows how to sit in a circle, not hit people, etc.), it is probably going to be just fine.  If it isn’t fine, then you can decide then and try again later.  (And if the kid is hyperactive in preschool, she may blossom in Kindergarten with more challenges–that’s the main reason we started DC1 at 4.)

Ask the grumpies: How do I deal with meal planning with an uncertain pantry?

Hannah asks:

I’m used to cooking by recipes and buying ingredients each week based on the recipes I chose on the weekend.  Now I can’t do that because grocery times for curbside or delivery are not only scheduled 2 or 3 weeks out but in general a third of the things we try to order aren’t available (generally things like eggs, flour, etc., but also random things like Swiss chard)  What have other people been doing in this “era of unprecedented recipe substitutions“?

Recipe substitutions are definitely one thing– depending on what you’re trying to make, spinach or really any green will work in place of Chard.  I actually used the greens on beets recently because I was craving something and I was reminded how chard-like they are.  The internet will help if you’re not used to making substitutions.  Of course, it’s nice to know that you’re going to need to make a substitution when you’re doing the grocery shopping– I’ve been using the “comments” space for my preferred substitutes, but some personal shoppers are better than others.  Still, in a week when you’re going to be making chard, you might just get some loose leaf spinach for a salad earlier in the week (this is something we did this week) or frozen spinach to keep in the freezer as part of your pantry (we do this with broccoli, though frozen broccoli has only been available once for us and fresh broccoli has been pretty reliable).

Another thing you can do is stock up your baseline pantry and then do the menu planning *after* shopping.  Here’s a post about what’s in our pantry (or at least what we try to keep in there… back in the days when we left the house).  That can get a little difficult in terms of perishables though, because you generally don’t keep perishables in your pantry and if you’re not doing menu planning before, it’s hard to know what refrigerated things you should get.  But you may be able to keep things in your pantry such that you can always make bean chili, for example.

So that leads to flexibility.  Go ahead and menu plan your week (I guess 2-3 weeks in advance?), but also have back-up meals that you can make if you get, say the leeks but not the eggs you wanted for your leek and egg dish (that you’re hoping to make from Ottonlenghi’s Simple this week, just as a non-random example).  Keep in your back pocket flexible recipes like stir-fry, things in sauce over a starch (if you can find pasta or rice) or over a piece of meat, sandwiches, and so on.  If you’ve been able to get any frozen veggies or chicken, these are something you can add to fresh to use up extra veggies.  Standard flexible things can be rough because there’s so much demand for things like rice and bread, but you can often substitute carbs (as @scalzi demonstrates, anything can go in a tortilla, like sauteed beet greens with some cheese) or even just not have the carb.

We’ve personally been playing grocery store roulette with things like milk, butter, sugar, and flour (have I mentioned DH’s stress-baking?  I was wrong when I thought he was going to stop doing so much).  I just ask every week and say we’ll take any substitutions.  And some weeks we get it and some weeks we don’t.  Some weeks we have a bit too much and some weeks I worry that we’re not going to make it through the week.  (I’ve also ordered flour online, but now seems to be out.)  And for things like free and clear dishwashing liquid, instead of saying “any free and clear dishwashing liquid” which resulted in something with scented with red dye last week that had “gentle” in the title (DC2 gets hives, and I get hives with most fragrances), I’m trying to pick one of every brand but say “no substitutions”.  If I end up with four dishwashing liquids then we’ll be set for a little while.  If I end up with zero, at least I’m not getting one I’m allergic to.

Of course, flexible meal plans take a higher mental load than what you’ve been doing, most likely.  I’m not sure how to get around that if you also want variety.  (If you’re ok with just eating the same food and it’s the same food that the grocery store has, then you could do that…)

Here’s another post on different cooking systems from back in 2010.

Grumpy nation, how have you been dealing with menu planning during the pandemic?