Categorized | Feature, Interviews

Uzma Jalaluddin loves her Instant Pot but is no longer buying ‘things’

Posted on 06 April 2017 by admin

Every once in a while I get caught in a wave of optimistic shopping. I start to think my life really will be better, if only I had an ice cream maker/slow cooker/Le Creuset dish set.

It isn’t until credit card digits are surrendered that I remember I don’t like to cook, or learn how to use new gadgets. It took me weeks to set up my cellphone and I’m still not entirely sure where my photos are stored.

But as a cheerful pessimist, I believe in the power (if not the probability) of change.

My most recent purchase is the Instant Pot, a word of mouth Canadian-designed multi-purpose wunderkind. It’s a pressure cooker! A slow cooker! A rice cooker/steamer! It sautés! And makes yogurt! I had to have it. It’s downright patriotic to support a Canadian invention. Plus, all my friends were doing it.

I take the plunge and order the Instant Pot off Amazon. The box is heavy, the appliance large in my small kitchen. There are tons of recipes and Facebook groups devoted to the Instant Pot, all of which require a lot of reading and scrolling. Instead, I kick it old school and call my friend, an Instant Pot enthusiast. She coaches me through dinner: potatoes and chicken and gravy. It is delicious and my kids barely grumble. Definitely a keeper, but it starts me thinking about my shopping habits.

Maybe it’s the Pokemon cards I keep finding under the couch, or because I watched Minimalism on Netflix, but I’ve started to rethink the relationship my family has with the act of buying.

It’s hard not to get caught up in materialistic wants when surrounded by brands and slick marketing. Kids in particular have a hard time avoiding the temptation of the shiny new thing. Getting new stuff provides a satisfying hit of dopamine, the chemical dubbed “the happiness drug” released in our brains when we buy something on impulse.

Ibrahim lobbied hard for his Nintendo 3DS and Mustafa is hankering for an Apple-anything. I know if they get it, they will be happy for a while, but it will eventually lose its charm. This happens because of a human super power — our ability to adapt to surroundings and circumstance. It’s the same super power that makes people stop noticing a beautiful picture hanging on the wall, or the “new car smell” of a new ride. Or Lego on every single shelf.

But if I want to curb my kids’ thirst for acquisition, I have to start with myself. Which is hard, because I have a weakness for new books, new hijabs, fast fashion and kitchen toys.

Last year, I put myself on a shopping diet — I lasted three months, until new fall fashion lured me back to the mall. I’m not a big shopper, but the casual way I “” on a semiregular basis is worrying. It bothers me even more when my kids start doing it. Ibrahim is an equal opportunity coveter of toys, games and clothes; Mustafa asked for a pair of Timberland boots the other day, though I recently bought him another nonbranded boot.

Instead, I have decided to refocus their interest from things to experiences.

I was inspired by a 2016 article in Forbes, “Why you should spend your money on experiences, not things” that reinforces the power of experiences that “become part of our identity.”

On a recent trip to the U.S., it was easy to distract my kids by visiting parks and beaches, eating delicious food and taking in national monuments. The low Canadian dollar made the decision to avoid U.S. malls even easier. We came home after two weeks of travel with only a few small souvenirs, but enough memories to last a lifetime.

I still think my Instant Pot is pretty awesome, but it will be the last new kitchen gadget I buy for a long time. I just hope my kids follow suit and stop asking for more Pokemon booster packs.

Uzma Jalaluddin is a high school teacher in the York Region. She writes about parenting and other life adventures.

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