Yesterday I stopped into the grocery store with my kids and husband. We needed to pick up just a few things like produce and milk.
As we were headed toward checkout, going down the snack/chip aisle, my four-year-old daughter exclaims, “I love these – they are my favorite, can we get them mama?” She’s pointing enthusiastically to a package of Keebler cookies, priced at $3.89.
I reply, “Sorry honey, those cookies aren’t sale, not today.”
My daughter pauses for a second and then says, “Okay, maybe next time!” and she skips off down the aisle. This happens many times during a grocery shopping trip, I didn’t think twice about it – and frankly, neither did my daughter.
I glance up and notice a women who was watching (and hearing) the conversation from a few feet down the aisle. She smiles a half-smile/frown and turns slowly away. Her half-smile/frown felt like sympathy for me. Like, “I’m sorry you can’t afford those cookies for your adorable kid, it must be so hard to say no. . .”
But what this sweet woman didn’t know is . . . she didn’t need to feel sorry for us. . . .This is how we shop.
When I decided to stay home with my kids (seven years ago!) it meant cutting our income by 60%. That’s right, 60 percent. Take $100 and throw $60 of it out the window. What was once $100, became $40 at the grocery store. I wouldn’t change staying home for a second. I wouldn’t trade anything for those extra 60 dollars, but I would be picky in how I spent the money I had left.
For us, this meant – if it wasn’t on sale and/or we didn’t have a coupon – we generally didn’t buy it. It was that simple. If it wasn’t a loss leader in the grocery ad (one of the best of the best deals), we would wait, and do without, until it went on sale.
And now, seven years later, our budget isn’t as tight – but we still live by this principle. I could have afforded to buy my daughter those Keebler cookies, but it wasn’t a NEED. And if we’re being honest here – they aren’t her favorite cookies, I think she’s had them once or twice in her entire life – those Keebler cookies are just one of dozens and dozens of products in the grocery store that she “loves with all her heart.” I’m sure, if you have kids, you understand.
For half the price of those cookies, we purchase two pounds of apples on sale – which actually, while I’m typing this, she’s eating with great joy. Those Keebler cookies are a distant memory.
Now this isn’t a debate about processed junk food and produce. If the apples were $3 a pound, we wouldn’t buy them this week either. But if baking supplies were on sale, I could probably buy ingredients to bake many batches of cookies for under $4 – while also creating memories with my daughter.
This is really about determining needs VS wants – and how can we manage a tight grocery budget by saying no to items that are essentially overpriced. It’s a constant juggling act of prioritization and thoughtful consumerism. It’s about avoiding impulse purchases, ignoring the in-store marketing gimmicks and making intentional choices about what we put into our cart- and how we spend our hard-earned money.
It’s about building our weekly menu on what’s on sale. Not just going into the store and buying what sounds good – that adds up so fast. It’s about eating what’s in season in the produce department (those are the best prices!), it’s about finding manager markdowns on meat and produce – and making a meal from it. It’s about being flexible and enjoying the puzzle of putting together the very best bargains in the store, to feed my family. It’s not a miserable-do-without-lifestyle – it’s money-smart and it’s about making the most of the resources we’re blessed with.
Our society is so full of consumerism, marketing and the idea of – you can have what you want, when you want it – with no implications. The grocery store is no different. They are set up to sell – the smells, the fancy displays, the free samples, the misleading signage – it’s all set up to make shopping enjoyable and easy for you – because ultimately you’ll spend more money. But remember, you are in charge. It’s your money. You can play the game strategically and come out ahead – every time – if you can say no when the prices are too high and say yes when it makes sense for you, your family and your budget.
EVERYTHING GOES ON SALE. . . EVENTUALLY. Most everything we want or need goes on super sale about every 12 weeks – some items much more often than that. If it’s something my family loves and uses often – we stock-up when it’s at it’s best price. I know those Keebler cookies will be as low as $1.99 in two weeks when the stores are pushing junk food for the Super Bowl and people have fallen off their New Year diets. I might pick up a package then, but probably not, because it really was just a passing impulse.
As your stockpile grows, it’s easier to do without. Some weeks I don’t shop, except for maybe produce – because the deals just aren’t that great. By having a stockpile of basic foods – pasta, rice, bread (in the freezer), canned tomatoes, freezer meals – whatever we might on hand – we are able to avoid paying high prices and still make healthy, enjoyable meals at home.
At the end of the day, my kids are healthy, happy and well-fed kids by any calculation. Compared to other areas in the world – we are downright spoiled by the food choices and the meals we eat. I stock up on their favorite foods when they are on sale (and especially when paired with a coupon) and they are joyful, happy kids. . . . who understand and know the value of a dollar. They understand that if we don’t buy something now, we can probably get it later. We aren’t just surviving, by living without, I truly believe we are thriving.
By living with a balanced budget (and saying no) we’re able to splurge in other areas – like an amazing trip to Disneyland last summer (my kids saved their pennies, too), weekend road trips, eating out when it makes sense and the occasional splurge on our “favorite” foods. 🙂
If you stick to a tight budget – find ways to reward yourself and your family! Perhaps you cut out soda or chips – and the money you’re saving goes into a vacation fund? Or maybe you use $10 in coupons and want to treat yourself to a $4 latte? The beauty of it all? It’s your choice how you spend your money – make it count.
When you say no to something – you can say YES to other things. If you’re strategic and steadfast in what you choose to give up – you can say YES to the things that truly matter to you and your family.
I think you’ll find that by doing without, you actually end up with MORE in the long run.
What do you think about this? Are there certain things you say “no” to, so you can splurge in other areas?