I’m not one who likes to grocery shop (just ask my husband, poor guy!), but I felt inspired today to use up all the coupons that I’ve been collecting the last month, and maybe to have something other than PB+J for dinner. So, my husband and I ventured out on this Saturday morning to stock our shelves, freezer and fridge. Our challenge: spend at least $120 on food, so that we can get $30 off in coupons and not have to “bulk shop” again during the next few busy weeks of holiday prep. For those of you who shop often, this seems like no challenge at all, right?? In fact, I expected that we would meet the $120 goal, and surpass it, in no time at all. Boy, was I wrong…
30 minutes and $25 dollars in, we hadn’t even left the produce section yet. We had at least 2 of our reusable shopping bags full of fruits and vegetables for lunches and dinners for the next week or two, including plans for lots of leftovers and quick meals. At this point, though, we hadn’t spent much money yet, and I was starting to panic that I’d be stuck in the grocery store all day. But, we soon found out that, after filling up on whole foods, we really didn’t need to spend much more time shopping. A quick stop in the dairy aisle for yogurt, milk and cheese, and then onto the meat section for our lean chicken, pork and ground turkey. After stocking up on plenty of the lean meats, we still had only reached $70. Now what?
Lucky for us, we don’t buy many processed foods at all. In fact, one loaf of 100% whole wheat bread was the only processed food we bought, and that was on sale for $1.50. But now we were only at $71.50. So, we decided to stock up on some brown rice, spices, diced tomatoes (no salt added, of course!). This went on for a while more, with the moral of the story being that we had a lot of trouble finding enough food that we needed, or spending enough money. Crazy right?? For those who are wondering, we finally met our limit by buying some ingredients for an upcoming cocktail party we’ll be making appetizers for, as well as stocking up on some whole, raw nuts for snacking. Our final total: $107 dollars for well over 2 weeks worth of meat, potatoes, fruit, veggies, nuts, yogurt and extras. Without buying processed foods!
I was inspired to share this mundane (and most likely boring) story in this blog because grocery shopping is something that many of my clients struggle with. It’s expensive, it’s stressful, and it’s often hard to buy healthy items within a budget. Or so we think. But, my experience today reminded me that it is entirely possible to shop for a family, on a budget, and still buy healthy foods. It is not true that produce is more expensive than processed snacks. It is cheaper to buy oatmeal and fruit than processed cereals and bagels for breakfast. It is cheaper to take leftovers for lunch than frozen meals (even the “healthy” ones). It is reasonable to have fruit, nuts or yogurt for snacks, and cheaper in the long run than buying cookies, crackers or chips. Whole potatoes are cheaper than boxed versions of potatoes, rice or pasta sides, and much healthier.
So, the next time you drag yourself to the grocery store, remember to spend your time in the perimeter of the store, and skip the inner aisles all together, if possible. Or make a list of items you may need in those aisles, and don’t browse anything outside of those items. Get in this habit, and I promise you will save money and start eating more healthfully. Maybe you’ll even start looking forward to grocery shopping (though I’m not counting on this one for myself…)