I was just realizing that it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything – in fact it’s been over a month! This is mostly due to the fact that all I’ve done lately is work and pay down debt, which means my life has been boring and uneventful. I’ve done some minor league paring down here and there, but nothing interesting enough to generate a blog post.
A couple days ago though, I was on my way home when I remembered that the previous week’s meal plan had run out and it was my responsibility to figure out what we were having for dinner that night. I was going to drive past the grocery store on the way home, so I figured I might as well stop and do the shopping while I was already out and about. As I started to get out of the car though, I found myself automatically reaching for my shopping list and coupons, and then I realized that I didn’t have either of those things, because I hadn’t done an official meal plan for the week. I also hadn’t checked recipes for ingredients, taken stock of what was in the fridge or cupboards, or gone through my coupon stash. I hesitated, feeling unsure if I should even go in, but I had snagged a great parking spot, so I decided to brave it.
Keep in mind, it’s only been for the past year that I have been doing meal plans/shopping lists/coupons. Prior to this year I would stop at the store much like I was about to do – with absolutely no plan of what I was going to buy, counting on the contents of the store shelves to inspire me. I figured it would be fine – I’d managed to feed myself all those years before, and back then I was often going shopping after a long day of work and rehearsal, when I was already exhausted and brain dead. If I could pull together a week’s worth of groceries in that frame of mind, how hard could it be now?
Forty five minutes later, I was still wandering the aisles of the store like a zombie, staring blankly at all the food, with no solid plan for dinner that night. In my cart I had two boxes of Kleenex (I had a cold last week), a roll of paper towels, a package of marked down Reeses’ Peanut Butter Eggs, and a bottle of shampoo for Ron. With the exception of the candy, there was no actual food in my cart. I had been up and down pretty much every aisle at least twice, but couldn’t make a single decision about what to buy, for a few reasons:
- I knew had coupons at home for things like pasta, chicken, bread and frozen vegetables, so I didn’t want to buy any of those items on this trip when I knew I could save money on them
- I couldn’t remember what produce we already had in the fridge, and didn’t want to buy more than we could eat in a week and have the excess rot
- I couldn’t remember my and Ron’s schedules for the week, so I didn’t know how many meals I actually had to plan vs. meals where leftovers or something from the freezer would suffice
- For every dinner idea I could think of, I knew there were items I wasn’t going to be able to remember, which would mean having to run back to store again before dinner if I’d forgotten anything
Add to all this the fact that it is the end of the month, and I knew we only had about $60 in our checking account, so wasting money on anything we didn’t absolutely need was not an option.
So I made the decision that I would only buy enough stuff to get us through dinner that night, and I would come back the next day after I’d taken the time to do a proper meal plan and shopping list. And I reminded myself that we already had a partial bag of Easter Peanut M&M’s and Easter Whopper Eggs in the cupboard, so I put the Reeses’s Peanut Butter Eggs back on the markdown table. I saw some ground beef that was on sale so I decided to make burritos for dinner, since I was pretty sure we had most of the other ingredients already. I checked out with a bill of about $16, which wasn’t too bad, but later that night Ron had to run back to the store right before dinner and spend more money when we discovered that we had only one tortilla left in the package, and though I remembered seeing half a bag of tortilla chips in the cupboard, he’d somehow polished those off when I wasn’t looking.
It was a revelation to me that my new habits around grocery shopping were suddenly so much stronger than my old ones. The amount of money we’ve saved on groceries in the past year, along with the fact we no longer waste food has been a very positive change in our household. We have also found it a relief to know what is for dinner every night, so when we’re hungry and grumpy at the end of the day we don’t have to ransack the cupboards or navigate the store with all the other hungry grumpy people. I’m all for spontaneity and satisfying in the moment cravings, but when it comes to staying on budget, and not being wasteful, I definitely feel my new habits are the way to go.
The next day I went to the store, meal plan made and shopping list in hand. I was in and out of the store in a painless and focused ten minutes, and this time, everything in my cart was food:
Believe it or not, combined with some of the food we already have and need to use up, it’s enough food to get us through to the end of month before payday. We will use every bit of it. The total bill was $25.31 (about half of what was left in our bank account). I actually didn’t have any coupons for what I was buying this trip, but I felt better knowing I had at least checked to be sure.
I am still work in progress around this whole lagom quest, and I still make a lot of mistakes. But this week taught me that at least in ONE area of my life, I am now sincerely living by lagom values.