Friday, July 15, 2011

Sticker Shock

I just handed over my debit card at the grocery store and did not even look at the total.  That only delayed the sticker shock.  I had to look at the receipt to enter it in the check book at home.  How do people with large families to feed afford to eat??

There are lots of sites with coupons and lots of sites with money-savings tips available on line.  I was moved to check a few out.  Being the daughter of depression-era parents, most of the tips were second nature to me.
  • Don't shop while hungry--you'll spend more.
  • Shop the periphery of the supermarket.  That's where the real food tends to be stocked.
  • Avoid processed, pre-cooked, pre-washed, pre-chopped, and overly packaged items.
  • Watch the specials, plan meals, and make lists.
  • Buy only the amount of perishable that you can use before it goes bad or you just waste food and the money you spent on it.
  • Use coupons only for something you would buy anyway.
  • Watch the scanner.  Mistakes happen.
Now these things were ingrained in me as I often shopped with my mother.  Still, I find them much easier to follow in my retirement years.  These tips may save money, but they do not necessarily save time and effort.
  • Don't shop while hungry.  Okay, but I passed the grocery store on my way home from work--ten miles before I got home.  I'm going to stop and pick up a few things even though I'm tired and HUNGRY--two conditions that leave me completely at the mercy of impulses.
  • Buy real food and do the prep and cooking myself.  It's five o'clock, dark, and I am TIRED and hungry.  Do prepared, frozen stuffed chicken breasts and a bag of salad look good?  Darn good!
  • Plan meals, have a list.  Of course the plan and the list are sitting on the kitchen counter.  Sometimes  the thought of having to come up with what to fix was more daunting than the actual cooking.  We went out to eat way more often when we were working.
  • Buying limited amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables was a stumbling block for me because in my theoretical "plan" I always figured in more than we would use--what with the impulse buying and the going out, I have thrown out more than my share of slimey produce.
  • Coupons are a marketing ploy.  Manufacturers and processors want you to spend more on their convenience products and they are clever at reeling in shoppers.  "I can afford to pay for this convenience because I have a coupon." 
  • Watch the scanner?  After trudging through the store aisles and unloading the cart, there's a quick nap time while the checkout is happening.
Actually, I have given up on coupons.  Have you noticed that it is more and more that you have to buy two or even three of an item to get the dollar off?  And I rarely see a coupon for broccoli or peaches.  They really are meant to get you to try things you wouldn't necessarily buy otherwise.  For me, a coupon deal rarely passes the "do I need it?" test.

One thing I hadn't really thought about was a tip to buy only groceries at the grocery store.  Personal care products, paper products, and cleaning supplies are cheaper at a discount store.  I just once bought groceries at a Walmart store and did not find it to be cheaper for what food  I usually buy.  I'll give it another try for non-grocery items--well, some kind of discount store, anyway.

Doing way more cooking, I do find the need to have herbs and spices on hand.  I grow my own thyme (use a boatload of that), oregano, chives, parsley, sage, rosemary, basil, and mint.  I dry it or freeze it and make my own blends.  For other herbs and the spices I have to have on hand, I go to the health food store.  I buy small quantities so even though the unit price may be higher, I spend less money and use them while they are fresh.

So now that I am retired I have less money, but way more time.  I'm back to following (mostly) the rules.  I do sometimes buy cold cereal for the grand kids and I still like to have a box of pancake/waffle mix on hand because I am not a morning person and breakfasts need to be easy.  Mike likes the deli selections, but not too often.  We go out to eat, but maybe twice a month instead of twice a week.  Actually, a lot more of our lives revolve around food lately, but we enjoy it more that way.


  1. "How do people with large families to feed afford to eat??"


    How do they? Especially when they have a couple of teen-age boys in the household! Teen-age boys are known to be "bottom-less-pits," when it comes to food.

    Where is this all supposed to end???????????


  2. Since I live by myself, I don't spend much on groceries since I'm not a big eater, but when I'm in Portland for the summer and kids and grandkids are in an out, it is very expensive.

  3. My problem is that I do shop Walmart for groceries but come out with lots of stuff that can't be eaten. My impulse is great in the grocery side but purely,pathethic and putrid in the rest of the store which I manage to cruise while "I am there".
    Arkansas Patti

  4. I'm back in the world of blogging. I enjoyed the break but am beginning to miss my blogging friends.

    This is a very good post. Something most of us struggle with on a daily basis.

  5. Like you I follow all the tips faithfully , shop sensibly and still spend a lot .
    My downfall is just greed . I don't buy more than I can eat , I'm afraid . We DO eat it !

  6. Hmmm. I don't think much about grocery shopping. I go to the store when I need something, since the safeway is three blocks away. I don't buy packaged, prepared foods much, mostly fruits and vegetables and meat and fish and dairy. I honestly don't pay attention to prices on stuff I buy all of the time, but do shop sales for meat and produce. And I do buy personal products at the grocery store, especially if they are on sale. It's easier that driving to another store.
    Linda Reeder


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