Let’s start out with the requisite Halloween pics! Here’s our little scarecrow:
Clutching a Kit Kat he can’t eat—poor kid.
Halloween night didn’t go exactly as planned.
We were going to head over to some friends’ house after work to enjoy a few adult beverages and take gobs of pictures of our costumed sons. But Mason was exhausted from a busy day at daycare (and a busy week of having a double ear infection), with a super short fuse and zero interest in the whole “let’s put this scratchy, kind-of-smelly ruffle-necked thing on” idea.
He was also very upset when two of his best neighborhood buddies showed up at his door randomly, stayed for 10 seconds, and then took off into the night without him.
I mean, what was that all about??
By 7, he was literally putting himself to bed. (He waved goodnight and actually started heading downstairs to his bedroom. So responsible, that one.)
Oh well. I feel like I say this constantly, but: there’s always next year.
And to all you parents who got perfect pictures of your smiling kids in their adorable costumes: please tell me it wasn’t as easy as it looks. Tell me there was at least one outtake. (Lie if you have to.) Haha.
So! Anyway. Last week, the lovely Giselle wrote a great post about clean eating, grocery shopping, and meal planning. (If you don’t follow her already, You. SHOULD. She is an amazing mom and a huge inspiration!)
At one point in the post, she mentioned how much she typically spends on groceries each month, and for whatever reason, when I read that number, I felt a huuuge weight lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t even realize how much pressure I’d been putting on myself to be frugal at the grocery store, while also making smart choices about the quality of food I bring home. I was holding myself to some really aggressive standards and budget restrictions, and it was insanely stressful.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that, maybe, the arbitrary number I have in my head as the Ideal Spending Limit for groceries is just not realistic for me.
I can’t do it.
And maybe I just need to be ok with that, rather than beating myself up every time I come home with another load of “over-budget” groceries. I mean, I’m not buying a ton of extraneous crap, I’m making some pretty well-informed decisions about what to buy and where to buy it, and we use everything I buy. Isn’t that enough?
Part of the problem, I’m realizing, is that the Ideal Spending Limit number I came up with was largely influenced by blog posts I’ve read about grocery shopping frugally and healthfully…which were probably written by people who are particularly good at that. They clip coupons, they hit all the right stores at the right times, they buy in bulk, they do a lot of planning and strategizing, they repurpose ingredients, etc.
I mean: I admire Martha Stewart, but I don’t expect my dinner parties to look like hers. So why the disconnect on this?
I appreciate the people who fight back against the whole “healthy food costs more” argument, insisting that if you’re smart enough about your buying choices and ingredient-repurposing/leftover-flipping tricks, you can actually eat very healthfully and frugally.
And I totally agree with them.
BUT it also takes a lot of work to get there. Once you get some good organizational, planning, and shopping habits in place, you’ve familiarized yourself with a variety of cooking techniques, and you’ve gotten comfortable enough in the kitchen to get creative (a la: “I’ll just use the rest of this chicken in a nice Mexican salad for lunch tomorrow”), it’s definitely doable.
But that’s a pretty big ONCE.
I remember listening to the keynote speaker at the Healthy Living Summit this year, giving us a little Healthy Cooking 101 lesson. At one point, as she was talking about repurposing ingredients throughout the week, she said something like, “And maybe on Tuesday, I’ll take that leftover chicken and some fresh veggies and make a nice little soup!”
I remember her tossing up her hands, like that was the simplest, most obvious thing in the world to do when you find yourself with some leftover chicken.
Meanwhile, my brain was going: How the heck do you just “make a nice soup”? I have literally no clue how I would pull that off. Unless there’s a specific recipe in front of me, and I have every single one of the ingredients on hand, I’m lost at sea.
Am I supposed to know this?
So, yes, I have no doubt that it’s possible. But we have to acknowledge that it takes skill, time, thought, and a lot of practice. There is nothing simple or obvious about it.
Sometimes, when that reality is lost (particularly in the blogging world), those of us who haven’t mastered the art of healthy + frugal cooking are left scrambling, feeling like we’re the only ones who don’t have it figured out.
In addition to having a skewed perception of how much I should be spending on food, I’m sure that I (slash the Entire First World) am lacking some respect for how much food should cost.
I always think about this when I’m at the farmer’s market. I see farmers selling cucumbers for, like, 50 cents. Big, juicy, perfect cucumbers that they personally planted, watered, weeded, pulled from the ground, washed, transported, and displayed on a stand at 5 in the morning.
And there we are, picking through the produce, analyzing it, digging out only the most perfect specimens. Wondering if the guy on the other end of the market is selling his cucumbers at 3 for a buck yet.
It’s kind of embarrassing.
So how’s that for a nice little Saturday chat? Sorry—that ended up getting a little ranty and off-topic. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Are you comfortable with your grocery spending habits or would you like to improve them?
What’s something you’ve learned to do that’s made frugal grocery shopping or healthy cooking easier?