Grocery Sanity

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With my first full month of intense debt reduction coming to an end, I am learning how to shop for groceries like a sane person. There were a couple of grocery trips where I spent about $80 — but never one where I spent any more than that. Mostly there were little trips to pick up a few things we’d run out of.

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A big grocery haul typically includes lots of fruits and veggies, a couple of dozen cage free eggs, several tubs of tofu, a few bottles of wine, milk, half and half, bread, beans, tubs of fresh peanut butter, and even San Marzano tomatoes. You just need to find the right market. And know how to cook.

But notably — no cheese, no processed snack food, nothing much processed at all.

If only I had come to my senses earlier, I might still be a millionaire.

 

On An Empty Fridge

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My 85-year-old mother has hardly anything in her fridge: some milk and eggs, a couple of tomatoes (she won’t listen that tomatoes should never be refrigerated), a cucumber, some lettuce, a couple of lemons, and a bit of cheese. On the mostly-empty pantry shelves there’s rice, an onion, a box of cereal, some bananas and a few potatoes. In the cupboard there is coffee, very old garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, and some olive oil. In the freezer are stashes of things she made some weeks ago, a little bundle of dill wrapped in a paper towel and secured in a plastic bag, some meat she got on special, and maybe some frozen spinach.

That’s it. Not counting spices and condiments, she’s got maybe 15 items of food to last for weeks.

Sad?

Oh my god no. That woman can cook. She’s like Jesus with half a loaf of bread and a fish. She spends hardly any money at all on food and can turn out wonders. I’m not going to tell you what cause that could blow my secret identity. But I will tell you that she grew up under Nazi occupation super hungry. But more importantly, she was steeped in an old world culture with its ancient food ways.

You don’t need a lot of different kinds of food to make a lot of amazingly delicious meals. You just need to know the “pattern languages” of food. For millennia peoples all over the world learned to make much with little, leaning on the knowledge past down over generations.

These did not include Cool Ranch Dorito chips for $3 a bag. I know it’s been said many times, many ways, but our way of eating sucks.

Learn from your mother, or maybe her mother or father or uncle, how to cook the old world way, how to turn oh so little into oh so much delicious bounty.

And then save a bundle of money.

Greek Black-eyed Peas & Greens

I started off my year of no shopping with a big pot of black-eyed peas for the family, a variation of my usual recipe thanks to the small bunch of beets I picked up at the market this morning for $1.49. So in the spirit of my frugal gourmetness, let me tell you how to make it and about how much it costs to do so:

  • Extra Virgin Olive oil (about 2 T or 10 cents worth)
  • 2/3 of a big sweet onion (about 40 cents)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced (10 cents)
  • 2 cups dried black-eyed peas (I paid $1.50 to get them in bulk)
  • better than bouillian of any flavor (1 T, about 10 cents)
  • salt and pepper to taste (a nickel)
  • greens from three beets, rinsed well, stems separated and chopped ($1.49 including the beets you’ll use for something else)
  • juice of 2 or 3 lemons ($1)

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Resolutions from the 6%

Some people are skinny fat, I’m rich poor.

According to CNN Money, my household income is in the top 6% of the country. But for reasons I’ll detail later—like my insane credit card debt—it’s time to resolve to embark on a year of no shopping, that is, no shopping for clothes, bags, jewelry, or shoes, and to rein in my wanton grocery shopping.

Stopping frivolous spending is obviously worthwhile, especially given how many pairs of Fluevogs I own. But food? I’m going on a grocery budget because my family of 3, sometimes 4 when one kid is home from college, has been spending an obscene amount on groceries, on average about $1,800. Add in alcohol and restaurants, and it comes to an outrageous $2,700 per month.

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Compare that to what is supposedly the average of $151 per week (times 4.2 that’s $634/month)  or what one site recommends at $125 per person per month, which would for us be about $450 a month!!! Even the generous USDA site says that extravagant spending would amount to about $1,000 a month for our family. I don’t want to be extravagant, but I can’t begin to fathom how to spend as little as $600 per month on food and drink, so I am going to do my best to keep the food and dining bill to under $900 a month.

Resolved… Ready, set, go to

  • a year of no shopping for clothes, bags, jewelry, or shoes
  • a food and drink budget of $900 a month.

As of December 31, 2017, this is a brand new blog, so I have at the moment zero readers. But if one or two or more happen by, feel free to leave a comment, confidentiality guaranteed. Are you struggling with anything like this? Or am I truly alone with this embarrassing dilemma. Are you embarrassed by your extravagance? Or living beyond your means? Or maybe just super irritated that I am complaining about my first world problems?