The "No Plan" Plan
Basically, every week I walked into the grocery store and just bought whatever I wanted. Of course I had a list of needed items, but in addition to that I just bought whatever looked good. Our spending went from about $30.00 per week to about $60.00 per week (average.... of course, I'm not really keeping track besides a quick glance at the receipt).
Like anything else, the 80/20 principle applied to this experiment. 20% of the extra spending ($6.00) accounted for a majority of the happiness and less cooking. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, store-bought bread has been great to have around. We tried some convenience meals (canned, frozen, boxed). Some were okay, but I've decided that sandwiches are easier, faster and tastier than expensive packaged food. As far as happiness goes, I've enjoyed making a few new meals, like fish tacos. What made the fish tacos possible was a $0.69 mango, and fish. When I was on the $10.00/wk. plan, I never bought fish because it cost $3.00 per pound instead of $2.00. However, last winter I realized that cheap tilapia is actually cheaper per gram of protein than the ground beef I was buying on sale. So technically, fish is a better deal than beef. But I digress.
What Did I Spend More Money On? Was It Worth It?
What was I spending the extra $20.00+ dollars on every week? Fresh produce. Apples, bananas, more mangoes, avocados, fresh green beans. Upgrades. Even something as small as parmesan cheese (as opposed to mozzarella or cheddar) was an upgrade for us. We've also been buying more junky snack foods. And sugar.
Do you know what the most shocking thing has been about my little spending experiment? We waste so much more food than we used to. A whole gallon of milk sat in the fridge and expired before we ever opened it. An entire bag of green beans molded while still sealed in the package. Today we finished up some grapes that were beginning to go soft. Instead of spending less time cooking and stressing about food, I'm running around trying to keep all of this produce from rotting, and then feeling guilty when it does.
Yeah, it feels good to buy whatever you want at the grocery store. But the reality is, I'm just buying more food than we need. Instead of having eggs for breakfast like I have for the past five years (with a few oatmeal variations every now and then), I'll reach for a sugary sweet apple or banana. Then the eggs pile up in the fridge, and I'm freaking out about what to do with so many eggs.
Are we eating healthier because I'm spending more money? No. I'm buying more organics, but I'm also buying a lot more sugar and snack foods. My favorite kinds of sugar cereal were on sale last week for $0.99 per box. On the $10.00/wk. plan, I might have bought three or even five boxes, and spread them out over a few months. But on the "whatever looks good" plan, I bought ten boxes. I bought them yesterday, and I already opened one box and had some with the expired milk. Then I gave some to my daughter, without the expired milk. Then I felt guilty for eating so much sugar, and worse, for feeding my kid sugar cereal. Wow, wasn't that extra spending worth it?
On top of it all, this "buying way too much food" problem has not helped me achieve my goal of eating down the pantry before we move. Instead, I have nine boxes of cereal to deal with. Nice.
More Problems Than Solutions: The Grass is NOT Greener
Picture this: me, buying organic grass-fed ground beef and way more fresh produce than we can eat before it goes bad, so I can feel better about buying a ton of junky snack foods and sugar. Spending doubles. Then picture me feasting on the junk foods and sugar, while the produce rots in the fridge. Then I'm working my tail off to salvage moldy green beans and feeling guilty for wasting food and feasting on sugar. I think that's only a slight exaggeration of what's actually going on at our house.
And that, my friends, is the myth of "if I increase our grocery budget, things will be better". I mean, they might get better, but they might also get worse. I think we will be going back to budgeted spending soon, starting with a baseline of $10.00 per person per week, and then tack I might tack on an extra $2.00-$3.00 per person to do some permanent organic upgrades and include a little variety (like mangoes) in the bargain. But for my own sanity, we need to stop this enormous shopping spree.
Til next time,