Sunday, August 13, 2006

Adventures in the Interactive Food Museum

....Ala' Paul Riser (Babyhood): aka the grocery store, or in NWA, Walmart Supercenter.

I noticed last Sunday morning that hardly anyone was at Walmart between 7 and 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings, so I hauled my insomnia-depleted carcass out of bed and went on a grocery run before the rest of the family got up this morning.

First stop, the automated coffee machine. You plunk in a buck and it gives you a hot, fresh cup of coffee.

So, I'm tooling through the store, with my list and my long-evolved grocery strategy. You know...the plan you have in your head for shopping. How you survive making that many decisions...yes to this, no to that...

and maybe it was because it was morning (not my best time of day) and maybe it's because I am ultra money-conscious right now, but I was kind of cranky about it. I was kind of annoyed by the price of meat being so high here and by the obviously well-to-do,blonde and on top of that, disgustingly-thin chicks buying their expensive organic chicken...witchilly (that's right, as in like a witch) and judgementally thinking I could be that thin too if I could afford to eat only healthy food...all the while craving a can of Spaghettios, which even my children won't eat....anyway, I digress. The point is that I was being a brat.

So it's been a couple of weeks since I got groceries. I like to see how long I can make a grocery run last...usually like three weeks if I throw in pancakes as a supper once or twice. We've been using kleenex as toilet paper for two days, but I really REALLY hate the mini-grocery run, because let's face it, you go in for toilet paper only and come out with toilet paper, a package of matches, clearanced flip-flops, a dog toy and a cube of pop. And also, it destroys the rhythm...if you buy things at different times, they run out at different times; but if you buy everything at the same time, the laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, shampoo and paper towels all give out at the same time. It creates a small amount of control over my little universe. Are you beginning to sense that I have a lot of neuroses concerning grocery-getting/consuming? You are correct. It has been shocking at times for my husband, like when I go ballistic when he finishes off a gallon of milk a full day before I planned to buy groceries. I assume he should understand that when the milk gets low, you nurse it along to make it last: you NEVER just selfishly gulp down the rest of it without thinking about what I will put in my
coffee the next morning (I have a stash of non-fat dry milk for this purpose, actually). I have these rules in my head, you see. I don't know where they came from, but they are rules. My greatest guilty pleasure: opening a new package or container of something before the old one is gone. I can hear my mother yelling at me in my head, but I ignore her and do it anyway.

And then of course, there is the matter of health. Also a very loud voice in my head. The voice always votes for whatever is on "God's Diet" which I used after I had Mattie to lose the 45 pounds I put on. The rules of God's Diet are: if you can kill it, pick it, pluck it or dig it, you can eat it. No sugar, flour, bread, pasta, carbs, etc. But if you want a steak with a baked potato and real butter, have at it. This is an excellent diet which just melts the pounds off in no time flat, but it also leaves you a little out at ends for say, lunch, the great sandwich hour. So I try to stick to pretty healthy stuff for the most part, but Calvin is always hungry and I can either try to fill him up with fresh fruit and veggies every three minutes, or I can mix in some cheap filler by way of Saltine crackers and 99 cent oatmeal cookies. I also try to avoid the 33 cent mac and cheese, but it usually follows me home at least once a month.

So now maybe you understand some of my crankiness. I have the rules. I have the budget. I have the expensive meat. It's all very complicated in my head.

So I'm in the bean aisle. Beans are perfect actually because they are crazy cheap and they are on God's diet. I buy a lot of beans. (I convince Vin to eat them by telling him that they are tiny pills of mashed potatoes; Charleigh, on the other hand has never met a bean she didn't like.) And my cart was pretty full. Okay it was overflowing already. There was nothing fancy in there, but it was so full I was getting a workout from pushing it.

A man passed me, sitting in one of those motorized carts. He and a friend were shopping together and his friend asked if he wanted beans. He had maybe five things in the little cart on the front of the scooter.

"I don't know..." he hesitated. Then he looked at my cart."I wish I could spend that much money." he said flatly.

I mumbled something about "cupboards being empty..." but mostly, I was just dumbstruck. At first I was annoyed. After catching a whiff of him, I thought (witchilly again) "Maybe if you spent less money on cigarettes..." and then I caught myself. Or God caught me.

"You've been going through this store ungrateful and focused only on what you can't have. You're mad because you have to try to make healthy meals on a small budget. You're fussing like a spoiled brat. That guy has fewer options than you. He's disabled. He's alone. He's older. What do you think his future will look like? You at least are able bodied and can earn something for yourself. You know how to cook healthy meals for your family. You have that ability because of me. How about a little gratitude?."

I headed to the checkout line humbled.

The cart was actually so full, I couldn't get it all emptied to move foreword and get the bags the cashier was filling with scanned items. The lady behind me said, "Oh! I want to go to your house! Look at all that good food." I must have given her a double take. "I have three kids." I offered almost apologetically. She laughed, "Yes, my children are grown now, but when they were younger, all their friends wanted to come to our house because they liked our food better"...she laughed to herself and the cashier hooted to me, "Yep, just wait til they're teenagers!" and then wished me a great weekend.

I began to wonder...am I...well, for lack of a better word, "normal"? Do I buy too many groceries? Don't we basically have less than other people in our cupboard? I am left scratching my head. So if any of you want to chime in on this, what is a normal grocery budget for you? Is there a better way to do this thing? What are your grocery strategies? How do you cut corners and stay healthy?

I told you I think about things too much.

14 comments:

Robb said...

mmm...the last gulp of milk with an oatmeal cookie.

ness said...

piggy

A said...

We always have at least two cans of spaghettios in the pantry. I eat them about once every two weeks. After eating them almost daily as a kid, I just can't leave them alone. In fact, there's some in the fridge leftover from dinner Thursday night, which was, for both of us, two cans of O's with chopped up hot dogs thrown in for a little protein. So, anytime you've got a hankerin' just drop by and we'll throw some on.

I'm not even going to touch the rest of the neuroses in this post, since I've no idea what it would be like to shop for a family with three kiddos.

But, I would add, that there was a day, actually about a year and a half of days, when I had $35 a week for groceries when I was first hired at Trinity as YP. That had to cover food, toiletries, cleaners, etc. and let's just say there was a little pressure from within my household due to the necessity to be frugal. We used to pack coolers in the back of our non-air conditioned 86 stick shift nissan sentra with almost 200K miles on it and make runs up to Mt. Pleasant that would include the Save-A-Lot, bread outlet, and Meijer for the things that just couldn't be found a the first two.

So, yeah, I guess perspective is good. There's always someone better off. And there's always someone worse off. But the uninvited commentary on your cart pretty much suck no matter how you slice them.

Sara said...

Growing up in a dirt poor family it was easier for us to consider those that were better off as just spoiled rich people...to us everyone who had more was rich it wasn't until later in life that i realized appearences were deceiving and that just because other people had more food in their cupboards didn't mean that they were spoiled brats.

I imagine the man that passed you is a little bitter at the ball life has thrown him and when a person seems to be "deprived" of things for a long period of time they almost forget what it's really like to be human.

You are well enough off that you're able to make healthy meals and not the same ones 3-4 times a week..that says something.

Heidi said...

Yeah beans!

Grocery shopping is a game for me these days. It is amazing how much food I can buy with a tiny food budget. It does mean a lot less meat and plenty of magical fruit.

I hate buying the mac-n-cheese too, but my kids go CRAZY for it! How can I pass it up?

By the way, baby Joshua is here. You can check him out at http://bott-family.blogspot.com/

I need to put up some better pics, but there are a few there.

ash said...

hey nessa bean!
i hate grocery shopping! publix is literally 30 seconds from my house, which i love and hate.
i ended up making a mega list of all of the dinners that i cook, in meat catagories with numbered week columns. it was fun making the list and it's super easy when i pick dinners for the week b/c i just check off the next meal (planning for leftovers and their uses, since brother-in-law brian doesn't live with us anymore!).
i make a detailed list by aisle of the ingredients i need and that's that.i'm done and out of there in less than 30 minutes!
john and i don't keep any junkfood in the house anymore. i had some candy and buttered popcorn leftover from student reward stuff but i put it in a tupperware container on the highest shelf of my pantry in the back...if i want anything from it, i have to dig to get to it.
i have to admit, that i might be that blond buying organic food in the grocery store, so please don't hate me...i just hate the thought of putting so much crap into our bodies, that comes right out in the same form..crap...it's not like my body needs hydrogenated oils and preservatives.
we eat lots of cherries, grapes, almonds and never drink pop...only water.
and really our budget for food each week isn't outrageous. i basically skip all the garbage in the middle aisles, aside from pasta and rice so it's not that bad. remember, that i was mom's main sidekick in the grocery store holding the calculator for many years...i learned from the best how to stretch $30.
do you have a costco membership? i think i'd be worth it for you.
i think you're normal though. one of my friend's with 3 kids spends at least $100 every week for food and another spends around $200/week....
ahh boca: land of the liposuctioned, nanny-needing, gym-going, organic only, well-manicured, perfectly tanned mother..... i gotta move west...

ash said...

hey nessa bean!
i hate grocery shopping! publix is literally 30 seconds from my house, which i love and hate.
i ended up making a mega list of all of the dinners that i cook, in meat catagories with numbered week columns. it was fun making the list and it's super easy when i pick dinners for the week b/c i just check off the next meal (planning for leftovers and their uses, since brother-in-law brian doesn't live with us anymore!).
i make a detailed list by aisle of the ingredients i need and that's that.i'm done and out of there in less than 30 minutes!
john and i don't keep any junkfood in the house anymore. i had some candy and buttered popcorn leftover from student reward stuff but i put it in a tupperware container on the highest shelf of my pantry in the back...if i want anything from it, i have to dig to get to it.
i have to admit, that i might be that blond buying organic food in the grocery store, so please don't hate me...i just hate the thought of putting so much crap into our bodies, that comes right out in the same form..crap...it's not like my body needs hydrogenated oils and preservatives.
we eat lots of cherries, grapes, almonds and never drink pop...only water.
and really our budget for food each week isn't outrageous. i basically skip all the garbage in the middle aisles, aside from pasta and rice so it's not that bad. remember, that i was mom's main sidekick in the grocery store holding the calculator for many years...i learned from the best how to stretch $30.
do you have a costco membership? i think it would be worth it for you.
i think you're normal though. one of my friend's with 3 kids spends at least $100 every week for food and another spends around $200/week....
ahh boca: land of the liposuctioned, nanny-needing, gym-going, organic only, well-manicured, perfectly tanned mother..... i gotta move west...

Courtney said...

Apparently Ashley feels very strongly about this :) just teasing, Sis. I'm somewhere in the middle of you both (ironic, isn't it?) I'm a lister--love lists, love 'em--and they make up the menu for two weeks with some alternates for the days when I'm too tired from work and home to really truely cook. That eases the temptation to run the Terry Villa and get subs and hot cheese balls (mmmm, good balls mmmm)I digress...
There is junk food in our house....store brand junk food for Ron who has the metabolism of a hummingbird (I hate him). And we have Dora. I'm not sure how to raise a kid without goldfish and fruit snacks...and nothing sucks worse than being stuck in the middle of errands and your kid is starving (they can't really help it after all). I buy bulk meat and we rarely have beef....lots of pork cause it's cheap. I think in the end it's kind of like when Mom made our clothes growing up and I hated it. I hated feeling poor and never being "in style" and then I grew up and now I wish she could make my clothes all the time because nothing fits my post-pregnant pastry chef body anymore. Mom and Dad worked hard to raise as much of our food at home and we didn't know how lucky we were to have home-grown organic veggies and meat (Man I loved butchering the chickens!!)I remember being horrified the first time I had to buy hamburger at the store....I think we are at least blest to know how to cook good food and take care of our families.....Robb, you're a pig, btw. Ron does the same thing so I side squarely with Ness.

Robb said...

oink ... slurp

courtney said...

men...can't live without them, can't housebreak them....

Elizabeth said...

My poor husband ate Ramon Noodles this week--Twice! (I'm so gonna get it as soon as he realizes they're not really that good once you've had them a few times).

I haven't learned how to hold a full time job and actually cook meals, too.

ness said...

beth...two words...CROCK POT. Truly the best invention ever.

ashley Bowersox said...

i made brisket tonight in the crock! woo-hoo!

Heidi said...

My mom used to make our clothes too. I hated it. What do I do now? Ask her to make me clothes of course.

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