Groceries: The Final Frontier

I have a love hate relationship with groceries. I love to eat them.

But I hate to secure them. I hate to cook them. I hate to plan for them. I hate to store them. I hate to pack them in from the car. I hate to count how much they cost. I hate to wash them, soak them, open them, clean them, bake them.

Eh.

And I hate that they are the last thing standing between me and my fully funded Roth/paid off Mortgage/Retirement at 45. Or whatever that dream was again.

But they taste so good.

When we paid off $100,000 in debt in two years, we did it by controlling each category of our lives at once, like a ring master jaunting around a circus with a 15 foot whip demanding the submission of hungry lions and bears that would threaten to devour him with one wrong move. SNAP!

Not really. I’m not a circus person. Creation care/ animal rights and all of that.

But we ARE pissed about money (I’m learning it’s more of a pissed-at-the-culture, actually) and we have been for some time now. Pissed in a Crack That Whip sort of way. We like to make our money do exactly what we want it to do, all of the time, in every single corner of our lives. We like to scream at it and boss it around. And we don’t take no sass.

When we were dumping debt, we ate beans and rice and rice and beans until our house smelled like Azteca. (yum).

But then we got FREE!!! And when you get FREEE sometimes you forget how you got that way.

Enter the $200 a week grocery budget. (YIKES mama!) Because we are an affluent family of five living in the suburbs with a six figure income and zero debt except the loan we have on the house, we deserve an $800/month grocery bill right!?!?

Ha. Ha. Ha. No.

What we do deserve is to walk in freedom, which means spending whatever the heck we want on food.

And I want to spend less. Like. $440/month less.

This isn’t my first Food Rodeo. The beans and rice schtick was one blip on the Food Graph for me. Since I’m pretty globally minded, I spend a lot of time thinking about how everyone else is eating, and more importantly, surviving. We spend more than an average amount of time questioning what we eat and why we eat it and how other people all over the globe are getting along with their food choices — their own or choices that are made by their circumstances. And why on earth we think we are entitled to stuff our faces (and throw so much away) when other people starve.

This is what keeps me up at night.

And it’s pretty depressing. Always. The $200 a week budget is pretty new…. and it came out of me being lazy. I like to go out to eat and I like to buy things already at least partly cooked. Because in this season of my life, I’ve allowed myself to think cooking is hard and time consuming. LOL. It’s not.  I used to LOVE cooking. But I lie to myself and choose convenience over work.

And I feel guilty about $200 a week. Ugh so guilty. Starving people in China, for starters. But there’s more to it than that. I’ll type that later.

Because the point I want to make is this: This week our budget is $65 a week! And then every week after that it will be in the $90 a week ballpark. That’s less than a buck a meal or thereabouts per person. Ish. Since we have five-ish people here (some are quite small so I’m really counting them as fractional-people. HA!). And there’s room for coffee and maple syrup and cream for my coffee. Yum.

And that’s not bad at all.

The Food Stamp Challenge, where you see what it’s like to eat using food stamps on the  amount the government provides, allows for approximately $25 per person per week (between $1-$1.25 per meal). For us that would be $125/week. Ish.

Sigh I remember the day our Real Life Grocery budget inched up to $125 a week. (It had been at 80). Rejoicing! I could finally afford to buy Oreos once a week.

So we did the Food Stamp Challenge, several times on accident, since our budget was already set at or below that mark. And once on purpose, when I felt guilty for having the $200 budget. And now we are at it again, but from a different angle. From a more pissed angle, if you will. Because this time, I want to fully fund my roth every year AND pay off Mort AND do it on one income, AND we are getting closer and closer to 40, AND our kids want to play sports AND we like to fix up our house AND our kids are growing and so it’s kind of like Now or Never.

The Dollar A Day guys, whom you can watch on Netflix, bring to light some of the challenges the rest of the world faces with food economics. It’s really really hard (slash impossible) to live on one dollar a day, but millions of people do it. So if they can do $1 a day, I am making myself do THREE TIMES that amount. Even that feels guilty. But because while sometimes as a family we challenge ourselves for the sake of gaining empathy for others, this exercise is more of a once for all change I’m making for the rest of our lives. I fully intend on doing the dollar a day challenge for week or two or a month, probably when my kids are older, so we can learn something.

My greatest fear is raising entitled brats.

But for now, we are making a final life change choice that is sustainable long term. Because we’ve done it before. I just got distracted by #RotisserieChickens and #Alfredo. And OREOS!

So for this week so far, I’ve been back in the kitchen cracking that whip. Limiting the meat big time and amping up the plant protiens — quinoa, rice and beans, and hitting the Amazing Egg pretty good. Taco bar, homemade broccoli cheddar soup, homemade bread, homemade graham crackers! (we have littles!), lots of carrots and celery and egglplant and zucchini (yum) and bellas.  And salads out my ears. Yes…. it’s good to be back in the kitchen.

Just like all of this Freedom stuff, there’re secret bonuses to be gained along the way. Yeah we are putting an additional $440 bucks a month into my Roth (Woot Woot!! Which doesn’t translate to stock piling riches for myself. It translates into being free at a younger age to spend money and time making the world a better place in completely my own way. When we don’t have to work a 9-5, because we are only spending $12k a year on survival, and our Roths can support that, then we get to spend time and money loving people and feeding them and talking with them and learning from them) but I’m cooking with my kids. We are eating PLANTS. (Almost time to plant our own garden again… and chickens will be laying this summer.) But we are gaining SO MUCH MORE JOY than what we had with the $200 budget!

It’s fun to eat out and it’s easy to bake some Costco Alfredo. But it’s CRAZY FULFILLING to get up at 4 and bake bread for your kids. And it makes my house smell AWESOME. It’s amazing to stand in my kitchen and help my babies wash and cut veggies. And it’s filling to eat all these plants. I feel like I’m learning to be a slightly better human, from a Creation Care standpoint. (Not because I think the Bible says we can’t eat meat. haha no. But because there’s a LOT that goes into our food before we get it in our bellies, from mistreatment of farm workers, slave labor, animal abuse, altering of ecosystems, pollution at large, etc. As a family we are learning to take care of this world, and that’s hard. But we are trying.)  And from a physical angle I don’t feel as tired and gross anymore because… no processed food (even though we typically don’t hit that very hard anyway…. unless we have $200/week to spend… ugh).

Wahoo. I consider this corner of the budget #conquered.

 

PS please don’t assume I’m judging people who spend $1000 a month on groceries. Or whatever. I just choose differently. We are all learning our own stuff. Enjoy your Costco Alfredo and cheesecakes. I’m enjoying my homemade super healthy CHUNKY MONKEY SMOOTHIES every single night at $.15 a pop. HAHA. And we can all hold hands and sing together on Sunday. 🙂 I just won’t have to go to work on Monday. 🙂

 

 

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