Financial Friday is a weekly post of excerpts from my remedial money book.
Kelly arrives on campus with money in her bank account. It’s September, so the account is fat, but Kelly knows that whatever is in the account now has to last until December. If it doesn’t, she’ll have to call and ask her dad for more and she’d really, really rather not. The accounting, the explaining, the justifying (her) and the lecturing, sighing and grumping (her dad) is too steep of a price to pay. The rent, the books, the school fees are pretty much up front. She handles those first so that she doesn’t really have to think about them. Because she likes clothes almost as much as she likes shopping, she has a closet full and won’t be needing anything more for the rest of the semester (or, really, her lifetime.) Unfortunately, Kelly has to eat. Every day, four times a day, to be exact. There are some expenses that have to be considered on a daily basis. Here’s Kelly’s meal plan.
7 am. Breakfast—cereal and fruit $1.00
12 pm Lunch with friends at school $3.00
3 pm. Fruit $ .50
6 pm. Vegetables with cheese sauce $2.00
When Kelly goes to the grocery store, she buys hot chocolate, fruit, applesauce, bread, milk, cereal, eggs, maple syrup (Kelly likes to eat French toast when she’s glum) and cheese. Not having a lot of time and having to grocery shop when her roommate with a car decides it’s time to go, Kelly doesn’t give much time to menu planning and she generally eats pretty much the same thing every day, unless she has a date and he offers to pay for dinner, in which case she’ll pick something closest to the cheapest thing on the menu—she eats a lot of salads and soups. On Sundays, she eats with her roommates, the only day of the week where she eats meats and desserts.
Kylie and Kim are newlyweds living off of summer savings, scholarships and grants. Like Kelly, they also begin each semester with a fat bank account that dwindles as the semester nears the end--the difference is they cannot call their dads if their money runs out because they have serious pride issues. They take weekly turns with the cooking and meal planning, but they generally do their grocery shopping together. On Sundays they go for a walk and buy a Sunday paper and will spend on hour or so going through the paper cutting out coupons that they’ll take to the store that doubles coupons. When they shop they’re armed with a menu, a grocery list and coupons. They rarely deviate from their list.
Karla’s husband has an hour commute into the city and Karla has three preschool age children. Because Karla’s time with her husband is precious, she doesn’t like to leave him in the evenings nor does she want to waste their Saturdays in the grocery store. But, as much as she dislikes leaving her husband, or facing a crowded Saturday supermarket, Karla hates shopping with preschoolers even more. So, once a week Karla gets up at five am to do her grocery shopping. She shops at the only store that is open at that hour and has become good friends with the workers who stock the shelves. Because she has more money than time, she doesn’t even look at coupons or store advertisements, but she does make a menu and a list and she rarely deviates from it. She makes four meals a day and they rarely eat out, because eating out with preschoolers is almost as fun as taking them grocery shopping.
Kayla has six children in five different schools. She lives in a neighborhood with more than twenty school age children and it’s common for Kayla to have 10-15 kids hanging out in her kitchen looking for something to eat. Kayla grows plums, peaches, apples and tomatoes in her yard. The kids are welcome to eat anything off the trees that aren’t green—the tomatoes are never chosen. She bakes a lot of cookies. She does her grocery shopping while her children are at piano, or soccer, or swim. She makes out her menu for a month at a time and she doubles her recipes so that she’ll serve half and freeze the other half and save it for a (another) busy day.
Because Krista’s husband’s office is less than a mile from their home, he routinely comes home for lunch. Occasionally, they’ll go to their favorite taco place when his days are slow. Krista shops at two stores weekly—the warehouse store for her milk, bread, cheese, eggs and chicken, and the local place where she always finds the best produce. Every once in a while she’ll go to the expensive grocery store when steaks or roasts are on sale. She shops with a list, makes menus and even though it’s usually just her and husband at the dinner table, she enjoys making dinner. When her grown children are in town, she’ll load up on food at the warehouse store.
I’ll confess, I named all these women K names because I have been all of them. Kelly, Karla, Kayla and Krista—they’re all me at different stages in my life. I’m not saying that these are the best and smartest ways to grocery shop—I know that there are a myriad of ways to shop and save—what I am saying is that everyone needs to find a pattern that works for them and their current lifestyle.
Another confession—I often have guilt because I’m not my mother. I don’t have a life anything remotely like my mother’s. When I was growing up, my parent’s vegetable garden was larger than my California back yard. As a child, I spent countless hours snapping green beans, shucking corn, picking fruit and weeding. Our neighbors had dairy farm and since my dad owned a construction company, we had dump trucks which we would use to haul tons of manure we would spread on our vegetable garden. My dad and brothers liked to hunt and fish and we had a freezer full of bear, deer, pheasant, rabbit, elk, trout, salmon and a little fish called smelt. We ate tail, liver and tongue. We had an entire room in the basement dedicated to food storage and my mother and aunts spent weeks out of every summer bottling fruit and canning vegetables.
I do none of those things. I don’t have an acre of land or dump trucks or dairy farming neighbors. My husband doesn’t own a gun or a fishing pole and we live in harmony with the deer in the nearby canyon. I admire my mom for all that she accomplished and I hope that she would admire me for what I’ve accomplished—even though the difference is much bigger than my dad’s dump trucks. Did my mom spend way less at the grocery store? Absolutely. Sigh….
Using the grocery store ads, make a menu using the food currently on special and a corresponding grocery list. Don’t deviate when you go grocery shop.