In these times of economic stress, and the stress of not knowing if you will be the next to lose your job, most of us are making the effort to stretch our pennies farther than ever, whenever possible. My husband and I have been working to develop a mindset, that first asks “can we do without?” before it ever ever asks, “can we afford it?”
If you make frequent trips to the store, you know what I mean. “Oops hey honey we are out of mayo, can you stop by the store and get me some?” is a common refrain in our house, replacing mayo with any number of items. Then of course the resulting response is- “Sure, do we need anything else?”
“Do we need anything else?” is a loaded statement, which then results in a list, and of course, most times you hit the store there is at least a couple things that were not on the list, that end up in the cart. As the snow ball rolls, the receipt at the end of the day gets bigger and bigger.Of course you “can” afford it, it is only twenty dollars or so, but those trips add up fast! Do that a couple times a week between shopping trips and pretty soon the food budget is on the fast track for an enormous bust.
Most people will say; make a list and stick to it or only go shopping once a week. Both are good advice, but sometimes when the milk jug goes unnoticed, and the Catsup bottle gets pushed behind the mustard, things don’t go as planned and that is where we get in trouble.
The most important thing to do of course, is to plan as well as you can at your main trip, and try to get everything you will need for that shopping period, but when; try as you might you run out of something what do you do next? There are three strategies you can use to stop the dreaded repeat trips to the grocery store.
1)Can you do without?– Often times “wants” get converted to “needs” and we find ourselves thinking we cannot live without milk, catsup, paper towels, or any number of other items that we have grown so used to having on demand. We do it without thinking, in an on demand society this is a pretty common response.This is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of mankind, for much of our history we have simply learned to do without when certain things were not available. 3 square meals certainly did not exist except for the richest of people, and even they were subject to the laws of season and supply. As I was Growing up, if we did not have something; we needed to wait till payday to get it, and had to be creative in the meantime. Ok so you don’t have catsup for those french fries, perhaps you will need to make rice instead, no bread for sandwiches? That makes it a great time to use up those leftovers.
2) Can you substitute? – More often than not, there is a substitute that can be had easily for the item you lack. Out of milk? Do you have powdered or evaporated Milk? Can your family drink juice or better yet water for a few days? No paper towels? use regular towels, this is better for the environment too! No lunch bags? Use a plastic grocery sack, or one of those cloth grocery bags would be even better if you have them.
3) Can you make it yourself? – Ok so how about learning to make bread, bake cookies, or make catsup? If you have the ingredients there are a large number of convenience food items than can be made from scratch. There is also the added benefit that you are learning a new skill as well.
There are very few items that can be substituted, made, or done without, ( ok I know you have to go get the toilet paper!) Use your creativity, and remember that running out of something is not an automatic trip to the store. This is a technique that is more about thinking first, something in this fast paced world we have forgotten how to do. Train yourself to ask yourself these questions before every unscheduled grocery trip, and you will find that many of those trips are unnecessary.
If you must go to the store before payday, be sure to make a list of only those things you must have, and stick to your list. You will find if you stick to this plan, you will save lots of wasted dollars, as those 20$ trips add up fast.