After developing my corn and soy allergy, I became acutely aware and concerned about the quality of food and ingredients that I was purchasing and eating. I began to read every label (out of necessity) and chose many of the priciest options (sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of preference). I somehow got it in my head that only the priciest, most organic-y products (whatever my brain decided that meant) were the best options for my family. While this remains true for many of the prepackaged items I purchase (Turkey Hill All Natural Ice Cream!!!!!) I could easily purchase the staples (blocks of cheese, eggs, kids’ yogurt) at a cheaper price. Are there benefits to eating as organic and “fancy” as possible? Absolutely! Are there drawbacks? Um…yeah…my grocery budget.
We typically don’t budget individual spending categories because neither of us are big spenders. We don’t have cable tv, we don’t buy a lot of clothes, I don’t wear makeup, he doesn’t like gadgets, etc. However, as we have accumulated more debt over the years (you know – the grown up debt like student loans, new truck payments, and a mortgage…), I have officially reached the “that’s it, this has got to stop!” mindset. Whenever I looked at our spending habits there were not many areas that seemed crazy out of control, and when it came to groceries, I always made the excuse “well I have to spend more than most other people, I’m allergic to the cheap stuff.”
That all changes today.
When I took the kids grocery shopping with me (which I rarely do) their little brains and shopping techniques taught me a HUGE lesson. “Jocelyn, go pick out the yogurt you like.” She came back with something with SpongeBob on it. While I normally would choose the organic product that would not dare to advertise with the assistance SpongeBob and his underwater friends, my choice would have cost double her choice. Of course her choice was not made from an organic dairy farm that only uses the happiest of cows, but her choice just put a little more money towards paying off this hovering debt monster. This enlightening grocery shopping experience continued through the aisles with items like Superhero string cheese and Minion themed apple juice. The kids’ choices won almost every single time. (Side note: I thankfully don’t have to worry about them choosing overly junky food (we don’t even go down the cereal aisle) because healthy eating choices are pretty much in their DNA at this point). Even with their kid-friendly options, I still maintain a fairly strict limited-ingredient mindset – no sugary cookies and crackers, no fruit snacks, no bakery items other than sandwich bread, etc. The savings even rubbed off on me as I opted for things like Market Pantry Brand cheese, ground beef, and eggs, instead of the pricier Archer Farms and Simply Balanced options. I also noticed that many of these lower-priced items were available at even more of a discount with my Target Cartwheel and Mobile Coupon apps as well as on Ibotta and Checkout51. (Coming from someone who totally hates couponing, I highly recommend using these apps).
Did their food choices make me cringe a little? Totally. Do I kind of worry about the quality of their lunchbox goodies? Yep. However, what I’m more concerned about is giving them the best overall life that I can provide – which means things like more adventures, less working, and a more present mommy and daddy – and I know I can’t provide that to its fullest extent until we are in a better place financially. And then maybe I’ll kick Spongebob to the curb 🙂