Choices

There’s an interesting interview with money guru Suzie Orman on the Weight Watchers website (of all places) about the connection between poor money choices and poor food choices.

From the article:

But you’ve got to decide: Are you going to have potato chips or the orange, apple or carrot? Are you going to put the money in the savings account or are you going to spend it? They’re identical. So when you don’t have money in your life, you’re the reason why. When you have weight on your body—in most cases, not always if there’s medical reasons—you are not a victim of circumstances, you have chosen to do that to yourself. They are absolutely identical in nature. Identical.

It took me a long time to figure that out, and a lot of days, I’m still figuring it out. I never consciously realized that I was blaming my weight –– or anything else –– on anyone but me, but I was. I used to think up all the reasons I was fat, and a lot had to do with the way my family ate when I was a kid. But that was still my choice. I could have chosen to eat differently, even as a kid. It wasn’t that we didn’t have healthy options at my house, or that my parents wouldn’t have bought me just about anything I asked for; it was that I liked eating the high-fat, high-calorie foods and I chose to eat them.

I really think the parallels between being in debt and being overweight –– two major problems in American society –– are fascinating and teribly apt. We live in a society where taking responsibility (not blame) for our own actions is frequently the last thing on someone’s mind, and if we want to change the size of our waist lines and our wallets (hopefully in opposite directions), we have to learn to take personal responsibility for the problems we have created.

The Grocery Game

So, over the weekend, the Husband and I made a trip to Wild Oats for our weekly groceries.  Our goal was two-fold.  First, as I’ve mentioned, we are operating on limited funds, so we’ve switched over to the envelope method of budgeting for things like groceries; we pulled out $300 at the beginning of the month for groceries, and we’ll only be using that cash to pay for our groceries.

Second, we wanted to shop at Wild Oats because, after both reading Pollan’s article, we were ready to take the plunge into buying more healthful, organic foods.

It was an interesting experience to say the least.  My husband had a piece of paper and a pen and kept a running tally of everything we put in the cart.  The hardest part was figuring out fractions of a pound in the produce section — next time we’re bringing a calculator!  (Oh, rusty math skills!  How you haunt me!)  We made it through the store and realized we’d forgotten the turkey for a stew we were planning to make — but we were already at our weekly budget.  It was a really interesting exercise, going through the cart and putting back some of the things we’d picked up that weren’t on the list, like ranch dressing, ready-made soup, sour cream.

It was also really challenging to only pick out foods that had only five ingredients or fewer.  I found an organic raspberry jam with only five ingredients, and though the ranch dressing (that we eventually put back) had more than five ingredients, they were mostly spices.  But that rule definitely ruled out a lot of things for us.

Overall, we spent just over $60 for a week’s worth of food for two people, and I would estimate that 90% of it was organic whole foods: fruits, vegetables, meat, and milk.

This is actually a food revolution for me in and of itself.  As soon as I start thinking about being frugal and keeping to a budget, my mind immediately turns to coupons and cheaper foodstuffs, but the whole idea of our new ethical eating is to eat better foods, and in this society, better means more expensive.   It seems counterintuitive that we should be trying this now, at face value.

On the other hand, how long can we afford to eat the way we have been eating?  Maybe the costs of that won’t catch up to us for ten or even twenty years, but they will catch up.

We managed just fine on our self-imposed budget, and we got much better quality for our money.  Better food, better health, better life.  On a budget!

Li-bary

The Husband and I made a trip to the library yesterday afternoon. Because of our aforementioned financial status, we’ve stopped buying books and magazines. In all honesty, I almost never buy new books any more anyway. My author friends would tell me that used bookstores steal revenue from authors, but at the same time, I don’t have the funds to commit $25 every time a new book I want to read comes out, so I compromise.

Interestingly, the library is even a better deal than used bookstores; you get to read new books much sooner after they come out than if you had to wait for them to show up at the used bookstore, and you get to read them for FREE!

Now, books are my crack, and not actually owning the book with which I’ve just fallen in love is something of an adjustment for me, but it’s not as bad as I’d thought it would be.

Anyway, after picking up the next installment in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials sequence, I moseyed over to the periodicals section and sat down with the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine. I like Martha. She’s a little odd, and more than a little OCD, I think, but I love the photography and design of her magazines, and I aspire to be crafty and a homemaking diva, so I like to look at her magazines. I almost never pay the cover price for them, though.

As I was flipping through the beautifully designed pages of cookie recipes and Valentine’s Day ideas, it occurred to me that she has an equally beautifully designed website, and nearly all of the information in the magazine is available for free on said website — or will be, as soon as next months’ magazine hits newsstands. So, I took out the little notebook I carry in my purse and made a note of all the articles that were interesting to me, that I might want to look up later.

Voila! Instant savings. Instead of buying the magazine, I now have a reminder to myself of the knowledge I might want to retain from it, and a way of obtaining said knowledge for free.

You always learn something at the library.

The Coupon Game

I’ve never been terribly good at being frugal, but certain aspects of it have always appealed to me. Like coupons. I love me some coupons. Speaks to my OCD, I think.

In any case, some time ago, I discovered the Coupon Mom website. Obviously, people who aren’t moms can also use and benefit from it, because what it does is compare the weekly circulars from your local grocery stores with the coupons that have come out in the Sunday paper and then combines them for you so you can get the best deals. It’s really kind of awesome. The idea is, if you buy things only when they are on sale and stock up, you will never have to pay full price for an item, which sounds good to me!

Today, we went and did some major shopping in preparation for yet another impending snow storm this weekend.

I spent $65.30 at Walgreens, but I saved $49.63 with a combination of sales and coupons. That means I got almost $115 worth of groceries (at full price) for $63.

Not too shabby.

For instance? I bought five boxes of cereal. Cereal normally costs about $4 a box. I paid $0.50 each for the five boxes. And now? I won’t have to buy cereal for MONTHS. Cereal doesn’t go bad, and we have room to store it. Where’s the bad?

Not everyone likes clipping coupons. I happen to enjoy it. But the best part about the Coupon Mom system is that you don’t clip the coupons! You save the entire circular, and then, when something goes on sale, you go back and clip out just the coupon you need. The online list tells you which circular it’s in (by date and brand) and even reminds you when certain coupons are about to expire. It even tells you the percentage you’re saving on any given deal, so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth buying those five boxes of cereal.

Also? The web site is free, unlike some other grocery game websites. And we love free, precious. Yes we do.