Counting Costs, Part 2


“Wealth: All I Ask for Is a Chance To Prove Money Can’t Buy Happiness.” from Demotivators

If you’ve been reading my blog for a few months, you know that I work hard to keep track of expenses. This is even more important for me since I’ve opened an IRA (yeah adulting!) and would prefer to save money instead of spending $16/month on gum.

With a new school year only a few days away, I’ve taken the time to plan out some “food rules” to keep my spending on food & household items in check, and still keep my house stocked with healthy snacks and meal items. Specifically, I wanted to keep myself from spending money on stuff that had little or no nutrition, like gum, and I wanted to keep myself from visiting the grocery too frequently, since like most people I usually wind up buying more than I intend to. I also wanted to streamline the grocery and meal planning process, since I’ll be very busy this year, and much as I enjoy cooking, I don’t want to spend thirty or forty minutes in the kitchen.

A new school year always feels to me like a brand-new start, as much a new beginning as the actual new year and a second great opportunity for resolutions.

So here’s the plan. A few new habits I want to develop:

  • I’m going to try a weekly grocery shopping trip, where I pick up most (not all!) supplies for the upcoming week. I’m thinking about Friday night, which I estimate is the night that Aldi’s is least likely to be crowded.
  • I’m going to actually plan meals, instead of deciding on the spot what I’m hungry for and what I have the ingredients for. Because I try to use up food that’s in my house but also don’t really plan meals, I’ve eaten some weird meals and also some repetitive meals (lots and lots of lentils!)
  • I’m going to limit my consumption of sweet stuff to a couple times a week. This is out of concern for my budget’s waistline, not my own. A veggie & chocolate loving runner, I’ve earned the nickname “rabbit with a sweet tooth,” and it’s important to me that I don’t put too big a chunk of money towards chocolate every month.

To go along with the goal of regular grocery shopping, I’ve put some thought into what I buy where. I’ve avoided Aldi’s in the past because invariably, I show up at the register with blackberries and a jar of peanut butter, and wind up waiting behind someone who is doing the grocery shopping for ten people for the next month! But if I figure out when Aldi’s is quiet and buy more than two things there, I can start stocking up on other, cheaper things as well.

From Aldi’s I plan to buy baking goods, coffee, cereal, eating chocolate, cheese, some fruit & veg (berries especially), canned goods, and flavoured drinks. Wal-Mart is the cheapest place I’ve found for toiletries and paper products, though, and there are a few things that are actually best purchased from Hy-Vee: bananas and apples, bought one at a time instead of in the huge bags that Aldi’s sells; bulk grains and pulses like lentils, and milk and yogurt.

I also have a couple new rules about what I’m going to keep out of my kitchen, and what I want to keep in it instead.

On the way out are things I eat way too quickly when they’re in the house: gum, candy-coated pretzels, chocolate-covered nuts, and trail mix (especially the kind with chocolate!).

On the way in are things I eat and enjoy for snacks, but at a reasonable pace: banana chips, baby carrots, hummus, pretzels or chips, non-caf tea, and (maybe) salted cashews.

One final goal that I’m not going to be dogmatic about: I’ve experimented with making yeast bread in the past and gotten much better at it. Rather than purchasing bread, I’m going to try to get in a rhythm of making it regularly, perhaps every two weeks, and freezing what I’m not going to eat immediately. I love bread and I love making it, so I want this to work! But it also takes time to make, and I want to be realistic about my goals.

As for why I’m doing all this: I enjoy food, preparing it and eating it. But I’ve caught myself putting too much thought into my supper plans in the past, when I should be putting more thought into lesson plans or into my future plans. I’ve caught myself expecting every meal to be fabulous when sometimes it just needs to be fuel, healthy and delicious but not so fancy as to take away from other responsibilities.

I have a few personal and professional goals this year that I think will be better accomplished if I discipline myself to spend less money buying food and less time preparing it.

We’ll see how this goes. Good luck to me! 🙂


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