A Place at the Table: Shopping

On Friday afternoon,  I went shopping for the first time with my weekly Lenten budget in mind. (I meant to go on Thursday but it didn’t happen). Up until now, I’ve been eating out of the pantry at home, calculating the price of one meal at a time.  But my experience at McDonald’s on Friday showed me that approach wouldn’t work for the duration of Lent. (1) I would have to cook my food to have any chance of staying within my budget and (2) picking and choosing from food already on hand obscured the cost of actually acquiring that food.  So I took $14.75 cents (my $14.98 weekly allowance minus $0.23 for the balance of Friday morning’s coffee breakfast) to Giant, the major grocery chain near my house, to see what I could score for a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches.  My two (broad) goals are to eat things I like and to eat as healthfully as I can.

Coffee proved my first challenge.  I love coffee. I drink it because I enjoy it, not just because I need a caffeine hit.  I like rich, dark roasts that are earthy without being bitter  (e.g. Caribou’s Mahogany roast and Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend). But at $8.99 and up, anything from Caribou, Peet’s, Starbucks, and most other brand-name roasters was out of the question.  I did find one brand on special for $5.79, which was a great deal; however, once I paired it with a $2.49 quart of store brand half-n-half, I realized coffee alone would consume over half my budget.  Talk about tight!

Next stop was the bread aisle.  Store brand wheat bread was on special for just over a dollar a loaf.  I was quite excited, until I checked the ingredients.  The ingredient list was almost as long as my arm and included lots of long words ending in -ate, -ite,  and -ide.  Back on the shelf it went.  Further down I found the store brand all natural/organic brand for $3.79 a loaf on special as a buy one/get one FREE.  I could put one in the freezer for next week, I thought, and make things stretch nicely.  However, after looking at peanut butter and lunch meat, I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t packed with fillers and hydrogenated oils to pair with the bread and still allow me to get coffee.  The bread went back on the shelf and the search continued.

The coffee eventually went back on the shelf, too.  Even Folgers and store brand ground coffee was around $5 a canister.  There didn’t seem to be a way for me to buy coffee without spending upwards of $7. In the end, I couldn’t rationalize sacrificing solid food in order to have a cup of joe (or three) in the morning – and I’m not yet desperate enough to turn to instant.  (But that may change!  Lent is young.)

After 45 minutes looking at pasta, rice, soup, beans, and a few other things, I eventually left Giant with two jars of pasta sauce (on sale), two boxes of store brand tri-color pasta (on sale), and a 1.85lb package of raw chicken tenders that was on sale and came with a special $2-off coupon attached because the sell-by date was fast approaching.   The total was $8.13.  That leaves me with $6.62 still to spend, and will allow me to create simple, tasty meals low in fat and well-balanced in protein and carbs.   I came home without any fruits or veggies, however – and no coffee.  But I still have other stores to explore.  Hopefully, I’ll still have some pasta and sauce left at the end of the week so that I can make next week’s budget stretch a little further. We’ll see.

Lord, even though my budget is scant, I thank you that my choices are numerous. Help me to make wise decisions.  Amen.

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2 Comments

  1. Sara E.

     /  February 18, 2013

    Definitely look at bananas- and if you can find the taped ripe ones they are usually half the cost. They are filling, nutritious and cheap. I also recommend cabbage and carrots. Lots of fiber, low on cost.

    Reply
    • Hi Sara,

      Thanks for your suggestions. I’m definitely going to have to take a different approach to next week when I head to the store. While pasta is something that I consider inexpensive, it hasn’t stretched nearly as far as I thought it would.

      Reply

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