Although it may seem obvious, I feel it necessary to state that, of course, everything that goes into both your life and mine is constantly changing. A never-ending journey. We grow, regress and cycle back around again. But if you pay attention, you can learn a thing or two while you’re at it — it’s sometimes just difficult to remember tips and tricks in those moments of sheer panic (screaming child, late for a meeting, forgot to send that email, overslept). So this list is something I’ve been working on for some time in terms of budgeting, avoiding food waste and staying true to my values without feeling deprived. It goes a little like this:
- Even if you’re trying to save money, don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. To a savvy shopper this may seem obvious, but I don’t mean avoiding impulse buys only because of the price; I also mean the less-obvious kind of bargain shopping traps: Forgetting to compare the sale price of the brand name to the generic. The generic may still be cheaper than the brand name on sale! And then there’s this.
- Don’t buy something that’s on sale if you’re not going to eat/use/enjoy it. Sometimes, the generic kind of cheese, bread or cleaning product just plain stinks. If you don’t like the smell of the carpet cleaner or are always throwing out celery, don’t try to force yourself into liking it just because it’s cheaper than the name brand or you swear this time you’ll use it up. I cannot tell you how aggravating it is to me to constantly be throwing out yogurt I think I’m going to eat and don’t, piling up more and more overripe bananas in my freezer to one day make banana bread and the countless snacks my son “thinks” he wants that just end up in the garbage. And I’m the one doing the food shopping?
- Try to stick to what everyone likes. I know all about picky eaters, trust me — but aside from having a picky 2-year-old, I also have food allergies and my husband has some serious food aversions resulting from life-long gastritis. So although sometimes I’ll “splurge” on garlic and onions to flavor foods and will then take them out whole for his sake, most often I just leave them out. This saves money and guarantees (well, sort of!) that everyone will eat the same meal and I don’t end up feeling like a short-order cook.
- It’s not all or nothing. I may very well be the girl at the grocery store with organic cabbage and conventional ice cream in my shopping cart, but it depends on the day…Sometimes I feel overly concerned with budgeting, and on other days I’m giving in to the demands of my 2-year-old. At times I just want some chocolate; on a good day I’m much more intentional and thoughtful about what goes into my cart. This is me. This is realistic.
- Applaud yourself for the little things. I’m just proud that I denied my son his fishy crackers one day at the store and sugary trail mix the next. I know I may not be as strong next time, but somehow you have to find a balance when it comes to food, finance AND your sanity. If you’re not eating from the drive-thru every night, that’s a good thing! If you’re not eating white bread with your sandwich, that’s a good thing! And if you stop after just one cookie, well, it’s better than eating two or four or ten.
Above all, know yourself and try to see things objectively whenever possible. You may be too hard on yourself most of the time, like me, and try to live up to expectations of perfection. On the flip side, you may sometimes be the one who thinks, “this burger isn’t going to kill me.” But the side of fries and the soft drink, every day, plus all the other processed garbage, well, there’s plenty of evidence in the direction that it sure isn’t good for you. Keep learning and growing, but be kind to yourself along the way. “Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” including yourself — and we should be so lucky that “What To Eat” may be our biggest quandary today. Use your head, make a decision and move on. It’s a much more peaceful way to live.