Does grocery shopping stress you out?

I went to our weekly meditation and contemplation session on Tuesday and this time there was a newcomer. He shared his lessons learned from several difficult years in which many diseases pestered him. He suffered from various serious infections, going practically blind and more. He believed firmly that behind all great, and so called random, challenges in life there is great meaning: they are there to force us into changing for the better or to parish. At a point in his life, when he felt broken and dependent on others in his blindness, he went inward. In his words he was forced to become humble, thankful for all that others give and all that existence brings. While waiting for others to do this or that for him he realized that things happen when they are supposed to happen. Nothing bad happened if he had to wait a little.

Image: Thealternativedaily.com

We are so accustomed to force our will onto everything and everybody: we can’t even wait a little in peace and acceptance of the other. All we are busy with are our egoistic worries, our money, our image and other so-called needs.

I greatly enjoyed listening to this currently healthy, humble and peaceful man and the valuable lessons he learned. I recognize the rat race in my day-to-day and realize that in moments of acceptance of the pace of life – of what is – I am so much more happy, peaceful and complete than the rat race has ever given me.

The rat race is an egotistic addiction, focusing on mental concepts, because in the here and now – where our happiness and fulfilment lie – there is no place for “I’m better because of X”, “I need” and “I don’t want”. In the here and now we are equal to all. The mind is especially made to do things like analysing, comparing and therefore it is inherently unsatisfied with things as they are. It is here to solve practical things and protect us when necessary. This is necessary to survive on this planet and in society, but it has overtaken us. We derive our sense of self from it. We believe we are the noise in our head, the non-stop comparisons of superfluities and the resulting incomplete conclusions. The identification with this is so strong, that we run around in utter stress as if something’s wrong.

Based on what exactly are our minds entitled to judge what is and what isn’t supposed to be? Existence has been around for infinity; our current minds have been here for time measurable in decades. My advice is the following: trust what happens, take it light, you’re already alright.

With this in mind it is often very hard for me to have a meltdown in the grocery store as I used to. In hindsight this behaviour had a lot to do with my state of mind, and by changing it, I can handle the grocery store without incidence.

How did I do it?

I created a budget with lists!

I have actually sat down with a friend who is trying to save money on her grocery bill previously. We have literally sat at my kitchen table together, gone over the store ad, planned out our meals, made the list, priced out the items and have gone to the store together.

Essentially, we had the same list – plus or minus a few things, but still with very similar approximate total prices. A few times during our outing we strayed from each other, but in the end, met at the cash register. Once there, her total bill was double what mine was.

So, what happened in the straying? What was different between the shopping trips? How could we have done all the work together, but ended with such different results?

Here are a few thoughts about grocery shopping on a budget:

  • Have a budget in mind that you can’t stray from. I have sat down with my husband, decided what the lowest realistic budget is for our family to spend, and then I stick to that each week. If you are hesitant about what your budget is, you will buy more than you mean or want to. Simple as that. If you don’t have something to stick to, you won’t. Even if you don’t need to have a super low budget, having a price in mind will help you stick to whatever your monthly goal is.
  • Use cash to make your purchases! This is something we have only recently started and I can already see that it’s really going to keep us accountable in sticking to our budget. After hearing Dave Ramsey talk about how we tend to spend more money when using credit, and even debit, cards (even if we pay it off each month) we’ve started trying to use cash for as much as we can. Having money in an envelope and seeing it disappear with each purchase helps put spending money on groceries into perspective.
  • Reduced items: If you hit the stores at the weekend you will find reduced items near to the perishable date. Most times there is little wrong with these items and they are simply past their best date, but still perfectly safe for consumption.
  • Avoid using credit cards or loans – there are now specific same day lenders for emergency costs like groceries etc see here. These loans will however leave you out of pocket in the long-run as the interest will hit you at the end of the month – negating all your saving tactics.
  • Write a grocery list of exactly what you need – think of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and household items. Also, remember staple items that you normally keep on hand so that you don’t have to run out later in the week when you need something and have run out of it. Taking a general inventory of what you have on hand is very helpful. Don’t forget about what fruits, vegetables, and side items you need for side items for your meals.
  • While at the store, hold yourself accountable. If I purchase items other than what’s on my list I write it on my list first and then cross it off, just like I would any other item. I also ask myself if we really need it or if it’s a treat. If it’s a treat, I may still buy it, but I will have already known that we have some extra money in the budget that week and I see it as a special treat. It’s important to write down the item, as well as the price, and then add that price to your approximate total price. Then you won’t overspend or be surprised at the end.
  • Take time to get to know the prices of items so that you can tally up approximate cost of your list and make adjustments if necessary. There are a few ways you can do this…
    • Write up the usual items that you buy and take that list to the store and write down prices as you go
    • Generally, start being conscious when at the store of the prices of items and what a good sale price is
    • I have a list of general prices for the items needed for the meals – use that list to compare prices at the store you regularly shop at so you know your striving to get the lowest price possible
  • General rules for going to the grocery store and sticking to your list:
    • Don’t go to the grocery store hungry
    • Don’t bring kids or a spouse that will detour you from your list
    • If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it
    • Don’t go when you are feeling really rushed. By using a good system of meal planning and planning grocery shopping trips I’ve found my time at the store is minimal, but I still like to go at time when there are fewer people and I’m not in too much of a time crunch.
  • Have fun in the process! Take coffee from home, cross things off your list, make a game out of looking for the cheapest prices…

Being wise with how you grocery shop can save you a lot of money as well as be a lot of fun! Some of the ideas I’ve shared are things we’ve been doing for a while, while others we are still “perfecting” in our own striving to do grocery shopping on a budget. I’d love to hear tips and ideas that you know about or have done that keep your grocery bills low!

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