Sunday, September 18, 2016

A trip to the grocery store left me pondering


Sunday has turned into my grocery day since I started my household chores chart. This allows me to top up for the upcoming week, as needed, and to take advantage of any specials. Today was no different. I bought the following at Shoprite:
-8 boxes of Ronzini pasta (spaghetti, mini shells, ditallini, large sized elbows-new item)@ 88, 2 bottles All detergent @$1.99 after sale plus cpn,  2 bottles Snuggle liquid fabric softener @ $1.99 (same), 4 12 oz pkgs Manischewitz egg noodles @ 79,  1 2 l SR cola @ 88, 2  2 L Canada dry @ 99,

2 cans each no salt SR can corn, gr beans @ 50 cents, red leaf lettuce and Romaine by the head, 3 Butternut squash @ 79, tote of MacIntosh apples @ 99, 2 red onions.

Once again, some of my produce is Canadian

 2 loaves Arnold bread @99 cents after sale + cpns,  croisants, apple turnoevers,1 pkg fzn waffles @ 99,  2 bottom round beef roasts @ $2.49/lb, . Heavy cream, 2 tubs ice cream @ $2.50, a 2 lb blocks mozzarella, 1 2 lb tub ricotta, doz eggs (free after store plus manufacturer cpn), oj.

I paid $84.14, after saving $9.80 in coupons. Nice.

What left me pondering was the scenario ahead of me: a Dad with a tween daughter apparently shopping for the upcoming week, at least a few day's worth. There was boneless chicken, a frozen pizza, meat, veg in mini cans, canned spaghettios, fzn dessert items. I saw what was being placed on the conveyer belt and I was mentally saying to myself, "that would be a lot cheaper if you . . . ". Dad bought Egglands eggs. Nothing wrong with them, not even the free range or organic ones, just regular eggs. Meanwhile, the LOL eggs had a coupon, making them 99 cents. Perdue ck tenders, when other cuts were a lot cheaper, such as the Perdue drums @ 88/lb.He did buy the Mozzarella brand on sale, but took the 8 oz block when the 16 oz was 1/2 price. Appeared that the ad wasn't looked at, no price comparison, no store brands, no coupons, no list (he discovered fresh broccoli in the cart after putting a pkg of fzn on the belt, then asked DD to return the fresh as it was a duplication).  I guestimated he would be totaled at about $200. I wasn't far off, It was $193 and change.

As it turns out, he paid with food stamps-no judgement here, they exist to help those in need. Fine. I have no way of knowing his family's personal circumstances, etc. What got me was he had to put something like $59 on a CC for taxables/non EBT items (the $6.49 dog toy for example) but those were choices he and his DD made as they shopped. My point is that some common sense, basic home economics needs to be diseminated here. The monies would have gone a LOT further.  4 cans of spaghettios must be at least $4. A box of Ronzoni is 88 this week, add a jar of store brand sauce for $1-less than 1/2 of what he paid and he'd get many (at least 4) meals out of it. The small cans would feed just the DD. Education is the key, I don't think CT requires any classes for SNAP recipients. This Dad bought some healthier, well rounded meal choices. He didn't use his resources, IMO, as well as he could have. There are still 12 days left to the month.


Lee Ann said...

really interesting observation. I wonder if he normally does the shopping? If not that may explain the choices he made. But you are so right, the money could've gone so much further.

Carole said...

It would help if all people who need government assistance would be required to take a home ec type course in general budgeting and how to use grocery money wisely. A lot of people just don't know how to do these things. Sadly, often there are no decent grocery stores in impoverished areas. People are forced to use convenient stores for their basic needs.

Jen Galey said...

I've always thought it should be more like WIC. My unemployed cousin (long story) lived with me for a few months and received $224 per month in SNAP. It was all spent on soda, cookies and treating himself anywhere that had a salad bar.

sqbdew said...

while I agree with you on some of this, it also has to be what he wants and intends to do with it. Like the perdue chicken tenders. Yes, the drumsticks may have been cheaper but maybe what he was wanting to make and had planned on eating, could not be done with the drums? maybe they do not like dark meat? The spaghetti os, I know I am weird but I love canned spaghetti and prefer it over homemade lol but I will eat homemade too. him buyng the small can of veggies was stupid, buy the big can and save what was not ate.

young77 said...

Oh boy! I know just what you mean. Reminds me of a few years ago during my second "career" (I retired at 62 then again at 77) when I worked as a paid staff in a child care facility. My co-workers were women with families. I got so tired of hearing about fixing dinner that night and deciding to do drive-thru so I asked how many had crock pots. Almost all had them,some still in the box from their weddings. I taught six of them how to use it. They couldn't get over how easy and how wonderful the house smelled and how much their family loved it. Go figure! You'd be a perfect person to teach a class,Carol. Just sayin' Shirley

Carol Farley said...

I really don't think any of us should be judgemental as the saying goes, 'to each their own.' Many people are fugal as this man should have been but others have the money to spend and will do so whether for time saving or just because they can afford whatever it is they want. It just boils down to how people want to spend what they have or be so frugal that there is no real quality of life with outside enjoyments or activities. Just my two cents as when I shop I do watch the ads but also will buy what we enjoy whether it is on sale or not. Working hard all ones life does mean that one should be able to enjoy. When I go shopping and pay, I am not aware nor do I care what others spend their money on.

Marcia in rural WNY said...

Having worked in food stamps and in welfare for 20 years, I can tell you we offered free shopping classes, cooking classes, recipe booklets using commodities, and also budget lessons to our clients. They mostly refused to even sign up. One of the food pantries did cooking classes towards the end of the month, and they got people to go to them only by offering each participant a bag of groceries to take home after they attended the class.

I worked with the woman who did the budgeting classes and she was very easy to get along with, willing to meet with them at their own homes, and she could still barely keep herself with a busy schedule.

It's my opinion that most recipients are VERY good at stretching their dollars, and if they don't seem to be shopping frugally, they are indulging their children's likes for a change or something equally out of the ordinary. I also know people who eat NO vegetables, so the fact that they are buying some is a hopeful sign!

It's a lot like beating your head against the wall----I know because I've tried to do it too. Those who can do, and those who don't, there's no teaching them.

Patti said...

Carol Farley,
Not to speak for Carole, but I think the point was that if they had only food stamps and a credit card to pay, they probably couldn't afford to shop that way and perhaps they might run out of food before they got more food stamps and they still had to pay that credit card.
If you are able to pay for your choices, or if you don't have children to feed, then I guess you should have what you want. However, when having what you want means your child may go hungry, it's not really okay.
I am currently housing and feeding a child who is not mine, and not even related to me. Just a friend of my own child. Her mother couldn't be bothered to work or make best use of her benefits she received, so the child was often hungry. Now she lives with us. We can afford to take her in, because every adult works and we use our money wisely. The child has a part time job (she is trying to save an emergency fund, God bless her), and just loaned her mother 100 dollars because mom didn't have enough food for her younger brother. This lady won't even try. I have a real problem with this behavior from a parent.
Her daughter is learning a better way at my house.
Just saying.

Anne in the kitchen said...

Thank you for pointing this out. This is why I am currently doing the 50 buck a week challenge and trying desperately to get a mentoring program in place. I am like you and have no judgement, I just don't think most people know how to read ads to figure out what the best buys are and plan meals accordingly.

Mama Anarchia said...

Hi Carole,

Long time reader of your blog and appreciate your hard work and frugality. Don't want to get caught up in the debate about what constitutes good grocery shopping as I learned that not all have the cooking skills or being able to afford the necessary refrigeration/storage to be judged.

However, I think Brabara Ehrenreich's work, Nickel and Dimed will be good for some of the readers of your blog:

Meg B. said...

Oh, dear. Yes, it's vexing. My source of "pondering" is my kids' classmates whose parents voice inability to afford to pack/pay for school lunches, or gripe about a lack of time to cook breakfasts and dinners, and can't afford, say music lessons, but whose kids have: Tablets, I-phones, cable with multiple televisions, designer clothes, multiple vehicles, etc, etc, and return home to an empty house, left to run wild, and squander any chance of an education, while Mom is off working some low paying job she detests to cover those things/credit card bills. These people have openly voiced envy at me "having it made," or, "nothing better to do with my time than cook and clip coupons." They can't wake up with their kids because they need their sleep for work. I would gladly tell them how I mange if they asked. But, they don't. It's not for me to judge, though. I do, however, and I hate that I do. Ah well, they're going to be poor forever, and will never figure out why.

CTMOM said...

Carole Farley
"others have the money to spend and will do so whether for time saving or just because they can afford whatever it is they want." " when I shop I do watch the ads but also will buy what we enjoy whether it is on sale or not. Working hard all ones life does mean that one should be able to enjoy. When I go shopping and pay, I am not aware nor do I care what others spend their money on."

Please see Patti's follow up above-she pretty much nailed it. From your comments above, you are now older/retired, and have the means to buy what you want/when you want. That's great.

The situation I narrated is about a man and DD (there may be additional family members)who paid for their order using food stamps for the bulk of it. There is still a balance on that card, with 12 days left of the month from when they shopped, the clerk made a point of handing him a receipt and stating, "Here's your receipt, and your balance is on there for you." I have no issue with the FS payment, rather, my thoughts/concern is how are they going to make it to the end of the month? 12 days is a long time to get through. I shared possible scenarios to get the same food items on their plates for a lot less $, thereby stretching their resources, and alloting those "saved" funds by making different selections at the store, to ensure that those monies could and would cover the 12 days until the end of the month. Additionally, there is no reason why "treats" or "extras" can't be included in one's grocery shopping, regardless of one's finances. My point is to do so judiciously, esp. as the man profiled is clearly also feeding a child.

This is far different from your shared scenario; you are at a different stage in life, and watching your pennies at the market is not of interest to you. Fine.

"It just boils down to how people want to spend what they have or be so frugal that there is no real quality of life with outside enjoyments or activities." Not sure why you are adding this layer to your commentary about a father shopping with his DD for the week/half week (could still have items at home, this was a possible top up shopping trip) Having to rely on FS, doesn't mean that there is no quality to one's life for outside enjoyments/activities. Locally here, there are a lot of assistance programs to partially subsidize if not fully cover recreational activities for the DD, for example. A lot of school, church, scouting, community,art and cultural activities that can be free* or low cost.

Sticking with my original thread: FS recipients should have to attend home economics training to learn, as needed, how to best stretch their resources. I don't believe that CT requires it, I am aware that other states do.

CTMOM said...

Lee Ann-yes, there are consequences for one's choices. Do I buy a filet of beef or a chuck roast instead and therefor am able to buy all that I need to complete my meals for the week?

CTMOM said...

Carole-exactly, I am in a city now and luckily, there are a lot of store choices, and the bus system is awesome. The store in question is a very large Shoprite with tons of choices.

CTMOM said...

Jen G-yes that would be frustrating to watch, esp if I was giving shelter.

CTMOM said...

Young77-yes, this is a result of home ec being pulled out of American schools. Some/many (?) consider "cooking" to be open a jar or box of this and add to a can of that. Some basics like how to roast a chicken, make stock, make marinara etc. Would save $ and health issues. Nice that you got the Crock Pot instruction in. ; )

CTMOM said...

Marcia, based on the selections chosen, the Dad in my scenario is offering nutritional, balanced options. Just could have made other choices to stretch his FS dollars.

CTMOM said...

Mama-thanks for the link, I'll check it out!

CTMOM said...

Meg B-it's a matter of consequences for one's choices. I see it with one of my DS's where $ burns a hole in his pocket, always has. He finds $30 in a jacket and rather than set is aside for a rainy day, he looks at it as a windfall and buys beer and take out. @@

Ms. Sandie said...

I have been thinking about this post for most of the morning as I myself was doing frugal activities. I have been frustrated watching people who need assistance not making the best financial choices. Even the farmers market that I go to offers double snap dollars. I have only twice seen people using their EBT benefits there. I myself Offered to do classes, with very little participation. I guess we just have to continue to make the best choices for our own families… and think of the old phrase you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink

CTMOM said...

Ms Sandie, we also have Double Bucks at our town and city farmer's markets. I do see EBT and Senior SNAP coupon vouchers being used-a great program.

Carol Farley said...

I didn't want to start something with my post but just wanted to say that we cannot judge the way people shop, live, etc. Yes, your observation that this shopper could have made much better and wiser choices is perfectly correct. But, unfortunately, with all of the resources available, people still do not take advantage of learning skills needed for every day life; there isn't anything we can do to change them. That is why I mentioned I do not pay any attention to what others purchase nor how they pay for them as there isn't anything I can do nor is it my business to offer that assistance. Yes, we all need to watch how we spend our hard earned money but each individual is going to do so in different ways.
As I mentioned, I did not want to start a problem but wanted view this from a totally different perspective; each of us are in charge of our own lives whether we make the right choices or not and with too much frugality leaving us without too many of the more enjoyable aspects of life. Again, I apologize if I came across to harsh.

CTMOM said...

Carol Farley, Thanks for the follow up. Please note that I am NOT judging this Dad, just mearly pointing out that if he made other choices in his selections, he would have plenty to get through to the end of the month. Yes, we all have consequences (good, bad or otherwise) for our decisions and choices.

I am still lost with your comment, " with too much frugality leaving us without too many of the more enjoyable aspects of life." I am starting to think (please correct me if I am wrong)that you are making a judgement statement about me having too much frugality leaving me without too many of the more enjoyable aspects of life. As a reader, you only know what I am willing to share. ; )

Not looking for any drama, just don't get where you are going with that.

sqbdew said...

I do not think Carol Farley means that at all. I think sh means that some are frugal in some ways but not all ways/ I am frugal when it comes to grocery shopping and sales and coupons, but I buy what I want, Steak is a weekly, sometimes twice a week menu item. If I want chicken tenders, I buy them even though drumsticks maybe cheaper, it is not what I want. As far as someone said about designer clothes, yes we do wear designer clothes but I get them on sale. It is worth the money as they last much longer. Some are frugal and think vacations are a waste of money, we personally take 2-3 major vacations a year but all are done with cash. My whole point is everyone's idea of frugal is different and should not be looked down on if they are not doing things the same way.

mikemax said...

I hope I am not going to add flames to the fire, but perhaps leave you all with a smile on your faces.

You need to first understand that I hate Wal-Mart, and that going through the checkstand is one of my major gripes.

I got in line behind a couple of people with what had obviously been an overflowing basket of groceries. They were about 1/3 of the way through it, and I thought, "How long can it take?" I soon found out.

I quickly became annoyed because they were price-matching EVERYTHING from 4 or 5 different stores. They had the ads with them. They were also using coupons.

My annoyance turned to fascination as I watched them buy a whole basket of premium produce, the choicest cuts of meat, lots of dairy, etc. They were clearly buying enough food to last about two weeks. At that point, I just wanted to be invited to their house for dinner! The basket that was easily worth $250 or so was ringing up at around $100. Then came the moment of truth: they paid with their Idaho EBT card! They gave each other high-fives, I congratulated them, and they wheeled their purchases out the door. BTW, the only items that they actually had to pay for were a bag of pet food and a 12-pack of beer.

I agree with the statement that a lot of what some of us would call poor choices has to do with the elimination of home ec from the schools. There are a lot of people, into their 40s, who don't know how to cook. You can blame their parents, but the fact is, not all parents are good cooks or enjoy it. I learned the basics of cooking in home ec, not at home--even though I frequently was responsible for feeding myself--and my mother could squeeze a dollar until the eagle screamed, yet she still always bought name-brand food.

Whatever works for you.

CTMOM said...


CTMOM said...

SQB"My whole point is everyone's idea of frugal is different and should not be looked down on if they are not doing things the same way." Not looking down, mearly pointing out the obvious lack of better planning to stretch the EBT $, with 12 days remaining in the month.Take what you want from my post, no judgement

CTMOM said...

I was interested in your observation of the Dad/Daughter using SNAP. In our part of the world SNAP users who come up short at the grocery store may ask for help from the Ministerial Association. Or they may ask a church for assistance. If this happens they are referred to SENCA, South East Nebraska Community Action Center. As the Outreach Worker has them fill out paperwork she explains that they will be welcome to attend any of the many classes that are available to them at no cost. This seems to help keep unwise spending at bay in some cases.

It's a pity that everyone does not exercise common sense. I totally agree that he did not use his resources as wisely as he might have. They would certainly benefit from OUR cooking classes....we have one tomorrow that will feature Oven Meals.

Thanks again for another super post, Carol


Connie Kay Baum
aka Mother Connie

Linda said...

I will only buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But, they have to be $2/lb or less. When I found chicken tender for $1.49 on sale, I got them and price-matched them. Some days, I price-match everything I buy at WM. When strawberries are $2.89 at WM, I can get them for $.99. I eat well and eat healthful foods.

Sometimes, I stop people with a certain item and tell them how they can get it for less. WM may run me off one of these days.

I have even turned some people on to coupons and price-matching. People fall into two camps--ignorant or lazy. The ignorant ones can be helped. The lazy ones are usually beyond hope. Who knows which camp the father fell into.

Busy Bee said...

I am amazed at how many people simply do not know how to cook the most basic of things. I think it is something I take for granted because I have always cooked -- learning as a young child beside the cooks in my family.

I actually find this story quite sad. I know a family who finds themselves eating the finest fanciest meals for the first week after pay and then scraping the bottom of the barrel the next. It breaks my heart for them, but any advice I have offered has fallen on deaf ears.

It reminds me to be thankful I had those around me to teach me and I actually learned. It also makes me appreciate frugal bloggers, by choice or circumstance, who share their day to day advice, experiences, etc.

Amanda said...

It is interesting to see how others shop. I learned to shop frugally by watching my grandparents but i hate to use coupons, It just bugs me to cut them out and keep track of them. My aunts buy the cheapest of everything even if they use twice as much of it because of poor quality in some cases. My husband is oblivious to sales and off brands and is a brand addict for some products even though his mother is nothing like that and looks for and can find a deal everywhere.

Carole said...

You sure opened a can of worms with this topic. People have a lot of thoughts about the subject. Most seem to think how one spends his money is his own business unless government assistance is required, then they are spending "our money" and should use it wisely, which most don't know how or they wouldn't be in this predicament. Exception is made for those who are in need because of job loss, etc. I think, too, that home ec should be required even though in modern times, women are usually in the workforce, too. Homes still have to be maintained. Actually my son took a home ec course geared for males, but it was optional. This was many years ago.

mikemax said...

I think a year of home ec in high school should be required of both males and females! One semester of personal finance and one semester of nutrition/cooking. There were a lot of things I did wrong when I was raising my son, but one thing I did right was teaching him to cook when he was a teenager (whether he wanted to learn or not). He ended up staying behind when we moved after high school graduation, and at 38 he is still single (although co-habitating with a woman who works away from home two weeks out of the month). He has thanked me many times for insisting that he learn to feed himself. I occasionally get e-mails from him about what he cooked for dinner. BTW, he thinks panko is better than dry bread crumbs, even though I've reminded him that homemade bread crumbs are free!

Belinda said...

These people need to skip the meat and eat some beans! LOL, just trying to throw some humor in here. We could all teach them a thing or two. :)