As anyone who knows me or has read the blog for a while knows, I love making goals for the new year. I usually keep up with about half of them and I’m totally fine with that. To me, goals are how our family tweaks the new year to make it run more smoothly than the year before, not the be-all-end-all. They’re meant to work for us, not crush us under their weight.
One goal however, that resurrects in some form each year, stubbornly refuses to conform to this philosophy and leaves me gasping under it’s pressure by April.
Lowering the grocery budget.
This simple, inane goal has become one of the few areas I struggle with wanting to compare myself to everyone else in. I want so much to wisely steward our finances and am always astounded by how capable other women seem to be of feeding their family on a smaller budget than ours. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this post on Money Saving Mom: Can a family of 3 Survive on a $400/month Grocery Budget?
Finally! It was so encouraging for me to see that Crystal (the Money Saving Mom herself) and other women further along the frugality food chain than me think that sticking to that number would be challenging, but do-able. My feelings exactly!
Last year, I could occasional stay under my $425 budget, but often went over, especially when we needed to restock on tissues, diapers or other “once and a while” purchases. I felt like such a failure each time. Surely $425 is a generous budget for a family of 3?!? But apparently, it’s considered challenging…by some.
Because then I read the comments.
And there they were. These amazing super-women who are somehow able to care for the food/hygiene needs of a families of 9-11 people on the exact same budget I have. And my bubble burst.
They are doing the exact same things I am- shopping at ALDI, gardening, couponing/shopping sales, and yet somehow we are ending up with two very different outcomes.
As the frustration and guilt welled up inside of me over this topic for one too many times, I decided to do some heart searching and here is what I found:
1. In all honesty, there are things I could be doing better if what I want most is to lower the grocery budget. However, I like keeping a few frozen pizzas in the freezer for convenience, keeping a small stash of individually packed snacks/granola bars in the pantry for last minute dashes out the door, buying organic meat and farm fresh eggs, and organic produce when the cost difference is less than $1/lb. It’s not a mystery what could be cut. I just don’t want to.
2. What is my motivation for wanting to save more? In my mind, I say it’s because I want to “Live simply so others can simply live” but I have a sneaking suspicion that in my heart it has a lot more to do with wanting to be able to feel a sense of pride (not in a good way) of how frugally I feed my family compared to other people. Sickening, I know. I feel like I need to defend myself and say all the things I DONT feel that way about, but I’m going to be confident that all of us have *something* we struggle with feeling insecure/prideful about and keep moving.
3. What do I hope to gain from reading about saving on groceries? I’ve been reading articles about it for the last 5 years. I’m pretty sure I’ve already picked out the methods that work for me, and have plenty of other ideas I haven’t implemented floating around in my mind should I want to try something new. There is nothing to be gained from continuing to read them other than to compare myself to others. Time to stop clicking.
So what’s my grocery goal for 2014? Stop comparing our budget to someone elses.