Micro Finances and Grocery Spending: A Conversation

When the pandemic began, I became quite smitten with Amazon Prime Now, the service that delivers groceries from Whole Foods to your front door for free (plus a tip). Whole Foods is usually a bit of a drive for me, so the convenience was worth the possibility of a bruised banana every so often.

However, David and I have been discussing habits lately (at many a people’s suggestion I have ordered Atomic Habits as my next book). Some of our habits are pretty stellar, like our workouts. We’ve consistently been doing Madeline Moves and running on Sundays for over a year now.

Some of our habits, like our financial discipline, slid a bit during the pandemic, a hard year, and the holiday season. An example of this is “on a whim” shopping where I’d randomly think of something that I might like, then buy it with a single finger tap on my phone.

While working on our 2021 State of the Family we both agreed we need to focus in more on our spending habits. We tend to do really well with macro finances (the spending of big dollar amounts, like our investment properties), however we get a little loose with the micro finances (on a whim purchases, groceries, etc). So while we’ve both been practicing the habit of putting an item in our virtual cart and leaving it for at least 24 hours before purchasing to see if we really want it (you’d be surprised at how many things I decide I don’t really need after just an hour of thinking about it), I’ve also been playing around with how we buy food.

Quality food is important us, we are fine allocating money to that category, so it’s not really the dollar amount I wanted to focus in on, but more so my habits. I had gotten into a serious habit of ordering groceries from Amazon Prime Now (sometimes more than once a week because of the convenience) and I got curious- is there a way to continue eating how I want us to in a less expensive way?

To experiment with this, I first made my meal plan (using my new printable meal planner, which you can download for free).

Then I made my list and went shopping. I decided to start at a low-price favorite, Aldi. I’ve shopped here plenty of times before but it still blows my mind when I go in and see how low their prices are. They are also continuously increasing their selection of organic food, so I decided to start there and get as much as I could.

I was able to check off a lot of my list. The only thing I probably would change looking back is that I would not have bought the low carb tortillas. They were the only option without hydrogenated oils, so I went that route, but knowing I was going to visit another store, too, I would have held off and bought the organic Mission tortillas at my next stop. My total for Aldi, including my $1.99 “splurge” of Valentine’s Day window clings was $68.05.

From there, I went to Lowe’s Food, which- fun fact!- is David’s favorite grocery store. We have a lot of grocery options near us (hello, suburbia), and I agree with David that Lowe’s Foods is one of the best. It offers good prices on a lot of high quality items, is clean and bright, and has a friendly staff.

That’s kind of a random tangent, but anyways. On my trip to Lowe’s I was able to get the rest of the organic produce I was after and a few other rogue items I had on my list. Kaitlyn had been begging to have cereal, and this box was on sale for $1.67, marked down from $4.35! I was on the hunt for organic, bone in chicken thighs to try the Lazy Genius’s Change Your Life Chicken, but couldn’t find it so I bought conventional. My total from Lowe’s was $50.62.

While my total for the week is $118.67, it doesn’t quite show the whole picture. While I bought chicken at both Aldi and Lowe’s foods, I prefer to buy my meat from Evan’s Family Farm (if you’re local to the Charlotte area, I highly recommend them. Delicious quality and they deliver! If you aren’t in this area, I recommend Butcher Box). I already had most of my meat for the week from my recent delivery, and the meat we are using this week totaled $50.17, so my grand total for the week is $168.84.

Less than what I typically spend when using Amazon Prime Now? Yes. I’m usually around $200 a week for Prime. However, it’s not like we are going to retire early off a $30 savings a week, but for me, it’s not so much the amount that matters, but my habits.

We definitely got more high quality food for a lower price and it was a solid reminder that being mindful of where and how I spend our money does make a difference. Nickel and diming my habits in a downward trend adds up to more savings over time, just as nickel and diming Amazon purchases (though not individually large purchases) adds up on the credit card over time, too. 

Have you heard the idea of cheap, fast, or easy- pick two? The principle with my grocery shopping experience is similar- there are three values: weekly groceries can be inexpensive, quick/convenient, or high quality but can not be all three, so you have to pick the two that are most important to you. I have been picking convenient and high quality. Deciding to play around with switching my two picks to being inexpensive and high quality, means I gave a little on the convenience. 

It was empowering to remind myself about the power of habits and spending. We gave ourselves a pass last year. I did some retail therapy in the form of emotional spending because sometimes the small high of a new game to play with the kids or a new sweatshirt was worth it for the momentary distraction and comfort it brought me. But now we’re feeling more energized and ready to align our habits with our bigger goals (travel, investments).

I don’t have any big tips or takeaways from this experience, but just wanted to share the fun I’ve been having analyzing how I spend money and time, and adjusting my habits to make the most of them both. Do you get excited about this kind of analysis, too?
I’d love for you to join in the conversation in the comments! I’d be curious to hear how you choose how and where to spend your time and money.  
What was your spending like during 2020? Are you changing things up at all this year?

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