When I entered a store, it was a challenge. The more deals I could get, the better and I bought everyone, with every coupon I had. Feeding the kids prepackaged meals and snacks, I was the mom I had always wanted, with cupboards overflowing with literal junk. I got bigger. The kids had allergies and were sick a lot. But boy, I was THE coupon queen, untouchable in my bargains and deals. It was a personal, competitive sport. My opponent was last week's grocery bill, I was out to beat it
When it was our turn to bring snacks, we brought the best treats, because we had so much junk. We tried every new item out in the grocery stores, as long as a coupon would give it to us for almost free.
I saved money like crazy, had a stockpile to die for, and our SAD (Standard American Diet) made us sick and sad.
That morphed into various versions of the Once a Month Cooking phase, after seeing the one and only Mary Beth Lagerborg at a women's event at our church. She was so inspirational and really got us thinking of life in a totally different way.
Oh happy day, I was able to blend couponing with OAMC! Using the original Once a Month Cooking book by Mary Beth and Mimi Wilson. I would shop one day, then spend the next day cooking for our family, for a month. With help from the girls, we would chop and get things ready, then I would cook, bake, freeze and then we would have easy dinners until it happened again. This was fabulous - during this period my husband worked during the day, and I worked nights, so we were able to preserve that family dinner time.
Bouncing off the idea of OAMC, I began developing a host of recipes that our family loved and learned the fine art of "Feeding our Freezer" an idea that is shared often on The Prudent Wife! Learning how to pre-cook and cook in advance is one of the most useful skills you can ever learn!
As life got busier, we added a full time business to our crammed schedule. We grew it, and grew it and one day my husband quit his job, asked me to quit mine and we did the business together. He did all the work, I was in charge of running it at home.
As the business grew and did well, we began to add reservations to my repertoire. Life was a whirlwind, I was busy running a technology business and homescholing an elementary aged kid and a middle school then high school kid, while teaching Bible study and doing nine million things, reservations made sense. It was a treat to go out to dinner in the old days, something rare and special.
Reservations quickly became the norm and we easily justified it, eating culturally, living in Southern California, it was all part of our daughter's education. How better to learn about biblical times than to eat Indian food (okay -so that was a stretch, but down the street and our favorite cheap lunch!) We tried ethnic food everywhere, any time, traveling to teach them culturally about restaurants, no, I mean countries! We ate high brow, we ate low brow and everywhere inbetween.
While reservations were a staple, this was also the time when our total foodie obsession was born. Instead of the Coupon Queen cupboards, filled with pre-flavored, pre-packaged, pre-cooked stuff, we began to really TASTE food, and learn about food, enjoying eating, then having the desire to create food in my own kitchen.
Really truly tasting REAL FOOD, we fell madly and passionately in love with flavor. With vegetables and herbs, delicately flavored salads filled with subtle flavors, salsas made fresh daily with the best ingredients. Our bodies began to crave REAL FOOD and suddenly, we lost interest all interest in pre-packaged, pre-cooked, pre-flavored stuff. A serious, serious health crisis further pushed me over the edge and it was with great sorrow that I took off my Coupon Queen crown for good.
Another phase was the much coveted emailed weekly menu. Each week, a slightly uptight, perfect menu would appear in my inbox, based on our food choices/desires. I would then head out to shop, struggling to buy what was on my email list of the week, and only those items, while getting the best deals. Inevitably, my head would spin.
Yes, someone else deciding our menu was cheaper than eating out. No, it was NOT cheaper than what I could do on my own.
Some of the recipes were fabulous - others were just bland and boring.
It wasn't the utopia promised.
The foodie in me was suppressed, struggling for self expression, and to break out. I walked past fabulous deals in the market, while grabbing a more expensive cut of meat that wasn't on sale, so I could dutifully "make that weeks" menu as written.
Now, I am more of a blend. We live on a very restricted budget, have multiple food issues and sensitivities, and a daughter with a brain injury that requires a special diet to function her best and we are a total foodie family. It is my job to track EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT that comes into our home like a bomb sniffing dog, making sure that none of the "forbidden" ingredients cross our doorway. This goes from the obvious toxins like preservatives, colorings, additives, High Fructose Corn Syrup, MSG in all it's many deceptive forms and fashions.
This is more representative of now after a trip to my favorite store, Earth Fare, the healthy supermarket. The original price was about $25, and I paid $5.40, with a combination of manufacturer and store coupons. This is terribly "junk foodie" for our family, but hey, much of what we were serving when we opened up our home Christmas Day to those who could not go home and be with families. No, we don't buy truffles or ice cream normally, but what a nice treat it was to serve our guests!
Be encouraged, there are many styles of grocery shopping, one that will fit your family, in your particular situation, right now! There are deals to be had out there, now go get the ones that feed your family the best!