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  • Writer's pictureamyk73

Zen & The Art of Grocery Shopping

At a couple times in my life I was an avid coupon person. I even had a binder with sleeves to keep coupons and diligently clipped, printed and organized every single one of them. I’d watch expiration dates to make sure I wouldn’t waste a coupon and monitor store ads week to week for optimal times to use it on an item. Grocery shopping in this way seemed like a full time job and I was always doing it. In the end I think I saved money as long as I didn’t count my time as part of the cost.

It became a game for me. How much could I save and how much could I get for free by stacking coupons and sales together? I loved bringing home bags of things I paid pennies for or had walked out paying nothing on. It was saving us money. It was not costing me anything but a little gas and some time to keep up with it all. In the long run it would put us on top. This is what I believed. On top of what I would soon learn was a stockpile we would never run out from because the trouble with coupons is you are always looking for the next sale and coupon match up. You are always adding to what you need but don’t need necessarily right now. Or ever honestly.

The other problem with coupons is I ended up sometimes with things I wouldn’t have otherwise bought. It was on sale after all and one product cannot be that different from another right? Wrong. There’s nothing worse than having 5 bottles of window cleaner of a brand that you don’t normally use but you saved a bunch on the price for only to find out the stuff smears and doesn’t clean well. Free or not you still have dirty mirrors and windows.

The concept of coupons is wonderful. It’s great to save a few bucks and get things you need at the same time. That’s exciting to me. Seriously it is. Who wants to spend money on stuff you need and use like cleaners when you can spend money on fun stuff like movies and vacations? It’s also a bit of a power trip like you are an informed shopper who knows the games merchants play with marking things up and cycling through inventory. Yes we are onto you store merchants and marketing people!

However, in the end the stores still win. They win because they put older stock on sale in cycles and smartly align with manufacturer coupons to entice you to buy their old stuff. They want you to have 10 bottles of BBQ sauce on your shelf rather than theirs where it cost money to display. They know for many families price trumps other characteristics in our day-to-day necessity purchasing decisions. While you may have saved a few bucks or even a lot you still lose. You lose your sense of choice between varieties, ingredients and styles. You lose your ability to control when and how much you buy because you are on the cycle of the stores telling you when it’s ideal to buy it. You lose your time and space because you are managing life to these cycles and storing it all afterwards. When I realized how much freedom as a consumer I was giving up in terms of my time, effort, what I was buying and how much I was really saving compared to that, I gave up coupons.

The more I shifted from market sales cycles and coupons to looking how to live naturally and what that meant to our family budget, what purchases we made in our groceries and necessities and how we bought it coupons didn’t fit in that equation. I didn’t need 8 bottles of on sale fabric softener filled with water and toxic ingredients on my laundry room shelf. The cost of those bottles and what it did to our skin, the water and our health couldn’t be covered in what I spared in the change I saved on purchasing those. The floor cleaner and counter wipes that I would snap up on sale were doing nothing but poisoning our pets and family with weak immunity systems and cancer causing ingredients. My red irritated hands from harsh cleaners that wouldn’t heal afterwards couldn’t be soothed. Treatments for those illnesses cannot be covered in cost to what I was saving from that sale price of those wipes. It wasn’t worth it to me anymore.

We are a family that lives on a budget every month. There is only so much for groceries, cleaning supplies, personal care and pet supplies. There’s an amount I set aside each month for each bill and expense I anticipate we will have for the month. Sometimes I run short but I strive to stay ahead so there is always enough for these necessities. I was scared when I put down the coupons that we wouldn’t afford to eat. I was worried organic, natural and simple was more expensive and you know what sometimes it is insanely more expensive. Buying a carton of strawberries at $2.50 or an organic carton at $4.99 is a big difference! I still have to make choices when it comes to like this when I shop. Price has to be accounted for and we do the best we can with what we have. Certainly I’d love to have the organic strawberries but that’s not always an option. However, I can make the decision on a lot of items that are organic, natural and simple and they do not cost more ever! That means sometimes I can splurge for those organic yummy tasting strawberries or better yet stop at the farmer’s market for ones that are even fresher!

When I shop I look at three things – Price, Ingredients, Source. These three pieces of information tell me if it’s worth spending our family’s hard earned and limited budget on that item or not. I won’t lie and say price doesn’t matter than quality because sometimes price has to be the ultimate decider. However when I have the ability to choose from more than that quality and source are my preference. Price though is tricky. We can see a tiny bottle of detergent for instance and think it’s more expensive than a large bottle of something else. I have learned when I see that I need to look a little closer. Here’s my favorite example:

Tide 128 FL Ounce bottle with the fancy pump and measuring cup costs about $18 on sale give or take a coupon and what store. That bottle says it lasts about 64 to 70 loads of laundry. That’s a lot of detergent and the bottle is heavy. The ingredients include a lot of water and lot of things that don’t belong in our water or on our skin. There’s toxic warning labels all over the back of that bottle of Tide. However compared to a natural organic detergent with a higher price tag at first glance Tide can appear less expensive.

Now take that much smaller bottle of natural organic detergent and look closer. I use the doTERRA OnGuard detergent costs me $27.50 wholesale and is shipped directly to my house. I earn 30% back on that bottle plus $4 back in shipping points that I can use for anything I want in the future. That’s roughly $12 off the $27.50 making that bottle of detergent about $15. It too does 64 loads of laundry and does not take both hands to carry or lift to the shelf over my washer. It takes much less in liquid detergent to wash a load of clothes and it contains no water or toxic chemicals harmful to my family or water system. So for $3 less compared to Tide I also spared the environment more waste in toxic chemicals and plastic bottle waste and my family is a little safer too.

When we think about living more naturally or what it means to live more simply there is a lot of intimidation for what those impacts really imply. The initial sticker price is often a first gate deterrent to preventing us from making better choices as consumers. In many cases though it is a false gate and by digging a little deeper into the information we can find solutions that are less expensive while also being highly organic and natural with benefits to our environment and family. It may not mean I’m still willing to fork over $4.99 for a carton of strawberries but it can afford me the ability and freedom to choose as a consumer and not have my money be the victim in the decision.

Are you ready to live more naturally on your terms and take back your consumer freedom? Take my free Lifestyle and Wellness Questionnaire to find out where it makes the most sense for you to start this important journey.

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