12 October 2008

The Experiment

Saturday morning: I rose early and ran in a 5K race. It only took me about 32 minutes. That's better than the one I ran in May. So, yay me. Physical enlightenment achieved.

OK, remember last week's grocery trip in which I trumpeted my victories at the supermarket, especially in the yogurt and diet soda aisles? Well, I had an epiphany that day, and I was finally able to put it into action today. And it was good.

Last week, as I was checking out, my mom and I noticed a couple putting their groceries not into the environment-hating plastic Walmart sacks, but into those cloth bags that are the rage now (maybe they're not the rage now, maybe I just noticed them, whatever!). I said to my mom, "You know what would be interesting? Seeing if I could feed my family for a week, just on whatever I could put into five of those cloth bags." She agreed that yes, it would be interesting. And we went on about our business, but, heh, those wheels were already spinning for me. I was going to do it.

Fast-forward to this morning. I explained the plan to my husband, and he agreed to go along, although I could definitely sense the apprehension on his part. A big part of his brain was wondering what kooky shenanigans I was up to now, and was it going to deprive him of his Diet Coke (cf. October 4, 2008).

To begin with, I shelled out $5.35 in the area of "Capital Outlay." We bought the five black Walmart cloth bags and went off in search of commodity enlightenment. Our first challenge came in the form of the $1 shopping cart, where a plethora of colorfully striped three-ring binder and Hannah Montana pencil pouches were on sale for the deliriously low price of one hundred pennies. Since my husband is addicted to anything that promotes paper organization, he snapped up five of the binders. For me, the pouches were just too cute, and would be useful in storing orphaned crayons and pencils.

One black shopping bag - gone. Four more to go.

I am happy to report that the rest of the expedition went smoothly. We stuck to items on the list, and soon things like yogurt, mouthwash, pepperoni, bananas, ground turkey, etc. filled the other four shopping
bags. Fortunately, there was not a whole lot of meat purchase, due to the fact there was still a couple of days' worth in the freezer.

As we strolled off towards the self-check station, I anticipated a lower cost in the total dollar amount, because we only bought what we really needed (three-ring binder and pencil pouches notwithstanding). The point of this exercise was to truly discern the difference between "vital" and "non-vital" grocery items. There was a couple of exceptions to the "whatever fits in the bag" rule: gallons of milk and 12-packs of soda did not fall under the bag rule. Also, ginormously packaged items like toilet paper and paper towels were exempt. However, we also attempted to practice of sense of moderation here as well; just because it was too big for the bag didn't mean it was OK to go overboard on bulk-sized purchases. Another key indicator of the experiment's success would be on whether or not we would have to visit the grocery store later on in the week. My goal was buy everything we needed today to eliminate a mid-week trip.

In the end, total bill: just a shade over $88. Bags filled: Four out of five (clever rearranging made for one empty bag). Feeling of Economical Righteousness: priceless.

Even Brent was excitedly chatting up "the experiment" on the way home, acknowledging the coolness we had just exuded. It occurred to me that the benefits here were two-fold; first of all, in these hard economic times, we had willingly monitored our spending and actively reduced it. Props to us for our Warren Buffett-esque behavior. Secondly, the experiment provoked interesting conversation between Brent and I in regards to what is a necessity and what is a luxury. When he could see the visual of the bags being filled (and what little it took), that is when he began to consider ways to cut back. The guy BEGAN TO SPEAK OF decreasing our soda consumption.

***Picture me agog****

If one trip to the grocery store could set THAT kind of chain of events in motion, what phenomenal things could happen if we did it every weekend?

We've already decided to try it again on the next supermarket excursion. Brent explained to me that he did not consider this week a "real" week, because he and the kids are leaving for Wisconsin Dells on Friday morning, so he claims the real test will be next weekend when we'll be shopping for a full week of meal-making and house-managing.

The floodgate is open, everyone, let the ideas for personal betterment commence!

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