Yesterday was my big grocery shopping day. Once a pay period I plan two weeks worth of meals and make a big shopping trip. Maria is my shopping buddy. It's a chance for some girl time. This time she also had several allowances saved up and wanted to go to Build a Bear, so we decided to make this an official girls' day out and go to Olive Garden for lunch as well. Tess, of course, came along because we travel as a unit. The boys stayed home with Dad. I go to great pains to avoid taking them on the big shopping trip. It's not that they behave horribly in the store or anything,,,but it's a long trip and I have a long list to concentrate on. Plus, logistically, I need the room in the van, and I often have two shopping carts full of food to pull out of the store...the logistics of it all get pretty complicated. I realize this statement will offend some of you more girly people out there, but...I *hate* shopping. I really do. I don't mind shopping online, but I hate real life shopping, I hate the crowds, the lights, the noise, the constant not so subtle push to BUY THIS THING RIGHT HERE, YOU NEED IT!, everything. It's all too overstimulating for me, all of it, whether it's walmart or the mall or whatever. I hate it so much whole years will go by without me setting foot inside a shopping mall. There are a couple of stores I enjoy. I love book stores. I love Hobby Lobby. I love educational supply stores. Other than an occasional stop at one of those places, I avoid any unnecessary shopping trips. If walmart ever develops online shopping, where you can shop online and have the groceries delivered to your door, I am SO THERE. With bells on.
So, anyway, we went to Olive Garden for soup, salad, breadsticks, and gelato. Maria insisted that Tess' carseat sit in the booth next to her and I smiled at the obvious way she would take her out of her seat and then talk loudly to her, looking around to make sure everyone near us was watching her and her new baby sister and appreciating the cuteness of them both. The service was very slow, and by the time we were done I was already ready to go home. What a party pooper, huh? It had also been library day, so we had already been on the run all morning and I had had enough fun. But we carried on to that mecca of consumerism, the shopping mall. This one, thankfully, is an outside mall, allowing you to park outside your store of choice. Maria had $36 to spend, a small fortune to her but to Build A Bear, not so much. She carefully picked a panda to stuff, then chose a High School Musical tshirt, a denim skirt, a pink sequined microphone, and two flowered scrunchies to wrap around the bear's ears. She named her new friend "Sharpay", of High School Musical fame of course. I was proud of her for not trying to talk me into buying more than she had saved up for.
I nursed Tess in the mall parking lot, and then we headed for Aldi. I am on an Aldi experiment. I hadn't been there in a long time because I wasn't convinced that there was much money to be saved compared to Walmart, but given the recent grocery pinch I was trying it again. I'm still unconvinced that it's worth an extra stop. Their bags of chicken breasts are quite a bit cheaper, and their produce prices are good, but the biggest savings are to be had with convenience foods, and I just don't buy much of that stuff. So, I picked up some chicken, some produce, some granola and cereal bars for portable snacks when we are out of the house, some junky food to take to the lake next week...and we headed off to walmart to finish out the list. By the time we were checking out, I was completely depleted. Everything in my body hurt. Even Maria was worn out. Tess was *unbelievably* good. I can't get over how peaceful and happy a temperament this baby has. She'd been dragged all over the place all day long, putting up with late diaper changes and rushed nursings, and she was just happy as a clam at the end of it all, cooing and smiling in her seat.
The grocery total...at the end of it all, I dropped $292 for two weeks worth of groceries, including the nonfood stuff like cat food and all of that. I will need to get milk, yogurt, and butter at Braum's, plus make another run next week for more milk and more produce, so I figure we're running around $340 for two weeks of groceries for 6 people, one of whom doesn't even eat yet. Ouch. There were unusual expenses...food for the lake, a new broom, a handful of school supplies that were on sale, etc., but honestly, there's always *something* "unusual" to buy for. I have always grocery shopped pretty carefully, but I think the time has come to start making cheaper meals and keeping a price book. We are spending $200 more than this time last year on groceries...my budget is screaming! But I'm not really sure how to make cheaper meals. It's not like we're buying T-bone steaks and such, you know? I will often buy a roast or something, but we will get a couple of meals out of it, or, for example, I bought a 1 1/2 pound package of round steak, not as cheap as beans and rice, certainly, but I will make two meals out of it, using a pound for stir fry and half a pound for soup. Feeding five people (ok, four really, Jack eats next to nothing) twice on 1 1/2 pounds of meat is pretty danged good, I think! Anyway, feel free to share your grocery pinch stories below....
By the time we got home it was after 7pm. Including the library trip, we had been out of the house since 10:30 that morning. The guys unloaded the groceries while I quickly put them away and tried to ignore the mess in the kitchen. Maria nuked a quick, late dinner for everyone and John and I threw the boys to bed. I settled on the couch with still smiling Tess for a long, long nursing, complete with lots of talking, cooing, and then snuggling to sleep. She sure earned it, God love her.