Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's an In-Debt, Paycheck to Paycheck Mama To Do?

I've already exceeded my grocery budget and it's only the fifth of the month. Seriously, I don't think my grocery budget should count if it's a Costco month.

"You gotta spend money to save money," right?

Yeah. Well. I went to Costco to renew my membership and to pick up a few items.

Of course, as soon as I walked in, there were three or four things not on my list that I needed at home. Into the mega-sized shopping cart they go.

I haven't been to Costco in a long time (I usually go every three or four months to stock up on beastly amounts of quasi-unhealthy foods -- read: not organic and/or free-range -- or ones that I normally wouldn't purchase anywhere else, like freeze-dried fruit snacks and instant oatmeal) so I decide to peruse the aisles to make sure I won't forget anything. Part of Costco's charm is not having to come back for a very long time, so I want to make sure I leave with everything I possibly can. Because I despise grocery shopping.

My friend, Tamara, says I spend too much money on food because I buy processed foods. I was about to say, "I know that's not true, because..." but then I remembered the corn nuts, fruit leather, tortilla chips and popcorn already popped in the bag that I just brought home. It was for my kids' lunches!

A general rule of thumb for me is: if I can make it, I won't buy it. Which affords quite a lot actually. Chocolate chip cookies? No. Chocolate chips? Yes. I can't make those. It's also handy for rice crackers and kitchen bags.

A sticky one is tomato soup. Yes. I could make that. But, really? I'm not going to buy raw tomatoes, boil them, pull their skins off, cut them all up, add a bunch of other ingredients I'd have to Google, and simmer it on the stovetop for hours. Pftt. I could buy canned diced tomatoes and a gallon of milk though. Add some cheese (I did just purchase two cans of parmesan cheese -- the kind in the green bottles) and spices .... I could do that. Maybe once a month. And my kid wants tomato soup more often than that. It's the only vegetable he'll eat besides occasionally stooping to steamed broccoli with copious amounts of Braggs poured on top. So, I bought tomato soup at Costco.

Every thing I bought today seemed to make total sense as I slung it in the cart. Did I mention that it was mega-sized? And I haven't told you yet that the store closed while I was still shopping and had only managed to go through half the store, and that my cart was already full. Did I mention it was mega-sized?

Two giant cans of spanish olives? Cheaper than the fancy schmancy gourmet cheeses I love to buy for my book club. Three 106 ounce cans of peaches, pears and applesauce? Cheaper than mini cups for school lunches. A case of Cattle Drive Gold Chili? Dude. I finally found a chili that doesn't have gluten in it. Fucking wheat starch. Plus, my doctor says I don't eat enough (especially protein) and when I state 'no time' as my reason, she says: Buy a fucking can of soup. So there you have it. Doctor's orders.

Raisins, strawberry jam, dried beans, tuna fish, pecans, sun-dried tomatos? Staples. Quinoa, rice, dog food? Staples. Diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kitchen bags? Staples. And also so I can attempt that tomato soup on the stove top thing. Who knows? I might just need the trash bags for that, too.

Okay. The trail mix and Tasty Bite Madras Lentils in a microwave pouch that's ready in 90 seconds wasn't all that necessary. Frankly, neither were the dried fruit, and the two books I bought (one was for my son that doesn't like to read, and I'd found one in his favorite series!) Or the Z-bars and pudding. But. Sometimes you have to have a little something extra in the car to prevent hunger melt-downs. In children, or adults.

It all made perfect sense. At the time, and even now. Totally rational buys.

But add that to the full tank of gas I also bought today ($78), and a trip to the pet store for a new leash (the dog ate the old one) plus Kongs and wet dog food to stuff them with so the dogs will stop eating books out of my daughter's bedroom when I'm gone at work, I spent WELL over $600 today.

And the shitty part? I still need: gluten-free bread, eggs, coconut oil, an extension cord, a black Sharpee, half and half, and milk. Oh. And the pork-free sausage that I can only find at Costco.


I'm not setting foot in there again.

For another three months.

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