Frugal is such an ugly word

Years ago, someone bought me an Anne Taintor coffee mug with this phrase on it. For years, I bristled at it because I thought, “I put myself through college working 3-4 jobs, I lived on NOTHING for years – I don’t have any problem being frugal!”. Yet Christian and I spent years Dual Income, No Kids. I didn’t have to use my amazing frugal skills anymore. We went to Japan. We bought a fancy toilet. I bought investment jeans. We had a list of all the cheeses from the Monty Python Cheese Sketch and we purchased them, one by one, even though they were sometimes $10 for 1 ounce. We actually spent a lot of money on cheese, now that I think of it…yum.

I had some babies. I quit my full time job. I lost my part time job. And yet, the two kids and the house remained. This should be easy! I’ve done this before! Uh… apparently, no, I’ve lost the knack. I suck at being frugal. I miss the good cheese!

Seriously, my downfall is probably food. I am not attracted to unhealthy, cheap food. If I can’t have good, healthy, organic food then I just won’t eat at all. I’ll get hungry and grumpy. It is an occupational hazard for a SAHM.

I don’t know what I am doing wrong that I keep running out of grocery money. I do meal planning, I try to maximize each ingredient. I have recently tried shopping at different grocery stores because I’ve heard that some are cheaper than others. But since I will still only buy organic of the EWG Dirty Dozen in produce, and I refuse to buy non-organic milk or conventionally raised eggs, there doesn’t seem to be much variation in price between stores. In fact, when I try to pursue cheaper stores, I just find that the selection of foods that I find acceptable for our family is small or nonexistent. I can go in with a list of 10 things but only find 7 or 8. Then I have to go to another store. Since I can’t make it to two stores in one day with both kids in tow, missing those 2 to 3 items for certain recipes on grocery day can derail my entire meal plan for the week.

Another thing that derails the budget is buying staples. I can stay within the budget as long as we never run out of seasonings, snacks for the kids, butter, nuts, cheese, yogurt, eggs, bread, and milk. But when I have a list of things I need to replenish in our fridge or pantry, sometimes that list will use up my entire budget for the week. Then what do I do about food for actual meals?

It is all very complex and inter-related. One item affects another. Smart health choices build up to more expensive groceries. Both my kids now drink cows milk and eat real solid food. We are feeding 4 people, even though 2 of them are small.

Frugal. It’s such an ugly word.

7 thoughts on “Frugal is such an ugly word

  1. Tempppo says:

    Well — I am brand new here. I was intrigued by your article for clothes drying on cotton babies fb page. Saw your blog descriptions and came over.

    I sympathize with your plight. While we were in an apartment it was worse. Now we are Ina house and can grow our own lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, etc. It definitely cuts down the grocery bill. I have discovered vegetables I never knew about, and they are now my favorites.

    Sorry if my words are useless to you. But do know I am enjoying your blog.

  2. conscientious says:

    Thank you so much for the kind words! This is my first year to try a garden so I’m definitely hoping that will help during the summer. Gardening tips always welcome!

  3. A'Dell says:

    Here’s my thing about food: I will skimp in other areas to meet my grocery budget needs. For example, you’re totally right that a gallon of organic milk costs what it costs. IT JUST DOES. Same with the organic produce and other things…I can’t control those prices and I’m not willing to compromise on these things so I have to compromise in other places and on other line items in the budget that I CAN control. I keep the thermostat a little higher, I stay the hell away from Target, etc. If you’re running over the grocery budget with staples (which are still groceries, after all), you’re not doing anything WRONG, it probably just costs what it costs.
    Have you tried freezing meals? IT IS SO AWESOME. Buy the ingredients, use them ALL (no more wasting half a bunch of parsley, stashing half a box of pasta), eat tonight, freeze the rest. Unfreeze and serve with a salad or frozen vegetables, etc. I fill in my meal plan with two or three of these a week and it keeps me from cooking too much (and doing dishes) or having to buy too many random ingredients.Or, you can try what Lauren did — she cooks from a set, rotating meal plan of 15 or 20 things.

    I imagine that makes it REALLY easy to keep tabs on the staples budget and keep the grocery list manageable.

    But, yeah. I get it. Being a grown-up is very un-glamorous sometimes.

  4. Whitney McHenry says:

    I feel your pain!  Have you tried Sprout’s for some of your organics?  They have some great deals.  Also, have you heard of the dirt doctor?  He lives up in the DFW area and specializes in organic gardening.  He has a website and tons of books specific to Texas gardening.  Good luck!

  5. conscientious says:

    I love Sprouts! They have the cheapest prices on organic canned fruit and also herbal supplements like the Wish Garden Kick-It Immunity for Kids. My mom sent me a Dirt Doctor link, I am going to have to use that more. I keep forgetting about it – thank you!

  6. conscientious says:

     My blog ate the comment I wrote you back! I do love Sprouts, they have great prices for supplements and my favorite, the Wish Garden Kick-It Immunity Drops! My mother told me about Dirt Doctor and I keep forgetting to look that up – thank you for the reminder!

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