37.. 38..39… I lost count as the younger one asked me something. The lady in front of me in the billing counter queue still had lot of items in her cart. I hate to think once upon a time it would have been me in her place.
We live in a time and space where everything is available to buy, provided we have the money or credit score to do so. But what prompts us to buy?
One category of items which we regularly purchase are the ones which are needed for our daily existence, like food, clothes etc. But even in the case of food, we tend to buy more than what we need. And I know what is going to happen once ‘she’ gets back home. All the packets would be dumped on top of kitchen counter; she would be too tired to open the packets and transfer the contents to their respective containers; only the items that need refrigeration would get stored, that too if they are in plain sight. Sorting / storing work continues the next day. There will be many packets for which there won’t be any designated containers, because they are experimental buys. All such packs and those items purchased in bulk on offer would get shoved to some cupboard. Many of them would get another touch only to be thrown out after the expiry date.
Why do we do this? I think following were the reasons why I did this in past.
1. Lack of organization
I was never a person who makes meal plans, grocery list and stick to it.
2. Not thinking through the marketing gimmicks
Apparently, it took me quite some time to realize that not all offers are profitable to the customer! It is not just the unit price that matters, it is also about how many units your household actually needs.
3. There is more to products than its packaging
Attractive packaging does attract customers. I had to learn it hard to just look at the ingredients and decide which could be a better brand.
4. Shopping for grocery in a mall
Here mall refers to shopping centers which host all ‘necessities’ of life. We used to do shopping at such places. Logically, we thought of visiting other sections before going to grocery section, so that we didn’t have to push around a heavy cart. By the time we start to buy food items, my legs would be hurting. Now there is no brain space to think about whether an item is already there in the pantry, whether the displayed offer is really an offer etc. Whatever my eyes say needed would get thrown into the cart, along with what others in the family pick up – no arguments, no junk food convincing – just didn’t have the energy to do it!
There would be many more reasons, but I want to share how I got over this over-shopping. No, I still don’t make meal plans. (ok, I tried, but so far am not able to stick to them)
1. A running grocery list
I now have a running grocery list on the fridge. Just a blank sheet of paper held to the fridge by a magnet. I just jot down the items that I am about to run out. No more items without space to hold once they are in the house. (I tried printing out all items in the kitchen with space to cross for low stock – my God, by the time I figure out where a particular item is in the list, that stuff on top of stove would have burnt! Hence the motto – keep it simple.)
2. Shop online
Once the running list kind of qualifies the free delivery threshold of my online grocer, I shop online for only those items. Since I am doing it at my free time, I can think and get the best deal / brand. No more unintended items in my cart.
3. Think short term
Somehow our household loses interest in our favorite items once they are purchased in bulk. How much ever tempting the bulk offers are, I don’t fall for them these days. I might be losing some money by foregoing the offer, but it is highly probable I am saving on expired and thrown items.
With these simple changes,
I am gaining
– a lot of storage space
– a well organized simple kitchen
– quite a bit of money
– healthier meals
– weekends free of shopping
I do run out of certain ingredients at times, but I have also learnt in this simplification process that, one or two missing ingredients don’t exactly make your dish unpalatable! Some can be substituted, some can be skipped altogether, or you can always give the dish a new name 😉
Disclaimer : I live in an area where online grocers strive to thrive. So there is no dearth of vendors or offers online.