Thursday, 5 May 2011

Avoiding Temptation

I must preface this post with a disclaimer :  I don't like food shopping!  I would rather do just about any other chore including cleaning a dirty bathroom.  I find the crowds and the lineups really fatiguing and it seems to take so much precious time away from my life.  I much prefer to stick around our homestead and work in the garden or around the house as that kind of work is infinitely more satisfying to me.  However, supplying our family with quality food and stocking up on ingredients at good prices is an important part of my job that can't be avoided.  The food bill is our single highest expense AFTER our mortgage, so it is a budget category where I have a lot of responsibility to work hard at applying frugal principles.

Today, I had no choice but to make an unexpected (undesired) trip into the city.   I made the last minute decision to incorporate a Costco shop into my day to make good use of my travel time and gas money.  For those of you who don't recognize that name, Costco is a popular warehouse/wholesale store that sells food and household items, sporting goods, electronics, furniture and even jewellery.  I'm quite sure that they sell nearly everything that you could possibly think of!  I was most fortunate to have my 18 year old son along for the trip, so I took full advantage of that and stocked up on the heavy items that would normally be challenging for me to shop for and load into the truck alone.  What a treat to have help wrangling the heavy cart and lifting all the huge sacks and cases of food!

In the interest of sticking to our budget and conserving time, I usually try very hard NOT to browse all the aisles.  Today, we had enough time to look around a little bit, and while there were some useful things (and I will be honest, things I WANTED), most of "the extras" offered at Costco really aren't necessary for us to have.  I know that if I was to invest in some of those things, I may be temporarily pleased with my purchase, but I know in my heart that the money would be wasted as the items would end up given away or broken before long.  It takes a pretty durable, functional, well made article to make the cut and stick it out around here :)  We are hard on our things as we use them frequently and fully with 7 people in the house.  I am pleased to say that I didn't buy anything unnecessary today and as we went without a fully prepared list (due to the last minute nature of our trip) that is an impressive feat!

A few tips that help me stick to my budget at Costco:

1)  I never/rarely buy produce there as it is over packaged, expensive and usually not organic.

2)  I stick to buying staples ONLY and avoid all prepared/convenience foods.  Those are generally unhealthy, expensive and also very over packaged.

3)  I check the coupons at the door and the end caps (the feature spots at the end of the aisles where the good deals usually are) to take full advantage of lower prices.  As an example, if peanut butter isn't on my list, but is a very good price, I'll likely stock up on 6 months worth as we will use it before it spoils.  Any staples (olive oil, pasta, tinned goods, etc.) that are offered at a very low price, I will buy unless I have a large inventory at home already.

4)  I avoid the personal care aisles (toothpaste, liquid soaps, lotions, deodorants etc.) as they are full of highly unnecessary products that are full of chemicals.  Additionally, I find the prices on these items to be higher than what I can source at my local supermarket or make myself for pennies. Again, it's all over packaged.

Costco counts on the fact that you will cave in and do all your shopping there, getting everything on your list to avoid making another stop at a cheaper store.  That gives them a chance to make good money off of you!  I have learned to NOT stop at my local supermarket on the way home to pick up those last few items as I am usually far too tired to avoid impulse buys and make intelligent choices that are good for the budget.  I take my Costco goods home, get them unpacked and put away, saving the supermarket run for another day when I'm in our town close to home and am in a fresher state of mind.  That mind set saves us a lot of money!

Today we spent just under $508.00 and I brought home hundreds of pounds of wholesome ingredients.  I won't be back there for another 3 months (or longer), so I made sure to stock up on the items that I will not/can not get anywhere else.   I didn't succumb to impulse and left with nothing that wasn't considered a staple ingredient/necessary purchase.  Three cheers for success!!!


  1. We don't have a costco around here, but we do have a Sam's. I have a specific list that I shop from and don't browse all the aisles either. I try to do a month's worth of shopping, and I plan to hit one store per week, got 3 stores to cover (Walmart, HEB and Sam's) with 1 week off (or for something else). Has worked well so far, while working full time. I plan to spend more time on these things and aim for even cheaper costs when I'm home full time.

  2. Yes, I've heard that Sam's is like Costco. Your shopping plan sounds really organized. When you are home full time you'll have more time to devote to your goals - in between diaper changes and feedings :)