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Setting Goals & Getting it Done

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setting goals & getting it done

Trying to change my world is hard work. I know what I need to do, but I still need to decide about the best way to make things happen. For instance, I realize that I spend too much money eating out. While eating in sounds like a simple enough solution, there’s a lot of reverse engineering that goes into sustaining a healthy diet at home. From meal planning to grocery shopping and prepping ahead – there’s a lot there. And there are also considerations for my later work shift, like having to pack a lunch and a dinner that I may not be able to reheat as I’m often out and about in the community.

It’s usually about this time that I start getting a little obsessive. I start creating overly elaborate meal plans and spend a lot of time in grocery stores looking for things like smoked paprika and cardamom seeds. FYI, black cardamom seeds have a beautiful smoky flavor that’s perfect for savory dishes. Alternatively, green cardamom seeds offer a lovely swirl of strong and sweet with pungent undertones. While these things are good to know, they end up distracting me from developing maintainable habits for prepping and eating at home. Sometimes I end up becoming overwhelmed and abandon my very worthy goal.

For now, I’m focusing on doing small shops at the grocery store. I’ve gone overboard in the past and had to throw things out after spending hundreds of dollars to eat at home. This time, I am trying something different. Yesterday, I bought $20 worth of vegetables and cut them up to eat with hummus. It’s an easy snack, and I’m not engaged in this dramatic race against time to eat ten pounds of vegetables before they expire. It’s a small thing, but I feel it’s a step in the right direction.

What’s important about learning something new is figuring out how to make it work for me. If you think back to school, you probably remember the students who studied with flashcards while others just read through the textbook. The same thing applies now for my grand and great eating at home goal. So, I’m pretty good at finding tasty recipes and putting together a list for shopping. Recognizing strengths like this one help me push through some of the tougher stuff.

One of my challenges is big box stores – I hate them so much. In fact, I think mega-marts are a diabolical Lord of the Flies social experiment featuring a giant rat maze populated with thousands of tense, grabby people who use their shopping carts like battering rams. Consequently, I shop at more expensive market-type stores that offer a slightly more sedate shopping experience. I don’t always get the best deal, but I don’t have to be a gladiator to get through the games. It’s a concession I’m willing to make to get the job done.

You might be asking yourself why I’m boring you with opinions about cardamom seeds and Walmart Supercenters. After all, I’m here to talk about what I’ve done to cut costs and boost savings. I stand to save a substantial amount of money if I can put this into place, but I’m not perfect. I still think it’s valuable to share my experience with the ‘softer side’ of setting money goals. Personally, I know sharing these experiences with you helps me be better – and more accountable. Maybe you folks have ideas that I haven’t considered?

The other point to sharing my random culinary adventures is that nobody gets it right all the time. Putting my struggles into print might help someone understand they aren’t the only ones trying to figure it out. In my opinion, the endless parade of super-shiny perfect pictures on social media is a massive contributor to mental health issues today. So this is me not being shiny or perfect.

Photo by Priyanka Singh on Unsplash


16 Comments

  • Reply Walnut |

    There’s an option between a Walmart Supercenter and Whole Foods, though. You’re likely to find a balance at a regular grocery store. Keeping price lists used to be a mechanism to understand what a “good price” is.

    It might also be a fun meal planning strategy to plan a splurgey, interesting meal for one or two evenings a week and backfilling the rest of your menu with basics like tacos. It also might be fun to make a good slaw or salsa that you can then use across multiple meals in different ways to keep things interesting, but easy.

    • Reply Lindsey Boycott |

      I think you’re right about finding the middle ground. While a super-center makes me wish for a massive meteor strike, there are a lot of grocery stores out there that are reasonably priced AND sized. By keeping price lists, do you mean compiling a list of prices for general items across a few stores? It’s not a bad idea to keep something a little more formal than what my brain remembers the moment I look at a price.

      I’ve made guacamole in the past but never a salsa. That might be a cool way of diversifying some of the more basic meals planned in a week. And one or two ‘fancier’ meals might be good way to stay motivated. If you like sea food, one of the tastiest recipes I’ve tried lately in an Asian Glazed Salmon from Danielle Walker.

  • Reply Megan |

    I found a good groove with meal planning that might be an option. We have 4 weeks worth of meals planned out that we rotate through. Every couple of months we’ll swap out a few meals as we get bored with them.
    Each week has one meal that takes longer to cook for weekends, then at least a couple of meals that are super quick for busy nights. In your case, if you know you’ll be out and about certain nights, you can plan more portable meals for those nights.

    • Reply Lindsey Boycott |

      That’s interesting about the four weeks. I don’t know about anyone else but I find having to figure out dinner every week to be a whole drama.

      There’s different preferences, schedules, and wants – I can see how getting a number of weeks planned at a time could be good. Thank you for the suggestion, I want to try this.

      • Reply Megan |

        It was definitely a stretch coming up with all the meal ideas at the beginning! It’s nice now though, basically just running through the list on autopilot.

        • Reply Lindsey Boycott |

          Yeah, I’d have to commit to front-loading this meal plan but I can see it paying off!

  • Reply Angie |

    For specialty spices you are most likely better off going to one of those fancy standalone spice shops. The price per ounce is way higher. But the selection and quality is better. Plus (at least before COVID) you could buy it out of a bulk bin and only get as much as you need. Much cheaper for ingredients you only need for one or two recipes. Our natural grocery stores also has a measure what you want spice section.

    Never buy your main groceries at Walmart. They have slightly lower prices on brand name processed foods sure. But meat, produce, and generics are usually priced slightly higher than standard grocery store prices. The meat and produce also go bad a lot faster for whatever reason.

    Honestly, I’m surprised you’ve never heard of a price book before if you’ve been writing financial articles for years. I don’t actually keep one but I generally know what store has the best prices just from shopping.

    • Reply Lindsey Boycott |

      I’ve seen some Bulk Barns that have a nice selection but haven’t shopped there much since Covid (they have loose spices in the bins). I think it’s worth exploring now that things have sort of settled down.

      It’s interesting what you say about Walmart’s meat and produce going bad faster. I usually separate out meat and throw it in the freezer right away so never noticed that happened until recently.

      As far as the price book, I thought it might be a specific site or resource that people used to compare prices. 🙂 I wasn’t sure about it beyond that though.

  • Reply Hope |

    I am in the same boat in a sense. Learning to cook for 1 and that one not liking leftovers very much has been a challenge. And while in the past I would prep meals weeks in advance, etc. That just doesn’t work anymore.

    I love the idea of mini-shopping trips. It would also get me out of the house a bit which I’m finding is an issue as well that I am dealing with. It was different when the house would fill up at some point during the day. But now I can literally go days with just a single hug every night when Gymnast gets home and scurries off to his room.

    I went to a true grocery store yesterday and it was so nice. (Unlike my regular and ongoing online shopping I’ve been doing at Wal-mart for pick up for years.) I think I may try the micro-trip thing – go more often but buy less and specialize a bit.

    • Reply Lindsey Boycott |

      Hey Hope, it’s hard when the house empties after so many years of kids coming and going. The smaller shops idea came from a conversation I had with someone who had lived in Germany. Apparently, it was more common for people to shop at local markets every day or two – produce and meat were fresh and canned/packaged goods were bought in moderation. I don’t know if it’s still like that but I appreciate the concept. I think North Americans (me included) love a full pantry but we probably don’t need it. 🙂

      • Reply Angie |

        It’s not just the want of having a full pantry. Americans live farther from grocery stores than cities in Europe or wherever. It takes a longer trip to get to supermarkets. Some places in the country you may have to drive 30+ minutes to a grocery, you can’t realistically do that every day. I live downtown in a major city and technically live next to one of the many “food deserts” where grocery stores with fresh foods are not easily accessible to those without a car. So there are multiple factors in play.

        • Reply Lindsey Boycott |

          I think that’s a fair observation. Whether it’s because you live somewhere rural or in an urban food desert, sometimes its easier to stock up once or twice a month.

  • Reply Janie B. |

    Also, bear in mind that not every meal has to be a gourmet meal that uses exotic spices! There are plenty of healthy, wholesome, simple meals that one can make.

    • Reply Lindsey Boycott |

      Hah, So true but so easy to forget sometimes. Change is hard enough without over complicating things. Thanks for the reminder!

So, what do you think ?