Of Physics and Grocery Shopping

As every good Trekkie knows, you can’t change the laws of physics. For a certain amount of energy (and nutrition) needed, a certain mass (and density of nutrition within that mass) is needed, and to buy that mass of food at fixed prices, and fixed amount of money is needed.

Oh, you can shop the sales, prioritize your food purchases to put your money where it will do the most good, occasionally find outrageous deal and otherwise manipulate the system, but it remains a closed system, where you get out of it what you put into it. Some weeks grocery shopping feels like beating my head against various laws of physics and mathematics.

I do a lot of praying over my grocery list. It happens at the planning level, when I’m trying to balance ‘fun food’, ‘GAPS food’ and ‘budget food’ for approximately fourteen meals worth of menu planning, plus leftovers, breakfasts and now juicing. And every time I finish combing the food ads for the week and putting together a menu plan and shopping list that bring us in on budget (or sometimes even under budget, leaving wiggle room for bulk purchases and last minute deals) I feel relived that it worked again, and we get to eat for the next two weeks. Why I have that reaction, since we’ve never once been even remotely in danger of missing meals, I’m not sure, but that’s how it comes out in my head. (In fact, with my tendency to buy ahead and stock up, I could probably skip a whole shopping cycle and we could eat just fine anyway–as long as we were willing to eat a few odd meals along the way. But sometimes the intense side of my personality comes out in odd ways, like equating variety of food with not starving.)

But where the praying over my grocery list really happens is when the rubber meets the road, and I’m standing in Kroger staring at an orange “Manager’s Special” tag. I nudge my cart further out of the walkway, and glance at my list again. Nope, no wiggle room this week. But is this a better deal that something else on my list? Did I overestimate the amount of fresh vegetables we would eat this week, and can I cut back a little? Can I put off buying ketchup or some similar item for another week to make space in the plan for this? And that’s when I launch into a fervent, “Lord, give me wisdom” which occasionally feels a bit silly to be praying over broccoli and radishes, but is oh, so very necessary.

This last week I found ground beef on manager’s special at Kroger (a rare find!). Ten pound rolls for $15. I’d already planned to buy 6 pounds at Aldi for $14 that shopping trip, so the first roll was a no-brainer. I had a dollar’s worth of wiggle room easily. And then the agonizing began.

While an extraordinarily chipper and talkative meat-man rambled on in the background about his young son’s eventual college education, figurative smoke rolled off my brain as I tried to somehow, anyhow, squeeze another $15 out of my grocery list plan. I pulled most of it from other budget categories that Colton and I had agreed to put toward food while the GAPS diet was causing extra expenses, but that still left me with five or six dollars that didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I looked at the list yet again, and excised ruthlessly. Take off a pound of cauliflower (it will go on sale again soon). Take off an avocado (you can get through a week on one avocado, even on the GAPS diet). Figure in the coins in your change purse (I don’t mind standing at the self-checkout feeding dimes and nickels and even pennies into the machine, because it never rolls it’s eyes or loses count).

The most drastic decision I made was not buying eggs. (I’d bought an extra dozen on the last trip because the price had dropped briefly, and I *did* have wiggle room in budget that week.) However, Colton didn’t complain at all when I told him we were going to be a bit short on eggs this time, and he might have to substitute ground beef for a couple breakfasts. 🙂

In the end, I didn’t trust my calculations, despite the fact that it all came out just barely right on paper. It wasn’t until I finished checkout at the last store that I relaxed and realized that it worked. I wasn’t even sure *how* it worked. In fact, I’m pretty sure at this point that God somehow bends the laws of physics around my shopping cart. I don’t think it should be possible to spend $30 on 20 pounds of ground beef out of our normal grocery budget.

Somehow, it worked again, and yep, we get to eat (rather well, in fact) for another two weeks and probably more before the ground beef is gone.

And, because 20 pounds of ground beef all at one time is the kind of thing we get really excited about around here, we pictorially documented the occasion for all posterity…

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