It was not a scientific experiment, though that makes it sound more legitimate and excusable. No, I avoided the grocery store for over a month quite by accident. It began with my own selfishness of time and lots of strange weather. One week went by and it got easier to just pop into Walgreens or the Dollar General for the necessities at our house, milk/ yogurt/ bread. My significant other went once himself and spent $88 on those exact items I listed above. He had taken pity on our four children and purchased bananas, cheese sticks and potato chips; the rest of the expense went to his special cereal, trail mix, and large quantities of Mountain Dew. Other than those listed exclusions, we ate from our pantry and freezer and fast food one additional time per week. If this does not sound impressive, it is not meant to be. I never sought out freedom from the grocery store but loved the time it saved in planning, schlepping, and consumption monitoring.
Dinner was planned the majority of nights from our freezer. I had no idea so much soup could be tucked away in a refrigerator/ freezer combo- we had chili, beef stew, Brunswick stew, chicken soup, mushroom soup, potato soup. Not to mention soup every Wednesday night at church, though anything I do not have to cook is generally awesome. The children went through the mess hidden deep, a few stray corn dogs always turned up just like the lone French toast stick. Loaves of pumpkin bread were consumed for breakfast and dinner, depending on what other options were available. My childhood was replayed as we made Chef Boyardee's pizza, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and a few Lean Cuisines. I discovered food expired from a year ago is generally fine but two years past was accompanied with an odd smell and we didn't take the chance. Many nights we did not have milk and people grew accustomed to water as their only choice.
The real benefits were divulged after the first several weeks and they were both material and introspective. The material benefits were clear and outlined as I checked through my online banking statement. We spend an average of $800 per month at the grocery store and if I use coupons, that amount includes diapers and paper products. In this amount of time, we spent $267 which included my husband's trip, milk runs, and the additional fast food totals. We saved a grand total of $533. More than the amount to send my middle son to a week of camp this summer. Considering that he was not dying to go to camp, I was relieved to spend money that I normally would not have instead of watching extra funds to be frivolously spent on a camp experience for a skeptical son.
The introspective application was a shock. I have thought over the years about the mother that raised me, perfect in every way, clothes put away in their proper places, hot casseroles ready for dinner and I, of course, set the table. This was not an imagined fable of the 1980's. It was the truth of many of my friends and I have heard various renditions of similar childhoods. Those mothers never ever abstained from visiting a grocery store for a month. In fact, I remember going every single day after school to our small local grocery in Rocky Mount, Bobby's. We would traipse around and collectively decide on dinner and fight over Wheaties or Grape Nuts, no Fruit Loops unless we are visiting grandparents. My children were not being raised this way and usually I lamented my subpar mothering skills, always a far away second, but perhaps on the surface.
My children were no longer chastising me for not remembering their specific wants from the grocery. Instead, they would ask nicely if I had happened to get milk and if not, my eldest sons would remind me that WE needed to stop on the way home from driving carpool. No accusing tone but instead a supportive, team effort. My children had learned what I had not, until well into my marriage. It was my mother that had always done everything and I had never even thought to notice, to recognize all her efforts to make our lives easy and comfortable. I got married and was frustrated with real life, life that required meal planning and grocery shopping, not to mention cleaning and then later, child rearing. Perhaps the ease that had been exhibited had not served me well for my now present future. The children I call my own have been raised by parents that don't pave the path with yellow bricks. Our children have grown accustomed to digging through piles of clean clothes, whether in the laundry room or my sofa.
On the night of my re-entry to the grocery, three people cheered when I told them we had milk. The yummy organic kind they had missed the last few weeks. We had a feast of garlic bread, waffles, rotisserie chicken and fresh strawberries. Not me though, I had soup. The last Brunswick stew, just enough for Thomas and I, he always fine with whatever served and me, a last reminder of my month of freedom. Some day our children will laugh and remember the month their mother did not go to the grocery store. I hope my sons will apply this memory as an acceptance of imperfection for the partners they choose and be happy like their dad, eating soup and drinking water, or maybe a Mountain Dew.