Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Hey Folks! Today we have a guest blog from my twin born 10 years my senior, Lanita. She's fabulous and is touching on a topic that she knows way more about than I do. Lanita is a wife and a mother of two daughters, aged 7 and 3. Take it away, Lanita!
As the oldest of 5 siblings, I often participated in all things related to food at our house. My mom initially was the grocery shopper, and, as with many families, she often bought what she felt we needed at that point in time, along with an extra treat or two. Then my dad started doing the grocery shopping after a while, but with a very different approach: couponing, buying what was on sale, and then eventually saving so much that stores had to give him money back. I have a vivid memory of one particular grocery shopping trip with him. When it was time to check out, he was so proud of the bulk of coupons he had, and how they were going to not just double, but triple our savings. We walked out of that store like we had hit the jackpot because the cashier ended up giving him money back. I mean, now that I think of it, he was thee original extreme couponer. It’s fair to say, I fit into neither one of my parents' categories, or better yet, I am probably somewhere in the middle.
Once I started a family of my own, I found that it was my turn to navigate these waters. Since the start of my pregnancy with my oldest daughter, Audriana (she's pictured in Denee's first blog), I have been cautious and conscious about what I feed my girls. Unfortunately, healthy food in the US is more expensive than unhealthy food is. I can remember when it was time for Audriana to start on baby foods. I decided to make her food rather than buy pre-packaged baby food. That was the first time I felt great about feeding her healthier options. But once she started to get more advanced in her food needs, I became committed to buying premium produce, meats and other food items; they became a staple in our household. Although I had made the conscious decision to choose healthier options for my family, the first one and half years felt like we were reactive vs. proactive because this decision was cannibalizing us financially. I was constantly having to remind myself that it was the better choice despite the financial sacrifice. So I started thinking of ways that I could problem solve. And I came up with a few right off the bat.
Put it on Ice: The first one that has stuck like glue, and is something we are still using almost six years later, is deciding to purchase a deep freezer. Most refrigerators have limited freezer space that does not allow for stocking up. For our family the deep freezer solved the small freezer issue, which was a problem when it came to getting sale items. I would see chicken on sale at Whole Foods and would only be able to buy 3-5 lbs at a time, which felt like I was signing up to be robbed the very next week. Well, once I got the deep freezer it was on. Finding staples for my family's weekly meals that could be frozen became part of my routine. I am now known by some of the staff at my favorite Whole Foods because they will see me come in and buy 50 cases of gluten free chicken nuggets (yes during these 7 years I have also learned that sometimes we mothers have to give way to certain struggles-and I now freely give way to chicken nuggets on rough nights), or 10 lbs of ground beef sectioned out in to 1.5 lb portions for individual use, and the list goes on. I always get the question: "Am I feeding an army?" My response is always "Nope, we are having an eating contest." I keep a rough idea of what I have and what is running low and search for those items. Occasionally a surprise shopping situation comes up like "organic, back yard raised, whole chickens" go on sale at Whole Foods for cheaper than anything other than going to the farm and killing them yourself. In these moments I find myself channeling my dad's competitive craze for couponing and going whole hog in the store. Deep freezing food has been a game changer for my family, but I want to lay out a little PSA for those who might have a bit of a hoarder spirit: please don't try this at home, if you have hoarding tendencies, as you might find the deep freezer becomes your secret chamber of hoarding.
You Can Track Me, But Pay Me!: Now that we have stock piling food down to a science, let's move to the second tip. I shop at Target a lot because of this thing called Cartwheel. Cartwheel is the couponing app from Target. For me, it's like having my best couponing efforts right on my phone. I went to Target for about a year before deciding to sign up for their red card. Greg, my husband, and I aren't big on credit so we stayed away from the red card for some time, until we realized we could just attach the card to our bank accounts. I mean genius! I’m a cheap date; give me a little money back, and make it happen without me having to sign up for a credit card and I will not only let you follow my customer habits, but I will blog about it too. As the CFO of my family I am constantly looking for cost-saving opportunities. With Target, that opportunity is always waiting for me when I walk in the door. I know that regardless of anything else that might be happening I’m going to get an immediate 5% off just for letting them stalk me, and then if I line my purchases up properly I can get additional savings via Cartwheel. Occasionally, I get an even greater discount just because it's the weekly circular sale as well. This trifecta happened just this past weekend. I walked out with more than $200 in savings because of the red card 5% off, Cartwheel deals, circular deals, and an additional 20% (in part because I’m a red card holder). I felt like calling a press conference to discuss with people how I successfully walked away with literally $200+ in savings! A little side note: I also use sites like Ebates and Ibotta as well. I figure I can’t discriminate against who is going to pay me for my customer data. I'm an equal-opportunity saver.
Becoming a Gourmet Chef (mostly): I enjoy cooking...most of the time. And I have learned that feeding a family as much as possible from scratch is not only healthier, but also cheaper than buying a lot of pre-packed food. When I first became a mom, I exclusively cooked from scratch-literally everything. But besides my 24 hour CFO job, I have also been climbing the career ladder, and as a result, have had to call in a few substitutes for the food from scratch at times. These are things like the gluten free chicken nuggets I mentioned earlier, or the gluten free waffles that I stockpile as well as a few other key items. I want my family to eat as much as possible from homemade, more cost-effective food options, with an emergency stash of cheaply-purchased items available when necessary. Despite the slightly higher costs I may pay for those items, I am able to offset that by stretching them over several meals. This also has created a “we don’t like fast food” mantra in our home, with a few exceptions like Panera. But even for those exceptions I have a reward system that ends up getting me free perks.
There are a number of other tactics we use, but not with the same consistency. What I have learned to date about myself is that I’m not as put together as some of the other moms I see and read about who are great with the consistent weekly (or monthly) meal planning. Nor am I good at going to eight different places for the few sale items that each place might have. But I am good at learning a few systems over time and further refining them. I am still refining the mostly gourmet chef part of myself as I write this. I am sure there will be another iteration of what being a Food Planning CFO for the McCormick family looks like. Stay tuned.