“Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.” No, Richard Betts, you’re wrong. Last week, I was in the midst of catching up on my favorite podcasts, when I stumbled across that sound bite courtesy of Richard Betts on the Tim Ferriss Show.* While I most certainly understood his point — in his experience, the table wasn’t set until there was wine on it — this comment got me thinking about how many different luxuries are on our grocery lists that we pass off as necessities each week.
One of the most frequent comments people make when they watch me eat what amounts to essentially the same breakfast and lunch every day is, “How can you do that?” It’s simple. I get hungry, and then I eat. I can certainly appreciate the concept of variety. It’s wonderful to try new things. But it’s also a luxury to which people enslave themselves. Meal planning to prevent food waste, to ensure nutritional guidelines are met, and to save time make sense to me. Meal planning to avoid eating the same type of regional cuisine more than once a week does not. Still, I’m not against it. I just think we’re kidding ourselves by calling it anything other than a luxury.
Water is a necessity. For the sake of argument, milk is probably a necessity. Anything else? It’s a luxury. Let’s be clear here. I’m not suggesting that all anyone ever drink again is tap water. But what I am suggesting is that if you’re looking to reduce your grocery budget and possibly improve your overall health, examining the amount of things like sodas and fruit punch that you consume is a good place to start.
As much as it pains to me admit that I could function in a world without chocolate, I can and I have. In fact, I’m pretty sure the food pyramid* is predicated on the notion that dessert is optional. Still, it is so easy to let sweets become a staple on grocery lists. When we first got married, I was buying cookies, ice cream, and pudding mix weekly, since I knew Mr. P loved them. It quickly got to the point that even Mr. P and his six stomachs couldn’t keep up. But buying dessert had become so automatic for me, that I really had to make a conscious effort to purchase desserts as an occasional treat, not a weekly staple.
Processed Snack Foods
Any food item that is based largely on convenience is a want, not a need. We all need more time. But I would argue it takes me the same amount of effort to bag up a handful of chips as it does to toss an extra apple in my bag. Again, I’m not anti-snacking. In fact, I’d be one cranky lady without a snack break. I do think that the snack food industry has to have somebody fooled in order to cross the hundred billion dollar threshold each year.
After stripping our grocery budget down to $200 a month for two people, it became abundantly clear to me that just as we have been conditioned to live to work, we are also taught to live to eat. Grocery stores are rife with luxuries that are packaged as necessities. While I do not think avoiding these extras altogether is a path that Mr. P and I are ready to pursue, I do think that being aware of them as I allocate funds towards our grocery budget makes me a much smarter shopper. It also helps me appreciate–instead of take for granted–life’s little luxuries when we do indulge in them.
*This episode is actually one of my very favorites, and Richard Betts seems like a crazy cool guy. I mean, he created a scratch and sniff book about wine and whiskey? Does it get any better? But, yeah. Wine = luxury, just like scratch and sniff books.
**Or at least the old one was. The vertically sliced one still seems awkward to me.
So Tell Me…Do you have any luxuries that are staples on your shopping list? How do you appreciate life’s little luxuries?