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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Don't beat yourself up if you don't have the "perfect win" every time

--or even half the time. 

The "perfect win" is when you find something like chicken, or peanut butter, or ketchup at the rock-bottom sale price of the season, and you stock up so well that you have enough to last until the next time the price is that low. 

The perfect win was when I found full-sized candy bars for 10c each, on the clearance rack. I bought five of them, and on Hallowe'en, we each had one. (Sorry trick-or-treaters, you got the tiny bars, while the family got the full-sized ones!)

But the perfect win just doesn't happen for us all the time. Like this past week. November 1st was my produce stand's big clearance day. It's best to get there when they open at 8 AM. But I had to work. I knew that if I went later in the day (after work), most everything I wanted would be gone. 

So, what did I do? Well, I made a list of everything that I really wanted to stock up on. Then I went through that list and guessed which items would sell out before I could get there mid day on November 1st. I did my best guessing. And I stopped in late in the afternoon the day before, October 31st. They'd already begun to mark down some things, and I could see the stock of other items, that I knew I wanted, was very limited.

I picked up probably 2/3 of my produce stock-up on October 31st. I paid more than if I'd been able to come the next morning, but much less than grocery store prices. Then the next afternoon, November 1st, I stopped in again, and filled out the rest of my shopping, at their great clearance prices. I bought more of some things that I had bought the day before, but now were cheaper (garlic and sugar pie pumpkins), and I added some other items.

I did mis-guess on the 25 lb bag of carrots that I wanted. I didn't get them on Oct.31st, and they were sold out by the time I got there on Nov.1st.

I didn't get the perfect win this time. The perfect win would have allowed me to stop by first thing, on the morning of the clearance. But I did do good enough. And sometimes, good enough is just that, it's good, enough!

I remind myself to take a step back and look at the big picture. Are we still doing well with our budget? Yes! Are we carrying forward a surplus every month? Yes! Am I able to feed my family well on less that the USDA says I should be spending for a family of five? Yes! (Do I care what the USDA says about any of this? No!) Am I satisfied with the balance of time and convenience vs. money spent? Yes! Then I'm doing fine, even without getting the perfect win every time.

When you start to feel like your frugal efforts are just not matching up to your expectations, take a look at the big picture. And remind yourself that your good enough is truly good, enough. You'll have a perfect win again sometime, and you can gloat to yourself all about that when it does.

If you're curious what I bought at the produce stand this week, on clearance and on not-quite-clearance, here's the list: 20 pounds of russet potatoes, 17 heads of garlic, 10 pounds of oranges, 7 sugar pie pumpkins, 6 green bell peppers, 5 avocados, 4 sweet mama squash, 2 acorn squash, 2 eggplants, 2 heads of cabbage and a large bag of mushrooms. (Shouldn't there be a partridge in a pear tree on this list?) And I spent just over $36.


  1. You know how to find the right places to shop. When my produce stand went out of business for the season, they did just that. No clearance. Regular prices until the end. My regular grocery store doesn't even have a dented can section any more. I live in a place with very strict regulations, so something like old milk that you have mentioned is the last thing they would let them sell. However, with that being said, there are more expensive and less expensive ways to shop even here.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      And that's my point, even when you can't get that rock-bottom price, you can still find ways to do well, and stay within your budget.

      Some folks talk about saving huge amounts of money with couponing. I tried using coupons and was never able to bring my grocery bill down substantially. We don't have double and triple coupon stores in my area. And stores seem to be savvy about not advertising a sale on an item when there is a coupon in circulation for same item. Those are the two main strategies that super-couponers recommend to save huge amounts. Doesn't work for me, so I find what does work.

      A few of the grocery stores dropped the clearance sections around here, about 10 years ago. Then I noticed them coming back with this recession. Our nearest grocery store stopped the bakery clearance rack just about a year ago. I think people asked for it back, and I noticed it in its place about 1 month ago.

      Now, I've never seen an actual dented can in one of these sections. That could be something that's regulated here, or the store managers feel their shoppers wouldn't be interested. And a lot of the clearance stuff is not something I'd buy, but I always check, just in case.

  2. Sounds like great planning on your part, Lili, to go the day before. And like you said, you still saved money over grocery store prices. You did good. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      when I realized that I wouldn't be able to make it there on the morning of the clearance I was disappointed. But I think I saved over what I'd pay at the grocery store. Sometimes I just can't believe what they're charging in regular stores for fruits and vegetables!

  3. Can I come over for dinner? Seriously I would have paid very close to $100 for everything you purchased if I bought it at my local grocers.

    What a great idea to go the day before after deciding what you needed. I enjoyed the summer months when the farmer's market was open as I spent way less on food than I would have at the store, bought much more, and ate so well. Even spending less, I always overbought so I would have enough to feed guests and even picked up a couple things each week to give to my ill neighbor. Knowing I was saving money, even feeding others out of the budget was an added plus.

    1. Hi Lois,
      I'll be ringing the dinner bell at 6 PM!
      I think if I'd bought all this at our local grocery store I'd have paid double or more what I did.
      I always miss the produce stand during the winter, and begin counting the days until they open again in spring. The quality of the produce is just so much better than the grocery store. And for you, to be able to buy extra to bring to your neighbor, and still stay in your budget, that's fantastic. I'm sure she really appreciated what you brought each week!

  4. Sometimes I need the reminder that I'm not always going to get a fantastic deal--thanks!

    I also tried the couponing thing last spring. It didn't work for me, either--partly for the reasons that you stated, and partly because our overall eating patterns involved foods which don't have coupons (I have yet to see a coupon for russet potatoes!). It's fun to read your blog and find out prices in different areas as well as cost-effective solutions others find. BTW, your egg prices are shocking! I can get a dozen at Aldi's for $1.39 on a regular basis (but you do way better on the price of bananas).

    1. Hi Kris,
      I know, sometimes I can make myself crazy regretting not buying in bulk when I found a great deal. But, as in all things, I can't be perfect. But I can be good, enough.

      I'm envious of your egg prices. It would be so nice to not feel like I had to hunt down a good deal on eggs!

  5. Thank you for this reminder that life isn't perfect and neither am I! :)

    I usually shop at Rite Aid each week and get lots of free + overage health/beauty items. The past 3 weeks, I've taken a break. My linen closet was well stocked with extras. I just wanted a break. It kind of bugged me because I wondered what perfect wins I was missing out on...but I'm only human, I'm very busy and when I'm tired and burned out I need a break! I noticed over the weekend that the kids grabbed the last bottle of shampoo from the closet for their shower. So, I think I'll look at the Rite Aid sale circular this week and see if there are any good shampoo deals.

    I've been on this mission lately to stop wasting. Not that we were a horribly wasteful family to begin with but I want to do better. Especially with food. Everything had been going well. Then I was rearranging things in the refrigerator yesterday. I found a casserole dish in the back with 1/4 of a chicken casserole in it. Oh my...that was from early last week and I'm no longer comfortable with eating it. :( Somehow in the busy shuffle of last week, with my husband helping me cook dinner a couple of evenings, this perfectly good casserole was pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten. It sounds really stupid, but I mentally beat myself up over that for a couple of hours last night. Then I made myself stop. It wasn't a perfect win in my quest to stop waste...but I'm not perfect. So, I gave myself grace and enjoyed the rest of my night with my family. :)


    1. Hi Angie,
      I think we tend to hold ourselves up to these incredibly high standards. And when we fall short of those expectations, we have a hard time accepting this lack of perfection. Which is ridiculous! I think working so hard to be perfect takes time and energy away from the things which matter more to us, like spending time with family. I'm glad you were able to just give yourself grace over the portion of casserole that got accidentally overlooked, and then spend time with your family in enjoyment. Good work!


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