Last year Mr. Rustic Walks and I decided to make healthier meals by using quality, local foods. We weren’t happy with our diets, and we thought shopping at farmers markets and Whole Foods would force us to buy healthy food. It made us get creative in the kitchen and work together to plan dishes that are both tasty and healthy. We have significantly improved the nutritional value of our meals by choosing quality over convenience.
You all can guess how this experiment ended. Sure, we aren’t living off of prepared taco kits and frozen pizzas. But we are spending hundreds of dollars on meat and produce that is way cheaper at our local grocery store. Our mindset was that higher cost meant better quality. Unfortunately, the $7 loaf of bread, $6 carton of eggs, and $10 pound of ground beef at the farmers market costs much more than the grocery store alternatives. It may seem silly, but we had no idea our pursuit of healthy food would blow up our grocery budget. We needed to re-calibrate the true value of these extra costs.
Does buying local trump the economic value of sticking to the basics? In some ways. The $3 pint of cherry tomatoes, $2.75 per pound of peaches, and $2 bunch of kale is equal to or below the organic aisle. The farmers market eggs are insanely delicious, and Mr. Rustic Walks eats them every single morning. For us they are worth the extra cost. If our enchiladas and stir fry don’t need top-quality meat, then we should use cheaper meat. The lesson here is we should be more intentional with our spending. We can buy local produce and our favorite eggs, but we can shop at grocery stores for everything else.
I’m sure the pro frugalists are scoffing at our amateur mistakes. We could save thousands of dollars a year by making even more drastic changes to our diet. But our goal has never been to live frugal just to see how much money we can save. We have no intentions of living off of rice and beans just to squeeze a few more dollars into our savings. I played that game when I had to and, while worthwhile at the time, it sucked. Our goal is to find a balance that is healthy, cheap, and aligns with our values. There’s a fine line between frugality and deprivation. We hope to find a reasonable medium that works for us.
~ Ms. RW