My last post was my first monthly review. It was the last day of February but I wrote about how we did in January.
That same day I did something unusual for me since having found the Financial Independence movement (FI) just over a year ago. I spent $617 on groceries in one trip.
Using my FI Mindset and practicing frugality I normally aim to spend less than $1,000 a month on groceries. “Groceries” for us includes household goods and pet food. One way I keep the grocery bill low is by shopping the pantry. Every week I make a meal plan and I look to see what we have on hand in the pantry, fridge, and freezer to use up what we have. It’s a great technique for saving money and not wasting food.
BUT…this also keeps our inventory low. Living in Texas which is prone to hurricanes I do keep gallons of water on hand as well as a good supply of batteries. But our food stores have been on the low side this past year.
ENTER COVID-19: FRUGALITY VS PREPPING
About three weeks ago this darn corona virus really started getting me spooked. I have been through some trying moments before and my spidey sense was telling me to take this seriously. People were not freaking out yet here in the US but they were already starting to make a run on hand sanitizer, bleach wipes, and toilet paper.
I thought to myself this might get worse. People were going to act like they do when there’s a hurricane coming: wait until the last minute, freak out, and raid the grocery stores only to find that there’s no more water or batteries left.
Experts were already saying last month that it couldn’t hurt to have two weeks worth of food on hand and more than a month’s worth supply of prescription drugs. So I thought to myself why not? Why not go ahead and stock up.
My reasoning was that I’d rather get stocked up sooner than later. I was hoping that I was just over preparing and that things wouldn’t actually get bad here in the US. But if for some reason it did I didn’t want to be rushing out to the store at the last minute to find the shelves empty.
So I did just that. I stocked up on pantry items that we would use anyway and that won’t go bad. I got extra over the counter medicines and ordered 90 day supplies of our prescription drugs. I got extra pet food. And other essentials (extra coffee and booze!)
I was able to get just two bottles of hand sanitizer and two containers of bleach wipes because the shelves were already empty. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t need to buy toilet paper because we order from Who Gives A Crap and have plenty. I get a delivery every 12 weeks. Honestly I didn’t understand why the run on TP anyway.
Normally I use one of those mini grocery carts to get around the store. I hate using those big ones. I like to be nimble and you don’t need a giant cart when your weekly grocery bill is under $150 bucks.
This time I had a big one and it was filled to the brim. It was very heavy and hard to push. I felt very self-conscious. I didn’t notice many other shoppers who seemed to be prepping like I was, but I saw a few. I knew the bill would be high but I was still shocked when it came to $617. I thought maybe $500, tops. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. In addition to food I bought cold and flu medicines, body care products, giant bags of dog food and a case of cat food cans.
Don’t worry. I was mindful that other people needed to shop too and did not hoard or clear out the supply of any items. Just one or two of many different things.
There was so much that I ran out of my reusable bags (and I have quite a few). The poor sackers had to just throw items in the cart without bags. When I got home I felt the need to explain myself to Mr. Root and Root Jr. whose eyes were wide with surprise when they saw how much I’d brought home.
Look, I said. I know this seems crazy but I just want to be prepared. Hopefully we won’t even need it and the worst that happens is that we’ll have plenty of groceries to last a while and I won’t have to go grocery shopping for weeks. They assured me they didn’t think I was crazy and that they appreciated my planning.
Having just put out a monthly review post of my spending in January earlier that day I thought to myself: oh my, I’m going to have to explain my outrageous grocery bill in my February review post!
Of course today we all know that the shit has hit the fan.
CURRENT STATUS IN AUSTIN, TEXAS, USA:
Last Friday, March 13, at 3:45am Root Jr.’s school district announced there was no school that day. The state university where I work shut down for the day, essential personnel only. Then we got word that the school district would “extend spring break” which started this past Monday through April 3 and quite possibly longer.
I and my colleagues have been told to work from home since Monday, March 16. College students have been told not to return to campus and will finish their semesters online. It was a very interesting spring break. We managed to get one day of camping in on Saturday, March 14 but returned Sunday so Mr. Root could take advantage of a job starting Monday.
We canceled a trip the following weekend to visit family with my mother-in-law who is in her 80s, just to be safe. There were confirmed cases at my workplace and I didn’t want to risk exposing her.
We’re staying home as much as possible and practicing social distancing protocol if we have to go out. A statewide order is in place that all bars must close, restaurants can operate for take out or delivery only, and no gatherings of more than 10 people are allowed. Many, many people are not taking this seriously though.
Now that spring break is over we’ll switch to a Monday through Friday schedule for Root Jr. that very loosely resembles a school day with academics, physical activity, creative time, and reading scattered throughout the day while I work from home as best as I can.
There are lines to get into the grocery stores. They have all switched their operating hours from 8am – 8pm in order to give their employees time to restock and clean.
I and many people I know have switched to curbside or delivery grocery shopping. Both of which are experiencing such high demand that orders are anywhere from 6 days to two weeks out. When you do get your order there’s no telling what you will or won’t get. I’m not complaining. I’m grateful that I can still work and that we have what we need.
But I digress. I don’t want to write a post about how scary all of this is, how lucky and grateful I feel for my particular situation, or how my heart aches for those who are not so fortunate.
Rather I just want to share some observations of how quickly my behavior has changed over the past weeks.
FI-FRUGAL-ME VS PREPPER-ME
I spent way more on groceries, vitamins, and stuff from the pharmacy in February and March than normal. I put many expenses on the credit card and I DON’T PLAN TO PAY IT OFF AT THE END OF THE MONTH. Yep, that’s right, you heard me. I will likely pay just the minimum amount until this shit-storm passes. Why?
Because Mr. Root works in construction. That business could die off suddenly depending on what plays out here over the next few months. That means his income could temporarily disappear. So whatever income he can make before that happens I will throw into the emergency fund in case we need it.
Thanks to finding FI we actually have a decent emergency fund now. Thank you FI community.
This past week was the last week I had planned meals. I shopped last Saturday for the camping trip and the remaining week’s worth of meals. I stood in line for ONE HOUR to check out. Everyone else was just starting to panic and there to stock up on groceries.
I’ve run out of the planned meals and it’s time to shift to cooking meals from what we have on hand and on what the curbside pick-up and Instacart gods send me. It’s going to be more Top Chef-style meal planning from day to day. If they bring me nothing fresh, that’s fine. We can eat the beans and rice I bought in February.
Last night while I was cooking dinner I found myself day dreaming about “when all this is over”. I hope it’s over soon. So soon that my worst problems will be what to do with all these beans and tightening the belt to pay off our credit card balance that we worked so hard to pay off last year.
Yep, I’ll take those troubles any day.
Mr. Root and everyone else will be back at work and the pent up demand of everything that has been put on hold will bring the economy roaring back.
Root Jr. will be finishing up the school year and getting ready for 5th grade graduation. All the great summer camps we booked for him and plans for vacation waiting around the corner.
I’ll be writing posts about how I paid off my COVID-19 credit card balance, back to shopping from the pantry, and sharing recipes that feature beans and rice.
Yes, I’m keeping hope.
HAVEN’T COMPLETELY LOST MY MIND
In the meantime, I haven’t completely tossed my frugal ways out the window. I’m done stocking up on groceries. I feel pretty sure that I’ll just need to replenish fresh goods from week to week so that should reign in the spending going forward.
I have been keeping myself busy by baking bread, and making broth and tooth powder. I pried Root Jr. off Fortnite long enough to make some delicious banana bread with me.
And I did follow through with one of my goals. I signed up for YNAB!
As suggested by the blogger T on Fire I looked up the Nick True YouTube videos for tutorials on how to use it. Wow what a godsend that guy is! I don’t think I would have been able to figure out how to use YNAB without him. I haven’t completed a whole month of budgeting yet but I can tell you one thing: my YNAB budget is shocked at the grocery bill!
Today I went for a jog for the first time in a very long time! It felt great to burn off some of that anxious energy and I got to see some Texas wildflowers are blooming.
Root Jr. doesn’t realize it yet but I see a home haircut in his very near future 😉
Take care everyone. This too shall pass. Let me know how you’re all doing in your neck of the woods.