Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hunting Expedition

I don't know how you spend your Friday nights, but after 18 years and four kids and a mother-in-law in residence, we spend ours apart. The Husband referees a youth basketball league, and I go to Wal-Mart to grocery shop.

We buy all of our 'maintenance' weekly stuff like bread and milk at the local places, but if you are cooking five-to-seven times a week for seven-to-nine people (depending upon how many extra mouths are at the house at any given time, not including pop-ins, people who we invite to stay after church, youth who drop in after church, and kids who wander up just because), that, My Friends, is a lot o' groceries.

If we want to have grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, soup, chips and drinks for dinner one night, that means that in one meal we use an entire loaf of white bread,  a package of ham, 12 pieces of cheese, an entire bag of chips, a pound of grapes, and a gallon of tea/juice/etc. The soup is usually two cans for three people, so that's five or six cans of soup. That's the math on ONE meal.

The best example I can think of is this: you know that huge pack of chicken you buy and break up and freeze for several meals? That is the quantity I need for one meal. Seven/nine people need eat eight chicken breasts. And I cook more, because I take my lunch almost every day. So, that big pack = One meal at Casa Johnson.

You get the picture.

Or at least everyone at Wal-Mart got the picture last night. My cart was like a marvel of modern engineering. I packed $479.00 of groceries, all generics with coupons, into one buggie. It was truly a work of art. There will be no squishing of the bread or crushing of the chips in my buggie. There will be no canned goods on top. There will be no name brands. There will be no extra space in the buggie; all will be packed tight. We are on a mission.

I've got all of these couponing people chasing me around all of the time too. I love you, but I'm not couponing.

I am forty minutes driving to Wally World.

I am forty minutes driving back home from Wally World.

I spend an average of an hour and 30 minutes on a two-week shop.

I read that couponing requires a) no brand loyalty and b) you have to go to multiple stores.

Um, not happening. I just told you that to go and get food for a two-week period requires literally four or five hours of my time. Why on earth would I add to that time driving to other stores, clipping and hunting and organizing coupons, all of the extra time that it takes to check out in multiple orders, and on top of that, the generic is cheaper nine times out of ten and it's right there on the shelf.

Now, I use coupons, I just don't hunt them down like I'm on safari in Africa. It's more like they have to wander up into my yard and then I'll shoot at them. And I always, always plan my meals two weeks in advance and stick to the list. Seriously--the only things that came home last night that weren't on the list were the kid's sweats on found on sale for $3.00 a pair (Calera for the home folks) and yes, I bought four of those. But otherwise, I stick to the list for the planned meals.

All of this adds up to one really huge observation: We are so very blessed.

I have a vehicle that will make it to and from Wal-Mart forty minutes each way. That vehicle is also large enough to hold all of those groceries. I have enough money in the bank to pay not only our needs, but for our wants. (Little Debbie has never made anything that qualifies as a need.)  I have time and energy and health to go, walk, shop, lift, tote, carry, put away all of those foods. I will have healthy foods available whenever we even remotely feel like a snack. My children may never know true hunger. The food that I put on the table has been inspected, washed in clean water that came out of a tap in my house, cooked to a safe temperature on an indoor stove, and I will have enough for left overs. I will even have enough to feed extra people. I will have so much that some will go into the garbage.

Next time you grumble your way through a shopping expedition, stop in the aisle, bow your head and cry out, "Oh, God, my God, how wonderful you are and how grateful I am."