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Why is it so hard to spend money on high quality groceries…

…and yet so easy to spend it on other things?

Why do we balk at paying $6 for a pound of local chicken, but not at paying $5 for a cup of coffee?

Why do we hesitate to buy a $5 watermelon, but not to sign up for a cable TV or a cell phone contract (if you went without cable or a cell phone, you could buy a lot of watermelons every month!)

Why do we all think local eggs are way too expensive, but not that driving here, there, and everywhere is way too expensive?

Why do we buy junky cereal to save a dollar or two, but then order $20 takeout on a busy night?

I find myself thinking this way more often than I’d like, and lately I’ve been pondering why that is.

Why am I trained to put such a low value on good food and a high value on other things? Why do I think more carefully about my grocery budget than I do about my gas budget?

I think the gas is easy to ignore because I don’t have to pay for it upfront. If I had to deposit $20 into my car before I drove somewhere, I’d probably think more carefully about my driving.

And the takeout and coffee tempt most people because of the convenience factor.

But really, I’m wondering if for most of us, these thoughts arise because high quality food isn’t a high priority. If we thought buying good food was super-duper important, we could probably think of ways to make it happen.

(disclaimer: people who live on the poverty level are obviously exempt from this…in survival mode you probably don’t have cable, $5 coffee, and takeout meals.)

I think it’s sort of like how we say we have no time to spend with our kids, but then we find time to be on Facebook for an hour (or three!)

And we think we have no time to exercise, but somehow, we manage to not miss our favorite TV shows each week.

It’s not so much a lack of time as it is a lack of prioritization.

And by the same token, our hesitance to spend on food is probably not so much a lack of money as it is a lack of prioritization.


I’m going to keep pondering this.

What do you think? Do you find it hard to spend on food but easy to spend on other things?


Joshua’s 365 post: A Macro Photo Request

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Friday 17th of May 2013

I am in a position where I make enough to live comfortably. I still have large student loans, but I come out with a little money extra each month. I try not to look at the price tags on food products. I buy the highest quality I can, read every label, and use my debit card, so that I don't put a huge amount of thought into the dollar value of my grocery cart. If I need to cut back for another expense, I just leave the cookies on the shelf, or make it up somewhere else. I am a Celiac. It has taught me more than anything else that what you put in your body is critically important, no matter who you are.

Bex @Primal Health

Sunday 7th of April 2013

Couldn't agree more - it's priorities! I wrote an article about it called "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is", with the tagline, "Could we all afford to eat high quality food if we just got our priorities right?" I think the answer is yes!

Vandana Jain

Tuesday 18th of December 2012

Very well said, Frugal Girl!!


Monday 19th of November 2012

I think it's all about advertising and also popular trends around you. When all your friends have iphones and you see a bunch of billboards with Apple products, you would want one too. If everybody is drinking a Frapuccino at Starbucks, it makes you tempted to get one. If you saw a bunch of ads for a $20 watermelon (and maybe a beautiful girl in a billboard holding a watermelon), I think I would be tempted to buy one.

Jan Elizabeth

Monday 5th of November 2012

About a year ago, I signed a pledge called "Save the Hens". I know it sounds funny, but I pledged to only buy free-range eggs from that point on, because of the way the hens on the big chicken farms are treated. I made the jump from two-something to five-something eggs, and it pinched at times, but it really did feel like at last I was doing something about an issue I've felt really strongly about for a long time. The side benefit is that the eggs are MUCH better!

The next step came shortly after that: we decided to no longer buy any meat that was not free range, and preferably grass fed. The reason is motivated the most by, again, the way the animals are treated. I don't believe I have the right to subject another creature to such abominable conditions just so I can have more or cheaper steaks. We don't buy completely organic all the time because we can't afford it, but the meat we buy now is free range, and while the animals may have been given antibiotics if they were sick, they weren't fed growth hormones and other undesirable things.

We have found that being on the road to living according to our deeply held values has also led to better results in terms of quality and appreciation of what we do buy. We don't eat as much meat, but that's quite okay. At least we know we're not paying an industry to do something completely abhorrent to us, and that makes the extra cost and/or smaller amounts totally worth it.

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