Admittedly, I may not be like most women who say they love to shop. In fact, I despise the task, whether shopping for food, clothes or gifts. Maybe it is because I would rather keep my money or the fact that everything is ridiculously over-priced.

Prices are not fair or equal from store-to-store Do you shop big-box-grocery, fancy-crunchy-granola-type, no-name-low-frills, or local-mom-and-pop? Do you scan the flyers, cut coupons and drive store-to-store for the best price? If your family wants to save money, shop no-name for everything except what you discover you need to get from the local grocer or big-box store. Coupons are okay if you already get that brand or use that product, but I find more often than not those would just be extra purchases and thus add to my total bill.

Merchants target kids to separate you from your money Did you ever notice stores place all the extras and stuff you don’t need at kids’ eye level? When I take my kids grocery shopping with me, I tend to spend an average of fifteen to twenty dollars extra! Even after saying, “No!” to most of their requests, I still end up with a few unnecessary items. This is just another reason to avoid the aisles, which are full of colorful boxes and packages not on your list (also another reason to leave the kids home on shopping day).

Variety should be appreciated, on many levels Variety is the spice of life, right? This is true on so many levels, but here in terms of food and people. Au Pairs in my cluster are often pleasantly surprised, even shocked, as the sheer variety of food available at American grocery stores. We can literally “eat the rainbow” with so many choices. One young woman was even able to fulfill her life goal of becoming a vegetarian since local grocers offer more protein options than her home country of Colombia. I am thrilled we offer such a variety of foods, but our variety of people is even more impressive. The people at your grocery store are probably a pretty good representation of the types of people living in your community. How colorful is your rainbow of people and skin tones?

Fresh is best and local is freshest We all want to eat the freshest food possible and this time of year is perfect for eating healthy. Grocery stores often have fresh produce and might label something as “Locally Grown.” These might not be as local as you think. Best to visit the closest farm stand, if one exists in your city or town. You will not only be supporting your family’s health, you will be supporting a local farmer. Remember, the healthiest food is that which still looks like it did when it came off the plant, not processed, preserved and packaged. Tacos and cookies do not grow on trees!

It is hard to cook for a family In my nearly two decades of being a mom, I have been responsible for over 6,900 dinners! Cooking every day is not easy. Grocery stores do provide lots of “instant” options, but most of these are full of sodium or sugar or both. Be careful when shopping for family meals that you are not buying too much prepared food. I care about my family eating healthy, so I prepare real food most nights. That’s not to say we don’t have the occasional fend-for-yourself-night, where we eat whatever we have leftover or whatever we can find.

Cutting coupons and shopping sales may help, but stick to the basics and you’ll get out alive (literally)! Stay to the outside and avoid the aisles if you like to eat healthy and keep your money in your pocket. If possible, grow a garden or visit your local farm stand for all the right reasons. Finally, keep your eyes and ears peeled for other lessons to learn while shopping (like shop clearance).

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