National $21 Challenge - Day Seven

Posted June 8th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Am feeling somewhat more positive today! Mainly because Ali and I have had a visit to the supermarket. Now I know technically one isn't supposed to do a 'proper shop' during $21 Challenge week but today is the last day and there were two reasons for my madness. Firstly and most importantly, we did it to save petrol. Liam had a rugby trial in South Auckland, which meant we could take advantage of a cheaper supermarket to do our planned 'nude food' shop following the Challenge. With petrol already over $2.00 a litre in our area and threatening to go up to $2.10 this week there was no way I was willing to make a special trip a day or two later. Secondly, we didn't actually need to use any of the food we were going to buy until tomorrow - we already had our main meal planned and everything we needed to get us through the last day.

As mentioned, Noel may have sabotaged our family's Challenge but I remained in control of my own budget throughout. With the sour cream I asked him to get added to my previous week's spend, I ended up finishing the week having spent a grand total of $18.30. That was even less than I had hoped for! So I'm pretty proud of myself and as mentioned I hope to do another Challenge week before the month is out. I think Noel is feeling a bit sheepish and so he bloomin' well should - I don't think I will even tell him next time I'm planning to do it and see if he even notices!

So while Liam and Noel were at the rugby trials, Ali and I headed for Pak and Save supermarket. Mission - nude food shopping. I should probably clarify here that we already enjoy a lot of fresh, healthy food at home but our Challenge week made me realise that I needed to be buying even more of it. I can't let my growing kids starve just because I'm too stingy to go shopping! I can literally stay out of supermarkets for months at a time, I have come to dislike them that much but when it comes to nude food, I have realised that for the sake of my family I am going to have to do a proper shop more regularly. Living in such a rural area our options are pretty limited so this is going to mean going out of my way at times but I know it will be better for us all in the long run. I would much rather do that and always have plenty of GOOD food on hand than have my kids always resorting to the stuff which is supposed to be for desserts and treats.

Going to Pak and Save is an extremely rare experience for me as I really can't stand the place. I can never find what I want and I find while they give the illusion of being a huge food warehouse, they don't stock anywhere near the range of other supermarkets. However, as it has recently been pronounced the country's cheapest supermarket chain by Consumer institute for the trillionth year in a row, I decided I should really give them a go. I stepped inside in fear and trepidation - I really wasn't looking forward to it at all.

But you know what? Ali and I had a blast, it turned out to be a real education! I never realised before but they have a handy little sign above all their fresh fruit and vegetables, which clearly states which country they have come from. It really helped us make informed shopping decisions as we could be confident we were buying local and it also helped Ali to learn how far certain foods had come and why they were so expensive. Limes from America, mangoes and paw paw from the Phillipines. 'Crikey - it's no wonder those tiny little limes are over $10 a kilo when they've had to travel all the way from America!' he pointed out. Exactly, my little man! It was a brilliant way to explain the concept of nude food. The fish Daddy and Ali catch straight from the ocean are nude fish. The plastic-wrapped fish fillets sitting in styrofoam trays in the fish department are not nude fish. They used to be, but not any more.

Noel is currently growing some brussels sprouts in the vegetable garden so Ali decided to try and experiment. You see, the boys have discovered that they like the taste of Daddy's home grown vegetables much more than bought ones and eat a much greater variety as a result. None of us have ever been brave enough to try brussels sprouts however, until now. Noel reckons that if we try growing our own, they will taste much better than the shop ones, so Ali wants to put it to the test and is insistent we try the shop ones first, picking they are going to be yukky in comparison. After all, shop-bought broccoli doesn't compare with Dad's 'nude' broccoli! 'Has this broccoli been grown with yukky sprays and chemicals and stuff?', he asked, picking up a large, green head and scrutinising it carefully. 'Er - yes, I suppose it has, the bought ones usually are', I replied. 'Thought so - these ones don't have any caterpillars in. Why don't they just soak them in salt water to get the caterpillars out like we do Mum? I'd much rather do that than use all those sprays'. You and me both, mate.

The fruit and vegetable department was so massive neither of us thought we were ever going to get out but we finally made it and ambled through a maze of aisles on our way to the check-out. For all my whinging yesterday about how hard it is living with food allergies, as I looked around the shelves I realised that we were actually really lucky. By eliminating wheat and corn out of our diets it meant that a lot of junk food was automatically off the menu. No biscuits, no cakes, no snack bars, no sugary fruit roll-ups, no packets of pasta in powdered sauces, no crackers loaded with artificial flavourings, no two-minute noodles, no tinned spaghetti or baked beans, no preservative loaded sausages or ham, no jars of Chicken Tonight or any other similar sauces. So much stuff we don't need and certainly don't miss. Maybe I've been too hard on myself. Maybe we really don't do so bad after all.

All in all, and with Noel's completely pointless splurge aside, it's been a really good Challenge week for us. It's been a great and much-needed opportunity to evaluate our eating and spending habits. Best of all, we've finished the week with $181.70 more in my grocery account than usual!

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