When Fairway opened up in Red Hook Brooklyn in 2006, we, like most Brooklyners, cheered on and declared that grocery shopping would be changed forever. Well, we did start shopping at Fairway like most of our neighbors, but after a month or two of driving 15 minutes over to the waterfront and parking in the spacious parking lot like suburbanites, Mark and I decided to stop. It had nothing to do with the quality or selection of the food. Quite the opposite really – Fairway did live up to its reputation, but we found ourselves falling prey to the Target syndrome. You know, you can’t leave the store without spending under a hundred bucks?
We were still in super frugal mode in 2006 and $100+ trips to the grocery store weren’t going to cut it, especially if the groceries weren’t going to last a week. The problem with Fairway is that there are so many good looking things to tempt you as you walk through the store, you just end up throwing all kinds of stuff that you wouldn’t normally buy in your cart. It’s like vacation spending.
Even though we’re no longer on a super strict budget like those early years when we became parents, our grocery budget and shopping habits haven’t changed at all. We still keep food purchases to about $450 a month for our family of four. This doesn’t include things like toothpaste, toilet paper, bottles of ketchup, shampoo, etc. which we buy in bulk a few times a year at Costco (yes, that does mean we have ridiculously large bottles of ketchup in our fridge), but it does include all food, including trips to the farmer’s markets (edit for clarification: this doesn’t include the occasional takeout or restaurants. When we were on a strict budget, this would happen maybe once a month). The good thing is that food is never wasted or thrown away. We only buy what we need, usually from a list. The bad part is that we rarely ever have fun stuff to just snack on around the house when we’re feeling snacky. If you were to just drop in on us one day for a surprise visit, We’d have nothing to offer you (sadly, my friends can attest to that. So if you want to drop by, give us some notice to shop, ok?). The only big change in our spending habits from those days is that we may eat out or get take out a little more frequently, but Mark still cooks pretty much 90% of the time.
I was thinking about those extreme budgeting days when we shopped at Fairway this morning. It was one of those Sunday mornings when the weather forecast derailed our original plans to go to the beach and we were trying to think of things to do (it didn’t at all rain, by the way). Exploring a neighborhood we haven’t gone to in awhile seemed perfect. I was also thinking that we needed to revisit those budgets that we stuck to 5-6 years ago. Remember that post about all the news bringing me down? Well the news didn’t get any better last week, did it? I am really trying not to freak out about the economy. For ourselves, our friends, my parents. But I don’t want to live in a bubble either and ignore what’s going on.
Oh, and did we manage to avoid the Target Syndrome at this Sunday’s trip to Fairway, our first in years? Almost. $94.
ps. that black building there in the last 2 photos? It’s across the street from the Fairway parking lot. The girls and I must have stared at it for a good 15 minutes. We even played “I spy”. Mesmerizing.