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What I Learned on Saturday Mornings…

For as far back as I can remember, I have always LOVED Saturday mornings. Anyone else remember Disney’s One Saturday Morning? Pepperann, Recess, Doug? Anyone? Some of my favorite Saturday mornings were in my tween and teen years. My parents were so great in allowing me to sleep in, but like a child, my excitement for the day ahead often woke me before 9 a.m. Also, if I slept too late, I would miss out on what I now believe was my favorite part of Saturdays: shopping with my mom.  Little did I fully understand then, but my mom was (is) magical. She kept 6 bellies (plus some daycare children’s bellies and 1-3 cats) full and healthy while trying to be frugal and a good steward of what God had given our family. Although school was not in session on Saturdays, I was still a student of A Master Frugal Mom.

What I Learned on Saturday Mornings:

Lesson #1: Plan ahead.

I remember my mom sitting at the kitchen table with the grocery store ads and her pad of paper. She would occasionally look up and ask what kind of meals sounded good and then check to see if there were sale items to match. I remember being the one that often had to open the fridge or cupboards to check how much ketchup, flour, or sliced cheese we had left and give my report as she added or crossed those things off from the list.  Thankfully, we made the list together right before leaving the house since the list was usually forgotten in a coat pocket, on the kitchen counter, or on seat of the car.

So why was this “plan-ahead” lesson so important? The process of choosing a store based on sales, opening cupboard doors to take inventory, and narrowing down what is needed based on a menu resulted in smarter shoppers. We had given ourselves boundaries and expectations for our cart before ever entering the tempting aisles.

While heading out the door, my mom would say out loud the places we needed to go and for what. Example: “EconoFoods for groceries, Papa Murphy’s for tonight’s dinner, Wal-Mart for Meow Mix and kitty litter, JCPenney’s (a.k.a. the Mall) for a pair of khakis for your brother…” Running through this list instantly reminded me- a materialistic teenager- that I would want to save that babysitting money burning a hole in my pocket for <duh> glittery, scented nail polish at the MALL!

Planning ahead sets goals and limits.

Lesson #2: Don’t buy it unless it is on sale.

Have you ever had a warm crisp-on-the-outside, fruity gooey-on-the-inside Toaster Strudel? As a mom now, I don’t even want to know what is listed on the nutrition label/ingredients list of those things…but when I was 12…they were divine! The best part about being the child that shopped with Mom was that I got to bat my eyelashes and gently point out what delicacies (like Toaster Strudel) were on extra special sale that week. Usually she consented if the item was on sale.

Buying food, clothing, cleaning supplies…etc…for full price just means buying less with what you have. See my latest post on the Best Price List for more information.

Lesson #3: See a rummage sale sign? You better follow those arrows!

Saturday mornings were not only good for grocery runs, but also for rummage sales. On the way to the store, you better believe we followed every balloon and neon rectangular sign to the edges of town. It can be very exhilarating wondering what treasures might be awaiting us on the oil-stained pavement. Some sales were duds, while others were jackpots!

I will confess that I went through a period of my young adult life where rummage sales seemed like a lot of work for not a lot of return. Let’s face it…I am picky about quality and driving around town chasing second hand deals doesn’t always sound appealing. But hear this: a 25-cent (good as new & quality brand) mini-muffin tin is always a better deal than spending full price at Wal-Mart for a cheap-o brand. (And I found 2 of those over the span of 5 years!) When I was teaching, I filled my classroom with board games, books, holiday decor, and furniture for pennies! This last spring, knowing that baby #4 and a year of uncertainty were ahead of us, I trucked my big belly and 3 kids all around town and purchased almost all of their Summer/Fall/Winter attire at rummage sales. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun knowing that I was providing for them and getting the most bang for my buck.

Lesson #4: It’s OK to have a treat. 

My siblings might not know this, but our mommy spoiled me. Often. On Saturday mornings. We had a lot of fun getting out of the house and running errands after a long week of work and school. She taught me that it is OK to get a little treat even when on a tight budget. Sometimes the treat came from the array of chocolates in the checkout aisle, sometimes a little drive-thru lunch (sshh- don’t tell Dad and brother because they are going to have cold sandwiches), or sometimes it would be a new shirt from the clearance rack. Thanks Mom. 🙂

Lesson #5: Organize and waste-not.

Saturday mornings were so much fun, but SO exhausting! Even now, when our mini-van pulls into the garage after a grocery trip, my body suddenly feels like dead-weight and now I have to trudge bags inside? What I learned from my mother is that unloading the van is just Part 1 of putting groceries away. Part 2 is sorting. Most items can be put directly on their designated shelf space, but anything purchased in bulk needs to move on to Part 3. The final step in putting groceries away is to break down bulk items such as ground beef and store in smaller portions. This allows for buying a lot at a Best Price per ounce without wasting excess.

Scenario: Fresh chicken breasts were on sale on a particular Saturday morning, so you buy 3 HUGE packages. Good job. If you take the lazy way out and shove the whole packages into your freezer upon returning home, now you have 3 HUGE chunks of frozen cheap chicken. So, when you need 2 chicken breasts for a recipe of chicken noodle soup for a sick household, your chicken chunk will take DAYS to unthaw. Your family will be healthy by then and will have missed out on the comfort of chicken noodle soup! On top of that, you have to use up all of that thawed chicken soon because it cannot be refrozen. Instead, power through the hunger, kids running around your feet, tired legs, or whatever makes you want to do the instant chicken shoving and open those packages and freeze individual portions that you use most often in freezer bags. Then do some stacking and shoving. Good job.

Lesson #6: Give yourself grace and make-do.

As I mentioned before, Mom and I often forgot the list. Bright and early on a Saturday, our brains were not all mush and we could rely on them pretty well to complete our mental list. Occasionally, we’d stand in the peanut butter aisle and contemplate whether or not the jar at home was almost empty. Of course, every time we brought one “just in case”jar home, we’d be welcomed with 2 other “just in case” jars already taking up shelf space. My mom would utter these profound words in such circumstances, “Oh well.” Exactly. So we made a mistake and spend an extra $3 we didn’t need to yet. “Oh well.” The peanut butter will get used by it’s expiration date. “Oh well.”

Other times we would forget one ingredient for one of the weekday meals. “Oh well.” That is when I learned to be creative. So we forgot the handy chili seasoning packet for chili – there is a wealth of spices in the cupboard (or the lazy version of using taco seasoning with some extra chili powder – kids don’t notice!). “Oh well.” No need to call the hubby and make him wait in line at the grocery store at 5 p.m. Just make-do.

Final Thoughts

You want to know what I love the most about looking back on these Saturday mornings? The comfort I receive as a mom knowing that my own mother did not plan to teach me these things. I know because she told me! After she read this post (before publishing), she said, “You make me sound so good, but I was doing things hoping I wasn’t making mistakes.” BINGO! Me too!! Everyday I’m just hoping I’m not making mistakes or making things worse. What an encouragement to know that my kids will learn life skills naturally from me – even if they don’t have a perfect example.

Now, as I make decisions for my family on a daily basis, I can’t help but look back on those days and think “what a blessing.” I used to think that having to live frugally was a burden. True – it’s not easy, but all along, God has been shaping me and preparing me for what He has called me to right now: the Saturday morning grocery trip wizard.

Thanks for everything, Mom!

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