While most Americans spent their Fourth of July having barbeques and watching fireworks, our family was busy with the most American of all activities: shopping. When we ran to our local Super Target on a quick trip for some salad, we ended up with a few extra products and an added lesson on how our personal values have monetary values as well.
Turns out, for as many pennies as we have pinched, sometimes shopping for what you want costs money.
My husband AJ chastised me for all of the organic produce that we had bought. We haven’t been shopping the “organic” aisle very long, only a few months, but now we’re hooked. Or to be more honest, I’m hooked. It was AJ who started us on the whole organic journey when he decided that we needed to switch to organic milk to avoid the antibiotics and hormones that he learned are used in many of the cattle from non-organic milks. Fair enough, I suppose. We have a four year old son, and I’m comfortable spending three extra bucks so that his milk comes from a cow that has had fewer injections than Barry Bonds.
Then, after seeing a report on commercial egg farming and seeing the poor birds living in some squalid, Matrix-like stockade, an extra dollar to have my carton of eggs laid by cage-free, filth-free chickens seemed to make great sense.
Organic milk turned out to be a bizarre gateway drug to a healthier lifestyle. I had started shopping organic and couldn’t stop.
Did I want my carrots growing in chemicals? Did I want my tomatoes sprayed with a side order of pesticides? The rationalizations were coming more quickly, now. This organic baby spring mix salad we bought came in a plastic container made entirely from recycled plastic water bottles. Being organic and eco-friendly was a win-win and definitely worth an extra 33 cents.
All told on this trip, we had spent $3.50 on the organic salad, $1.89 on the organic baby carrots, $4.98 on two packages of organic celery. In addition to the produce, we also spent $2.99 on a loaf of organic whole wheat bread. All-in-all, our organic preferences totaled $13.36 of our grocery bill. Buying non-organic products could have saved us an extra three or four dollars, I suppose, but it would not have saved us from countless chemicals entering our diets, which was a great justification in my mind.
As it turned out, not all of our purchases were quite so organic, healthy, and eco-friendly, but they did offer us more perspective on our shopping habits. It was AJ’s turn to take some snacks to the store where he serves as a consultant. A couple of boxes of cheesy crackers took care of that. Nothing on the ingredients list there would ever be confused with anything organic – or actual food for that matter. Later, a giant box of drawstring flex trash bags for the kitchen trashcan also made its way into our cart. Are you kidding me with those? Put them back, I chastised. They’re fourteen dollars!
My spouse met my outrage with an equally disgusted stare. It’s a fundamental American right to have trash bags that don’t suck, I was told in defense of the seven extra dollars they cost us compared to the generic ones. Besides, you just spent two extra dollars on your fancy celery! He had me there, I guess. Who was I to complain after spending big time on celery?
So what did our Fourth of July shopping trip teach us? Most importantly, buy what you think is best for you and your family, whether that’s organic milk or expensive trash bags. After all, how you spend your money is the ultimate demonstration of what you value, and sometimes there’s no better value than keeping your spouse happy.