Author Topic: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget  (Read 12490 times)

AgentCooper

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How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« on: November 13, 2015, 10:19:25 AM »
My wife is foreign-born, and grew up extremely poor and hungry.  She was bussing tables in a restaurant when she was 11.  I believe this deprivation has caused her to believe she needs to have several hundreds of dollars’ worth of canned food, preserves, and frozen meat on hand at all times. 

We have two electricity-hungry fridges already, and she wants to add a 5-foot deep freeze.  We have two tall pantry shelving systems stocked with non-perishables, and we just added a third.   
 
She freaks out worrying that if any disaster or global crisis ever disrupts the process of moving food around the country via 18-wheelers, most Americans would likely starve in about a month.  If all our interstates shut down tomorrow, we’d wish we had done more to provide for and defend our children.  The threat of atomic war, bird flu, even the (scientifically, very silly) idea of a zombie apocalypse have all caused her, from time to time, some loss of sleep.  For me, it is a concern (I was by rapture enthusiasts) but mostly it has caused not loss of sleep, but loss of ‘stash!

Optimism is inherent to the MMM philosophy, and a hopeful optimism is something I’m striving to cultivate within myself.  Buying stuff, whether out of impulse or fear, won’t solve our problems.

My wife hates to run out of anything (bananas, milk), for even one day.  She also hates to rotate shelves or fridge contents so that the oldest items are out in front and get used first.  We throw away a lot of stuff by forgetting we have it and only finding it after it has spoiled.  She also hates it if I try to organize the food to minimize spoilage.  It’s a “hands off my kitchen and pantry” situation. 

After reading my recent case study (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/reader-case-study-move-large-family-to-city-to-save-on-commuting/?topicseen) she’s volunteered to reduce her portion of my $71,500 per year salary from $20,000 to $18,000.  She says only about $600 of that per year goes to feed our farm animals.  The rest is food and household items like soap and paper towels.  She is increasingly covering our clothing needs from her portion as well, though that was not the case until the past month or so.  I believe the grocery expenditures are out of control, though my wife doesn't see how.

Note this $18,000 is also WAY less than the $30,000 per year we experienced at the beginning of our married lives, when my wife had a pocket full of credit cards and would go shopping 3 or 4 times per week for entertainment.  This “low” $18,000 is a compromise; on my side I see it as exorbitant and full of luxury, while on her side it is a budget appropriate only for a hermit monk.  At times I’ve wondered if she has a gambling habit I don’t know about (just kidding) or if she is actually wiring a big chunk of this money back home to her family overseas (not kidding).  Yet, I suspect that is not even possible because every once in a while I go with her to the grocery store, and VERY carefully watch prices and make thrifty and frugal choices, giving the middle finger to anything that is overpriced, and I see firsthand that just a few small bags of groceries easily tops $200 and fail to even fill up the shopping cart.  I’m at a loss on the food budget issue. 

My wife has gritted her teeth over every budget discussion, and every time I replaced an old-school light bulb with a “too dim” CFL, and every time I suggested our next car should be EVEN OLDER than our current cars (and should be one in number).  Recently she enthusiastically yelled, "Yes!!" when I read her the title of the MMM post, "Is Mr. Money Moustache ruining your marriage?" but then she refused to read it or hear anything more about it.  She now refuses to participate in any conversation in which MMM is mentioned.  She perhaps feels she deserves more luxury and frivolous expense, being the wife of a white collar executive.  So yeah, MMM is impacting my life in a big way, and the only way this will pay off is if I really do retire in 10 years!   

EDITED/UPDATED 11/16/15 to respond to FAQs/comments.  None of this is meant to be complainypants answers or defenses; I’m just providing more info for anyone who was asking a question non-rhetorically.

Food preservation suggestions:
Rotating food stock:  Definitely worthwhile, but a) she won’t do it and b) she doesn’t like it when I do it.  She just puts it back like it was.  Maybe going to have to just live with some spoilage.  Or when she asks what vegetable I want for dinner, maybe I'll swing by the pantry and look at the far-rear of the shelf before replying.

Canning as a solution:  She does can, and a lot.  One of the three pantry shelving systems is currently stocked with home-canned vegetables. 

Electrical supply:  We’re in a rural area that suffers fairly frequent interruptions in power, but usually they are brief.  We had one this month that lasted a few hours.  Perishable food items make for very poor Emergency Food stock.  I’m not looking to invest thousands in a generator for the purpose of maintaining perishables.  Fuel for a generator would be just as hard to come by as anything else we might run out of in such a crisis affecting the entire food distribution network. 

Cultural differences:  Should I learn more about my wife’s culture, and become bilingual, to facilitate communication?  I am fluent in her language, and I lived in my wife’s country for over 2 years.  The communication issue is a cultural difference that is foreign to many Americans.  It did take me many years to learn what turning away from me means during a conversation.  That’s a cultural thing with her and her family, apparently.  She’s multicultural, but Asian culture had a big influence on her upbringing.  The absent look and vague smile towards the wall roughly translates to “I don’t want to belittle you, or cause you lack of face, by responding with what I truly think, or by disagreeing with you verbally, so I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you.  Read into that what you will.”   

Marriage & Life suggestions:
Wow, I expected potential face punches for consumer or spendy habits, but not for my marriage or relationship.  Definitely surprised by some of the suggestions in this area.  Regardless, I appreciate your input here because it can give me valuable insight to what she might be thinking or what an outsider might think of the situation.  So thanks.  I've given these comments serious thought and will use them to reflect further. 

Is our marriage ok other than this issue?  I definitely think so.  We get along quite well together, with our 4 kids, and I do a lot to show her how appreciated and loved she is.  The honeymoon is over, but we're still very lovey-dovey affectionate, both emotionally and physically.  Some areas are just "no go" for discussions, and I'm learning to deal with that, or live with that.

Regarding my use the word “my” when describing “my salary” – that was merely a shortcut to explaining that this is not a double-income situation in which both parents work.  The one paying job is the one that I have (she doesn't, we don't, but I do, so, even if the possessive pronoun seems politically incorrect, it is accurate).  I work my job for the purposes of obtaining my salary, which is money that belongs to the 2 of us for the benefit of all 6 of us.  It is my salary for my job.  It is our income. 

Retire now so she can go back to work now?  It has come up from time to time.  Only problem with that is, with my experience I can get these $70k a year-type jobs, whereas she’d be in the $30k ballpark.  The fact that she has been wanting to work but has chosen to stay home with the small kids may be one reason she says she'll return to work as soon as I retire, if not sooner.

Could she handle more of the home’s income?  Yes.  She doesn’t want to.  I’ve suggested that she be responsible for paying bills and doing the budgeting, and she doesn’t want anything to do with it.  Every year or two, I remind her that she’ll need to learn it one day, since women often outlive their men.  It's not a safe financial situation to be in, to have no idea what the bills are or how to pay them.  I have listed the bills and accounts for her as an enclosure with my will.

Suggested resources:  Counseling is off the table (she firmly doesn’t believe in it, and suggesting it would be a much bigger javelin-throw at the marriage than suggesting we need to control our expenses).  Just ordered Independence Days book via library.  LDS resources:  we have additionally followed some of those practices, and that particular hoard of super-long-lasting food is in addition to the ones currently spoiling in our pantries.

Conclusions:   Based on reflection on these great responses – and my first couple of chapters in reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (summary:  You can’t make anyone do anything unless they want to…),  I’m going to hold my peace about the food/household budget.  She’s recently proposed a reduction to it anyway, and is including more things in it (like school uniforms) going forward.  She’s definitely on board with eliminating credit cards from our lifestyle.  Regarding further expense reduction, I don’t want to win the budget battle at the expense of a relationship, so I’m going to focus on those areas I can manage (which index funds to have in our IRAs, and shopping around for healthcare, etc.), and the kitchen and pantry are just not my areas of expertise.  Definitely don’t want to take optimization too far!  Thanks to everyone!
« Last Edit: November 16, 2015, 01:06:18 PM by AgentCooper »

lthenderson

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2015, 10:39:31 AM »
In your wife's defense, I find a chest freezer a very nice way to save money. We often buy things like turkeys the days after Thanksgiving when they are on sale and stick them in the deep freeze for consumption later on during the year. We also buy chicken and meats in bulk to save money and store them in the deep freeze. If I was looking to save money, I would ditch one of the refrigerators and replace it with a deep freeze.

JLee

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2015, 10:46:28 AM »
How many kids do you have where $1500/mo on food via grocery shopping is even possible? $300+/week is a lot!

Bracken_Joy

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2015, 10:48:55 AM »
It sounds like there is a lot more going on than just a fear of running out of food. The biggest thing I'm seeing are questions of trust (is she sending money to family without telling me?) and shared goals/values (full of luxury vs hermit monk). If you guys don't get on the same page, you'll have a lot more to worry about than a high grocery bill and food waste. Just my 2 cents.

AgentCooper

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2015, 11:08:28 AM »
I would ditch one of the refrigerators and replace it with a deep freeze.

Suggested & rejected.  She wants 2 fridges and a deep freeze.

How many kids do you have where $1500/mo on food via grocery shopping is even possible? $300+/week is a lot!
Four.  I don't know how it is possible.  Food is expensive.  There is Wal-Mart, a local grocery which is pricey, a Winn-Dixie which is exorbitant, and some tiny mini-groceries with bad prices and worse selections.

It sounds like there is a lot more going on than just a fear of running out of food....If you guys don't get on the same page, you'll have a lot more to worry about than a high grocery bill and food waste. Just my 2 cents.
Agreed.  Communication is a major pain point for us, with English not being her native language, and with her culture being one where disagreements should never be aired.  "Saving face" is a big thing with her, and it means saying "yes" or "okay" when all she means is "I heard what you said."  It means closing her mouth and turning her head away when I ask a question she doesn't feel like answering.  It means she refuses to participate in discussions of budgeting, and gets very upset if I question anything she does in any area of life.  I'm working on self-improvement but she wishes I'd never heard of MMM.  She's fine with me working till I die or till I'm 95 and doesn't want me to be underfoot around the house anyway.

4alpacas

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2015, 11:16:18 AM »
I would ditch one of the refrigerators and replace it with a deep freeze.

Suggested & rejected.  She wants 2 fridges and a deep freeze.

How many kids do you have where $1500/mo on food via grocery shopping is even possible? $300+/week is a lot!
Four.  I don't know how it is possible.  Food is expensive.  There is Wal-Mart, a local grocery which is pricey, a Winn-Dixie which is exorbitant, and some tiny mini-groceries with bad prices and worse selections.

It sounds like there is a lot more going on than just a fear of running out of food....If you guys don't get on the same page, you'll have a lot more to worry about than a high grocery bill and food waste. Just my 2 cents.
Agreed.  Communication is a major pain point for us, with English not being her native language, and with her culture being one where disagreements should never be aired.  "Saving face" is a big thing with her, and it means saying "yes" or "okay" when all she means is "I heard what you said."  It means closing her mouth and turning her head away when I ask a question she doesn't feel like answering.  It means she refuses to participate in discussions of budgeting, and gets very upset if I question anything she does in any area of life.  I'm working on self-improvement but she wishes I'd never heard of MMM.  She's fine with me working till I die or till I'm 95 and doesn't want me to be underfoot around the house anyway.
I think this is your actual issue.  Not your grocery bill.

AgentCooper

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2015, 11:19:57 AM »
One more cultural distinction:  Saving/pre-planning are strange concepts for her.  We saw something on TV about how if there was a brutally poor family in a certain country, and they never had enough rice, but some foreigner came in on a boat and handed them a gigantic sack of rice, they would not do what we might expect.  We might expect they would store it away, and eat a little bit every day for a month.  Instead, they celebrate:  they call every person they know - the entire neighborhood - and have a great big rice party where every person gets to eat a huge bowl of rice for dinner tonight...and then all the rice is gone by tomorrow.  Then they're hungry again.  She said, "That's exactly what my family would do."

She's never been in a situation where it was possible to save up (hoard) food, and I would like to find a way to get her to be optimistic about the prospects of food continuing to be available at Wal-Mart on a long-term basis.

Frankies Girl

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2015, 12:26:26 PM »
It sounds like your wife needs counseling to work through the childhood issues that are now tainting/controlling her adult life. Hoarding food to the point where it expires or becomes unusable is not being practical; it is wasteful and thoughtless. The need to have multiple appliances to store even more food (when she obviously has no real system of knowing what she has now) is even more irrational. And the idea that the country's food manufacturing infrastructure will collapse... wow. That's bordering on delusional.

I would suggest you try to locate a counselor that is familiar with hoarding and the effects of growing up in poverty, and bonus points if they are familiar with your wife's culture/ethnicity so they can maybe speak to her from a place of familiarity.

But even more importantly, it sounds like there is a big disconnect in your marriage as a whole if you can't talk to her about stuff like this and reach a happy compromise. And it is very worrying that she doesn't really want you around or support your own goals for the future. You both need to get on the same page and be a team instead of two people that share a living space and have completely separate agendas. (I am not saying this to be mean or rude - just concerned and hope you can work this all out and have a stronger/closer marriage where you both feel safe and supported).

AgentCooper

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2015, 12:55:04 PM »
Very good points, all.  We do have a huge disconnect in our ability to communicate and agree upon shared goals. 

Whereas I want to save money and make smart, frugal decisions, she wants to "enjoy life" but "without worrying about money."  I want to retire early to buy back my freedom, whereas she wants us to earn as much as possible for as long as possible so she can be "generous" when the kids want something in the future.  I want to retire early so we can get back to traveling as a family, or if the kids are in college or adults, just the two of us traveling.  She informed me that if I retired early, she would immediately seek full-time employment since she would no longer be needed at home if I was at home.  I want to backpack and hike for weeks at a time, whereas she wants to experience as many cruise ships as possible.  I want to hang clothes on the line to save 40 cents per load of dryer time, whereas she wants the convenience of pushing the "on" button. 

I know for sure I have changed, and changed A LOT since we got married 10 years ago.  She asked me yesterday whether I think that maybe I was happier before MMM.  So clearly this is all the internet's fault.


zhelud

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2015, 01:14:35 PM »
I always encourage people who feel excessively worried about the possibility of a huge natural disaster or zombie attack to find out if there is a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in their area.  Anyone can join a CERT, which is a team of volunteers who organize and train to help their communities recover from disasters.  It is a lot more mentally healthy to get together with your neighbors and learn how to do basic medical treatment and triage and light search and rescue and radio operations than it is to sit in your basement by yourself with several years worth of canned food and ammo, worried about the zombie apocalypse.

http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams
 

seemsright

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2015, 01:30:10 PM »
I grew up in a home that did not ever have any food. So when I got out on my own and married at 19 I went crazy at the store. I would have multiples of everything. Dropping $700 at Costco was normal. It took paying off my house to realize that I am safe. And that I do not have to have tons of food around all of the time. For me having tons of food around equaled safety. I have been working for a while now eating down our stores.

I was spending upwards of $700 (some months way way more) a month on food for 3 of us. My goal now is $350 a month. I do not know if that is reality or not but I am willing to try. And my 5 year old loves beans and corn bread. So I think it is possible. 

It is one thing to buy all of that food and store it (for entertainment look up preppers on youtube) but rotating the stock is crucial. You do not want to waste anything when the zombies come...

I think the first step would be figure out what you even have food/household wise and then go from there.

JLee

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2015, 01:41:07 PM »
Very good points, all.  We do have a huge disconnect in our ability to communicate and agree upon shared goals. 

Whereas I want to save money and make smart, frugal decisions, she wants to "enjoy life" but "without worrying about money."  I want to retire early to buy back my freedom, whereas she wants us to earn as much as possible for as long as possible so she can be "generous" when the kids want something in the future.  I want to retire early so we can get back to traveling as a family, or if the kids are in college or adults, just the two of us traveling.  She informed me that if I retired early, she would immediately seek full-time employment since she would no longer be needed at home if I was at home.  I want to backpack and hike for weeks at a time, whereas she wants to experience as many cruise ships as possible.  I want to hang clothes on the line to save 40 cents per load of dryer time, whereas she wants the convenience of pushing the "on" button. 

I know for sure I have changed, and changed A LOT since we got married 10 years ago.  She asked me yesterday whether I think that maybe I was happier before MMM.  So clearly this is all the internet's fault.

Does she want to spend time with you at all?  Pardon my bluntness, but my impression of this post is she wants you to earn as much money as possible so she can go spend it, but if the income stops coming in she'll just go work (so you don't see her anyway, removing that incentive for you to want to retire).

JRA64

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2015, 01:55:05 PM »
I would only half-jokingly suggest you retire now and let her get a full time job.

I understand the rice story, particularly if only one family received the rice. If every family received a bag of rice, different result. Might be worth learning more about your wife's culture. One item I remember from a culture that sounds like hers - drinking was a big part of professional life. People could say things when they were drunk that they could not say when sober, the drinking outings were necessary for workplace communication. I'm not sure if that applied to the women or only the men.

And yes, there are parts of the world where the entire food infrastructure has collapsed, not that long ago. For example, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind includes a vivid description of his family's experience with famine.

Consider counseling for both of you, maybe together, maybe separate. I think the gulf between you is too big for a DIY effort with some help from an internet forum, well-intentioned though we may be.

honeybbq

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2015, 01:57:43 PM »
I think it must be really hard to grow up afraid of hunger. That is something I have never had to deal with, I can only empathize, I cannot really understand.

I do have rescued dogs who were VERY VERY hungry at various points in their lives, and honestly, they never really get over it (eating things they shouldn't, trying to get any dropped morsels ALL the time, etc).

Sounds like counseling might be in order.

Goldielocks

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2015, 02:23:22 PM »
...she’s volunteered to reduce her portion of my $71,500 per year salary from $20,000 to $18,000.  She says only about $600 of that per year goes to feed our farm animals.  The rest is food and household items like soap and paper towels.  She is increasingly covering our clothing needs from her portion as well, though that was not the case until the past month or so.  I believe the grocery expenditures are out of control, though my wife doesn't see how....

Why do you consider it your salary, not household income?

Yes, food costs may be high (due to spoilage), but the amount she spent was for your household, and I can verify that household costs are the majority of my family's expenses...   So, $1500 per month on food, farm animals, some clothing, household costs...   if you have kids, this may not be out of control.


Her freezer / pantry size suggestions are about average, outside of a major urban area (I have that much, in a suburb), and a good cost saving idea, especially the chest freezer, barring power outages causing spoilage.   I might suggest only one fridge, for true MMM, but not a big deal. 

The main thing to work on is the spoilage... why not ask her to track the cost of things that are thrown away, as she tosses them?  Just that one request may change behaviour a lot, without you controlling her methods.

Are you really more worried about maybe $200 in food spoilage and $100 in food overspending a month (5% of your income)?  To the point of joking about gambling or thinking she is wiring money secretly?

shelivesthedream

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2015, 03:30:15 PM »
Just going to focus on one thing here: what she thinks she is achieving by hoarding all this food.

I have this deep and insidious fear of being REALLY poor - like starving to death under a bridge poor. My parents are very middle class and I have never been in danger of being even a little bit really poor. For some reason way back when, my brain fixated on the idea that I had to own a house outright (I.e. No outstanding mortgage, completely paid off) and then I would be secure enough that I would never be poor because nobody could take the house away from me. I know that is stupid (I could still starve to death in my house, and I can be perfectly secure as a renter) but that's what my brain decided.

What is she really worried about? Is it running out of money to buy food? Is it national famine? Is it the zombie apocalypse making it unsafe to go out?

Having a fridge full of food does not sound like food security to me. All you need is one power cut... That sounds like a fear of poverty that she is trying to counter with a feeling of abundance. If I were afraid of food insecurity I would not be stocking up on perishables - it would be canned tuna and Russian phrase books all the way.*

All I'm saying is, people get latched onto something as a representation of something else. For me it's a house. For her it's food. Figure that out.

*Anyone get that film reference?

Rural

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2015, 03:59:24 PM »

 I've been hungry. It's not something you ever fully get over, but it does sound like either she's unusually afraid or she just doesn't know how to go about dealing with things more efficiently.


Let me suggest a different route as a possibility. Get the deep freezer, because they are much more efficient than refrigerators, but why don't you also suggest that she  look into canning? That gives a much longer shelflife and much more stable food storage method than a freezer or refrigerator.


 I'll second counseling, but I would suggest that you both may need it. If you're thinking of your family's income as your salary, out of which she gets an allowance  for the actual maintenance of that family, there's a problem on your end as well as on hers.

markbike528CBX

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2015, 04:15:37 PM »
Perhaps focusing/planning the food storage might help. 
Besides the "prepper" blogs/sites, the LDS church has lots of useful info (what to store, how, how much etc).
    Not a prepper, or LDS member, just got curious one day about "What IF .... " and looked it up.

I agree that more fridge/freezer space is probably the very worst thing to do. 
If the food distribution is down, so will the electrical grid.

duellingbanjos

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2015, 05:10:09 PM »
My parents grew up in poverty/hunger and now they hoard cash, assets, property... Perhaps you could approach the issue this way. Explain that saving cash = food reserves in America. Walmart is only a short drive away.

Also explain that saving now is the path to "enjoying life", "being generous" and "not worrying about money" in the future!

Bracken_Joy

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2015, 05:13:07 PM »
If you're thinking of your family's income as your salary, out of which she gets an allowance  for the actual maintenance of that family, there's a problem on your end as well as on hers.

+1

MsPeacock

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2015, 05:16:23 PM »
I also grew up in a house w/o adequate food. Often one can of campbell's' condensed soup was supposed to make a meal for 3 or 4 people. I like to have my pantry filled. Here's the thing - you have to rotate stock. and you have to give up on the giant freezer - because they are so large you really can't rotate stock. If you have a power outage (unless you have a generator) you lose all that stuff anyhow. I have a six figure income now and it has been 30+ years since my childhood and I still want my cupboard full. Find a happy middle ground, help her set up a can system (e.g. one of those racks where you put the new cans in the top and take the old cans for use out of the bottom). Starving is really low on Maslow's scale - you have to make adjustments. Focus on dry goods (beans, rice, oatmeal, canned milk, boxed milk, etc. as "emergency foods."

Tom Bri

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2015, 06:40:41 PM »
Sounds like the food is only the cutting edge of the problem.
Since you seem to have a good income, I'd say let her go crazy with the deep freeze and the fridges. Your understanding in this up-front area might allow her to relax in others.
Does she also hoard other things, or is it just the food? If it is just food, then, for me, a happy wife is worth the food cost!
Does she squander money (other than food)? Doesn't sound like it. How would she handle being responsible for a larger portion of the household income?

Teacherstache

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2015, 07:10:23 PM »
Explain that saving cash = food reserves in America. Walmart is only a short drive away.

+1

Noodle

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2015, 08:24:08 PM »
Fears about food security, especially to someone who is now responsible for four little mouths, are probably not something your wife can be talked out of, at least right now. Maybe over time as she sees you "walk the walk" of Mustachianism she will feel able to give up on so much food storage. I do think it is reasonable to talk about how to manage the pantry since currently food is being wasted. I think in another thread you are talking about changing housing situations to move into town in...maybe your wife could be persuaded to eat down the pantry in preparation for the move? Moving boxes of canned goods is no fun...

Other than that, I think you have to back off and just accept that keeping a lot of food on hand is part of the cost of doing business in terms of being married to this particular person. At least her money blind spot is about keeping your family fed and healthy, and not expanding her shoe wardrobe :). Honestly, I sympathize...my last work situation was rather insecure, and in my own small way I turned into a bit of a couponer and food hoarder as a way to have something under my control. When I fixed the situation by finding a new job that involved a move, I was shocked at how much food I had stored away...

Rezdent

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2015, 08:37:40 PM »
I've got a different take on this.

Your wife's concerns are valid, but she may need some help optimizing.
I recommend a book called "Independence Days" by Sharon Astyk for help on optimizing.
This book dives into the American food web including its weak spots, and how to make your family more secure.  It has a lot of actionable steps for people who feel food-insecure, including how to not waste or throw away food.

I recommend that you read it, and use the information to jump start discussions with your wife.
Your wife may not be able to articulate exactly what she's feeling; the book will help you clarify both her concerns and help you both get on the same page.

MerryMcQ

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #25 on: November 13, 2015, 08:50:59 PM »
If she really feels fear of a massive collapse of the US economy, power grid, and food supply chain, then instead of wasting money on appliances that require power to store the food, perhaps you can discuss having an emergency food supply?

Ask her how many days of food supply, per person, does she need to feel secure? Then make an agreement to stock that much. You can look into Valley Food Storage, which sells complete kits for specific # of days, all in a box. (I read a funny blog about a mom who lived off their 30 day food supply to see what it would be like... http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/what-i-learned-living-off-a-30-day-emergency-supply-of-food/)

But it sounds like there are far more issues than food insecurity at play here. Family counseling, as so many others have suggested, may help.


sheepstache

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #26 on: November 14, 2015, 12:27:13 AM »
I would concentrate your efforts elsewhere. It's not a huge amount of money and it's obviously an emotional issue for her. I suspect you're sabotaging your efforts elsewhere by trying to optimize absolutely everything. The woman probably feels besieged. And that's not a headspace conducive to negotiation no matter what culture you're from.

Whereas if you could get her on board with the concept of MMM, food would probably fall into place easily once she was motivated to work through her issues. So why focus on this area that she's obviously so sensitive about? And why not practice some of that optimism? Your expenses are lower than they were and she's regularly contributing the value of childcare, the difference between groceries and eating out, and whatever other domestic things she's doing. I mean, obviously, I'm reading into a few paragraphs that you've written, but you seem to be complainypantsing your way into a failed relationship. Start from a position of strength and remind yourself on the regular about the progress you've made as a couple, the areas where she does support you, and the areas where she seems more amenable. People can generally sense your feelings about them when you're negotiating with them and they're more inclined to find common ground if they sense that you like them. Just my two cents.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #27 on: November 14, 2015, 05:25:07 AM »
Before you optimize, you and your wife need to have mutual respect and know inherently that the other wants what is best for the family. Work that out and the rest will be easy. Don't, and everything will be hard.

JLee

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #28 on: November 14, 2015, 08:55:14 AM »
I would concentrate your efforts elsewhere. It's not a huge amount of money and it's obviously an emotional issue for her. I suspect you're sabotaging your efforts elsewhere by trying to optimize absolutely everything. The woman probably feels besieged. And that's not a headspace conducive to negotiation no matter what culture you're from.

Whereas if you could get her on board with the concept of MMM, food would probably fall into place easily once she was motivated to work through her issues. So why focus on this area that she's obviously so sensitive about? And why not practice some of that optimism? Your expenses are lower than they were and she's regularly contributing the value of childcare, the difference between groceries and eating out, and whatever other domestic things she's doing. I mean, obviously, I'm reading into a few paragraphs that you've written, but you seem to be complainypantsing your way into a failed relationship. Start from a position of strength and remind yourself on the regular about the progress you've made as a couple, the areas where she does support you, and the areas where she seems more amenable. People can generally sense your feelings about them when you're negotiating with them and they're more inclined to find common ground if they sense that you like them. Just my two cents.

If he's talking about $18k net out of $71,500 gross, it's fairly substantial (though with four kids they probably get hit much less on taxes than I do as single/no dependents, so maybe it's not that much off).

jengod

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #29 on: November 14, 2015, 09:43:27 AM »
* Tell her you'd like her to read The Millionaire Next Door, and if she doesn't get to it in a month, start taking her on lunch dates, and READ IT TO HER. Or sit there with her while she reads it. (Bring your own book so you don't hover too much, that's annoying.)

* See if you can find a way to broach "scarcity mindset" versus "abundance mindset," and discuss which yields better outcomes.

* Someone on this forum once described how they keep a Sharpie-glued-to-magnet on the fridge, and they use that Sharpie to date canned goods as they come into the home. Maybe that would encourage her to practice "first in, first out"?


jengod

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #30 on: November 14, 2015, 09:49:53 AM »
I've got a different take on this.

Your wife's concerns are valid, but she may need some help optimizing.
I recommend a book called "Independence Days" by Sharon Astyk for help on optimizing.
This book dives into the American food web including its weak spots, and how to make your family more secure.  It has a lot of actionable steps for people who feel food-insecure, including how to not waste or throw away food.

I recommend that you read it, and use the information to jump start discussions with your wife.
Your wife may not be able to articulate exactly what she's feeling; the book will help you clarify both her concerns and help you both get on the same page.

Just a +1 for everything Sharon Astyk. I miss her blog!

lhamo

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #31 on: November 14, 2015, 09:55:55 AM »
Is she by any chance Korean?  Because in Korea, two fridges are the norm.  One is for kimchee.  I had no idea this was a thing until we were looking for apartments in our Beijing complex, which is heavily Korean, and saw many with two fridges.

I think you  need to work overall on making her feel more secure/safe and a real partner in your relationship, and on improving your communication.  I strongly recommend the resources of the Gottman Institute.  I am working through one of their books right now.  It is good stuff.


Bracken_Joy

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #32 on: November 15, 2015, 07:16:49 AM »
Is she by any chance Korean?  Because in Korea, two fridges are the norm.  One is for kimchee.  I had no idea this was a thing until we were looking for apartments in our Beijing complex, which is heavily Korean, and saw many with two fridges.

I stored milk in a fridge with kimchee once.... I can see why two fridges are the norm. Kimchee is so pungent, stinky good.

pbkmaine

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #33 on: November 15, 2015, 07:39:55 AM »
I second the suggestion about checking LDS resources to understand how to use food storage more effectively. The Mormon church advocates having a year of food on hand. Show her the website theprudenthomemaker.com. She's a Mormon mother of seven who is great with money and uses a rotating food storage system. If your wife feels good having a lot of food around, it might help if she learns how to use it more effectively. That would be a win for all of you.

sheepstache

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #34 on: November 15, 2015, 08:53:39 AM »
I would concentrate your efforts elsewhere. It's not a huge amount of money and it's obviously an emotional issue for her. I suspect you're sabotaging your efforts elsewhere by trying to optimize absolutely everything. The woman probably feels besieged. And that's not a headspace conducive to negotiation no matter what culture you're from.

Whereas if you could get her on board with the concept of MMM, food would probably fall into place easily once she was motivated to work through her issues. So why focus on this area that she's obviously so sensitive about? And why not practice some of that optimism? Your expenses are lower than they were and she's regularly contributing the value of childcare, the difference between groceries and eating out, and whatever other domestic things she's doing. I mean, obviously, I'm reading into a few paragraphs that you've written, but you seem to be complainypantsing your way into a failed relationship. Start from a position of strength and remind yourself on the regular about the progress you've made as a couple, the areas where she does support you, and the areas where she seems more amenable. People can generally sense your feelings about them when you're negotiating with them and they're more inclined to find common ground if they sense that you like them. Just my two cents.

If he's talking about $18k net out of $71,500 gross, it's fairly substantial (though with four kids they probably get hit much less on taxes than I do as single/no dependents, so maybe it's not that much off).

Yeah I might be confused on the numbers. That's the "wife's portion" and seems to include things other than food. He says in this post it's food, household supplies, about $600 worth of farm animal food, and just now has started to include clothing although in the reader case study it also included school uniforms, farm supplies, and a special cost this year of $3300 for beekeeping (though perhaps the OP subtracted that last one). It might help to know the actual food expenditure and I'm not sure the OP knows. In other words, according to the case study thread, this is literally the entire non-utilities, non-tax, non-savings budget for a household of 6 and a small hobby farm, so I would guess he's under-estimating non-food costs.

But actually my point was that he seems to be looking at it as a waste of $18k when really it's a waste of the difference between $18k and whatever their food budget would be if the wife weren't crazy food-hoarding and wasting. And that in itself is a smaller difference than between $18k and what a mustachian food budget would be.

In fact, according to some numbers I plugged in here for rural Lousiana, average total annual food budget would be $14k, so I could easily see household stuff adding up to that other $4k, meaning she might actually be pretty average even after all the spoilage. Not denying there are some big savings to be found here, but I feel like the OP might be getting a little more frustrated than he needs to be or is helpful.

OP actually seems to be onto something with getting wife to reduce total household budget number and getting other expenses included in that. Rather than trying to supervise how she spends in one particular area. Make it obvious it's a zero-sum game where money she saves on food is money she can spend somewhere else, so it's something she can take pride in.

The_path_less_taken

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #35 on: November 15, 2015, 09:30:15 AM »
I'm not a shrink. Or LDS. Or a 'real' prepper, although I do think a year's worth of emergency dried food is a good idea.

But from your post...what you're doing now isn't working for either of you.

Food spoilage happens mainly because people aren't able to plan properly....do I need 5 bell peppers or 4 for that dish? Guess wrong and there's that one lone bell pepper slowing turning into bad art in the crisper...

I think anything from those racks similar to what they have in grocery stores, where you load from the back and cans roll forward so you're always using the oldest first.....to the swing away cabinet racks that roll out (which would allow you to load from the back) might help with canned goods.

With fridge spoilage, besides planning well....start a "it all comes out so we can wipe it down every Sunday" or whenever....if it's out, you see it, and can make soup with it if nothing else.

But I agree with the people who have said there are underlying issues from both sides: you half think she's sending money home to the family, which means you half think she's not being honest with you. Not good for either of you: this needs to be addressed.

And...I get that you can't read inflection on the 'net. But you come across as being a bit paternalistic....which seems to be making her act like a child at times. "she turns her head away and won't answer" etc.

Truly, were I in your shoes, I'd start with counseling. And then implement an agreed upon food system where things at least don't get thrown out.

A backup generator and a deep freeze means your frozen food stash would never go bad. I don't have one at the moment but when I build a barn I will have one, because you can buy turkeys for a penny a pound day after Thanksgiving, etc.


Imonaboat

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #36 on: November 15, 2015, 09:42:33 AM »
I'm assuming she's Thai or at least SE Asian based on comments. Keep it mind that competition takes a whole new form there and the families entire self worth is based on how much you spend, to an almost fanatical extent, especially if she grew up poor. She most likely views frugality as a weakness that should be overcome based on how she grew up. I would try to point out the long term financial success of showing some moderation could keep them well off for a long time.

bacchi

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #37 on: November 15, 2015, 10:00:40 AM »
I agree that more fridge/freezer space is probably the very worst thing to do. 
If the food distribution is down, so will the electrical grid.

Exactly. A garden and some seed would go much further.

TrMama

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #38 on: November 15, 2015, 11:18:07 AM »
Marriages between people of very different backgrounds can be so, so hard. I saw a lot of marriages like this when we lived in an "expat" area of the country. Things that people would never think would be a problem when they're dating become huge relationship obstacles 10 years in.

There's been lots of good advice here. Counselling with someone who's experienced in treating couples from very different backgrounds is likely the best place to start. You two need to learn to respect each other's point of view before any positive change can happen. You also need to learn her native language. Have you tried? Do your children speak it? Do some research on becoming a bilingual family and then become one.

bradleylsmith

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #39 on: November 15, 2015, 03:54:51 PM »
You don't have a money or a budgeting problem - you have a respect and trust problem.

You really need to value your wife and her beliefs just as much as you want her to value yours. If she believes that you guys should never starve then prioritize a way to make that happen - it's HER goal. Get her that third pantry shelf and stock it full of food. If you don't make her goals a priority you can't expect her to do the same for you.  It doesn't matter if you think you guys have enough. And it doesn't matter if you've worked towards that goal in the past grudgingly. You need to WANT to accomplish her goals first. Honestly, retiring early isn't that important and her goals are just as sane.

In her mind, your ideals are crazy just as much as in your mind hers are. Love and cherish your wife and make her feel safe. Do this enough patiently and she will return the gesture.

JLee

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #40 on: November 15, 2015, 04:32:21 PM »
You don't have a money or a budgeting problem - you have a respect and trust problem.

You really need to value your wife and her beliefs just as much as you want her to value yours. If she believes that you guys should never starve then prioritize a way to make that happen - it's HER goal. Get her that third pantry shelf and stock it full of food. If you don't make her goals a priority you can't expect her to do the same for you.  It doesn't matter if you think you guys have enough. And it doesn't matter if you've worked towards that goal in the past grudgingly. You need to WANT to accomplish her goals first. Honestly, retiring early isn't that important and her goals are just as sane.

In her mind, your ideals are crazy just as much as in your mind hers are. Love and cherish your wife and make her feel safe. Do this enough patiently and she will return the gesture.

They're already throwing food away - I'm not sure that stockpiling more is going to solve anything.

Greg

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #41 on: November 15, 2015, 07:17:41 PM »
I can't help but wonder if a change in focus from quantity to quality would help. 

AgentCooper

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #42 on: November 16, 2015, 01:03:28 PM »
OP here:  Thanks for all the great replies.  I just updated/edited the original post above to respond to some of the questions posed.

TealBlue

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #43 on: November 16, 2015, 02:09:28 PM »
This is an interesting topic as much of my husbands family is SE Asian and I see some similarities.... 

Anyway, I know you said you wanted to quit using credit cards but maybe you could actually use them for good.  I am sure she occasionally likes to visit family in her home country so could you consider using miles cards for her spending?  I'm not trying to sound tricky, however this may be a great way for you to accumulate miles while having some sort of understanding of where the money is going? Added bonus, free trips! You may be right that this isn't something worth the fight, however if you truly don't understand where the money is going and aren't comfortable with straight up asking for an explanation or accountability, then maybe this would be something to consider.  Who knows, you may get through one month figuring out that only $800 is for groceries and the rest is on other things you weren't considering but are perfectly valid expenses!

partgypsy

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #44 on: November 16, 2015, 02:38:11 PM »
Wow, a lot of stuff, interesting read. I feel there could be a fear issue, or a communication issue or even a "values" issue.
I do get the idea that you have different values for what to do with the money. Doesn't mean you are right, and she is wrong, but if you want to remain a couple you may need to find a way to bridge that gap so you are respectful and on board with whatever each are doing. Because at least the nonverbal way she is responding, does not sound good for your relationship.  husband also grew up in a family where you make sure you have plenty of food with no chance of running out, which also means that food gets thrown out which bothers me. We started doing in the past year where I do the shopping and meal planning, and he does the cooking. There's been a couple times where we ran out of bread, or the milk the day before I do the shopping but wow, the sky didn't fall in. It also made me realize that groceries are expensive (at least the way we shop). And the grocery bills also include all the various house/drugstore type items, which I hadn't considered. Since last year we spend an average of $60 a month less on restaurants, and $110 less on groceries a month so not huge but I'm happier and he is happy to have the additional help on shopping/meal planning.

anyways it doesn't hurt to straight out ask her, what would make you feel more comfortable? Would having x amount in a savings account make you feel more secure than x amount of groceries in the house? Also feel out whether she feels comfortable with you taking over organizing the food, meal planning. 
Another thing is, what can you do that will make her motivated to make the $ work harder? If it is all pain and no gain for her then what is her buy-in? (if your goal to save money for you to retire early, which will make her return to work, not much of a seller). Maybe there can be a hybrid approach when you make financial goalposts is rewarded by a cruise or something else she would like? Right now it seems like it feels very punitive to her.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2015, 02:43:33 PM by partgypsy »

Jack

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #45 on: November 16, 2015, 02:40:29 PM »
EDITED/UPDATED 11/16/15 to respond to FAQs/comments.  None of this is meant to be complainypants answers or defenses; I’m just providing more info for anyone who was asking a question non-rhetorically.

Food preservation suggestions:
Rotating food stock:  Definitely worthwhile, but a) she won’t do it and b) she doesn’t like it when I do it.  She just puts it back like it was.  Maybe going to have to just live with some spoilage.  Or when she asks what vegetable I want for dinner, maybe I'll swing by the pantry and look at the far-rear of the shelf before replying.

I'm sorry, but this is just ridiculous. Wanting to stockpile food is fine, or not wanting to bother rotating food stock is fine, but doing both at the same time is foolish, wasteful, and flat-out idiotic.

partgypsy

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #46 on: November 16, 2015, 02:51:12 PM »
"She’s volunteered to reduce her portion of my $71,500 per year salary from $20,000 to $18,000.  She says only about $600 of that per year goes to feed our farm animals."

I still feel (I don't maybe it's just me) I don't have a good handle on what is going where. And that is the very first thing to do, is track all this stuff. Is the 71K gross or net? What is going to mortgage, recurring bills, clothing, car/gas restaurants, entertainment/travel, whatever? You first have to track, and then go over with the other person, is this where we want our money to go? For example if primarily groceries is eating up 20K a year, you can then say, well we are spending 28% of our income on groceries, which means we can only spend x on vacations, or on dates.
The idea is not to be controlling, but to see where the values are and how to make sure everyone's values are taken care of. she acts like she doesn't have any control over her life, or of the money, which makes pple act in strange ways. 
« Last Edit: November 16, 2015, 03:02:23 PM by partgypsy »

KisKis

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #47 on: November 16, 2015, 02:54:41 PM »
I just want to give my sympathies to the OP.  I am first generation Chinese American, and grew up with immigrant parents.  My mom has all sorts of crazy superstitions and you cannot convince her using any amount of science otherwise.  She also believes every newspaper and magazine article she reads.  Top 10 foods to prevent cancer?  Immediately purchased.  5 reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of the day?  Breakfast was forced on me even though I hated and still hate breakfast.  I probably wasted hundreds of dollars worth of breakfast foods during the course of my childhood by throwing them into the woods at the bus stop.

There is no reasoning with that sort of deep-rooted cultural bias that somehow makes her super-susceptible to obvious marketing tactics.  Also, the "saving face" thing, oh-my-god yes.  Even now, she will tell me things of no consequence or of major consequence and tell me not to tell my husband.  That's ridiculous.  I tell him everything anyways.  She even refused to tell anyone when she had cancer.  My dad dealt with it by working all the time and the house and kids became my mother's domain.  He was not allowed to keep anything of his own in the house because it was "messy."  He was not allowed to cook any food because he made a mess.  Anyways, I say this all with the deepest love for my mom.  I just know from a logical standpoint that she is nuts.

Good luck!  Haha. 

The one thing I have to say is my mom is an avid saver, even though she wastes tons of money on things I wouldn't purchase myself.  Still, she's much more frugal than the typical American.  You might be able to refocus your wife's "fear" to money fear instead of food fear, and work at the problem from another direction.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2015, 03:07:52 PM by KisKis »

partgypsy

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #48 on: November 17, 2015, 05:24:15 AM »
I don't know why, I kept thinking of this thread.
I'm going to change my advice. Originally my suggestion was to learn where all your money is, especially the "household" bucket to get a better understanding of it.
For our household it was really helpful for me to take over the grocery shopping and most of the meal planning, because it gave me a better understanding where the money was going (and how expensive things are and also what else is in that grocery bill) and also helped us save a little money.
However re-reading the thread it may not be worth it to micromanage this area. A simpler way, is simply for your family agree on what your savings percentage. As long as your 401K is decent the easiest way is to increase your pretax retirement holdings. Then, when you have this where you want, then you don't have to worry about how your wife is managing the food, household expenses, because everything will adjust to the after-tax income. You will have peace of mind you are putting your dollars to where is important to you (retirement) she will feel relief that her spending and food management is not scrutinized.
Personally, my suspicion is that there is a lot of regular household expenses (non-grocery) that are hidden in her household budget. 

orangewarner

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Re: How Fear is Impacting our Grocery Budget
« Reply #49 on: November 17, 2015, 06:21:57 AM »
I'm new here so maybe I'm not even permitted to speak yet haha, but I wanted to contribute for the value of being part of this community:

My initial reactions are that you yourself are LDS and met your wife on your mission (bilingual, 2 years...) If that is the case, you'll recall our childhoods and the urgency that has come from Slc concerning impending doom and end-of-days talk for over 150 years. While I don't buy apocalyptic talk anymore (I don't buy anything they say anymore), I DO and HAVE benefitted from having some extras in the way of food storage for those times when food supply or employment is interrupted. The daily fresh food desire your wife has is very European from my experience over the 2 years I was in Portugal. The culture there was such that food went bad quick from the humidity and houses were small and money was even smaller. So you'd buy bread and fruit daily. I would sit down with your wife and tell her you're fully in agreement with the stockpiling, but in a CALCULATED way. For example, what it'd take to survive 3 months or whatever (longer than that and you'd be screwed anyway) and then only hoard that much and no more. She may appreciate the scientific approach as well as having you on board.

Enlist the oldest of the 4 munchkins to have the responsibility of rotating stock when putting food away and when groceries are brought home.

And lastly, I understand where your coming from about different cultures and spending habits: I grew up in rural Nevada and we were always tight in money. Whereas my sweetheart came from a mustachian California money Mormon family. She can spend money in a competitive fashion. Years ago we agreed that $350/mo for household groceries and supplies was the goal, but 700 was more realistic. So for a few years I would physically pull 700 cash from checking and give it to her. That was what she had for the purchase. (She does all the shopping and I do all the finances). That worked really well and now we rarely go over the 700. (We are a family of 5, similar to your family size, and we eat well and live comfortably on 700). Your 1500/mo sounds way too high to me.

I hope this is helpful and appropriate dialogue for you, like I said, I'm new and excited to be here.