When I first started shopping for myself, as in buying food to eat for the month, I was living as a student in Sheffield. It was 1992. Prior to that, my experience of shopping was two fold.
- With my mum and dad who would stroll round the supermarket putting whatever into the basket and paying for it all at the checkout on their debit card then getting narky when the bill came to something ridiculous.
- With my nan who would adhere to a strict budget, totting up how much she had spent in her head, paying the exact total in cash.
So it probably came as no surprise that when I went shopping for the first times I would take my Psion Series 3 organiser and set myself a budget of £50 for the month. I would then add up how much I was spending as I put the items into the basket. Then, before heading to the checkout, I would assess my total and remove items if necessary.
I remember this behaviour causing the store manager some concern as she came over to me and asked me what it was I was doing (Psion Series 3 Organisers were quite rare). When I explained she seemed relieved and told me that she thought I was doing some sort of corporate espionage. Oh how we laughed. But then sometime later, Safeway, the shop at which I was shopping, introduced scanners on the trolleys so that people could see how much they were about to spend before they got to the check out. Of course, Safeway is no more and their technology has mysteriously gone.
I was discussing this at the weekend with Becky WINOLJ and she made a remark about how “They don’t want you to know how much you are spending”. The cynic in me agreed.
So I wonder how people shop. Are you aware how much cheaper or expensive something is? Do you just go to a shop, chuck the stuff in your basket , sod the expense and then moan about how broke you are at the end of the month?
Now, before people accuse me of being moralistic and all Guardian readery, I’ll hold my hands up and say “I haven’t a clue how much things will cost me at the shops until I come to pay for it”. But good will intentions of totting up how much things are often get sidelined by more important things, like Star Trek, sugary foods and going to bed. As my odyssey away from the years of horrifying supermarket conditioning continues I noticed how the convenience of shopping under one roof has turned me into a lazy ne’er do well, sodding the expense of items below £5 and giving my money away without cause for thought. I set up Muckybadger as a tool so that I could compare prices of goods at the various farm shops and markets I intended to visit when I was earning. But the reduced income of being a mature sponge student has forced me to put this project on hold.
But when you are at the butchers (for illustrative purposes) and things are sold by the gram, do you know off the top of your head how much meat you are likely to require to sustain your diet over the month? 1Kg? 2Kgs? Or do you think, “Ooh three packets of pre packaged meat”? It’s easier if you were at a greengrocers, you’d say “ooh I have about an apple a day, I need 30 apples at least to sustain my monthly apple habit”. You can weigh them out if you prefer and see how much 30 apples weighs then do the maths to work out how much 30 apples will cost you. Or you might go “I’ll have 5kg of apples please” and let the man weigh them out for you. Of course, you try finding the scales in supermarkets……………………………………….