At the risk of sounding like that guy who takes great pleasure in telling everyone that he listened to REM before they were popular: I’ve been on a tight budget since long before this economic crash.
I understand shoestring living. And because my friends are artists, I belong to a whole community of folks who are willing to walk three extra blocks to save 75 cents on bananas.
On weekends, my neighbour and I meander down the hill to No Frills for meats and alternates, the West End Market for greens, the Maple Leaf Bakery for bread. We tell each other that it’s like living in Europe. It kind of is. Budget grocery shopping seems to be the latest awesome trend among us super cool and hip folks.
On the way back up the hill, clutching our heavy cloth bags and sweating, my neighbour will say something like, “They really mean it when they say no frills,” and I’ll add something about the crabby service and the way people are willing to body-slam each other over split pea and ham soup.
Then we’ll agree that it’s worth it anyway and point out the week’s best score: a big bottle of shampoo for a dollar or a marinade for only two bucks. I’ll feel fortunate that I have my chosen family to go grocery shopping with, and he’ll suggest other errands, perhaps a trip to the post office or the hardware store.
But all of this greatness pales in comparison to an event we now refer to as the Blue Food Bonanza. One night, having a hankering for club soda and cranberry juice, we ventured into the generally out-of-our-price-range Super Valu only to discover that all President’s Choice items were half off. It’s embarrassing how much glee this incited as we practically danced up and down the aisles filling our baskets with generic blue food.
“It must be some kind of Olympics-related scam,” I said.
“Who cares?” he said. “This is better than Christmas.”
We crammed boxes of granola bars and bags of rice into our baskets and laughed and laughed, like we’d won the lottery.
“You know,” he mused, “maybe this is some kind of set-up, like a candid camera trick. Maybe people with cable TV are watching us right now. ‘Oh, Honey, come look at the poor people shopping. They’re so happy about the discounts. Isn’t that quaint?’”
This just made us giggle more as we heaped our blue food onto the conveyor belt at the cash register.
“I guess it is a little undignified,” I said, looking at the blueness of it all.
“Undignified?” he exclaimed. “Girl, we’re in the middle of the winter Olympics. Who around here has dignity?”