In lieu of the Haitian flag day which is celebrated on May 18th, I must share a post about our culture as it pertains to money. Haiti is truly a beautiful country in spite of some civil and governmental unrest. I’ve had the honor to travel to my mom’s hometown four times and besides the heat (we have no a/c), I’ve enjoyed every single moment of it. Though my mom came to the US in her 20’s, she’s instilled in us how to save and make the most out of every dollar we had. Her coming from a third world country really taught her the value of money. Not to worship it, but to manage it. Through it all, she clothed, fed and housed 2 kids on her own and is still working hard to this very day. Today she is completely debt free, has houses, lands, and invests. She is truly my inspiration.
I had to think of how my mom did it back then. Especially when it comes to grocery shopping. We all know we bust the budget several times when we go grocery shopping. You go in thinking you will spend a certain amount, but spend two times more. With my mom feeding 2 kids and having family members come by often to eat, I had to know the secret. Here are the shopping techniques we followed growing up.
Buy in bulk without memberships
Where we grew up, stores like Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s club were too far away from us, plus the extra cost of paying a membership fee was out of the question. What we did is instead of buying a pack of chicken or beef, my mom bought them by the case. This was less expensive. When grocery stores receive a shipment of certain foods, it’s by the case, and in turn, they can also sell it to the public by the case. She would then spend the weekend, cleaning and seasoning the case of chicken and dividing them up in one-gallon ziplock bags for the week. For foods we ate most often like peanut butter, eggs, butter, she would buy the biggest size in the store so the item last longer. For example, she would forgo the 16 oz jar and grab the 32 oz or get the 18 carton of eggs.
Rice and beans, beans and rice
If you want to maximize your meals, an inexpensive way to do so is buying rice and beans. Both foods are staples in most countries and they are very inexpensive to buy. When my mom made this staple, it wasn’t your ordinary rice and beans. She added so much flavor into it that you can eat it without any additions. Now, if you are not a rice person, there are alternative grains out there like Quinoa, bulgar wheat, and brown rice. They can be paired with beans for a tasty meal.
Real fruit juice
Growing up, my mom barely bought juice. She would make juice for us. She would buy limes like 15/$1 and make limeade with some sugar. It was so good. Or if we had papaya, she would blend it with milk and almond extract for a delicious smoothie. We enjoyed these juices way better than the store brands.
I never remember my mom having different bottles of seasonings like pepper, dried basil, or onion powder. No, not at all. She made her seasoning by blending or using a mortar and pestle to crush cilantro, green onion, garlic, and salt. Sometimes she would add a bit of hot pepper to the mix. It was our seasoning base for almost everything we cooked. And the cost was very inexpensive. A pack of garlic, green onion, and cilantro is usually $1 or less each.
Make it yourself
I must admit, I never really knew what snacks were until I reached middle school age. My mom would make our “snacks”. She took raw peanuts and sauteed them for us or made “tablet” which is like a Haitian peanut brittle. Our substitute for chips was fried plantain and instead of store-bought pudding, she made rice pudding. Going to the store these days, many snacks are not only expensive, but they are also filled with lots of unhealthy additives. Cooking or baking from home is always the better route.
Grow your food
When we lived in apartments, we were limited on this, but once my mother bought her home, she started growing banana, avocado, mango, sugar cane, beans, and pineapple from seed. I know this is not grocery shopping in the stores, but it’s shopping in your back yard. We compared the taste of backyard food to store-bought foods, backyard foods won by a landslide.
I incorporate many of what I’ve learned from my mom when I shop for groceries, but I know I can do better. I will pass this to my kids as well as they grow.
So how do you shop on a budget? Does your shopping habits reflect on how you grew up? Please share.