Saving More than Money

Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what  you are.  ~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I shop on Mondays. Every Monday, same supermarket, same basic aim. Feed the family healthily, save as much money as possible and build a coaching business. And a blog. Only it never used to be like that.

Was a time when I just filled the trolley. Then came the personal development books. Half an hour’s reading or writing in the supermarket café became a date with myself every Monday. Sometimes it was an exercise in celebrating simple abundance, at other times just extreme self care, time away from homemaking while turning a chore into a pleasure.

Because of the books, I started to enjoy the actual shopping. My ‘choice muscles’ got a workout as I filled the trolley. Is this bottle of wine getting me closer to my goal or further away from it?  In went washing powder that smelled of jasmine and made me look forward to the laundry. Filo pastry inspired me to recreate the hours I spent chatting with my Greek godmother while we made massive spinach pies after a morning squeezing and prodding produce in the noisy street market. Bargain books screamed synchronicity as they reached out to me from the shelves. I even bought a lipstick once because I loved the name Charisma as much as the colour. (Well, some of us stay-at-home mums need all the help we can get… )

Later, when I was  focusing on getting ready to send in tapes for Step 2 of the IAC exam, my shopping evolved.

I started seeing the perfection in all kinds of empty shelf disappointments and trolley collisions. I found myself communicating cleanly if I had an issue at the customer service desk and it got easier to respond appropriately when I could see that checkout staff were overwhelmed. As I worked my way around the supermarket, I found myself enjoying the humanity of it all, indulging my curiosity and wondering what the story was in every trolley.

Now that I’m certified, I’m working on ways to pass on my experience and share the joy I’ve had in every phase of my journey. Ideas flit in and out of my mind like small birds; if I don’t capture their fleeting presence in a note or a sketch, they take off, no doubt  to bring flashes of colour, pleasure and inspiration to someone more receptive.

When I’m not at my kitchen table, I seem to get strangely inspired in the self-service supermarket café, scribbling away as I slowly sip my way through a pot of mediocre, lukewarm tea. It’s like being in an anonymous motorway service station, a Formica filled truck stop far away from the attractions and distractions of my own home. I find it easy to sit and reflect on how far I’ve travelled and to plan where I’d like to go next.

When I write, it helps me to become mindful and aware, to be still and silent enough to see everything, every detail, every sensation as meaningful. My life becomes one big haiku. When I put down my pen and get ready to focus on the shopping, I usually start my week feeling lucky to have a family to shop for, the money to feed them and the time and means to cook healthy meals.

But today I’m dreading the shopping. Spring usually lightens my heart with the fragrance of hyacinths and the sight of jugs of tulips and golden daffodils but not this year.

The supermarket has stacks and pyramids of boxed, foil wrapped, huge, chocolate Easter eggs and golden bunnies atop every aisle as well as in an entire dedicated aisle. In our house, we dye hardboiled eggs red and decorate the house with bowls of them. The Greeks believe they symbolise renewal and the blood of Christ.

For me, many chocolate Easter eggs symbolise something entirely different.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of The Slave Trade Act. It effectively ended Britain’s role in the transatlantic shipping of human beings, although no restitution was ever made to those who suffered. Sadly, statistics show that human trafficking is now the fastest growing crime problem in the world, second only to drugs. In West Africa, especially in the Cote d’Ivoire, young boys are trafficked into slavery to work in cocoa production.  Many major well known manufacturers buy their cocoa from there, citing consumer demand as their reason for persisting. Fair Trade companies and producers of organic chocolate don’t. My children will be receiving fewer chocolate eggs this year and they won’t be their favourite, cheaper brands.

I’m concerned with what my shopping will cost me at the final checkout.