We’ve been spotted. Someone recognized Mr. Frugalwoods and me in the flesh for the first time ever this past Sunday. I believe it was the beard that gave us away… either that or perhaps we emit frugality sonar. Both seem equally likely. Naturally, the sighting occurred at our discount grocery store, Market Basket.
I can’t think of a more perfect place to happen upon fellow frugal weirdos. It’s one of the very few stores we actually shop at (the others being Costco, Home Depot, and wherever we have a gift card). And, it’s by far the cheapest place in town for groceries.
We were on our traditional Sunday morning grocery sojourn, which is the strategically optimal time to go to Market Basket. You see, everyday except Sunday morning, the Basket (in common parlance) is what one might call “crowded” in the way that one might call a greyhound “an OK runner.” It’s not merely crowded, it’s swamped. Aisles are all but impassable at peak hours and it’s fatalistic to attempt the use of a cart (hand baskets only). Sawdust is used in lieu of cleaning the floor, as there are far too many feet for a broom to pass through.
Reading labels is a near impossibility, but no worries, everyone already knows they going to buy the store brand generics. But despite its rough edges, Market Basket is a proud, hometown company. The manager makes frequent and exuberant use of the loudspeaker to announce employee birthdays, weather reports, Red Sox scores, random tidbits of local news, and pleas to patrons not to jostle one another. All delivered in a rich, sonorous Boston accent.
To shop at Market Basket is to experience the native culture. Clearly, we love it. Doesn’t hurt that the prices are about half that of a regular grocery store and the quality of produce is superb.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I, being efficiency fanatics, went through a period of beta testing various different days and times for prime Market Basket shopping. We arrived at the conclusion of: early Sunday mornings. Our secret to crowd-free errands has always been Friday nights, which holds true for every store but Market Basket! We were aghast our first Friday night at the Basket to discover so many like-minded shoppers.
This leads me to believe that most of Market Basket’s cliental is similarly frugal and thus similarly happy to score efficiency points by shopping on a Friday night. But early Sunday mornings (as in, before 9am), yields a Market Basket no longer teeming with grandmothers, uncles, fathers, mothers, children, dogs, cousins, wolves, young couples, and wildebeests all clamoring for the cheapest organic produce in town.
Oh Market Basket, how we relish our languid Sunday morning trips, when we need only stand in line for a few minutes as opposed to 15. We even dared to use an actual cart this past week and no one lost an arm!
Given this backdrop of frugality at its zenith, it wasn’t terribly surprising that an enterprising reader of ours, A., just so happened to be in the aisles of the Basket right on our heels. As we selected a $2 bag of tortilla chips for our customary weekend splurge dinner of homemade guacamole, I heard someone say “Are you by any chance the Frugalwoods?” My heart skipped a beat… I was overjoyed, elated even! I must say, kudos to A. for recognizing us as we were both in coats, boots, and hats (though I was in my trademark trash coat). We introduced ourselves, chatted for a moment, and invited him to join our rather informal (and still nascent) frugal potluck group. Since I know you all want to see what A. saw, here’s a picture of the Frugalwoods family that one of our dear readers, MEL810, created for us (you can check out more of Mel’s art here):
In addition to stroking my ego, this encounter cheered me with the knowledge that there are other people on this journey to financial independence. That it’s becoming a viable option among young professionals and that so many of us are recognizing we don’t have to buy into the consumption-fueled standard lifestyle. It’s inspiring to know that there’s an entire cadre of people right here in Cambridge who feel that they can be their best selves by removing the need to spend and to amass stuff and money. And who instead wish to pursue fulfilling lives that bring them great peace and meaning. And who believe that the point of life is more than just working a job you don’t like to buy stuff you don’t need. So thank you, A., for saying hello and thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, emailing, tweeting, facebooking, instagraming, and otherwise sharing your story with us.
I know I run the risk of sounding like I’m 90, but, the power of the internet to forge connections among like-minded, but not mainstream, folks is astounding. Without it, Mr. Frugalwoods and I would be following our own little journey to our homestead, largely unaware of the incredible number of other people charting a similar path. The power of community in any endeavor is vital, but I think it’s especially important when you’re operating outside the realm of normal. I think it’s often on the margins that you find the most genuine, thoughtful, intelligent, and interesting people.
Today’s grumble is brought to you by none other than
bunny hound Frugal Hound. I realize I am a gorgeous hound and that many people want to photo me. And I’ve put up with being a ballerina, a unicorn, a bumble bee, and so much more, but the bunny ears* are a bridge too far.
Greyhounds chase bunnies, they don’t dress like them. If my friends see this, they’ll never invite me to another BYOB (bring your own bunny) party again. And that is all that a greyhound has to say on the topic of grumbles.
*Mrs. Frugalwoods note: the best part is that these bunny ears were a hand-me-down from our frugal friend P. who thought Frugal Hound would look smashing in them. And she was right.