08/29/2012 02:41 pm ET | Updated Oct 29, 2012

The Grocery Store Metaphor

You get to the fish section of the grocery store and the fresh salmon is $13.99 a pound. A couple of weeks ago it was $9.99 and just before that, you're pretty sure it was only $7.99. You have several options:
  1. Call the butcher over and be the tenth person in an hour to complain to her or him about the price, as if they set it themselves or were in some way responsible. Saying "It's not FAIR" always comes in handy in these conversations.
  2. Stand there and talk to whoever will listen, loudly, about it. "Can you believe the price of this?" Maybe you can add "There oughta' be a law" just for old times' sake.
  3. Think of who or what might be to blame from a convenient, if overused list: Middle East, oil prices, the Euro, the mortgage crisis, global warming, etc.
  4. Leave your cart and the produce you spent time choosing right there and walk out of the store with nothing. Make sure to mumble, shake your head, maybe even curse a little under your breath (there might be kids around so keep it low).
  5. Look around for something else instead.
Now even if you chose something else, like the frozen salmon (smaller portions, not as fresh, affordable price), canned salmon (kids don't like it but you can make a tasty salmon burger that they'll find fun), ground beef, chicken, etc., you still have to have enough money to pay for it all at the cash register. So you have to choose according to your means AND pursue the ultimate goal: providing your family with a nutritious and delicious meal, hopefully three per day, including snacks and dessert at least every second or third day. Soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and all of those supplies are good, too. How all of this happens is up to you. You can walk up and down the aisles, shaking your head, getting angrier and angrier at the prices or lack of choice, refusing to compromise and wind up at the check out lane with too little for too much or, as in option number four, give up, walk away and go home with nothing. "That will show..." uhh, nobody. Or you can make a list of things you need, carefully consider your budget, check for your preferred items and balance them against others where compromise isn't as painful. You can wind up at the check out stand with some of your "must haves" and a few "this will do" items. You can be confident that you can pay for what's in your cart, that you were reasonable, creative and resourceful to fulfill the main task: to take care of your family. You can know that you did your best and be content in that surety. AND you might have enough left over for a bouquet of flowers that make you feel good every time you look at them... It's all about choosing what kind of shopper you'll be, isn't it?