Welcome to a column from The Financial Diet, one of our very favorite sites, dedicated to money and everything it touches. One of the best ways to take charge of your financial life is through food and cooking. A version of this post originally appeared on The Financial Diet.
Craving a long-term relationship? Date your local grocery store. They're a cheaper date than you'd think.
For me, it's been a couple months of ups and downs with the mecca for 20-somethings that is Trader Joe's. They had me at feta cream cheese dip, and I've never looked back since.
Hopeless romantic jokes aside, by "date" I mean invest time and energy into your weekly grocery trips. Go in with a list, but be ready to change it up. Talk to the person serving wine and cheese samples about more than wine and cheese samples.
For me, I have a standing date with Trader Joe's on Saturdays after I hit the gym. Feeling fit and probably more fly than I should, I stop in the store and do my weekly roundup of groceries. Maybe it's the endorphins, but I've found these self-love Saturdays have created some great money-saving and health-boosting results.
Not convinced? Here are four reasons why I think you need to get into this relationship.
1. Free cooking advice.
I often go to Trader Joe's with one grocery list in mind, and leave with a bunch of new items (fear not, dear savers, I substitute list items with new ones).
There are a few employees who go out of their way to give me awesome service, just because I don't shop with my headphones on. For example, one time I was having an internal dialogue about whether to trust black bean-based pasta, and I simply asked a nearby worker what they thought. The worker laughed, slyly passed me the red lentil pasta and said this was the "less scary option." Customer service at it's finest.
I love a relationship that has good honesty — especially when it brings variation into my diet.
2. Fewer sad desk lunches.
As cheesy as it sounds, taking my time walking through the aisles really gets rid of my trust issues with trying new brands, and I've tried a bunch of new things that I'd never dared to before as a result. That's right — I'm looking at the reader that only trusts that one specific hummus, and never tries the avocado-pineapple-jalapeno-fairy-dust-powder-dip option.
Once you're more acquainted with a place, you can be more open to the different options they have. After a trip, my meal prep is significantly enhanced and more inspired. Needless to say, my work lunches are nothing short of fairy dust.
3. You learn a thing or two about commitment.
Once you find yourself really comfortable with your local grocery store, it's easy to gasp at the prices of a $15 salad at a counter-service restaurant versus getting triple those ingredients for the same price. I still treat myself to a fancy takeout lunch salad sometimes, but not as often as I used to (three times a week) because it's now easier to understand how worth it deconstructed food is.
And as great as it sounds to get a bougie meal for brunch, you may be surprised that it tastes and feels even better to go to your grocery store, pick up the essentials for a flatbread, and make it yourself. The best was when my roommate and I decided to skip brunch and made some homemade bruschetta and mocktails. We napped right after, and saved on Uber, meal, and tip costs.
4. It's a cheap date, literally.
Trader Joe's doesn't have a loyalty card or coupon, which I found unnerving at first. According to their website, however, there's a good reason: "At Trader Joe's, we would never test your loyalty by printing out a three-foot-long scroll of coupons for money off things the next time you shop in our stores." They add that they reward customer loyalty by offering low-priced food every day.
For me, this translates to the $2.99 bottle of wine, the $2.29 multigrain crackers, and an assortment of cheeses for a couple more bucks. Thus, you've literally created a date (or a self-love night in) and well, that's romantic, isn't it?
Bonus: You can actually get into a relationship. This is yet to happen, but to the cute guy that I happen to see every Saturday lingering near the cheese section: I see you. And I will marry you, if not for your taste in cheese but for your commitment to Trader Joe's.
(Also, grocery stores can't ghost you. They're kind of stuck where they are. So if you have a particularly rough week, you know at the end of the day, they'll always be there for you.)