Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Starving Artist's Grocery Guide

Three weeks of groceries for $93. I'M THE CHEAPEST MAN ON EARTH AND DAMN PROUD OF IT.

Unless you are sponsored financially by a partner, or actually have a career in this dismal economic landscape, if you also claim the profession of writer, chances are you're waiting on the 'big break' and scraping by. It makes it easier to get by if one knows how to cheat the grocery stores. I don't mean stealing. Rather, I'm talking about how to avoid falling for the pathetic marketing machine that makes the typical shopper think he or she needs to drop $600 a month.

Before I go in for the haggle, keep in mind that I'm single, no pets. I make special dinners once or twice a month, and feed my kiddo about 7 full days in the same time period. But I know others who share my demographic who spend 4 to 5 times as much as I do.

I don't clip coupons. King Soopers sends me discounts on stuff I typically buy (Big Brother is watching) and I use them when I remember, but I save probably only about $20 a month tops by doing so. Budgeting and choice are the key strategies.

This menu is healthy too. I'm pushing 50 and still look damn good.

For vegans and organic grub buffs, sorry, I can't help you. You'll have to go on paying out the nose for your selections.

So, mute your growling tummy if you will and check out the don'ts:

No soft drinks. Don't get me wrong. I hanker for an ice cold Coke from time to time, but in no way does my body need one or two daily. Even though Coca-Cola is brilliant at presenting those 12 packs as cheap, if you do the math, you'll probably see that the carbonated syrup eats up at least $10 bucks of your bill a week.

Water. Drink it out of the tap. Why would anyone pay for something you get for free? There is no proof to show bottled water is any better for you.

Pre-packaged goods that are set up for daily servings. The lunch packs and breakfast sandwiches are devastating to a budget. Buy the big jar of apple sauce, spoon it into a little container, and take it to work with you daily. Cook the eggs and sausage for all week and keep them in Tupperware in the fridge.

Candy, cookies, ice cream, chips -- junk. Of course we all want these from time to time. I have a SUHWEEEEEET tooth myself, but I limit that kind snacking to weekends only.

So called sports drinks. They're not much more than Kool-Aid. Yeah, so they got electrolytes in them. You can get those from chow you're already buying.

Coupon items that you never buy usually. You're not saving money. It's just the opposite. The marketing machine just got you to pay for something else! That 20 to 50 cents the manufacturer waived didn't hurt them. They have it all priced to 'appear' like they're cutting you a deal.

These are the foods you should optimize with your budget:

Beans. They have electrolytes (damn, there went the excuse to buy sports drinks), a rock bottom price, low fat, and they're great as a replacement for meat when it comes to protein. I use them in burritos for lunch, nachos, and hell, just plain old beans and ham hocks. And when you get my age, you come to appreciate the regularity advantages.

Pasta. At least a week's worth of my meals a month will be pasta based like spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, or pasta salad. The carbs are great for running.

Bananas and apples. Man, I'm always surprised at how cheap bananas are. Great for snacks. Apples, by the way, prevent doctors from chasing you like vampires according to cryptic tales.

Peanut butter. To tell the truth, I'm not much of a PB&J fan. It doesn't squash my hunger. However, as a snack before a sensible lunch like a salad or baked potato, it's perfect.

Oatmeal and bran cereals. A big tube of generic oats lasts me two weeks.

Eggs. Check this out. Even though eggs are expensive right now, I've been eating breakfast burritos for lunch all week (sausage, cheese, eggs, tortilla, and a little salsa) and subsequently the cost each day for a pretty hearty meal is less than 2 bucks a day. Still a helluvadeal.

Chicken. These little cluckers are still unbelievably cheap as far as I'm concerned. There are so many of them and they're so easy to breed, I think if we had a nuclear catastrophe, the fowl would rule the Earth. Buy them in the meat department and cook them yourself in a crock pot with all kinds of vegies.

If you plan a few meals with the aforementioned, you'll be surprised how much coin you'll have left to splurge with and round out the rest of your meal planning with reasonable vegetables. By the way, it's not beneath me to shop in stores that specialize in damaged cans and discontinued items. Talk about deals! At Esh's in Greeley, I scored a 35 oz can of coffee for $7!

For me, I look at food buying as a survival thing. If I were on a desert island, would I want soft drinks or chicken? Think about shopping this way first, and the pocketbook will reflect the gains. You'll also appreciate fancy meals much more.



Julie Luek said...

You are amazing with your food budget. I wouldn't always choose your menus, but I do admire your thriftiness and have adopted a few of your habits!

Sisters of the Quill said...

Great job! And you are probably eating better than most people. My oldest son prided himself for a long time on eating for $5.00 per day..... I worried about him though since vegies weren't even on his list! It's tough, but yeah... I'm a huge bean fan (and I don't know if you've noticed the "effects" go away after you've eaten them a long time - if not.. a splurge on beano could be in order! :) )

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good post, Dave. I've tried to cut out everything that seems to be made mostly of chemicals I can't identify, which rules out almost everything in a box. I totally agree with you on all the rest of your frugal choices. The big thing I had to do was stop "stocking up" to save trips to the store. I always ended up throwing food out, especially fresh produce, because it spoiled or went out of code before I got it used up.

Chiseled in Rock said...

The more you enjoy beans, the better they are to you, Karen. And good point, Pat about stocking up. I shop for two weeks, 3 tops. Eat it all, then back to the store. Julie, join me on the dark side, MORE BEANS.