Monday, April 7, 2008

Not buying it

I don't remember exactly how the idea was hatched, but somehow I came up with this plan: I won't buy anything for one month, then I'll write about my experience for the paper.

But in our society it's pretty much impossible to not buy anything, unless you pull a Christopher McCandless and completely fall off the grid. Instead of doing that, I came up with a few rules to rein in my spending:

1. I will still pay my bills and rent.
2. I can fill my car with gas.
3. I can buy food, though only with a budget of $25/week. (And that's for me and Jason.)

Making this even more challenging is that I'm trying to ease into the "Eat to Live" plan, which involves consuming a ton of fruits and veggies. I know I could easily make it through a month on ramen noodles and pasta; it's a lot more difficult to stay on a tight budget while eating a balanced, organic produce-based diet.

So far spending less on food has been much harder than not spending in other areas. I'm fine with not shopping for new clothes. I'm OK with not meeting up with my friends at the movies. I'm fine skipping out on the bars. I don't need to swing by Coffee Bean on my way to work. It's been hard, but not impossible.

But I'm not OK with staring longingly at a can of artichoke hearts at Trader Joe's and knowing that I can't have any.

I did some searches online for how to be thrifty at the grocery store. A lot of the stories I found were about those "super shoppers" who can go into a store and come out with a cart full of hot dogs, chips and cereal for just $1.73 or whatever -- but most of those tips don't apply to me. They don't make coupons for cabbage or nutritional yeast or any of the other things I buy. And tofu never seems to go on sale.

I've done OK, though. I pretty much cut out processed food altogether. I switched from canned beans to dried. I got a lot of deals at the farmers market. I shopped the produce sales. I made a lot of stuff into soup.

Tomato and bean soup

The first week I went over budget by 52 cents. That's not bad, considering that I helped to host a party on Saturday night for about 10 people and made a bunch of food for that, which also came out of my grocery budget.


I did make one exception so far both on my spending and on "Eat to Live" -- I went out to lunch on Friday for Deborah's going-away party. She's a good friend, and I would have been really upset if I hadn't gone. Plus, yummy Indian food!

Indian food

Any tips for how to save more on food?

I don't think I'm quite ready for freeganism yet ...


VeganCowGirl said...

I am totally inspired. Thanks! A new challenge - just what I love.

I think I might wait until I get back from these business trips though.

Good luck - and I think you have the best plan by sticking to the farmers markets.

Anonymous said...

I've found this site pretty good but it's a UK based site so I don't know if it'll be any good to you?
Good luck with this, I've always had fun doing similar :)

KevinL said...

Heya - Neat blog :)

We manage (my partner and I) on about $10-$15 per week (that's AUD, but we're not that far from american dollars atm) mainly by going to our local market around the end of week closing time and buying in bulk.

We luck out a little, and this may or may not apply to you, but our local fruit'n'veg market runs 4 days a week - so on Saturday at the end of the day, they're keen to throw out whatever they can, and whatever price they can get.

Typically, we're buying slightly damaged food - but anything that's too far gone to last (typically tomatoes) gets sauced, juiced, frozen, or otherwise preserved.

That, plus having ripped up _all_ our grass in our garden and replaced with fruit trees (still maturing), mulch, and veggies _everywhere_ (we had pumpkins all over the backyard this year) helps cut down the amount we need to buy.

So yeah, try and find somewhere you can buy in bulk, get some preserving jars etc, and you can cut into that weekly bill a bit more. Oh, we also have a heap of dried food - various different flours, different dried beans, etc.


Anonymous said...

Which Indian food place? I've yet to find too many restaurants around here that really wow me.

Maggie said...

Thanks everyone for your tips!

And about the restaurant: We had lunch at Monsoon in Palm Springs. I'm no authority on Indian food, so I can't say if it's the most authentic fare. But personally, I think it tastes good, and they do some really tasty vegan dishes.

I've also heard good things about Delhi Palace in Palm Desert, but I haven't tried it yet.