Quite frequently, if I have on The Today Show as I’m floating around the house pretending to get ready for work, there’s a “consumer alert” story about how food prices are going up but the food manufacturers are actually giving us less. This is supposed to horrify us and perhaps instigate a letter-writing campaign. Yes, it’s probably not very cool of them, but most of these items seem to be the stuff we need less of anyway. Which is a nice segueway into the purpose of this post:
Some things you might do to save money in the food/kitchen department.
Stop Buying Meat – if you’ve ever considered going vegetarian, let these tough economic times be your excuse. When you first go veggie, everyone is extremely curious as to why. What they are really trying to do is sort you into one of two groups: those who stop eating meat for “health concerns” or “health reasons” and those who are animal liberation/PETA freaks.
These are often the only reasons people will accept and I think it’s because then they can 1) still feel comfortable around you (if you go with reason 1) OR 2) shun you and still feel good about themselves (if you go with reason 2). But now you have the perfect reason, whether true or not, that will shut them up: “I had to cut corners and so I decided to give up steak. And pork chops. And bacon. It was either that or give up cable.” Surely people will be able to understand your actions in the face of this difficult choice.
Stop Buying Crackers – I love me a good cracker. I can mow through a sleeve of Ritz like nobody’s business. But crackers are, when you consider what they are, expensive. Wait a minute, what exactly is a cracker? It’s kind of a bread but kind of not. Its a crisp of wheat or grain, I guess, with some fat holding it together. Stuff tastes good sitting on top of it. But surely we can have a society without the presence of crackers. Instead, maybe you should…
Make Your Own Popcorn – Go out and buy a Stir Crazy (yeah, ditch that air popper!) for $20! I got mineÂ about seven years ago and since that time, Stir Crazy has paid for itself a thousand fold. I can’t even begin to imagine how many bowls of popcorn I’ve made. Besides, I really hate microwave popcorn. Not only is it not a cost-efficient delivery mechanism for popped corn, there’s something about it – the weird butter, the bags – that makes me suspect it will be responsible for a new kind of cancer in a few more years. That is completely paranoid, I know. But what the hell is in it that makes the smell of it linger for two days?
Limit Restaurant Visits – This sounds so damn depressing. But it’s really not. Not if you get some good recipes and really get into the spirit. And then go out to a restaurant twice a month or something. Plus, cooking at home provides those all-important leftovers to take to work for lunch.
Bring Your Own Lunch To Work – I’m suspicious of people who never bring anything to eat for lunch. It says something about their lives, something sad. I’ve worked with people who can’t even manage to bring an apple or some string cheese. It implies a lot of things. That they might not have any food at home, not because they don’t have money but because they are too lame to go grocery shopping. That they don’t cook. If you can’t cook even simple meals that result in leftovers, like spaghetti, there is something fundamentally wrong with you and your way of life. Think about it – if humans in the past couldn’t cook, couldn’t get a fire going, boil some water, something – they died. Also, it says, “Just give me a sub or deep fried taco thingy because I don’t give a shit and we’re all gonna die of something. Wee-hawkin!”
If you want to be all hip, hip, hip to be square, you can get into Bento lunch boxes and enter the world of Bento lunchbox culture, where people put a hell of a lot of time and effort into their lunches, which is cool. Most of the bosses I’ve had never take time to eat lunch, much less bring their lunch and sit down and eat it. OK, I can recall one and I think she was happier than all the other bosses I’ve ever had.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an example of a Zojirushi Mr. Bento box (or this cute mini version) from Amazon. Or try the Laptop Lunches site where the motto is, “Bento-ware for everywhere.” This is if you really wanna get into it. A paper sack still works, too.
Make Big Pots of Soup – They are delicious, they last for a couple of days, all you need with them is some bread and perhaps a nice salad.
Be Inspired By This Time of “Belt-Tightening” And Take It Literally – Not that anyone gives a crap, but I sure could stand to lose 10-15 pounds. It’s just crept up on me the past year. Too many office treats, chai lattes, and good livin’. This is the time to shave them off. Times are tight! We can’t afford crackers and lunches out and truffles from Sam’s Club.Â At least this is what I can tell myself as I cruise the grocery aisles. Psychology – it’s so crazy it just might work.
But on the tails side of the coin, I don’t believe in cutting off the food items I really love. If I have to hear one more time about how people should give up their daily latte just to save $X per week, I’m going to start drinking lattes out of spite. If you need a daily latte to keep going to the job you suspect you might lose, I say bottom’s up. My answer is a short list of exceptions to the Belt Tightening Rule. Here’s my list of Things I Will Not Give Up:
1. PG Tips or other English breakfast tea
2. Fancy cheese when fancy cheese is what’s called for
3. Decent wine
4. My right to eat ice cream once in awhile
5. My elaborate new scheme of buying two kinds of cereal at a time and mixing them together. I am wild.