Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day 1, eating on $30/week

I was buying boots last winter with my mum and we stopped for a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks stand in the mall. The coffee was mum’s treat, and I think she offered because I was getting so visibly stressed out by the impending expenditure. It was time for me to step into a pair of well-made, totally-not-vegetarian, totally-not-Payless boots.

As I sat fretting and sipping, mum recalled a similar shopping trip years ago, when I was very small, four maybe. I had just spent all of my money – probably $12 – on a new purse, and after paying the cashier I burst out crying.

Since then, I have changed my shopping etiquette slightly.

One thing I’ve begun to tell myself when I spend more than I probably should is that: “it’s only money.”

And it’s true. It is just money and I will make more of it. That’s not to say that I advocate blowing your student loan or racking up your credit card bill to have a good time, but it’s a better stance than feeling guilty or anxious.

Other strategies to legitimize or limit your expenditures:
Calculate how much something costs in terms of pints of beer:
“Well, this dress sure is cute and it’s only $38! But how many pints of Velvet Fog will I have to sacrifice to stay on budget?” ($38 / $6.25 pint = 6 pints at regular price; $38 / $4.75 = 8 pints on special).

Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it isn’t. I like that one because it usually talks me into buying things that cost two to three pints.

Another probably more useful calculation is to convert price tags into hours of work.
“Wow! This Sony Bravia 40" 1080p LCD HDTV is on sale for $1299.99. But how long am I going to have to pull shots of espresso to pay off that one?” ($1299.99 / $12 = 108 hours, or 13 and a half eight-hour shifts).

I like that one because it usually talks me out of making poor purchases.

But, enough about that. Onto the food!

  • 2 cups of coffee, brewed at home (almost out of beans, either I spend part of my budget on more beans, or I switch to tea for the rest of the week)
  • 1 hard-boiled egg with hot sauce (meant to have two but ran out of time, but the extra one will be quick and easy for tomorrow’s breakfast)

  • Portabello Ravioli, Salad, & two breadsticks at Olive Garden
    • (no, I didn’t break the bank already. I had a lunch meeting and it was paid for by the organization I was meeting with. It was alright, but far, far, far too salty. I can still taste the salt and I finished eating an hour and a half ago.
    • Oh God. I just looked up the nutritional information. 2 Breadsticks contain 800 mg of sodium and the ravioli dish had 960 mg. That is so very bad! It is very rare for me to eat at chain establishments and this reinforces my general disdain for their low quality of food.)
    • Read my review of Olive Garden and other restaurants at Urban Spoon

  • Homemade pizza on ancient grain tortilla with mozzarella, peppers, portabellos and red onion.
  • Side salad of shredded beets and carrots with olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
  • (Now THIS is a meal I can feel good eating. I didn’t make it though, I had it at my mum’s place).
  • 2 homemade, accidentally-low-fat gingersnaps
  • a pint of slightly flat Grasshopper Wheat Ale from the birthday keg in my living room.

Total Cost, Day 1: $0
Total Cost, overall: $0 (obviously)

Okay, sure, this day was a bit of a write-off because I didn’t have to try very hard. I didn’t have school or work or really much of a schedule at all, plus I didn’t have to do groceries, but believe me, I was tempted to grab a latte to wash the taste of sodium out of my mouth, while waiting downtown in the swirling snow (yes, snow!).

Tomorrow: Less blabbing. What to eat after the gym when you can’t buy a protein shake. Whether to buy coffee!

P.S. Sorry about the lame, old photo. I will take some photos of what I actually eat tomorrow.

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