I don’t think there is any particular trick to saving on groceries except to avoid buying pre-cut, pre-prepped foods and making simple recipes at home. Things that can increase the budget are wasted perishables, alcohol, condiments, fancy foods, and expensive spices.
My grocery budget includes toiletries and household products. In my case, I use vinegar and baking soda for cleaning most surfaces. I use one kind of liquid soap for body wash, hair wash, laundry, and dish washing. I stopped cooking with oil so I don’t even have a need for soap in the kitchen anymore.
Then there is the whole dining out and eating with friends, the social stuff.
It takes a decent effort and foresight to prep your meals ahead of time. If you don’t then you’re gonna go with what’s easiest when you’re most exhausted which is eating out. We don’t have such good options these days that would justify the price of eating out.
Usually when I eat out it’s something with a lot of bread or a lot salt and oil. I’m vegan but I don’t see better options for omnivores, either – you’re stuck with a lot of cheese or shady looking meat.
Nuts, dates, hummus, carrots, stuffed grape leaves, or a dense salad like tabulé could be great options but they aren’t easy to come by and often not prepared outside in a healthy fashion.
Socializing With Friends
I am not cheap but do find it difficult when a group of friends start making a herd decision that affects everyone financially. I realize that this is, in fact, why certain professionals hang out only within their circles. Otherwise, how else can you spring a $200 dinner for 2 on a group which may not be able to afford it?
At the same time, I don’t feel all that comfortable when there is someone cheap sitting at my group table. That’s the person that is trying to get as much from the restaurant for free as possible. They aren’t ordering a sensible dish but trying to piece together something to stretch their dollars.
In my experience, it has been taboo to want to make a social decision based on money. It’s not that our friends are bad people but their identity is threatened and they don’t know how to feel. Are they doing something wrong? Should they feel bad for me? Why is this decision suddenly becoming more complicated?
Over the years my friends have learned about my preferences regarding my money. Just like they have slowly accepted my veganish ways, they know that I’m gonna be frugal when it comes to eating out. $200 sushi just isn’t my thing anymore.
It’s not to say that being a foodie or expensive social experiences cannot be in a person’s budget – that would defeat the purpose of having a budget. However, you need to assign your dollars based on your goals and lifestyle and not just haphazardly.
For years I have been erroneously trying to recreate the meals I eat in restaurants at home. This has created 2 problems: 1) I crave more restaurant style meals, 2) I spend a lot more time and money cooking something that is amazing but just over the top.
Over the past few months I have learned that I can train my palate to enjoy very simple foods. No exotic spices needed. Oil can be omitted. And I haven’t died yet from skipping the garlic powder (but oh, I miss thee).
It’s tough to find the balance and I guess that’s gonna depend on your own flavor cravings. Something as simple as a few slices of potato in the oven dipped in homemade hummus – delicious.
I think I’ve also done well with cooking the food less, going a little more raw. Or maybe just a quick steam or a bit of surface heat. Which doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the shit out of some restaurant food every once in a while, but perhaps the craving won’t be so strong for it.
My main condiments are mayo, mustard, hot sauce and ketchup. I stopped buying everything except for mustard a while ago because the amount of shit that’s in them isn’t in line with my diet.
I have made really amazing ketchup at home. There are fancy recipes and super simple ones – I prefer the slightly fancier versions.
Mustard is incredibly easy to make though I have never made it. My buddy T. and his wife always make their own and they are adept canners so they always have a stash to give away (to me).
I’ve made several versions of mayo and haven’t come up with a perfect recipe yet. This is the next recipe I’ll try because it has gotten some of the best reviews.
I haven’t ever tried making hot sauce yet. Would love to find a good recipe. If anyone knows of one, shoot it over to me.
Groceries In Spain Are Cheaper
Today marks the 3rd day of my stay in Spain and so far I’ve noticed that groceries are far cheaper. Here is my grocery receipt:
- Roma tomatoes – €1/kg (~$0.54/lb)
- decent portion premade tabulé – €1.43 (~$1.69)
- oranges – €1/kg
- avocados – €4/kg ($1.23 per avocado)
- zucchini – €1/kg
- dates – $3.58/lb
- almonds – $4/lb
- baguette – €0.65 ($0.77)
- apples – $1.80/lb
- deodorant stick – $1.77
- liquid soap – $1.48
- bar of soap 3 pack – $2.71
- 9% tax on the whole but it breaks down as you can see above
I am on a lean budget here until I can get a work visa or figure out a way to legally earn money. I’ll write more about that in another post. This means that I haven’t gone wine shopping yet but unless my eyes deceived me, wine costs €1.5-3 per bottle. Or $1.76-$3.54 per bottle.