So, I went shopping this weekend for the 'Living Below the Line' challenge (if you missed Friday's post, which explains the challenge, you can read it right here). Now, I don't like to shop. Not for anything, but especially not for groceries. It might be my least favorite chore. But I figured since I only had $7.50 to spend, it would go quickly.
I figured wrong.
I wound up going to four different stores to find the very best deals. When you have very limited resources, it's important to maximize them, right?
Then I realized that someone living on $1.50 per day probably doesn't have extra cash to put into the gas tank in order to drive around town, comparison shopping. Hell, that person probably doesn't have a car. But I thought about that after the 3rd store, so I finished up and came home with my haul.
Note that every single thing I bought was on sale. Every single thing. And I used my discount cards at the stores to get the sales (because they are free to obtain).
Here's what I got...
A dozen eggs.................................. $1.49
3 small bananas............................... $ .48
1 bag of brown rice........................... $ .77
2 cans of black beans...................... $1.38
1 large can of tomatoes.................... $1.00
1 small bag of carrots....................... $ .77
4 packages of Ramen noodles .......... $1.00
1 small can of green beans................ $ .50
The total, with tax, was $7.57, but I found a quarter on the ground outside one of the grocery stores. I used it. It counts. Damn it.
My plan is to eat two eggs every morning. I eat breakfast regularly and I need protein, so hopefully they will hold me 'til lunch. Additionally, mid-mornings, I can eat half a banana... until Friday, when I get a whole one. Lunch all five days will be a rice/beans/tomato concoction. I make it sometimes just because I like it, so that should be OK. Plus, it should be filling with all the fiber and protein. I can also eat a carrot at lunch or save it until dinner and have two... along with a package of Ramen noodles. One can of green beans will have to stretch out for 4 days. On Friday night, I'll have to eat the last two eggs and the last carrot in the bag.
It might be OK, during the day, anyway. Night time will be hard, I think. I'll be hungry and I'll be at home, where there is food in the cupboards, so that will make it even more difficult. But I have to work and if I'm expected to be somewhat productive, I can't be miserably hungry. I might be anyway, though. I don't know how far that rice/bean/tomato mess is going to go...
The shopping trip was really quite interesting...
My perspective shifted almost immediately upon entering each store, knowing I had so little to spend. Prior to this situation, I would look at prices in a sort of perfunctory way, just so I'd have an idea of what I was spending. I might buy the store brand of something rather than a name brand if it was on sale, but if the store brand was out of stock, well, no big deal... name brand it is.
Not this time.
Things I would have normally thought were crazy cheap ($.77 for a bag of carrots?!) became 10% of my food budget. One store's sale price for beans -- $.74 a can -- didn't stand up to a competitor's, on sale for $.69 each. A $2.50 bag of potatoes? Too rich for my blood. Five bananas at $.49 a pound (far cheaper than the $.58/lb at the other stores) were simply too heavy... I had to cut back to three. Bread? Milk? Meat? Frozen vegetables? Fruit? Pfffftttt. Not a chance. Even tuna, at $.89 a can, was out of the question.
Every. Single. Penny. Counted.
It was so hard.
I felt... almost... desperate.
Now, when I've worked with a tight budget in the past, I have felt frustrated in the grocery store. I've felt discouraged. I've felt whiny and even angry. I've certainly felt sorry for myself.
But I have never felt desperate.
Yes, my perspective has certainly shifted.
Let's see what happens tomorrow...