Sunday, April 10, 2011

shopping on a college budget pt. 1 - food

There are plenty of reasons why I can't be eating out every day.
For one, I have an apartment to save up for...where almost all the furniture has to be bought new.

Secondly, I can't decide to work extra hours to make up for a splurge.
At the end of the month, I'm eating mac & cheese, no matter what. I suck at budgeting...
But lately I've managed to cut my grocery bill down 10-15 dollars every week, from about 50 to 35-40.

Here's how I do it. :)
- Store brands are not the enemy, but they aren't all good either. It takes a lot of experimenting to find out which brands are worth buying, and which ones are a waste. In my opinion, the Hornbachers brand of canned vegetables/fruits (Flavorite) taste exactly the same as the name brands. However, I think CashWise brand salad dressing (Food Club) tastes like garbage. In dry goods like bread, crackers, plain potato chips, etc, there is rarely a difference. Cola has tastes that vary by the brands, but fruit-flavored soda usually tastes the same everywhere, too. You can save a lot getting a couple 2 liter bottles of store brand grape soda opposed to a 12 pack of grape Crush. (I don't drink soda, so I don't buy any of it, but most people my age do...)

- Some fruits are REALLY expensive out of season. In the winter, blackberries can be as much as $4 for a tiny carton, when strawberries and oranges are half that price. Right now, I think we're in blackberry season because they're unusually cheap...we just came out of Kumquat season, I do believe. Kumquats are amazing. :)

- If you have the time, buy meat and cheese separately and make your own sandwiches. Your ingredients will last longer than a single meal, and you can mix and match the ingredients you like. Same goes for pasta salads. Deli food is EXPENSIVE, and there are lots of easy recipes online showing you how to make your own pasta salads. I like

- Buy milk in small cartons, unless you drink a lot of it. If half of it goes to waste at the end of the week, what's the use of buying a whole gallon?

- Drink fruit juice. It's cheaper than pop, and the vitamins will help boost your immune system. I learned this trick when I was living in Kentucky and I was uninsured for the better part of a year. I couldn't afford to go to the doctor, so I had to take it into my own hands to stay healthy. I'm rarely sick anymore, so something must be working. :) Lots of kids' fruit drinks also contain lots of vitamin C, even if they don't have much else for nutritional content.

- Ramen is a staple in any college kids' diet. I make it more filling and satisfying by adding things into it. By putting mushrooms, pepperoni, or other vegetables like corn in my ramen, it feels more like a real meal than a last resort. The asian market on main street in Fargo has ramen with vegetables already in it. If you want good noodles, go there. Really.

- Keep your receipts. Lots of stores have coupons on the back of them, or hand out coupons at the same time.

- Shop around at different grocery stores to see where your favorite things are sold the cheapest. Here in Moorhead & Fargo, Hornbachers has a really good deal on chips... (2 for 3.00), CashWise has the cheapest cereal, and SunMart has the best selection of drinks. If you're carless like me, store-hopping can be difficult, but at least you'll know where to walk/bike/catch a bus to if you're struck with a craving and have little cash.

People who know me know that I'm terrible at impulse-buying and I've gotten myself into trouble spending money I don't have. You don't have to take me seriously at all...if anything else, I'm just writing this stuff down so I can remember it later. Next time I do a money saving blog, I'll write about clothes. I AM good at sale-shopping in that area! :)

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