3.16.2010

The Mayor's Broke-Ass Challenge

Hey everyone! I know this will seem like a waste of a post to those of you out there who live the high life in your Trump condos and wipe your ass with endangered chinchilla pelts, but this is a post for the rest of us: broke-asses. Well, wait - let me clarify; I work a very decent job and I am by no means sleeping on a poo-stained mattress every night or limiting dental care to scratching at my teeth with my fingernails. But when I need to save money for something large, I really have to curb my spending. I don't usually spend a ton of money on clothes (most come from second-hand stores), I don't often drink, don't smoke, don't have a car. So guess where all my money goes? That's right - expensive foods. I wouldn't ever spend more than $20 on a hair cut, but I don't think twice about blowing $100 through cheese. I really want to buy a new bike (I have it picked out and everything!) so I need to start saving where I can. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mayor's Broke-Ass Challenge!

I used to think that saving money on food and drinks was limited to those making pruno in the penal system, but it doesn't have to get that bleak. JOKING! It does get that bad; I'm going to suffer from organ failure within the week, I know it. I started in the produce section looking for cheap fruits and vegetables. EPIC FAIL. Why is fruit so pricey? No wonder the poor kids I grew up with thought the 4 major food groups were noodles, cheez, bread, and pudding: tomatoes just weren't in the budget. Citrus was out because most are priced per piece; $1 for an orange? I'm sorry, I didn't realize I lived in Communist Russia. It's times like this that I wished I lived in a warmer climate where things grew all year and not just two months in the summer. I finally found a good deal - $1.99 for a pint of strawberries. Sure, they were imported from another country, but beggars can't be choosers when it comes to cheap food. Plus, they didn't look like they had dead scorpions in them, so they went into the basket.

With one item in my basket I moved onto personal care stuff. I knew I needed soap, but my usual brand is too expensive - $2 per bar - so I needed to sniff out a deal. I decided to go with the ghetto brand - Jergens - and then sunk even further by finding the generic version of Jergens. It's called Pure and Natural, which means that I'll probably break out in a rash the very first time I use it. BUT I got 8 bars of soap for $2.29. That means that each bar only cost $0.28 - that's some fucking cheap soap. I'm starting to think they were definitely made by Chinese laborers in a 200-degree factory with no washroom breaks. Well have to see how terrible they are (although they do smell good).

Dinner was clearly going to come in the form of a can, and there is no better cheap canned dinner than something homemade from the love of my life, Executive Chef Hector Boyardee. And just like my soap purchase, I went even one step cheaper by getting a can of No Name pasta. Okay, time for another Canadiana lesson for my American readers. In Canada, we have two grocery giants: Metro and Loblaw (okay, that's not totally true. We also have Italian supermarkets like Brunos, Weston Fine Foods, and Longos, and super WASP-y Sobeys, but in general, go to any town in Canada and you'll find a variation on Loblaws or Metro). No Name is the generic-of-the-generic brand, meaning Loblaws has a generic brand called President's Choice, and this is the even more generic, white trash brand. And they don't even disguise it; you know how some generic brands try to church up their names to sound all "hey! We're not what the poor kids have to buy! We're just like the name brand!"? Yeah, No Name doesn't give a shit; they tell you exactly what you're getting. For example:


I'm dead serious with that packaging too - it makes you feel like you're buying wartime rations. My No Name Beefaroni ("Macaroni and Beef", which sounds like something your mother would make if she worked the night shift at a casino) rung in at a cheap $1.39. This is where I'm scared, people; I am very picky and very good at telling the difference between brand-name and generic foods, as well as differentiating between common items (I can smell a cola and tell you whether it's Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi). Which means No Name Macaroni and Beef is either going to be a piss-poor substitute at best, or the most vile thing I have ever put in my mouth (and I did work down at the docks in college. HEY-O! I'll be here all week).

I also picked up a can of $0.99 No Name beans, but I have tried them before and they're delicious (but really, how do you fuck up beans, amiright?)

For the past while at work I have been eating out or bringing whatever from home, or just eating a late breakfast that will tie me over till dinner, but it's not really working for me. I think I'd like to have a decent lunch from here on out, so I picked up some cheap soup ($1.99 for a box. Yes, my soup came in a box. FUCK OFF) and it was on sale, so double score; lunch for two days, $1 per lunch. Again, this isn't a risk because it's Knorr soup, which is delicious. In case you were wondering, I bought broccoli and some kind of ground-up vegetable/potato soup. I have tried both before and they are really good but give me tummy shames (read: make me a little windy).

Lastly I knew I needed cereal, since I go through cereal like a child left alone on Saturday morning. On Saturday I bought a Family-sized box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch: by last night it was all gone (4 days. I'd like to say that's a new record, but my personal best has been a family sized box of Lucky Charms in 24 hours. Not my proudest moment). My old budget would have allowed me to pick out whatever my heart desired. $7.99 for a tiny box of All Bran Strawberry Bites? Don't mind if I do! But my days of $8 cereal are over, so it's back to Welfare Choice for me. Now, here's a little known fact about cereal shopping: try to find a box of anything for under $3. I know, right? Aren't the ingredients mostly grains and sugar? To the best of my knowledge those are pretty cheap, so why is cereal so pricey? Blargh. Nothing was really on sale; they did have a decent 2 for $6 deal, but that just encourages me to bowl-after-bowl binge. So I bought what was cheap ($2.94) and plentiful (500g) and decent sounding (President's Choice Raisin Almond Crunch). I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure it's not going to be terrible. I mean, it's going to be a very shitty cousin of Raisin Bran, but isn't everything really just a shitty cousin of Raisin Bran? (What? Exactly).

Rounding out my shopping trip was a splurge - 1% plain yogurt. It was only $2.09 and will last me all week, but I felt shameful for not buying the hyper-discounted, nearly expired kids yogurt tubes. I would have saved $0.75, but lost something much greater (parasite-free intestinal walls. Also, dignity).

Everything came to $16.93, which kind of surprised me. I thought I could go much lower. 9 items for almost $17? I must be doing something wrong. Next time I want to make a goal for myself - say $15 and 12 items. I don't know if I have a hope in hell of achieving that kind of a lofty goal, but goddamnit, I'm going to try. This just in, I need a fucking life.

10 comments:

alex davey said...

Ok go to the Organics section and buy a bag of whole wheat puffed rice cereal. It rings in at $1.99 and will last fairly long (because you know you'll have a second bowl of cinnamon toast crunch, but you wont really want to eat a second of this stuff.
It's all I guy now. Highly recommended. Plastic bag with dark green labeling.

Jane said...

Bananas are the cheapest fruit. Buy frozen vegetables so you don't lose any to spoilage. Tang is cheaper than Crystal Light. Powdered milk is fine for everything but drinking straight.

I eat like this all day, every day.

Stay in school, kids!

Anonymous said...

No name quick oats are a cheap, very healthy easy alternative to boxed cereals. And they don't call them "quick" oats for nothing! Fast to cook and won't leave you hungry after an hour.

The obvious, no name dry pasta with "doctored" tomato sauce is an excellent choice for dinner or stir fry pork with the frozen veggies. Buy canned fruits when they're on sale. Like bananas, potatoes and carrots are cheap veggies.

You'll be sorry you bought that soap.

If you really want to know why some foods are so expensive watch the movie Food Inc.

The Mayor said...

Oh my god, tons of great ideas and none of them involve using a food bank!
First off, I will NEVER eat the puffed rice cereal. I had an ex-boyfriend who used to eat it all the damn time and the smell would make me gag.
Next, Bananas will definitely be on my to-buy/to-eat list, as I have blitzed through my strawberries pretty fast. I never thought of Tang, but me wanty.
Third, you can use the Anonymous tag all you want, but I know this comment is straight from my Mom. She loves Food Inc. and I'm pretty sure she works undercover for the oatmeal industry because she's a big-time pusher. Also, I totally forgot to mention oats! I got two huge bags at Costco 2 months back and I still eat them all the time (plus they make you poop - big thumbs up). I would totally do no name pasta, but I could eat a metric ton of it with just butter and salt, and the goal is to save money, not gain 10lbs.

Note to all: two days of using that soap and its not so bad. I'm a little itchy, but I'm always itchy, so no change there.

Josh said...

Cost-co is also excellent for bananas.

Alice said...

Here is my tip...If you have them in T.O., you can buy everything non-produce for cheap at Giant Tiger and it's not always no-name brand. I bought 10 cans of Heinz baked beans because they were on sale for 59 cents each. Other places to buy cheap toilet paper, spices, canned stuff is Bargain World or Bargain!Bargain!Bargain! or The Red Apple Discount Centre or Dollarama (I've eaten their fruit cups and cup 'o' noodles and haven't died...yet). Basically anything with 'bargain' or 'discount' in the name.

These are, however, totally ghetto grocery stores and if your friends see you buying groceries there they will either
1. laugh at you or
2. pity you and give you money to buy "real food".

Bonnie D said...

When I first moved downtown 6 years ago Honest Ed's was my grocery & personal supplies store. No fresh veggies or fruit, but all the yummy fig newtons you could desire. With the added bonus of buying household items such as a mop & bucket. $20 later and I'd have enough cheap tasting food for the week.

The Mayor said...

Update!
Okay, so $1.99 strawberries trucked in from California are never a good idea - they tasted like little water balloons. I discovered on the outside of my can of $1.39 Macaroni and Beef that it was made in the good ol' USA and tasted just like Chef Boyardee, so I will just go ahead and guess that they are made in the same factory (this usually happens). So $1.69 Beefaroni at a $1.39 pricetage? Thankyouverymuch.

I have yet to try my cereal (gasp!) but tomorrow morning I will be able to curl up in bed with a big bowl and well just see how good it actually is.

And that soap is RUTHLESS!! It's like MS-13 for your skin. My skin is dry and leathery like an old briefcase, so I'm going to have to really put the pedal to the metal and start using body lotion if I want to make this $0.20 soap work.

Come back next week for me trying to find cheap toothpaste and a discount way to colour my hair. It's going to be rash-tastic!

Renee said...

The trick is to buy the ingredients to make stuff. Make a crapload of one thing, and then eat it for a week. Put it in individual serving sizes right away, so it doesn't feel like leftovers, and so you don't get that "refrigerator crust" on your food after a day from opening and closing your container every time. Refrigerator crust is real, and it's disgusting.

SJM said...

Is Loblaw's owned by a man named Bob who moonlights as a horrible attorney?