I've read a lot of articles, mostly since the start of the recession, that list a hundred different ways to cut back your grocery bill. I've even read about a movement of people who call themselves "Freegans" (not to be confused with Vegans, and no insult to my sister here), who never spend money on anything material, including food. While raiding the dumpsters of upscale restaurants is a little far for me to go (mainly because we don't really have any upscale restaurants around here), I thought I would try something for a week or two.
I'm not spending money on food. Or drinks, for that matter. I started on Monday night, after spending $3 on a morning coffee and snack and $6 more at lunch on a mediocre, gas-station turkey sub (which, incidentally, bore a "code" sticker with the code "F" - something I suspiciously took to mean "Friday"). It occurred to me, suddenly, that I had just blown enough cash to pay for 2.5 gallons of gas, which is enough to get me to and from work for 2+ days. What a waste!
Monday night, I dined on a bar-warmed hot dog from my place of part-time employment and a small plate of macaroni salad, leftover from a party at the bar on Saturday. When I arrived home, I surveyed my kitchen. In my cupboards, I found:
- 2 boxes of spaghetti, one multi-colored, one plain
- 1 half of a box of penne
- 2 boxes of generic-brand macaroni and cheese
- 1 box of extremely stale cheerios (sadly, they went in the trash)
- 1 jar of gravy
- 2 boxes of stuffing (one for chicken, one for turkey. As if there's a difference.)
- 1 jar of pasta sauce
- 1 can of cranberry sauce
- 1 packet of "nacho cheesy pasta mix"
- pancake mix (fully inclusive, just add water)
- taco shells
- powdered milk (I don't drink the real stuff, so I keep it on hand for cooking)
- pumpkin coffee
In the refrigerator and freezer, I found:
- 2 half-full jars of salsa
- 2 half-full bags of shredded cheese
- 1 large potato
- pasta sauce, opened
- maple syrup
- lots of condiments
- tons of butter and margarine. Probably 3 whole boxes altogether. All I can say is, wtf?
- 2 pieces of chicken, left by the boy I recently broke up with (thanks, Dan)
- frozen blueberries
Not a bad haul, altogether. At 10:30 Monday night, I cooked 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese, separated them into four small tupperware containers, and went to bed.
In the morning, I made myself blueberry pancakes and pumpkin coffee, probably a more balanced breakfast than I have had in weeks. Off to work I went, where my coworker, Jim, provided me with several bites of his breakfast sandwich, as he does regularly. Totally set until lunchtime, when I heated up some of the macaroni and cheese. However, after relaying my plan to my boss, he felt bad for me and announced he was bringing me beef stew for lunch the next day. Score! The vehicle manager in my department gave me a handful of trailmix as an afternoon snack, too. Again that night, I ate at the bar.
Today, more pancakes, and delicious beef stew for lunch. Another coworker brought donuts in to share, so I managed to grab a snack, as well. Tonight, I made the "nacho cheesy pasta mix", added some penne to stretch it, and grilled and added the Guilt Chicken that Dan left. Separated into 3 parts, I now have 2 containers of macaroni and cheese and 2 containers of cheesy pasta chicken thing in the fridge.
Admittedly, this diet lacks in some of the essentials, such as fresh vegetables (ok, ANY vegetables), but I'm confident that I can get through till Monday morning on what I have in the house. I am thinking of making mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce this weekend - a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner (but not VEGAN, as my sister would point out, because regular stuffing has animal flavoring in it. Mmmmm).
I think the moral of this story is that you can definitely look in your fridge and cupboards and think "I have nothing to eat", when in fact you can most likely concoct several satisfying (if repetitive) meals from just the jars, boxes and cans that you keep on hand.
Also, the second moral is that your friends and coworkers will absolutely never let you go hungry. Gives one a certain sense of security.
P.S. Don't worry, Mom, I'm not starving and I'm not (totally) broke.