Food Budget: Reimagined

Up until recently, I was trying to reduce my grocery bill as much as possible. Tweaking what I was buying, when I was buying it, and how much I was buying to tweak every cent. I realized that I was missing the mark a little bit and here’s why.

I was dedicating a fair amount of money to eating out. Eating out with friends is a social thing that I really enjoy, but I was definitely due for a restructuring of how I eat out with friends. Previously I’d spend a certain amount a month, eating at wherever I felt like. When this money ran out, I’d randomly crave sushi, Korean BBQ, and Japanese Ramen. Darn, I’m out of funds..I guess I’ll wait until next month.

The way I approach this now, is I make my social meals target things that I can’t make at home. I’ve reduced my eating out budget, and increased the enjoyment I get from it. The money I saved has been put into my food budget for greater flexibility. This flexibility has increased my recipe repertoire, allowed me to purchase bulk items on sale, and nickel and dime myself less when shopping.

Having more monthly spending for groceries also means I can have friends over for dinner more often, and share a homemade meal that always leaves other full and impressed. I’ve fulfilled my social needs, my love for cooking, my thirst for a better budget, and I’ve paid away less of my money in tips. Servers play an important role, but tipping has changed a lot in the last 30 years to make up for stagnating wages. Don’t get me wrong, I always leave a good tip and so should you. Now I just do it less often.

Think about the way your life works and align your budget to it; it will make you happier!

-Mike

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My Early Retirement Ecosystem

I’ve thought a lot about the symbiosis of so many of my alternative living strategies, and figured I would try and talk about the ecosystem and how it all works. Some of the main strategies that compliment each other:

  • Early Retirement
  • Bring Frugal
  • Minimalism
  • Healthy Eating
  • Reduced Meat Diet
  • Zero Waste
  • DIY

My main goal is early retirement, and I will do anything to get there. One of the biggest boosts you’ll get towards financial freedom is becoming frugal. Spending less means saving more; plain and simple. Once the frugal addiction hits, you’ll enjoy finding out how much junk you used to buy, and then not buying it. Literally not spending money makes me happy! Cool, right? Being frugal to me is about not spending money on the things you don’t want to spend money on. That being said..

I personally don’t need a lot of space. I’ve slowly reduce the amount of stuff I physically have and am looking to reduce the space I need. I started my adult life in a large condo with all the trimmings. Recently, I then into an apartment to reduce my rent and expenditures. Next, I will be moving into a room in a shared house. My next move will reduce my costs significantly (almost 40% for housing). I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t have anything else I need to rid myself of. I have become MY version of minimal.

I really enjoy food and cooking but I don’t think anyone enjoys paying their grocery bill. The thing I quickly learned about myself after moving out on my own is how much I enjoy cooking. I started off simple with a couple recipes and now I have a good sized repertoire. One of things about cooking that has improved my food and my diet immensely is moving to raw materials. Raw materials are cheaper, result in better tasting food, and reduce all of the ‘junk’ that processed foods contain.

In Canada, food is fairly expensive and meat and cheese are very expensive. As a result, I have moved to a mainly meat free diet. When I do eat meat, I put more work into cheaper cuts and have been very impressed by the results. This saves me money, expands my skills, and has me eating more environmentally friendly dishes. When I go shopping for produce, I bring refillable bags and NEVER buy plastic bags at the checkout.

A zero waste lifestyle is directly related to being frugal, eating healthy, being more environmentally friendly, and eating less meat. Meat comes in foam trays, if I buy meat, I reuse the trays at least once to make them more than single use, for example. I buy only seasonal produce and put it in reusable mesh bags.

Before I buy anything, I always ask myself: Can I get by without it? Can make it myself? I have become extremely self sufficient and, if I don’t say so myself, quite handy. I walk to work/my friends/the train/the store. I carry all of my groceries in a backpack. When organizing work events, I pickup the food and alcohol myself. I repair my own things. I hunt down deals and buy used when I do need things. I learn new skills. This is a huge requirement if you want more freedom. Stop paying people to do things you can do yourself!

This was a bit of a rant, but look at ways your different passions compliment each other, and find new ways to enhance your lifestyle.

-Mike