Boston is known for being a city of many great institutes of higher education. Perhaps you, the lucky reader, have recently moved to this wonderful metropolis to begin your own bit of graduate studies. If this is so, you’re probably on a budget of some sort. Not to worry. I happen to have a few tricks up my sleeve to help you save money in your new city of choice.
You know you’re not going to be saving money on the weekends. New city, new bars, new beers (reader, meet Sam Adams. Sam Adams, meet the reader. I trust you will have a long and lasting relationship). No way can you cut corners in that area. And there is no point in going out to those bars and clubs if you aren’t wearing something fabulous, so don’t expect to save money by not shopping for some new shirts and weekend jeans. Plus, you have to make a great impression on your new classmates, which means some weekday jeans and some serious but stylish shirts to match. And of course the new haircut to go with the new wardrobe. Clearly, this is starting to add up to some serious cash. So, where do we save money? One word: groceries. That’s right. Every week you can save money on your food bill if you just follow some simple ideas.
First things first: cereal. It’s not just for breakfast, you know. When buying cereal, buy one box of the good brand and one bag of the store brand. The store brand is terrible and dirt cheap — your perfect drunk food. You’re going to want to save the better, expensive cereal for breakfast, when you are actually aware of what you are eating. So before you start drinking, make sure you hide the real brand somewhere safe. Back of the closet, under the bed, or — and I think this may be the best way to go — inside your school bag. There’s always the chance someone might fall into the closet or stumble under the bed. But mess around with a school bag? Umm I doubt it. And your deadened taste buds will never know the difference.
If you wanted to try my “Pro” plan, you could simply mix the good brand and the store brand together. This way, you have twice the cereal for way less money. You could always soak them in milk but well, milk is expensive and you can only siphon off so much of your roommate’s carton before he/she starts to notice the watered-down taste.
Let’s talk liquids. And by liquids, I mean water, because that’s what you’re going to be imbibing during the week from henceforth. Water is your best friend. Why? Because it is free, right from your faucet. Don’t listen to all that talk about dirty water. If it’s clear, it’s clean. Brown water? Well, then you might have a problem. But until then, go ahead and drink up. Doctors say you need 64 ounces a day, right? I mean, at one point or another, every legit health magazine on the newsstands has published that little disclaimer. Plus, water fills you up, so you’ll want to eat less solid food, which means fewer trips to restock your refrigerator. So the more water you consume, the more cash that stays in that fancy wallet you splurged on at the mall.
Tired of plain water? Understandable problem. The stuff is as plain as it gets, after all. So here is my solution: buy a lime. A tiny piece of the tart citrus fruit is enough to add flavor to even the most metallic tasting water. And you’re a grad student, so you’re going to need the limes for the Coronas you’re buying this weekend anyway, so it’s not as if the rest of the lime is going to waste. Plus, the peel of the lime can be used as a festive decoration. Limes: the fruit that keeps on giving.
Live near a Whole Foods or Joe’s? That’s great. They have some of the freshest produce you can find in a grocery store. Now, walk away, sit down in front of your computer, and find the nearest "Market Basket." Sure, you’re giving up a lot of your organic options, but this is about budgeting, not living a healthy lifestyle.
Now, you’re probably thinking, "But everyone needs some fruit and veggies in their life." And you’d be right. But the operative word here is some. So go buy that bright, juicy apple. Next, cut it in half. Now you have two apples. Sometimes, it’s all about how you look at things.
Some fruit is okay, other fruit is not. How to know what types of fruit is acceptable is really quite simple. Apples: fine. Bananas: sure thing. Watermelon: heck no. For goodness sake, the fruit has the word "water" in it! We already talked about this: if you want water, find the nearest faucet. Do not pay for a five pound oval ball of liquid and seeds.
When it comes to “real” food, I have two words for you: rotisserie chickens. Seriously, those fully cooked little guys are the best invention ever. I get nearly a whole week’s work of meals out of one. Grab the chicken and a package of tortilla wraps and you’re good to go. Sure, it’s not the most varied menu. But I’m just a graduate student, not Martha "every meal is four courses" Stewart.
Just in case you are someone that likes a little variety, here’s a little recipe for your perusal. Salsa chicken is reasonably healthy, fairly easy to make, and, most importantly, only has three ingredients besides chicken breast. Just hit up that Market Basket you found and grab some salsa, taco seasoning and shredded cheese. Bake the chicken with the taco seasoning and the salsa and thrown on the cheese before you eat it.
Got a mall near your apartment? If yes, then you have a nice light meal anytime of the day. Two words for you: Food Court. You know you love those samples. Just grab a couple samples from each "restaurant," and you’ll be full in no time. BJ’s Wholesale or Costo will work in a pinch, but those are for members only and memberships cost money. If samples are your only option and you haven’t eaten in say, 24 hours, it will taste delightful. That’s a promise.
Now girls, you may or may not like my next idea. But if you are serious about saving money on food, get out there and date. Mostly first dates, since there’s pretty much no worry about having to split the bill or anything like that. Dating: fun, flirty and free food.
Other food to give up:
100 calorie packs of anything. They should rename these little suckers "rip-offs in a bag." Way more expensive than a big box or bag of the same thing, plus you get less.
Any smaller size food item. Always go for the economy size. With everything you are giving up, whatever you can afford in economy size, you will need.
Ice cream. That is, give up buying ice cream. Feel free to go to every ice cream shop in a ten-mile radius to get your fix of free samples. Personally, I think it’s even better than buying a big thing of ice cream because then you get the variety. And those mini sample spoons are really cute.
Things to give up in favor of food:
Heavy duty trash bags. You live in an apartment now, so your trash is behind the building, not in your garage. As long as you can get the overstuffed, dripping bag of yuckiness out to the Dumpster without it ripping completely, you’re good to go. With so much smelly trash all mucking up together, no one’s going to know the rotten egg smell is coming from your bag of messy goo. The cheap trash bags are definitely good enough.
Real Solo cups. Store brand ones are just as good. I have done extensive interviews and surveys on the subject. Please take my word for it and spend the saved money on something worthwhile. Like oatmeal. I know, who eats oatmeal besides babies and Gramps? Well, you should. Relatively cheap, fairly healthy, and — keyword here — filling. You won’t need to eat for hours. That’s clutch because as we all know, snacks are essentially expensive, unsatisfying, and unnecessary. Note: tell yourself this 100 times a day until you believe it
So, do you feel ready to tackle the world of budget grocery shopping yet? Don’t stress out, you’ll be fine! Seriously, calm down, you’re looking a little peckish. Just grab a beer and chill out. That’s where all your money will be going anyway.