The Parking Lot Diaries: Economics.
My dad likes to joke that I can live on air. It’s a good thing, because nothing will stop me from doing what I want, especially finances. Last winter while I saved money for Bali I lived on $35 of groceries a week. Right now I’m trying to save as much as possible for this winter, so I’m spending $5-7 a day on food. Eating an organic, plant based diet on that little is supposed to be challenging. But I’m not finding it hard; I’m finding it delicious.
A bag of Ezekiel bread is $4.50, a jar of almond butter is $8, and a jar of organic jam is $3. The jars last two weeks, the bread one. So that’s $11 for lunch for a week, or around $1.50 a day. Breakfast is chia pudding and a banana, around $1.25 a day. That leaves $2-4 dollars for dinner.
For dinner sometimes I eat a Tofurky sausage stir-fried with kale and quinoa ($2), or tofu with bbq sauce, avocados, and mushrooms on tortillas ($3). On longer workdays I’ll eat oats in the mornings, which are pretty cheap, with almond milk and bananas.
We’re lucky because the Kroger who’s parking lot we’re living in has organic produce on sale almost everyday. I can buy 4 organic apples for 99 cents. That’s 25 cents an apple. Or a bag of organic potatoes for 99 cents, which means days of hash browns.
This morning for breakfast, Ben David and I splurged on the makings for burritos. Here’s the breakdown:
¼ bag of organic potatoes on sale: 25 cents
½ bunch organic kale: 50 cents
Half a can organic refried beans: $1
Avocadoes on sale: 25 cents
White onion: 50 cents (Splurge!)
Garlic and salt from home: 25 cents worth
Ezekiel tortilla: $1.50
Total per person: $2.13
Here’s how I made these delicious burritos: I diced the potatoes up, lightly coated in coconut oil, and baked in the toaster oven for around 15 minutes, just to soften (I could have cooked them in the skillet as well, just went with the toaster so I didn’t have to watch them). While they were cooking, I diced up the onion and minced the garlic, and heated coconut oil (about a tablespoon) in a cast iron skillet on the hot plate on medium heat. I cooked the onion until it was starting to brown while slicing the kale into thin strips, which I also added. Once the potatoes were soft, I added them and let the whole combination cook for a while and start to brown in the hot oil.
After about 5 minutes, I opened the can of refried beans. Here’s the magic of refried beans: for just a few cents more than a can of beans, you have already seasoned beans. Which means you don’t need additional ingredients and spices.
Once I opened the beans, I spread about a quarter of the can in the middle of a tortilla and placed it in the toaster oven just long enough to warm up the beans. Then I spread half an avocado over it, added the hash mixture, and rolled it up. Bonus: The oil from the pan the potatoes roasted in helped crisp the bottom of the tortilla.
I’ve found that eating and housing are the two biggest ways to save money if you want to have the freedom to travel. The main requirement isn’t making a lot of money, or being good with numbers. The crucial part of budgeting is self-control. It’s easy to eat out once a day, to buy lattes a couple times a week, or to buy pre-made convenience food. But reaching goals requires self-control. Cooking from scratch takes time and effort. I want to see the world, and travel. Because of this goal, I rarely eat out and cook almost all my meals from scratch.
One last thing about budgets: be honest. Own your actions. Also be realistic about what you want. If a nice house and eating out is a priority to you, more so than travel, then that’s totally fine. One thing I realized early on is that living the dream isn’t easy. I’m spending a month right now selling trees and eating as cheap as possible for the trade off of months in South America kayaking all day. My priorities are traveling and kayaking, not a nice home or meals out. These are the sacrifices I am willing to make, so you won’t hear me whine much about the lack of a nice home or how many expensive meals I miss.