Day Three: To Jalapeño or Not to Jalapeño

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What I Bought on Day Three

What I Bought on Day Three

I’m walking to Compare thinking about whether I’m going to be able to get a jalapeño without going over.

On the one hand, I did cover myself by saying I can spend up to $1.15. On the other hand, I don’t want to keep going over if I can help it, because the less I spend now, the more I’ll have later. (And as a matter of principle, I’d like to keep it under a dollar.)

I know that jalapeños are cheap, definitely less than $0.24, which is how much it would have to be to kick me over $1.15 for the day. And I think it’s going to be around $0.10, which will be fine, but it could be as much as $0.15, which would put me over.

I get to the store.

They’re $1.19 per pound, which is about 7.5 cents an ounce. (I finally came up with a manageable to way to calculate cost per ounce based on cost per pound—round the per pound cost to the nearest even number, divide by 8 then halve the result. It’s still not an incredibly easy calculation, but much easier than trying to divide by 16, which I find impossible.)

I pick out the smallest one I can find (they got some big jalapeños at that there Compare) and weigh it. It looks like it’s between one and two ounces, but I’m not sure how accurate the scale is going to be for something that small; the scale is designed for pounds, not ounces.

But I’m pretty sure it will be between 7 and 15 cents. I decide that the jalapeño will make my beans and rice enough better that it’s worth the risk.

I get it.

And it was perfect—7 cents for the jalapeño plus 91 cents for the rice, for a total of 98 cents. So I picked up the extra two cents I spent yesterday and I’m back to being over by 26 cents, which is the extra I spent on Day One.

And not only that, but the meal was pretty close to a normal meal.

Day Three Dinner

Day Three Dinner

Looks good, huh?

Also I need to point out that no matter how you define it, that jalapeño would have to be considered “fresh” food

It’s a start at least.

Day Three Receipt

Day Three Receipt

8 Responses to “Day Three: To Jalapeño or Not to Jalapeño”

  1. 2WheelDrift Says:

    OK, I suspect, knowing you, that you’re walking to the (so far two?) different groceries that you’ve mentioned.

    But I have to ask: Did you drive? and, if so, wouldn’t a comprehensive study need to factor in the transportation cost of accessing cheap(er) food versus relatively more expensive food that costs nothing to access (because you can walk there)? Especially when gas spikes back towards $4/gallon…

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Funny you should ask…

    I was going to include in the rules that I would not drive to get food, but then I decided not to because if you didn’t know me, it would seem like I was just making things harder for no reason. But since I typically don’t drive to the store, it seemed exceptionally silly if I were to start driving all over the place so I could get stuff for a dollar.

    The good thing about where I live is that there are numerous tiendas and grocery stores — including Whole Foods, Compare Foods, multiple Food Lions, multiple Krogers, and a super cheap SuperTarget — that are all easy walking or biking distance. So it wasn’t really an issue.

    The only place I would be tempted to drive to would be Weaver Street Market in Carrboro because their bulk stuff is slightly cheaper than Whole Foods and also they have cheap bulk sugar, which Whole Foods lacks.

    I occasionally have to go to Carrboro for work, so if that happens in the next 30 days, I might try to get some stuff over there, otherwise I’ll just work with what I’ve got here in Durham.

    I will however be biking to the Super Target, which I always like — biking to big box retailers make me feel very subversive.

  3. fivecats Says:

    how many days should the bag of rice last you? and how many days should the beans last?

    you’ve pictured one meal — what about the other meal(s) you may have eaten that day? did you have that meal twice in the same day?

    jalapeño was a good choice. it gives a good, tasty kick to the meal and an added bit of freshness, too.

  4. lessisenough Says:

    I actually have a fair amount of food left; I have a picture that I will put up tomorrow when I post comments about strategy for the next few days. Still working a few things out.

    How long the rice lasts depends on what I do with it. Same with the beans. For instance today’s meal of rice and bean stew with cabbage went further than yesterday’s, because it’s more filling.

    I still have probably two-thirds of a cup of cornmeal and plenty of salt.

    I generally eat two meals a day, so that’s what I’ve been doing for the project. The morning meal has so far been cornmeal mush every day, which is about 5 cents a serving. Didn’t think anyone really needed to see a picture of that but I can post one if you’d like.

  5. lori Says:

    love your blog and your project – reading through it, i was thinking how even a windowsill garden would supply herbs, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, etc., and really enhance a dollar-a-day food budget!

  6. lessisenough Says:

    It’s true that gardening is a great resource for getting good, fresh, low-cost food. However it doesn’t work for a 30 day project, unless you already have a garden, and I wanted to see if it was possible to do this successfully eating only purchased food (no gifts, donations, or homegrown, sprouted or foraged food).

    But definitely gardening is the way to go if you have the time/space/interest/energy for it.

  7. Rebecca Says:

    I am interested in why you wouldn’t include foraged food when you go to various markets depending on which one sells cheaper. That is basically “foraging” for the best price. I would say if the local stream has watercress growing in it that is the best price for watercress…the cost being walking, biking or otherwise traveling to the steam and picking the watercress.

  8. lessisenough Says:

    The main reason I didn’t want to use foraged food is because it’s not accessible to everyone and it requires a certain amount of knowledge that most people don’t have. (I suppose you could argue that poaching a chicken requires a certain amount of knowledge that most people don’t have, but I would argue that people would be better served to learn how to poach a chicken before they learn how to forage vegetables.)

    Basically I was trying to avoid doing anything that people would read and say “Well, yeah, she ate for a dollar but …” I wanted to make my project as accessible to as many people as possible.

    Doing the project the way I did requires that you have access to a full-scale grocery store (not simply a convenience store), that you have a kitchen with a stove and running water and a refrigerator, and that you have a few pots and pans. Most people in America have those things. Starting with only a dollar required access to bulk foods, which not everyone has, so I almost didn’t do that , but I wanted to highlight the value of shopping from bulk bins, so in the end I decided to leave that in.

    And people still said “Yes, but….” about my project — that I had access to multiple grocery stores, that I had time to run around to different stores for the cheapest prices every day, that I had time to go to the store every day, that I only ate two meals. Etc.

    I tried to address all of those things in my comments, and tried to emphasize that I wasn’t saying that everyone should go to three stores every time they want to make a meal, my point rather was to highlight the fact that different stores are cheaper for different things, and that I was trying to demonstrate basic strategies for cooking/shopping/eating for less.

    There are two projects I think would be interesting, moving in the opposite direction from each other.

    One would be to rely primarily on foraged/home grown/bartered food. This effort substitutes social capital (having people you can barter with), intellectual capital (knowing what foraged food is good to eat and where to find it; knowing how to grow food), and time (being able to have the time to plant and tend a garden) for money.

    The second would be to see what kind of meals you could make shopping only at convenience stores. This would be a very big challenge, and I’d be interested to see how it would turn out.


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