Food Projects Update

Friday, July 9, 2010

As noted in previous posts, there are a few projects I’m following.

First is the dollar a day idea expanded to a year over at 365 Dollar Year.

My thought when I first read about this was that it felt pretty structured with not a lot of room for error and not a lot of flexibility. I know that’s the obvious approach and seems like the best idea — get a whole bunch of stuff up front at the best price possible and work from there — but it locks you into things and limits your ability to make adjustments and change things up as you go along.

I’m a big fan of the book Your Money or Your Life, and one of the things that stuck with me the most from that book is the idea that personal creativity and ingenuity are your most important assets, and that increases in skills and knowledge that allow you to save money far outpace increases in costs due to inflation and/or other external factors. If you’re paying attention to what you’re spending money on, how you feel about it, what you could do differently, then you’re learning all the time how to do things better. Getting a whole lot of anything up front assumes that you will want the same things in a month, two months, six months that you want right now. And that what you see now is the best price you’re going to get, and nothing you learn in the next six months will improve your situation. I’ve found this to not be the case at all, especially in the beginning when I was really learning and making a lot of big changes. So I don’t like getting a lot up front, I like getting a little at a time and keeping my options open.

The approach taken in the 365 Dollar Year was to buy months worth of staples and leave some money out for weekly produce purchases. (Or at least I think this was the idea — things haven’t been laid out quite as explicitly as I would have liked in terms of what was spent when, etc. Or possibly I just haven’t read carefully enough.)

She had a rough week — bedbug infestation and then a summer cold, leading to frozen pizza eating (not sure how that’s counted in the budget, she has a pot of “cheat” money for soda and chips, might have come from that?) — and I wasn’t sure if she was going to pull through and keep going. Seems like she’s been a bit frustrated lately with how much time things take to make, limited options, and just trying to get enough with hardly any money. But as of now, still hanging in.

The second project is the Dollar a Day Coupon project and he’s still rolling along on that, heading into month three. He’s started posting step-by-step information on how he develops his money-making deals, which are fascinating.

I’ve so far resisted the temptation to do a complete analysis of his project, including a database of what he bought, what coupons he used, the retail price of the food he actually ate (to determine how much he really saved), and everything else. I have way too many other things I should be doing — and really the last thing I need to spend my free time doing right now is putting together a database, that’s what I do for a living, let’s try to get leisure-time activities that are not identical to work tasks please — but it’s been tough. I feel a great need to dissect and understand this whole phenomenon.

One thing I’ll note about the coupon thing is that for anyone concerned about privacy issues, this strategy requires you to have store discount cards and to get online coupons. So the products aren’t actually “free,” you’re simply trading personal data about your shopping habits and allowing companies to market directly to you in exchange for reduced prices on specific products. I think most Americans have pretty much given up worrying about privacy at this point, so probably no one cares, but just wanted to mention that.

And a third project of note is local, Ginny Skalski, of Ginny from the Blog fame (she did a little piece about The Scrap Exchange a few years ago), is eating only food from farmer’s markets for thirty days.

As of Day 11, she’d spent $267.44 on food. Yikes! Her trip to my neighborhood farmer’s market set her back $97. (I reckon I’d like the Durham Farmer’s Market a lot more if I could spend $97 a week there without having to start taking in laundry to make ends meet.) But more power to her, I think she’s having a good time and learning a lot.

Anyway, there’s your update on food projects.

Hope all is well with everyone out there in blog land. More soon.

One Response to “Food Projects Update”

  1. j. Says:

    Thanks for this. I was going to respond over here, with just a comment, but I’m not the most concise thinker. So I have a whole post- I think it answers most of what you pointed out.

    You’re right, though, I am frustrated. When things go bad in life food should still be easy, and lately it’s not.

    Really, though, thank you for helping me clarify, or focus, I guess, some stuff that’s been floating in my (rather empty) brain.

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