Stretching a College Student’s Grocery Money

I recently found an incredible “bank” called Simple (they’re the interface, the actual bank is Bancorp) and it can have a very inspirational effect on a person. They have a unique “goals” system that allows you to set goals of any amount and duration and if you so choose, Simple will automatically take a little from your “safe-to-spend” money and place it in your goal. Obviously, you still have the same amount of money but having it tucked away and out of the safe-to-spend is wonderful for someone like myself. As soon as Daniel showed it to me, I had to be a part. It’s actually based in Portland, Oregon and is run by a relatively small group of very caring people who got fed up with big banks. It currently has a waiting list to get an account but I only had to wait 8 days. Before I signed up, I researched it to be sure it wasn’t a scam and read through all of their fine print as well. Everything is where it should be and your money is safely in a FDIC insured account with the 5th largest bank in the US.

Anyway, I finally got my account all set up and have my goals in place. I imagine for some people, that wouldn’t be a big deal but for my personality, I’m totally stoked to save more money! Inspired to think of other ways to save money (it’s addicting in the best way), I looked to my diet. For the last months, I’ve been blessed to have food stamps (SNAP) but don’t anymore… so there went the majority of my grocery money! It was time to stop taking that money for granted and really see how effectively I could eat.

I started looking up “plant based on a budget” and other such questions on the Google and found a variety of responses. Quickly I found a trend of people doing plans like “eating on $1 a day” or “eating healthy on $3.33 a day” etc. and did some research. Many people in California participate in San Francisco’s Hunger Challenge where, like many other similar challenges, people choose to eat on a $4.50 budget per day. The goal is to raise awareness of the struggle low-income families have. Many use food stamps but it only averages to $1.50 per person, per meal. Many people voluntarily do this challenge for various lengths of time and it seems to leave a lasting impact.

While thinking about these challenges and the plans that people try, I decided I wasn’t going to set a daily limit. Honestly, I don’t know how it’ll turn out but I know that with effort, I will definitely spend less on groceries than I used to. Ideally, I want to see if approximately $100 a month would work and after going to the store and spending $27.67, I’m going to test run it and see how long that lasts. My requirements were to still be healthy, gluten-free and mostly plant based while in no way starving myself. I’m sure I’ll learn as I go and discover what works/doesn’t work, what I like/don’t like, and when it’s ok or not ok to splurge a little

Here’s the outcome of my perusing through the store for quite some time (it’s hard to make careful money decisions!):

Mini carrots, 1 lb. – $0.88
Yellow onion, 2 – $0.51
Zucchini, 3 small – $0.73
Jalapeño, 2 – $0.20
Limes, 4 – $0.74
Green bell pepper, 1 – $0.55
Celery, 1 bunch – $0.98
Carrots, 4 – $0.57
Acorn squash, 2 small – $0.93
Bartlett pears, 4 small – $0.50
Potatoes, 5 lbs. – $1.29
Kidney beans (dried), 0.36 lb. – $0.57
Black beans (dried), 0.55 lbs. – $0.60
Navy beans (dried), 0.48 lbs. – $0.76
Canned tuna, 2 – $2.56
Garden vegetable sauce, 25.5 oz. – $3.73
Concentrated lemon juice, 4.5 oz. – $0.69
White corn tortillas (local), 1 doz. – $1.19
Frozen strawberries (sliced), 10 oz. – $0.88
Frozen peaches, 12 oz. – $0.88
Frozen green peas, 14 oz. – $0.78
Frozen stir fry mix, 16 oz. – $0.88
and my two splurges…
Grass-fed cow’s milk yogurt, 32 oz. – $4.98
Pomegranate, small – $1.29

Total: $27.67 @ Sherm’s Food4Less
Oh, and a little less than a pound of oats that I had at home but was running $0.79 per pound at the store.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that I could buy smaller products. I know it sounds silly but in the past, if I was buying acorn squash, I would have bought a regular sized one without thinking about it. Then I would make it, eat some, realize I have leftovers, put them in the fridge and from there it’s usually a 50/50 chance of getting eaten. That how my mind works. But then it hit me! Hello! I can buy two small, one person sized squash for the same price (since it’s per pound) and not have that struggle! Same for pears! Why buy 2 large pears which would be 2 servings when I could get 4 small ones for 4 servings at the same price! Brilliant.

That sounded way less ridiculous in my head. I’m just too excited.

Once again, I start the beginning of a journey! Hip hip hooray for saving money!

Oh, and if you’re interested, here’s the link to Simple (www.simple.com/banking) and when I joined, I got 14 invites that I can send out. I don’t know if they’ll get you off the waitlist faster but it’s worth a try! If you’d like me to send you one, click this, leave me a note with your email and I’ll send it right over!

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