Frugal living tip #39. September 28, 2009Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: frugal food shopping, frugal living, frugal living tips, frugality
Silence Dogood here. It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another Frugal Living Tip here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. This one’s about food.
Our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, runs a classic column every Sunday called “On the Cheap” by Spencer Soper. Spencer’s tongue-in-cheek commentary on the lengths people will go to in the name of cheapness—from saving the salt at the bottom of pretzel bags to holding on to used paper napkins in case the cat vomits and they need to clean it up—is priceless. Thanks, Spencer! You cheer us up. Somebody’s got to take a funny view of cheapness in these tough times.
Sometimes, however, these cheapsters go over our own personal moral line in the sand. As in this past Sunday, when a guy told Spencer how he has mastered reusing fast-food coupons. The article, which you can read in its entirety at www.themorningcall.com, shares quite a few nuances on how to finesse this, but in essence, the guy tells the drive-up clerk he has a coupon when he places his order. Then, when he picks up and pays for the food, if the person taking his money doesn’t ask for the coupon, he saves it to use another time. If they do remember to ask for it, he hands it over. In either case, he gets the discount.
Spencer went to the trouble to ask an ethics professor what he thought of this from a moral standpoint, and the professor placed the onus squarely on the clerks who fail to demand the coupons rather than on the jerk who’s ripping them off. But it’s our view that at the end of the day, it’s not about what you can get away with but how you can bear to live with yourself. Rather than double-dipping, how about thinking about the poor sod who’s making minimum wage or less behind that window and giving him or her the money your coupon saved you as a tip?!
But let’s get back to spending less on food. Another article in the paper’s finance section noted that people are changing their grocery shopping habits now that money is tight. Sales of canned goods and staples like dried pasta and rice are up; people have forsaken the outside aisles of grocery stores in favor of the center aisles where they can find cheap, durable staples.
This makes a lot of sense to us, even as we silently scream over people abandoning the fresh produce and dairy aisles. (NOOOOO!!!!) I depend on a certain number of canned or boxed goods—all sorts of canned beans, tomato sauce and paste, crushed tomatoes, veggie stock, pumpkin puree, black olives, coconut milk—and try to keep others (beets, artichokes, unsweetened condensed milk, roasted red peppers, and so on) on hand in case of need. And I would be dead on the ground without all my dried staples—rices, flours, cornmeal, pastas, lentils, popcorn, etc.—in plentiful and frequently renewed supply. Those center aisles are central to my own grocery shopping, but looking in my basket every week, it’s the fresh veggies and shredded cheeses and so on that predominate, unless there’s a great sale on canned beans.
But to bring this post full circle: You can save a lot more money by buying canned and dried food at the grocery store than by ripping off folks at the fast-food drive-through. And it will be a lot better for you. You can even use the money you save by not buying fast food to buy fresh salad mixes and other veggies to liven up your meals. Now that’s what we call a deal!
‘Til next time,