tightwad eating eggs and sardines

Eating on the Road

Being a Non-obsessive eater is not only about being mindful of how and what you eat but also about the mindfulness of the cost of eating. By being “purchase” conscience we can stretch our food budget further and add in some more luxurious food items at times.

Presently I’m winding up a 2 month trip to Brisbane and had a quick tally up of what I had spent in the food area to see how well I’d stuck to my budget. Now the final amount spent may seem excessive to some, frugal to others, but it is still important to have a budget in mind. In the end though, you still need to enjoy what you eat, ensure that most of the time its healthy and remember loving what you eat is an important part of life.

Eating when on the road can make up a large portion of the cost of travel, so it makes sense to be mindful about what and where you eat. When I am on the road, Im an independent, frugal traveler, who lives in a caravan part of the time (at my daughters place), stay at budget hotels and at Air BnB’s the rest of the time.  I have gotten well past the noodle-in-a-cup type budget traveling though and generally eat out once a day, balancing this out with a meal back at base at some stage. As well, I cater for myself and do not impinge on the family’s meal times, and have a few basic tenets that I stick to, to make the budget realistic.

My Rules of Thumb

NEVER throw food out.  Buy enough for the next couple of days only and only cook or prepare what you will eat. I’m rather blase about “Best before dates” and “Use by dates” and use the good old “smell test” to determine its value – if it smells ok, it generally is ok.

Did you know that Kiwi families throw away the equivalent of three trolleys full of food each year according to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Those trolleys can add up to hundreds of dollars of waste.

Look for the REDUCED price, need-to-get-them-off-our-shelves items at the supermarket. Yes generally these fall into the “nearly over our use by and best before” category but  follow the previous rule and take it from there! These items can be half the price of an item that is only a day fresher.

I PLAN my meals too. Even though this is generally a mere thought train the night before when dozing off or while actually shopping,  I just think “Yep I’ll get that for lunch tomorrow and that for dinner – that’s the plan locked in”. Pretty basic planning but it is better than grabbing that, and that, putting them in the basket and then wondering when I get home what I’m actually going to do with them.

Do I really NEED that? The very first rule in reducing food intake when you are cutting back for your weights sake is  “If I don’t buy it I can’t eat it ” right? So the same works if you are keeping to a  budget. Do I really need to buy the top-line yogurt or will the Homebrand do. Hey at times the answer will be yes I do, but if it becomes yes every time then it is becoming a staple and not a treat. Luxuries are fine at times but make it  a treat not a need. 

There is nothing wrong with BUDGET BRANDED foods either. Sure the packaging looks pretty plain but strip that off two of the same food types, serve them side by side and it will be hard to pick the difference.

IGNORE the new and flashy packaging or the latest in boxed cereals with that cute cartoonie character on it. Compare the nutrient label and product weight to score the better deal rather than splashing out on the latest and greatest which may only taste slightly different to your older favourite.

SIZE is not everything. The largest packets are often just that – large packets. READ the label to see how much product you are actually getting. Interestingly too, not all the product is edible in some instances. For example, a can of peaches of one particular brand only contains 48% fruit (the rest is juice) while another brand actually contains 65% fruit. The reason? Product number one has large pieces of fruit, so less fits in the can.

When buying QUICK PREPARATION foods, such as 1 minute “rolled oats with honey” in those nice single serve packets, look at how much you are getting for  your dollar. Then check out the cost of a bag of ordinary Rolled Oats. These might take that extra 3 minutes to prepare, and you need to add your own sweetener (Nativa for me – no carbs), but they are also about a quarter of the price per serve.

Maybe a surprising confession here – I rarely cook these days! I used to cook regularly  when raising my kids but now that I am getting older, and cooking for me alone, I find it uninteresting, time-consuming and lacks appreciation from the consumer! Besides, when on the road it is wasteful to be carrying a pantry of herbs and spices just to cook the odd meal. In fact I “eat out” once a day and then do a quick fry up (often a veggie fry up, rather than traditional bacon and eggs) or graze on a couple of boiled eggs with a side of sardines from the can and a lump of cheese, for the other meal. Ooh gross you may say – but don’t knock it till you try it lol.

When on the road it is not practicable to BUY BULK and because I follow a Low Carb WOE the type of things that come in bulk do not suit my food choices. However if you are not so constrained, buying in bulk can save you money too, but only if it is consumed before it goes off. And if you are a talented cook or baker, sure this can be a big money spinner when making your own meals too. As for fruit and veg, no more than I can carry in one hand at a time (and I don’t mean in a bag!).

In Finishing Up

So there you have my basic rules. Sure some of them are really only applicable to me, an older, not too fussy,  single traveling male, but take what is appropriate for you and adapted to suit your lifestyle. The key ingredient is again being a mindful eater and considering not only the food you eat but the value in monetary terms you place on it. Eating healthy does not need to be expensive.

Oh and the biggest saver is really in how much and often you eat and snack. There are those whose mainstay is the cafe coffee, the smashed avocado breaky, and the several daily snacks, which all add up. I generally only eat twice a day now (but drink lots of coffee) and that alone cuts a third of not only calories but $$ too,

So as far as my food budget worked out over the last 2 months during my travels? I averaged A$14.80  per day to be a fully feed, satisfied, non-obsessive eating tightwad!

PS … If you want to check out what my meals actually consist of, I irregularly post a pic or two to my twitter feed   showing these.