Buying Food On An Extreme Budget
Food is an essential element for survival, but those who find their budgets limited or incomes drastically reduced often find that starvation is a real possibility, unless they can find sources of healthy food for little or no money.
No one ever plans on becoming destitute and homeless, but for many young people just starting out in life, one wrong turn can lead them into a way of life they never anticipated. The sudden loss of a job or the tragic loss of a family support network can spell disaster for those with limited savings and options. Here are some tips for how to obtain enough food to keep you alive while working towards getting out of your temporary reversal of fortune, and how to think like a survivor.
1. Bargain food is no bargain if it can't be stored. Assess your circumstances honestly, and only consider buying foods that can safely be stored in facilities you control. Canned foods are great sources of quality nutrition for the price, but once they are opened, there is no turning back. Without adequate refrigeration, canned food turns unedible fairly quickly. Eat all you can while the food is still fresh and hot, but avoid storing open cans in a warm environment.
If you do not have access to a refrigerator, you might buy some bagged ice and an igloo cooler. This arrangement won't last forever, but it may keep you from getting sick, which is even worse than not eating. Spoilage of food is never a good thing, but takes on even more urgency when every slice of bread counts or every cracker needs to be eaten. Keep these items wrapped and stored tightly. The best choice is to buy only those foods that can survive the heat, such as peanut butter or powdered health drinks.
2. The grocery store can be your friend. When budgeting your food money, consider the advantages of the local grocery store. Instead of spending money on an entire loaf of bread and a pound of unstorable bologna, you can economize by purchasing one 10 cent roll at the deli, and asking for 1/8 of a pound of meat and two slices of cheese at the deli meat counter. You now have the makings of a healthy sandwich, at a fraction of the cost of the individual ingredients bought in bulk. Some grocery stores who feature a food bar often make leftovers available at significant discounts after the bar has closed. It may be beneficial to check out this possibility.
3. Water is the most important key to your survival. The human body can live up to three weeks without additional food, but only three days without water. On the plus side, water is free and widely available. Drink plenty of it throughout the day, and store as much of it as possible for nighttime. Water will ease hunger pangs, and will keep your energy level up. Adding a little sugar and salt to the water will help maintain your blood sugar level, which can drop dramatically during stressful times.
4. Pride will not fill your stomach, so take advantage of the free food programs offered by the community. Churches and other private enterprises often offer free groceries to people in need, and as hard as it can be to admit, this means you. You might view your economic situation as temporary, but your human needs are immediate and permanent. Expect mostly staple items, such as flour and powdered milk, but explain your living situation honestly. If you have no cooking facilities, then flour will do you little good. Ask for more usable items, such as canned meats and crackers.
5. If you only have enough money for one meal a day, timing can be everything. Drink plenty of water for breakfast, to overcome the feeling of hunger when waking up. Do whatever you had planned to do to improve your situation, then consider your meal options. Buffets are the most economical choice, if your budget will allow it. Pick a time in the late afternoon to eat, and get as much food in your system as you can handle. This is not good for your body's metabolism, so once you find your circumstance improving, start eating smaller meals at more regular intervals.
6. Fresh produce sellers often have fruits or vegetables that aren't sellable, but are perfectly healthy. You might try negotiating a fair price for some blemished fruit or damaged vegetables. Starvation diets can drain the body of many essential vitamins, especially water-soluables like vitamin C. Try your best to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables, even if you go to the grocery store and pick up one orange or an apple.