The other day, I was shopping in my favorite place.
That’s right, it’s the grocery store.
Even there, I noticed that it’s really hard to stay away from the Frugal Portland mentality.
Let’s take the meat counter.
I wanted to make a chicken stir fry, so my thought was to get some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But I was at a fancy store, where they tell you which farms the chickens come from. It’s okay. It’s a thing in Portland. Portlandia is real, friends. The chicken breasts were $6/pound. Steep, I thought, for a meat that tastes like nothing and has no fat, so really, just a vessel for sauce. An expensive vessel.
I wasn’t so comfortable with that price, so I looked around. Fresh (turns out, freshly thawed) whole chickens were $2/pound. I’m no mathematician, but I knew that I could get a whole chicken for the price of two breasts.
That got me started, thinking about ways that I save money without even sacrificing.
Lesson 1: Learn How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken
I took a class on this, but you can just watch this YouTube video. Learn this skill, then you won’t be afraid of chicken that has bones. You can cut out the breasts for your stir fry (or mine!), then you can cook the rest of it, then take the pieces and save it for chicken salad. Finally, you can use the backbone and all the bones from the pieces you pulled away from your chicken salad meat, throw that in to your crock pot, add some water, and turn that bad boy on. Voila! You made chicken stock!
Lesson 2: Understand How to Cut Up Vegetables
This is so strange. Did you know that you can get 3 oz of chopped onion for the same price as a whole onion (or even two!) with the skin on? Seriously, if you learn how to cut up chicken, and you know how to cut up veggies, you’re halfway to being an amazing cook. Or at least one that’s at least as good as the cheap deli down the street.
Lesson 3: Don’t Always Buy in Bulk
I was at the grocery store with my mom, and she wanted a roll. I don’t eat bread, and on this trip, only the two of us were hanging out. So I vetoed her idea to buy twelve rolls in order to make a tiny sandwich with leftovers. We spent 44 cents rather than three dollars. Costco makes you think buying in bulk is a good idea, but that’s only true if you can eat faster than food can spoil. Most people cannot.
Lesson 4: Learn to Cook
This is my favorite tip. Learning to cook is so important! Over the Easter weekend, we decided to be extra fancy, and we bought Dungeness crab. Already picked. That meant our crab cost nearly $30 a pound. So we made incredible crab and asparagus scramble and crab cakes. Both were extremely expensive entree items at any seafood restaurant. And we spent only $30, plus whatever lemon and cilantro cost. You can get something really high end, as long as you make it yourself. That’s the frugal way to eat deliciously.
Frugality can sometimes be easy. I promise. It’s not all severe sacrifice. It’s about saving money where it doesn’t hurt in order to spend money where it counts.