With all the numbers we ran last week in the formulations of our new plans, I was reminded just how long is really left in our journey. I’m impatient by nature and would like to retire yesterday! As I made a batch of peanut butter balls, I realized the journey is worth it. The recipe for peanut butter balls comes from my great aunt, Joanie, who always knew that delicious candy could make the world a better place. These tiny bits of heaven are simple to make, but take quite a bit of time. After the peanut butter center is mixed, it has to be rolled into balls and chilled before dipping each one in chocolate. As I carefully rolled and dipped a batch recently, I started thinking about all the parallels to personal finance (geek alert!):
I got a bit trigger-happy this morning and published TWO posts, so be sure to also check out What I Learned at the Holiday Bazaar and we’ll hopefully back to our regular posting schedule on Monday! 🙂
Every January, after the holiday treat-eating, Mr. T and I go on a two-week food cleanse. Don’t worry, we’re not crazy. Let me explain what that means for us. We don’t juice. We don’t starve. Mainly, we focus on eating just fruits and vegetables. We condense Whole Living’s 28-day cleanses (there are several years available online, so we use all those resources for recipes) into just two weeks. We mainly do it to jumpstart our bodies. We eat so much wheat and so many carbs (cracked 7-grain oatmeal for breakfast, sandwich with homemade whole wheat bread for lunch, rice or pasta for dinner, etc.), so we take two weeks to give our body a break from processing the usual stuff. We cut out all meat, dairy, grains, eggs etc. After the first five days, we add back eggs and gluten-free grains. Also in January, we go on a spending cleanse. We pay for our cleanse produce and other food for the month and nothing more at the grocery store.
The Average Cost of Food in Alaska
To determine the average price of groceries in Alaska and the U.S. as a whole, we’ll turn to data from the USDA. Each month, the USDA publishes a national “Cost of Food Report” for the month prior to publication. September 2015’s Cost of Food Report showed that for a family of 4 with two kids ages 6-8 and 9-11, the “liberal food plan” was $1294.40 a month. The “thrifty plan” was half that at $651.90/month. (For a family of two ages 19-50, the “thrifty plan” is $389.60/month and the “liberal plan” is $776/month.)
Alaska and Hawaii warrant an entirely separate report that is published semi-annually, and only the “thrifty plan” is calculated. The most recent report showed that for that same family of four, the thrifty meal plan in Alaska costs $772.90/month. (Hawaii was $1125.70/month! Ouch! Maybe I shouldn’t complain so much…)
A chest freezer is a great way to help save time and money on food. If you have frozen meals ready to go, you’re less likely to order in or go out to eat. Freezing food can also help you cut down on wasted food. I love the idea of doing elaborate days of chopping and cooking and baking and freezing to have meals in the freezer for the full month. The reality, however, is that I don’t have the patience, time, or space in my freezer for this kind of thing (though we did do this before each of our babies was born and it was a lifesaver). In July, we fill our freezer with salmon from dipnetting. In Alaska, freezer sizes are dependent upon the type of animal you plan to freeze. We have a basic fish freezer and not a moose freezer, so after dipnetting, there isn’t a lot of space left. Instead of full meals, I’ve started freezing shortcuts. Here’s what’s currently in my freezer:
I know. I just finished saying I’m not telling you what to do. But I’m making an exception today. I’m not sure how I missed this trend, but apparently, people are eating gold. Yes, actual gold. In food. What’s even more fascinating to me is that I came across this trend in the healthcare sphere where people were questioning if eating gold was safe. Pfffffffffttttt (that was my tap water blasting out of my mouth dramatically). Come again? Is eating gold safe? WHY IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION?! (yes, I’m yelling)
Alaska is not a cheap place to live. It is also really hard to determine a “price point” for any item here because they can fluctuate greatly based on barges, etc. And Alaska doesn’t follow the usual, consistent grocery cycle budget-conscious shoppers in the lower 48 count on. With that in mind, there are ways to cut down the costs significantly on groceries in Alaska. Here’s how we do it:
Mr. T is a man of few words (but crazy ties… I mean, he has a shag carpet tie! I digress…). He’s the salmon chef around here, so I talked him in to jumping in on this post to share his Alaskan expertise (since he’s been cooking it weekly for about five years now). After last week’s dipnetting adventure, we’re ready to cook up some more! Grab your baking sheet, line it with foil and get ready. Here he is now! Introducing, Mr. T….