Denali Northern Expenditure

Tag: Food Budget

The Power of a Good Cleanse

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.

How Much Do Groceries Cost in Alaska?

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…)

Scarcity Spending

Scarcity is a big economic principle surrounding the basic idea of something being in short supply. For our purposes here, however, we’re going to define scarcity as the “opposite of sticker shock.” Our definitions:

Sticker Shock – Something you experience when you see how expensive things are. When you first move to Alaska, you will experience this. Apples are nearly $3/lb?! (not at Costco, though still more expensive than outside Alaska).

Scarcity – When you leave Alaska and realize everything is so cheap, but those prices will only last until you go back to expensive Alaska!

What’s In My Freezer?

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:

Don’t Eat Money!

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)

How to Save Money on Groceries (even in Alaska!)

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:

Fireweed Finance: A Seasonal Check-up

I’ve mentioned before that life in Alaska is very seasonal. The fireweed is the perfect example. In the summertime, Alaska turns purple as the fields of fireweed all over begin to bloom. The fireweed is so ubiquitous, it’s part of the culture. It’s the name of roads and businesses and used in lotions, candles, and jellies. I’ve even eaten fireweed ice cream! The flower begins to blossom at the bottom. As the summer progresses, the blossoms move up the flower until the flowers are just at the top. When all the blossoms have bloomed, the flower goes to seed in a white flurry that looks like smoke. The progress of the fireweed is closely monitored as our cultural indicator of summer. It is said that when the fireweed “burns out,” or goes to seed, summer is over.

Dipnetting: How do you get your salmon?

Another fabulous benefit of being an Alaska state resident is the opportunity to dipnet for personal-use salmon. Between July 10-31, Alaska residents can use a gigantic net on a really long pole to catch salmon. The household limit is 25 for the head of household and 10 for each household member thereafter. If you haven’t already done the math in your head, our household limit is 65 salmon. Now that’s a ridiculous amount of salmon. We don’t bring home nearly that amount and we still eat it weekly in our home. It helps significantly with the food budget plus the added health benefits. And kids love salmon. Florin and Lui ate tons of it as babies and loved it. They still do.

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