On Diets (Of Multiple Types)

I spend too much money on food. This isn’t hard, living in New York City. But still, lately I’ve been a bit out of control.

Last year I signed up on Mint.com, a site that helps keep track of expenses and budgets and such. It sends me alerts if something funky happens on my account, if I exceed the budget I’ve set for myself for certain types of purchases, and other similar situations. The other day I got an email from Mint telling me that last month I spent over $300 at restaurants when I usually spend around $96.

I knew I’d spent more eating out last month due to a slew of different issues, but I didn’t realize I’d gone that much over my normal budget. This would explain why there was very little added to my savings account. Arg.

Most of my eating out spending happens because I have an inability to make anything at home that I want to eat for lunch at work. It’s a failing on my part, I know, but in the end any sandwich I pack is going to lose when I can go around the corner and get onigiri. Onigiri isn’t all that expensive and I can usually get enough to last the whole day for around $10. But onigiri is a bunch of rice and not that much meat, thus isn’t not a very balanced meal, nor does it help with the whole being overweight bit.

I’ve pretty much solved my dinner problem by eating dumplings all the time with a few other things thrown in like edamame or maybe a homemade hamburger every now and then. And since my roommate bought a powerful blender I’ve been doing the smoothie thing every morning. Still, every time I get all proud of myself for being healthy at breakfast and dinner, lunch comes and beats me up.

And if I am depressed about lunch, I’m much more likely to do something like go to a favorite restaurant for dinner, which means more money spent and nothing going into the WisCon fund! This cannot be.

So today I went to Trader Joe’s to pick up frozen fruit and dumplings when I spotted their soup section. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed these shelves before because the selection is small and unnoticeable and usually hidden behind the 12 Items Or Less line.

My TJ’s is really small, cramped, and inefficient.

Anyway, today I grabbed one of every soup I saw that I figured I might like, which turned out to be more than enough for a week’s worth of lunch. Between the dumplings, fruit, juice and soup, I spent less than $100, which is the budget I imposed on myself for food during the week. (That would be the other kind of diet.)

If I can keep under budget for the next month I’ll have plenty of money for WisCon in May even if I don’t earn anything extra. And that makes me feel less down already! Awesome.

Who knew that Trader Joe’s was the solution to all problems? Surely not I.

9 thoughts on “On Diets (Of Multiple Types)

  1. I am a huge fan of TJ’s soups!! I especially love the pea, minestrone, and tomato. Sometimes I doctor the minestrone with some grated asiago cheese. All of them benefit from fresh ground pepper, and I add rosemary to the tomato. If you end up with any good fixes, I’d love to hear about ’em.

  2. How about TJ’s hummus and pita bread for lunch? I tend to buy a good sized batch. Add raw veggies for dippers or a salad. I find that TJ’s ‘salad-in-a-bag’ lasts longer than the ordinary supermarket find, and buy several each week. (Of course, my TJ’s is in Southern California. YMMV)

  3. This post finally made me join Mint. I read one mediocre review which kept me away from it…but since then I’ve read nothing but good things from people who use it regularly.

    It also made me add Trader Joe’s to the list of things I miss about New York.

  4. I am a huge fan of TJ’s soups!! I especially love the pea, minestrone, and tomato. Sometimes I doctor the minestrone with some grated asiago cheese. All of them benefit from fresh ground pepper, and I add rosemary to the tomato. If you end up with any good fixes, I’d love to hear about ’em.

  5. Har! Yeah, I hated on TJs for too long b/c I found the Manhattan one overcrowded and understocked the one time I went. Then Hayley and I discovered TJs Brooklyn and we were hooked. Easy-to-prepare, good-tasting food of a bazillion kinds, all made without crazy amounts of unpronounceable ingredients. And CHEAP! The first time we went Hayley was like ‘look at all the old Black folks here — you know this place is reasonably priced!’ Srsly, we spend less there than we did at ‘regular’ supermarkets where you can’t find frozen food that isn’t disgusting or bread without high fructose corn syrup. Plus, while they’re not union (what supermarket is?), they pay their employees decently. I’m not a guy to love a corporation, but damn….

    Speaking of soups, have you tried the crab & corn chowder? Mmmm…

    1. I make a lot of decisions on the weekend based around going to TJ’s. If I’m going to go, I have to be up and out of the house by 9am on saturday or sunday. I try to do it on saturday because then i can go to the farmer’s market. If I get up late, I don’t go. there’s no point. In order to find the food you want at TJ’s you must go early in the morning.

      I once told an associate that the manager should take note that every time I foolishly stop by in the afternoon or evening, all of the Chicken dumplings are gone yet all of the pork ones are there. “Maybe he or she should consider ordering more of the chicken ones and less of the pork ones.” The dude then attempted to convince me that that the pork ones run out all the time and the pork fans get all upset. I find this hard to believe because, in the few years of this store’s existence, I have never, ever walked in and found the chicken bin overflowing and the pork bin empty. In fact, I have only seen the pork bin empty a very few times, whereas the chicken one always is after noon.

      I feel like that store isn’t very well run.

  6. TJ’s checkout is sort of like Walgreens: there’s always a line, no matter how many checkers are on staff and the lines seem to make no sense.

    One caution about the frozen items: periodically, check the sodium content on the label. Since I have standing orders not to add more salt if I can help it (I’m not salt-free thank god), I’m scrupulous about checking the amount in frozen soups, etc. It’s usually pretty high and that can play some havoc with your insides.

  7. TJs is the solution to all problems. Or, at any rate, the TJs checkout is the short term pain you suffer for long term gain.

    1. dude, the checkout line is so completely ridiculous. It’s so odd, knowing how terrible it is yet unable to stay away.

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