I'm experiencing an economic crisis. This one has less to do with Wall Street and the collapse of global financial markets than with having been a student for the last 6 and a half years with no source of income besides the extreme generosity of my parents.
As a result, I've decided recently to tighten my belt. This has led me to really re-think what I buy while I'm shopping. For example, Karl pointed out to me that eating cereal for breakfast is actually quite a drain on the finances (in perspective). I've switched to eating oatmeal and the occasional bowl of Cream of Wheat instead.
Think about it: the average box of generic brand cereal costs between $3 and $4 (more for the name brands). If you eat cereal every day for breakfast, that box of cereal will be gone in 5-7 days. You'll spend between $12 and $16 on cereal for a month. And don't forget the milk!
By contrast, a big cannister of generic brand oatmeal (traditional rolled oats, not instant) costs approximately $3 and will last you all month, if not longer. You can make it with water (though I do cut my water with some milk), which can help decrease the cost of the milk you would use for your cereal. So for a month of oatmeal (maybe more), you'll spend $3 (plus some milk if you do use it in your oatmeal; I would also add in the cost of a package of brown sugar, because I can't eat my oatmeal without a 1/2 TBSP at least!).
I have really started to look forward to that hearty bowl of oatmeal in the mornings. Karl and I have divergent viewpoints about eating the same thing day after day, but in this case, the fruit-element of my morning bowl of oatmeal really places this breakfast outside of the monotonous category.
I have found a cannister of prunes or raisins is a must to keep around for oatmeal. However, to shake things up, I keep a bag of frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe's on hand ($2.79): just throw a few chunks into the pot at the same time you add the oatmeal. Delicious! This works great for instant oatmeal in the microwave also. Other frozen fruits are also wonderful. If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, I highly recommend you shop there for affordable frozen fruit: the larger chain grocery stores tend to charge about twice as much for less quantity.
The best part about a hot bowl of oatmeal? I don't feel hungry in two hours like I would with a bowl of cereal. It's not just an old wive's tale: oatmeal really does stick to your ribs!
Feel free to share some "belt-tightening" strategies of your own in the comments below!