OMG! I’m writing another blog? I AM writing another blog. AHH!
I told you I was going to write that every week. Because if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s… It’s… Wait… I’m good at something? Wow! I’m impressed with myself. Good job, me! (Thanks, me.) I am awesome. (No, me – WE ARE AWESOME.) YES WE ARE! (SO AWESOME!) YES! (YES!) YES! (YES!) Wait… What are we good at? (I dunno, you tell me.) NO, YOU TELL ME! (YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH, ME!) GO TO HELL! (MEET YOU THERE!)
Wait… What the hell are WE talking about? Oh yeah! I (we’re) good at consistency. Also, eating food. If there was an olympic sport for eating food, I’d probably get 9th place or something. Maybe 10th – who knows! All I’m saying is I’d make the team. I’m not cocky, OK? Jesus. I’m confident! There’s a difference. I’m also good at eating food on the cheap, the topic of this blog. Because, I’m not sure if you know this or not (you better know it!), but I’m making next-to-nothing to live my dream of making next-to-nothing in a place where I can only communicate with 5% of the population. I HOPE I NEVER WAKE UP! But I do hope I make money. God, yes! SHOW ME THE MONIES! Then gimme said monies. Actually, let’s skip the showing and cut to GIVING! GIMME! GIMME! GIMME!
But until I get the monies, I have to stick to a SUPER STRICT daily meal budget of ¥1,000 (little under $10). How do I do it? WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW! Wait… You would like to know? Oh, OK then! Let’s get into it…
OK, first some context: Before I moved here, I was doing well financially. I had a well-paying job, a rent-controlled apartment, and I was pretty good at saving money and not spending it on stupid shit. I also was SUPER fortunate to work at a company that gave us FREE FOOD every day. And not just simple stuff like sandwiches and a bowl of fruit (although we got both of those!). Oh, no! I’m talking RESTAURANT-QUALITY meals for BREAKFAST, LUNCH, and DINNER. No joke! We had over a DOZEN cafeterias, many with ROTATING menus where every meal would have a different theme (ex: Chinese, German, Tex-Mex, etc.). Looking back, it was positively preposterous how spoiled I was.
But even back then, I knew it! So 90% of the food I ate was from work. Like today, I’d make my morning smoothie (with 70% of the ingredients coming from work) and then I’d eat lunch at work and save the rest for dinner. And you’re prolly wondering – what did I eat/save every day? Steak? Pizza? Sushi? HELL NO! That’s for people who ENJOY life. Instead, I LITERALLY ate lentils, broccoli, and carrots EVERY DAY from work. Yes, the same boring-ass steamed veggies I eat today. At a time when I could have eaten ALMOST ANYTHING. What the HELL is wrong with me? A lot. Too much, actually.
But back to food – it’s not like I ONLY ate boring-ass veggies. Every day, I’d sample various dishes from the cafeterias, but I mostly stuck to veggies. So I never felt bad hoarding food from work, because I’m sure NO ONE was like, “Man, that Michael dork is HOGGING all the steamed broccoli.” I will say this: I’m ONE HUNDRED PERCENT POSITIVE I ate more steamed broccoli, lentils, and carrots than THE ENTIRE COMPANY COMBINED. Yes, all 14k+ (or whatever the number is now). Yes, I’m proud of that. WHERE IS MY GOLDEN BROCCOLI TROPHY?
A Spoon Full of Savings Makes the Bills Get Paid
So why I am telling you this? Because I wanted to illustrate the COMPLETE 180 life change I experienced when I moved here. I was SO USED to not only eating practically ANYTHING I wanted, but also doing so without PAYING A DIME. So… Was it hard readjusting to EXCHANGING MONEY for food on a daily basis? Honest answer: A little bit. But not as hard as I would have thought. Although I’m a little surprised I’m still doing this. Wait, I lied. I’M NOT SURPRISED AT ALL. Because I’m weird. Duh!
But I knew RIGHT AWAY that I needed to keep myself from overspending on food. Because, if you read my daily food posts, you know I LOVE EATING FOOD. Especially Japanese food. So it wasn’t even a week or so into my move here that I figured I had to create a daily food budget to keep myself from ending up DEAD in a Shibuya gutter from overspending on the endless noms. So far, STILL ALIVE. Thank god. But I also knew I needed some way to hold myself accountable to said budget. Because it’s super easy to TELL yourself you’re going to do something and then IMMEDIATELY bend your own rules because there’s no consequences. That’s when it hit me: Hey, maybe living in a Shibuya gutter ain’t so bad! KOBE BEEF EVERY NIGHT, BABY!
OK, no – I don’t really like beef. Nor gutters. But I do like documenting my life for others, particularly to keep myself relevant for business purposes. So I decided the BEST way to not only stick to my budget, but also gimme a daily social post was to blog my daily meals on Instagram, hence how #1000yenmeals was born. And that’s what I’ve been doing for 160+ days now. And I don’t plan on stopping ANY TIME soon. Remember: I’m weird!
Late Bird Gets the Early Worm for 50% Off
OK, now that I’ve given the context on how this whole thing got started (phew!), I can get to the MEAT (lulz) of this post: HOW TO GET DISCOUNTS. You ready for this shit? OK, here goes nothing: Eat REALLY FUCKING LATE. Done!
No, seriously – that’s it! OK, there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. It took me a while to figure this out, though. Because when I first got here, I wasn’t privy to the magic of the DISCOUNT.
Y’see, here in Japan, a STUPID amount of food is prepared each day (WHO MAKES THIS SHIT?). So much food, in fact, there’s literally no way it can all get eaten (WHERE DOES IT GO?). That’s where the discounts come in (FIDDY, PLZ!). At most places with prepared foods (ex: grocery store or food markets), they’ll start discounting the foods a few hours before closing. Usually the discounts start small (10%) and slowly build up to the DIVA of discounts: FIDDY PERCENT. When you find a fiddy, you snap that shit up! Because if you don’t, the cheap-ass bastard behind you will. And that cheap-ass bastard is me! GIMME DAT FIDDY!
Now, for me, I get most of my food at my local grocery store in my ‘hood (Tokyu Store). And I’ve come to know all the key players. And by key players, mainly the KEEPER of the discount. The KEEPER is the single most important person in the world next to Alf. Wait, Alf? THE PUPPET WHO EATS CATS? WTF! Why Alf? What is wrong with me? WHO REFERENCES ALF IN 2018? OMG. I just dated myself. I am so goddamn old. THIS BLOG JUST GOT DERAILED BY AN ALF REFERENCE. What’s next? A SMALL WORLD reference? Love that show! A robot maid. God, I love ’80’s. Crap. Back to my blog!
So the KEEPER of the discounts walks around with the DISCOUNT EGG. The DISCOUNT EGG is a little machine that HATCHES discounts. Basically, when the time is right, he scans the food, and the DISCOUNT EGG hatches a discount sticker that he places on the food. Pretty simple! Except there’s one SUPER important thing you have to remember: NEVER SETTLE FOR THE FIRST DISCOUNT. If you can, wait for something better. The chart goes as follows:
- 10%: Bitch, plz!
- 20%: Don’t insult me!
- 30%: THAT ALL YOU GOT?
- 40%: Now we’re talking…
- 50%: NOM TIME, BAY-BAY!!
But there’s a few things to keep in mind… Discounts are NOT created equally. For starters, not all foods get discounted. For instance, mochi almost NEVER gets discounted. Which is a goddamn shame, because I ADORE mochi. And things like pastries RARELY get a discount over 20%. Although it does happen! And when it does, YOU SNAG THAT SHIT FASTER THAN A MICHAEL DONAHOE. Because those fiddy pastries won’t last long.
Bentos and prepared food, however, have more of a routine to them. Usually, the discounts start around 8-830ish and will begin with 10 or 20%. Around 9-930 is when you start getting the 30-50%. And once you get to 10 and onwards, the fiddys start showing up fashionably late. However, like I said, you have to pay attention to the KEEPER of the discounts. Whenever I show up and see a bunch of 20%ers, I immediately look for the KEEPER. If I see him hatching the discounts, I’ll go meander around for a bit and wait for him to hatch a fiddy. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. The KEEPER is VERY fickle. He knows you’re watching him. He has the power. The DISCOUNT EGG is very delicate and must be handled with GREAT care. Sometimes it’s a HATCH PARTY and other times it’s a HATCH AAA MEETING and only the pickled veggies are invited. But until you know how the KEEPER is feeling that night, like I said, DON’T SETTLE. Try to stick out as long as you can. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But NOTHING feels better than seeing a 20 and waiting (and then getting!) dat fiddy. Actually, I know something that feels better: having money. That’s way, way better. But since I don’t have money, NOTHING feels better than waiting (and then getting!) dat fiddy!
And the wait PAYS off. There’s been days when I’ve FEASTED like a CARDBOARD KING for under ¥500. Those are the best days! THE BEST. THANK YOU, DISCOUNT EGG!
OK, so I was going to go into the other ways I eat on the cheap (places I hit up, things I look out for, etc.), but this blog is already way too long, so maybe another time.
See y’all らいしゅう!
DAT FIDDY~! Sadly, the USA does not do night discounts (at least at any store I have ever gone to) but they should! So much fresh food is wasted every day because of the lack of discounts, as someone who has seen managers demand that they throw away stuff because they don’t think anyone should get it if they are not going to pay full price…*shivers* food murder!
Yeah, it’s really a bummer the US doesn’t adopt the discount philosophy. But, then again, this kind of system only really works in crazy densely populated places like Tokyo. I couldn’t see myself driving for discounts. Hell, I couldn’t see myself driving at all. Lol!
Dude that is awesome! I wish nightly discounts on food was a thing in America. As a college student, I am doing something similar to your food budget. With each meal plan, the school gives you a certain amount of “munch money” or what I like to call “snack money” on the side, for students to spend at the various eating locations on campus, besides the cafeteria. But dude they give you SO little snack money to use over a long period of time. With my meal plan I got $225 in snack money, and I have to make that stretch over five months. I’ve never budgeted so hard in my life. I am always asking for receipts and going back to recalculate how much more I could spend per month…it’s ridiculous! XDXDXD
Haha! Wow, that’s crazy. At first I thought, “a $225 budget? THAT’S A LOT!” But then when I realized it was for FIVE MONTHS… Yeah, not so much. That’s why I gave myself a hard budget… Super easy for me to calculate food when I’m out to make sure I don’t go over. And there’s definitely days when I feel like I can spend/eat more, but I stop myself because I wanna be under budget. I’m weird. Lol!
Happy to hear it seems like managed to survive it, though! Hope you’re eating way better than me nowadays. 😀
Way to go! Another good thing you learn in college.
CHEAP FOOD 101-
The Ramem soup diet.
An intoductary class for basic subsistance.
102 – Other cheap
103- see #’s 1 and 2
What does it mean?
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