Secret Power: How to make it in Tokyo on $32 a week

Posted: May 22, 2017 in Japan, Non-Fiction

For your reference, that amount is ¥2700 or £18.

Now, depending on the country, doing your shopping for that much might be a real easy job, but in Tokyo, it ain`t easy.

You`ve gotta be a pokemon master to do this. You gotta know the best spots in the best places and best dealers, and you gotta be the fastest and the smoothest and the most patient.
You`re like an old african bushman who can`t rely on his strength or speed anymore, all you`ve got is a brain with a lot of space and every trick in the book.
That space is for new tricks. You`re never too old.

Personally, I`ve not lived in real poverty or been in a truly desperate situation, and that has been due to three factors: a loving and supportive family, my education and youth, and the persistent mercy of God that follows me every day.
But, there have been a number of times where, due to my own belligerence or lack of foresight, I have had to live on a tight budget.

The first time was when I had my bank account cleared out on my second week in South Africa, and I had another 2 1/2 months to go! That`s another story.
My latter experiences with little money have been here in Japan.

I brought savings with me to Japan, but here most jobs pay on a monthly basis, and I began my job partly into the pay cycle, so it would be almost two months before I received the first paycheck.

I didn`t save enough money for this, and by the time I realised I was running low, I had to live like Captain Cheapo Mc`No-dough.
I budgeted out my remaining funds, after deducting rent, and it came to ¥2700 a week, which is ¥386 a day (or $4.60).

Around this time, I had to become a real forager, a huntsmen for edible goods in my immediate vicinity. As it turns out, there was very little wild, edible, things around the town I was in (Arimatsu-cho), but, after plenty of foraging, I began to find the good deals.

Now, the first thing you look for in any new supermarket/store is the gram to yen ratio. You don`t want to buy anything with a gram to yen ratio less than 1.5, meaning you dont want to buy any item that gives you less than 1.5grams, of whatever substance it is, for 1 yen.
In a western country, this means carbohydrates, some vegetables/fruits, chicken and sometimes bacon/nuts.
In Japan it means roughly the same, except the primary carbs and vegetables are different.

Now, once you work out the gram to yen ratio of any given item in a supermarket, you have a value which will enable you to detect a good deal when you see one, and leap on it like a lion on a baby zebra, or a baby zebra on some kind of african fruit that it enjoys, or an african fruit on sustenance/water from the tree its hanging onto, or water on hygroscopic materials.

In my experience, the best deals emerge at the most antisocial hours, like rare forest creatures or exotic snakes, finally slithering out of the shopping aisles, baking in the early morning sun or rummaging around late at night.
Yep, most supermarkets have a fresh food section with ready made meals and other fresh produce, which must be sold! There`s no choice!
So, late at night, if you wait late enough, they reduce the price substantially. This can be a good short term fix, but its not a long term solution, and it might not always fulfil the rule of the 1.5 ratio.
In the early morning, you can find great deals on fruit and vegetables.
Most fruit/vegetables will be out of your price range, so I`ll just give you a rundown on what I first survived on:

Rice – usually a ratio of above 3
Rice is gonna be a staple for you, which is natural considering this is Japan, also the price is fairly similar across the whole country.
Protip: in Japan, often when you buy items in bulk they are NOT cheaper. If you are buying an item, and there is the same item in a packet of 10 next to it, work out the price of the single item in comparison to the pack, and often the price will be exactly the same, or sometimes even more expensive!! It`s ridiculous. But with rice, it is often (marginally) cheaper to buy a 10kg bag, which is the biggest.

Specific Vegetables – ratio of 2 or more
these are carrots, beansprouts, mushrooms, and sometimes other greenery.
Tomatos and capsicum are great, but often pricey and they don`t last long. Dream about them for when you`re a rich man again, or one day, or when you get to heaven. P.s – frozen vegetables can also be a great deal. Keep your eyes peeled.

Chicken – ratio of 2 or more

If you find a good supermarket, then you can find 1kg of chicken for 500yen. I currently have found a place that sells 2kg for 800yen. Basically PURE GOLD. If I put these into smaller containers, I could become a full time seller of packets of chicken tenders, making millions! But instead I`ll continue drawing blood from rocks by teaching English.

Peanuts – ratio of 1.5 or more

These saved my life. Because the peanuts were already salted, so I didn`t need to buy salt. You can find 200g bags of peanuts at all the 100Yen stores. Gold!

Tofu – ratio of 2 or more

I heard you like eating chalk flavour jelly! Me too! Get em here in Japan anytime! Eat em anytime! Preparation not needed! Tofu sandwich! Tofu dessert with Tofu sauce! Yes!

p.s – Tofu is flavourless mass. But it has protein and will also keep you alive.

Eggs – ratio of around 3.5

Let me tell you something about your ancestors, they all ate eggs. If you want to become an ancestor someday too, then you should eat eggs.

That`s right. The food of kings and dignitaries across the globe is available to you, and it also has one of the highest gram to yen ratios of any food in Japan. You can get a pack of ten eggs for 200 yen, and if you find a good place, then they will be ten large eggs. More gold! No need to go mining anymore!

Bananas – ratio of around 2

You can buy a bag of five or six for about 200 yen. No need to mention the good things, everybody knows bananas are good.

Fresh Noodles – ratio of around 4.5

What? Noodles? What am I gonna do with those? Is that what I hear you say?

Well, in Japan people sometimes eat noodles. Crazy right? Crazy! You can buy a 180gram serve of udon noodles for 40yen! That`s even crazier!! Giving it the best gram to yen ratio among all the other foods. Also, only buy fresh noodles, not the packets of instant noodles. The fresh noodles are healthier and heavier, often with wholemeal options, and many of them still come with packets of tasty flavouring. You just freeze the ones you don`t need.

What not to buy:

  • Coffee, Tea, Milk, Cereal, Spreads, Confectionary, anything with a ratio less than 1.

Now, that satisfies your basic needs. After you`ve bought those things, you will surprisingly have a little bit of money to play with.

I suggest you spend that little bit of money, especially in the first week, on flavour related things. In particular, flavour related things that have health benefits. This means garlic, ginger, tuna (a meat and a flavour! Gold!), miso soup (you can buy a big box of miso paste for about 300 or 400 yen and it lasts frickin ages), chilli, etc.

After the first few weeks of eating flavourless things, I quickly found out that edible without tasty, can sometimes mean inedible.

 

Anyway, those are my pro-tips.

I could have asked my family for money or my friends for a loan, but this was an invaluable experience that taught me how to budget, and how to cook with fresh food.

I recommend trying it, before it comes upon you.

If you want to know more or have questions, feel free to message me.

God bless,

 

Jamesssssssssssssssssssssss woooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

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