Anyway, here's my random list of "tips" on how to live with a grocery budget of ¥1000-2000 ($10-$20)/week--all from personal experience!
In no particular order...
- like eggplant, tofu, small green peppers, and bananas--some of the cheapest food available!
- have a high tolerance for repetition: I have eaten the same dish (eggplant, green peppers and sometimes tofu with packaged sauce--all cheap ingredients!) 2-4 nights/week for the past 5 weeks, and I'm not sick of it yet!
- appreciate simple foods: grilled cheese or tuna sandwiches, baked potatoes, onigiri, etc.
- appreciate bland foods: keeping a large variety of spices, condiments, etc. on hand can get costly; the only condiments I've purchased so far have been soy sauce, mayonnaise, "Tare" sauce (available only in Towada/Aomori), and salt, and I hardly even use them!
- introduce yourself to/make friends with your neighbours: one neighbour gave me potatoes and tomatoes!
- show interest in different Japanese foods: a teacher at my base school talked about eating "soumen" and I asked her what it was, then today (2 weeks after she explained it to me), she gave me a package of soumen, a bottle of the sauce for it, and a handwritten explanation of how to cook/eat it!
- teach at an elementary/junior high school: you will usually be provided with a school lunch at little to no cost! Not only are these lunches quite large, but they're also reasonably balanced/healthy! I always try to finish my lunch at school so I can get away with a small dinner at home
- bring a large bag of your favourite cereal with you from home: I haven't had to worry about breakfast once yet since coming to Japan!
- eat your cereal with a banana: again, bananas are cheap, and the space they take up in your bowl will help you to conserve your cereal, so it will last longer!
- drink tap water: it's perfectly safe; if you don't like the taste, invest in a Brita filter (I inherited one from my predecessor) or boil your water before drinking
- invest in ¥100 ($1) onigiri molds: onigiri are cheap and filling, and the molds make making them fun and easy!
- store your bread in the freezer: for some reason bread expires very quickly in Japan (2-3 days after the purchase date is typical)
- limit your grocery shopping trips to once or twice a week: if you don't see all the different foods available (particularly ready-made foods) you won't be tempted to try them!
- start a blog: instead of snacking, I go on the internet when I'm bored; if I don't have anything else to do online, I can always update my blog!