Getting Ready to Move: Stocking Up
If you have ever spent much time in remote mountain or desert tourist towns, you know their prices are tremendously higher than the big city, usually at least double. So, if a can of corn cost 70 cents at Walmart, it would cost $1.50 in Shaver Lake or Quartzsite, or maybe even more. A can of chili might cost $3.00. The only exception was perishables like meat and produce; they are more, but not tremendously more. In Shaver Lake hamburger was $3.99 a pound which is more than WalMart, but not a lot more. Dairy products, on the other hand, were much more, for example a gallon of milk might be $5-6.00 and eggs were $3.00 a dozen.
Some people get very angry at the store with the high prices, but I never do. I understand that 1) they pay much more to transport it out to the middle of nowhere, 2) they buy in such small quantities that they don’t get a discount, and 3) they are only busy in the brief tourist season, so they have to make most of their money in a few months. I know the owner of one of the local markets in Shaver Lake, and I know she drives her van down to Fresno once or twice a week and buys all the supplies she has to sell at retail prices and then drives back up the mountain. So she has to pay for lots of gas, a day of labor for herself and maintenance on the van. Then after Labor Day most of her customers disappear but she has to keep her store open for the rest of the year. So I understand the high prices and don’t begrudge them. They are literally “Ma and Pa” stores owned by people who are just trying to eke out a living in a beautiful place they love.
The bottom line is that before I head out to boondock, I stock-up on all the staples I can afford. Then, while I am at the remote location, I only need to buy perishable foods (bread, fruit-vegetables, meat) that I can’t stock up on. That has worked really well for me so I am doing the same thing now before I head over to Quartzsite. I want to have at least a month of two of basics on hand when I get there. There is a grocery chain out west called Winco (it is an employee owned chain and the name stands for Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon—the places they have stores) that has the best prices I’ve ever found. They don’t have any stores in Arizona so I am especially stocking up while I am near one of them.
Since many of you are planning on being at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, or boondock in the desert, I thought I would tell you about how I am stocking up for Quartzsite. The town itself has several small markets, but they are all very expensive. The nearest WalMart is in Parker, AZ which about is 40 miles away. The nearest town of any size is Blythe, CA which is about 22 miles away. It doesn’t have a WalMart, but it does have a Kmart and a Smart and Final, which generally has good prices. It also has a local Mexican store that has very good meat at reasonable prices. If I need hardware, there is a good hardware store in Qzt, or a well-stocked Ace hardware in Blythe.
Let’s do some math. Here is a typical weekly shopping list for perishables for me and how much extra I will pay by shopping in Quartzsite:
- Bread: $2.00 extra
- Eggs: $1.00 extra
- Milk: $2.00 extra
- Fruit/Vegetables: $1.00 extra
Total: I spent an extra $6.00 by shopping in Quartzsite instead of a less expensive place. Now let’s do the math of how much money I will spend to save that $6.00. Blythe is the closest town and it is 44 miles away round trip. If I am getting 15 miles per gallon I will burn 3 gallons of gas and if gas is $3.50 a gallon I will spend $10.50 on gas to save $6.00 in groceries. It doesn’t make sense to make that trip unless several people go together and split the cost of gas.
So the more shopping I do now, the more money I keep in my pocket when I get to Quartzsite. $100 spent now will keep me from spending $300 dollars for the same groceries in Quartzsite. Here are some of the things I have stocked up on and how much I have on hand:
- Dog Food: Very expensive in small towns-30 cans and 50 pounds of dry dog food.
- Diet Cola: I’m an addict so I am going with 30 days supply
- Canned Goods: About 8 cans each of chunky soup, chili, vegetables, beans, canned chicken, 15 cans of tuna fish (50 cents at Winco),
- Spices: 60 day supply
- Paper Goods: 12 pack of toilet paper and 6 pack of paper towel
- Pasta, Rice, Beans: 60 day supply
- Treats: I’ve got a big sweet tooth, so I keep plenty on hand.
- Cereal: Milk is so expensive where I camp that I started using Nido powdered milk with a 30 day supply of cold cereal.
- Garbage Bags for Toilet: 60 day supply
So there you have it, my strategy for spending the least amount I can on groceries as a boondocker. Hopefully you can use some of these tips to live cheaper. Bob