The Topic: Don’t Fear the Cheaper: A Mission Adventure
The Dish: When the weekend arrives, I’m usually simultaneously caught by surprise and excited—Party! Shopping! Let’s do this, San Francisco! About four minutes pass before I realize that I have neither bank funds nor credit limit to live out my luxurious lifestyle—or do I? For just $25, a jam-packed day in the City by the Bay is not only possible, but it’s fun in a guilt-free sort of way. Here’s how the low-budget lifestyle played out in the city’s Mission District.
9am: With empty cabinets and a growling stomach, I went for the quickest, cheapest, and most filling meal I know—a Super Veggie Burrito from my local taqueria. Filled with black beans, rice, guacamole, lettuce, and salsa, all wrapped up in a whole-wheat tortilla, this $5.40 investment is equivalent to at least two meals, filling me up for the majority of the day. Oh, and it also comes with chips and salsa. I brought my own bottle of Tapatio, the world’s best and surprisingly cheap hot sauce, to add a little spice. No, 9am is not too early for a burrito—they open at 8am, after all. (Remaining budget: $19.60)
10am: Finally ready to move after my monster morning meal, it’s time to hop on the Muni train ($2) and head out to enjoy the sunshine. It might sound lame, but when the weather is gorgeous, just getting in some exercise walking and people watching is delightful—and free. I usually pass at least three buskers on my journey, from bucket-drumming percussionists to blues-playing guitarists. Or, you know, a man standing on his head on top of a pint glass, singing. The city has talent, that’s all I’m saying.
I headed toward the Mission, where a slew of second-hand stores were calling my name. While many stores use the moniker “vintage” instead of “thrift,” enabling them to charge $15 for a t-shirt that would be about $2.50 at an actual thrift store, there is a secret weapon: The sale rack. Yes, even in second-hand stores. Generally, there is a $1 or $5 rack, and a little digging can lead to treasure. A cute blazer, comfy tee, and $6 later, my inner consumerist felt satisfied. ($11.60)
2pm: I need hydration. Having already emptied my water bottle brought from home, I seek out the next best thing: coconut water. At a small stand on an unassuming street corner, I score a fresh young coconut for only $2.50, cracked open on the spot. Customers get to not only drink the super delicious water, but then have the coconut chopped open, enabling them to devour the coconut inside for the best afternoon pick-me-up ever. I’ve developed a serious addiction to this stuff, be it fresh or from a can. ($9.10)
2:30pm: A girl cannot live on coconut water and clothes alone. My true obsession lies in the smell of paper, binding, and dust—better known as used bookstores. (Are you sensing a trend in my cheap ways? Peruse the used!) I spent way too long in Dog Eared Books, and while I didn’t buy anything, reading from their eclectic collection might be my favorite way to spend an afternoon.
4:30pm: Ok, I’m bored with myself. By this time of the day, it’s socially acceptable to grab a happy-hour special with friends. I met up with good friend and VegWebmistress Laura Beck at The Attic to share a round of $3 Manhattans (don’t forget to tip, even on a budget!) and a little gossip. And being a dog-friendly establishment, I also got to enjoy the company of her rescued pit bull, Hazel. ($5.10)
6:30pm: With only a few dollars to my name and tired feet, it’s time to head home. Another $2 train ride gets me to my neighborhood, and I have just enough cash left for an order of brown rice ($1.50) from my local Chinese joint. Hey, it might not be the healthiest dinner, but I’m sure there are a few kale leaves somewhere in the fridge I can throw in. ($1.60)
The Final Word: With a dollar and some change to spare, I’m ready for an evening at home with my puppy and some Netflix (already paid for, WIN!). Thanks to cheap eats, used goods, great weather, and a little homework on the destination neighborhood, a day out doesn’t have to break the bank.