Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why You're Poor #4 - Eating Part 1

Why You're Poor #4 - Eating Part 1

What if your normal eating habits are actually making you poor?  It's entirely possible that most people don't even realize they've eaten themselves into the poor house.  No matter how full you might be, your wallet is likely empty as a result. Now there are a lot of ways your eating and drinking habits can be affecting you.  One such way is the negative health effects from the type of food and drink you consume.  That's an entirely different area we won't be discussing today, but is something you should always be mindful of. What you eat today has a big impact on your health, and the costs to take care of you later in life.

What we will be discussing is how your trip to the grocery store, restaurant, and cafe are like slow leaks.  On the surface it appears to be an innocent panini here, or an iced lemonade there for a couple bucks. In reality your spending is like a burst pipe with your money rushing in every direction as you scramble for a mop to salvage some. Everyday you need to eat or drink something to stay alive. So it's no wonder why on average Americans go to the grocery store every 2-3 days, and now even spend more going to restaurants than grocery stores. Just about everyone complains about the price of something at the grocery store, and the same people complain about the prices at restaurants too.  Well don't be one of those complainers. For one it's better to be positive than complain. After you get done reading the two parts to this article you'll no longer be complaining to anyone about the prices at either.  Instead you'll have a different outlook, and realize you can control the amount of money you spend on this necessity more than you think.

Let's start off with your trip to the grocery store.  You go in determined to get everything for this killer recipe you found to make for the family tonight.  You round up all the ingredients, throw them in the cart, and proceed to the register.  Then "BAM!" you get hit with a whopping $70 bill to feed your family of four tonight. At this point you might even think you would have been better off going out to eat.  Since you don't have to cook, or do any cleanup it'd be worth it! Well it's not, and we'll touch on that in the 2nd part of this article. Either way its not uncommon head into the store and leave with nothing but a couple bags, and empty checkbooks. Now not that there is nothing wrong with finding a cool recipe to make for dinner. It just might not be feasible for that point in time.  Suppose the recipe called for a lot of ingredients that aren't in season right now.  Most people forget that every plant has a season it grows in. Yet modern society has managed to close that loophole with new plant varieties, growing methods, and by shipping in products from all over the world so we can feast on fresh peppers, lettuces, broccoli, berries, and oranges year round.  The result is you find all the ingredients you need, but at prices so high your new dinner recipe has just turned into its own recipe for financial disaster.

Now there are a couple of alternative strategies.  For one you shouldn't buy something to eat simply because you want it.  If it's November and you want asparagus you don't buy it. Why? It's not in season and usually overpriced! If you spend $4/lb on asparagus because you want it you're making a bad choice.  Take note of what the prices are in the spring. You'll routinely find it for less than $2/lb for even the organic variety.  That's a 100% increase in price, and my bet the store manager is very happy to sell it to you. The solution is find out what's in season & selling at a good price. You then buy as much of it as you can eat over the week before it will spoil.  When certain foods are in season the prices plummet, and stores buy up tons of it.  They are willing to unload it to you at rock bottom prices over the next few weeks since there is so much supply they have to get rid of it! Your food will be fresher, and actually healthier with the added benefit of a heavier wallet. You should even take this opportunity to buy fresh vegetables and fruits to freeze yourself.  Now you'll always have quality ingredients you can whip out of the freezer for months down the road.  Lesson: set a price per pound limit on how much you are willing to spend on each item/food category.

This leads us to another area.  You never buy frozen/canned fruits and vegetables! First of all they mostly taste like garbage.  The reason is companies buy the lower class produce to freeze/can and sell.  The better looking produce gets sold unfrozen at the store since it commands a higher price. Remember with packaged goods YOU pay for the processing, packaging, and freezing of the food which adds to the overall cost. Now of course you can find frozen/canned items cheaper than their fresh counterparts on various items throughout the year.  If you do by all means purchase the food and enjoy it!  Your wallet will still thank you. Let's say you want frozen strawberries for a smoothie. You buy the 10oz organic strawberry bag for $4. Not to bad you think, plus its healthy for me! Wrong! You just bought strawberries for $6.40/lb. If you headed over to the fresh produce aisle you can probably even find organic strawberries for $4/lb. If you planned ahead you would have bought them when they were in season in April-June for even cheaper, and froze them yourself to have at your convenience all summer long!  Lesson:  Analyze the cost/benefits of buying fresh vs frozen in your area, and when possible freeze/can your own.

Now there are plenty of other areas to uncover as total wastes of your money at the grocery store.  I'll briefly go over a few areas.

Meat - This is probably the largest part of your grocery bill by the way. If you are going to balk at paying $2lb for brussel sprouts(the real champion of muscle building) then you shouldn't be buying meat at all. Here is why. You can buy more vitamins, protein, and fiber with brussel sprouts at even $4/lb than you would Ribeyes if they were selling at $1/lb. While chicken and pork is usually cheapest, steaks will add up faster than you can say goodbye to the moolah in your pocket.  Let's not even start with how unhealthy most of the meat in our country really is, which is reason alone to not buy any. If you enjoy meat look to buy the less expensive cuts, and even the ground versions which can be the cheapest sources of animal protein.

Processed Foods - Now this only includes items with a large ingredient list. Things like packaged pasta, nut butters, and breads are normally fine. Remember the more processed it is, the higher it will likely cost you on per pound basis. Plus it's probably not healthy for you. Sorry Mac N Cheese box & Potato Chips, but we'll be leaving you on the shelf.

Beverages - If you need to buy anything other than milk or it's plant based alternatives you need to read up on what liquid is essential for survival.  It's called water and it's free virtually everywhere. Which means YOU NEVER BUY BOTTLED WATER! If you need to buy a bottle of water or soda you should first punch yourself in the face as a reminder that you are robbing yourself with this bad decision.You should buy your own high quality refillable filtered bottle to cart around town.   As for fruit juices you're actually better off eating the fruit. In other words you should not be buying any drink that basically contains water & sugar. Of course the occasional case of reasonably priced beer, bottle of booze, and wine help keep you sane. Plus they are enjoyable, but keep it in moderation and remember you don't need to drink alcohol!

OK so now we got all that out of the way. Phew!

So let's put together a new Go To List on ways to save:

1. Set a budget on how much you can spend monthly. Just don't fret if you go over it a bit sometimes.
2. Set a limit on the price per pound you pay for staples. If what you want is over that price then purchase a lower price substitute item.
3. Purchase large amounts of items you love when discounted, and freeze/can for future use if perishable.
4. Use a warehouse club. Here you can purchase items you use all the time in bulk at a cheaper price.

Now I challenge everyone to go out and look at their grocery shopping in a different way this week. Its entirely possible to eat healthier at a much lower cost throughout the year if you just look at these things a little differently.  Personally my 2 person household eats very lavishly(and healthy) with mostly organic food for about $285 month.  WAY below the USDA's national average of $389 for the thrifty plan!!! Now some months we get a little crazy and go over by treating ourselves to the occasional indulgence, but life is short and a good meal is never forgotten. Just remember to always employ these money saving strategies when you go to the store. Also realize wasting food is basically throwing your money away.

If you'd like to discuss these strategies in more detail plus alternative strategies such as the "calories per pound" shopping method feel free to contact MAD Consulting LLC directly.  If you have any great money saving tips please share for everyone to benefit in the comments section below.

Stay tuned for Part 2 as MAD Consulting LLC exposes just how much money restaurants and bars are really costing you each month.

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