Eat Well, Live Well and Be Frugal

By Chris Bennett


What does being frugal mean to you these days? It doesn’t take a financial guru to tell you that each dollar must be stretched for those of us bearing the brunt of this recession.


So what can you learn from it?  I see these times as a learning opportunity to change habits, and redefine a term that seems to have lost its way in the American buying culture … frugality.


Being frugal means using your leverage as a consumer in a buyers’ market, which is everywhere.  Exploring your spending habits is crucial to coming out on top … or just breaking even for that matter.  


Focusing on how we buy and consume food on a daily basis is an excellent way to begin this process.  After all, we all have to eat, right? And doing so can be healthy as well.


Maybe we don’t have to eat as much.  Or maybe we can use this penny pinching time to change what we do eat to more healthy and cost-effective alternatives.


Before you even begin to grocery shop however, conceptualize how much money you need to save compared to how much food you normally buy.  This varies from house to house, but depending on how many mouths you have to feed, your “cost-benefit” ratio needs to be realistic. 


Buying in Bulk

One option comes to mind even before I leave the house for the grocery store: the advantages and disadvantages of bulk buying food versus normal groceries.


Bulk buying has enormous advantages, even for a small house.  This is where you want to focus on food items your family eats regularly.  Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club offer great deals on large quantities of food.  There’s no need to buy large amount of condiments at stores such as this, but it is cost-efficient to focus on big items for cheap such as turkeys, pot roasts, and fish.  They are also good for non-perishables and drink items you consume regularly.


When you purchase in bulk, use your freezer. A 13lb. turkey for $15 cooked on Sunday from Sam’s could provide lunch sandwiches and snacks throughout the week! Freeze the pot roast, freeze the fish, and use the food when you need it instead of going shopping every time you get hungry.  The idea is that there is no need to cook new meals everyday if it is costing you too much to do so.  If you get tired of turkey mix it up with different side items, be creative!  They key to this concept is to look for deals where the small purchases have the largest volume.  If you do like to cook more often than others, like I do, freezing food may be an unthinkable option. However, making your own food can be very rewarding, healthy and cost efficient.


Think Creatively

What are your favorite foods when you go out to eat?  


It is never that hard, nor expensive, to recreate your favorite dishes in the comfort of your own home with just a little research and creativity.  Who knows, you might even learn something.


For example, a large pizza (around $13) and a two liter soft-drink (around $2) could feed a family of three for at least a dinner and a lunch, but can also come with an unforgiving calorie tag.  Why not make your own?  Good wheat crust found in any grocery store ($4) combined with any good spaghetti sauce (that can also be used for a spaghetti meal – 2 meals for 1 purchase! – $3), cheese ($2) and one or two veggies ($1) like an onion or green pepper and you have yourself a healthy meal.  For a drink solution, steep some iced tea and put it in the refrigerator a couple hours before you eat instead of buying containers of drinks.  This may also help break the habit of soft drinks, which are incredibly unhealthy.  You can use what is left of the veggies in the remaining spaghetti sauce for a homemade spaghetti meal as well.  


The idea is to diversify.  Buy foods that can utilize your creativity and fill you up on a low budget. 


Buy Local

Buy local as well.  Even though gas is down from $4 or $5 a gallon, you should notice that commodity prices are not … which increased on the sole premise of an increase in transport costs.  Buying locally saves you money by avoiding this pitfall … and has the added advantage of supporting local small businesses and farmers.


Granted we do not all live in or close to farming communities, but chances are there is a farmer’s market close by.  Many times, you will have more than one farmer’s market to choose from.  Look online or in the paper.  For the money, farmer’s markets are incredibly resourceful for bargain hunters.


It is important to remember frugality is simply thinking outside the box that we all have been living.  Yes … it means changing habits, but we can use it as a time to grow and explore new alternatives.   


“Because [our children] had had the privilege of growing up where they’d raised a lot of food.  They were never hungry.  They could share their food with people.  And so, you share your lives with people.”

-Ella Baker, In “Moving the Mountain,” by Ellen Cantarow, 1980.


“Americans are just beginning to regard food the way the French always have.  Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else.  Dinner is the evening.”
-Art Buchwald


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Posted on 25 June, 2009 in Finance & Family, Fitness & Health
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