Punchinello’s Chronicles

March 15, 2009

10 Secrets to Saving Money when Shopping for Food

Filed under: Food & Recipes,Survival 101 — Punchinello @ 3:12 pm
Tags: , ,

Everywhere you look you see “The 10 Steps” to this, or “3 Things They Don’t Want You to Know!” There are Secrets nobody wants you to know, and Key Factors toward something important. Most of these are content articles designed to help build visibility for Web sites. They’re puff pieces, superficial and simplistic. The bottom line is that rarely do 10-step programs do much of anything.

Food prices are going up and up and up. Disposable income is going down and down and down. More than likely, you’ve noticed that you’re spending more for food each week, getting less during each shopping expedition. And so we have more articles about how to save money shopping for food.

The problem is that we’ve all been trying to shortcut our way to success for decades!

No, this post doesn’t have 10 secrets. It doesn’t have any secrets. There’s no shortcut to health, there’s no shortcut to saving money, there’s no shortcut to much of anything in life. It takes work, knowledge, effort, and time. It takes discipline, new habits, and a basic change to the way you live if you want to produce real results. And lasting results.

The main way to save money on food is to learn how to cook! I’m astonished at the number of people who really believe that heating up a can of soup, or putting a frozen dinner into a microwave is cooking! There’s a reason people use pots and pans, stove burners and ovens.

Just as importantly, you should take the time to memorize a database of food prices. If you stop in for a quick purchase at your local supermarket, how would you know that a $1.89 pound of butter is a good deal? You wouldn’t unless you also knew that the regular and typical price in most of the surrounding stores is $2.50 or $3.00 per pound.

Most stores have special “in-store sales” to get rid of food that’s about to spoil. There’s “close-dated” food, meaning that it’s about to expire and the store wants to try to at least make their costs. How would you know that 69-cent per pound chicken is a good deal? Do you pay $8 for a whole chicken, or $4? Would you even know those prices off the top of your head?

“So what?” you might be saying. “I have money, but I don’t have time.”

That’s fine. Nobody has time for anything, these days. We don’t have time to talk with our kids. We don’t have time to read books to our kids. We don’t have time to think or plan ahead. We don’t have time to budget. We don’t have time to sleep. We don’t have time to cook a meal. We don’t have time to live our entire lives.

When we finally hear from the doctor that we have 6 months left to live, we’ll know we don’t have time for all the things we wish we might have done. We won’t have time to talk with people we love, or to go see the wonders of the world.

At the moment, it seems as if we can exchange money for time. Our jobs and careers, families and lovers will always be there. We’ll get around to it, one of these days. But in today’s economy, things are changing.

No, most people are NOT “one paycheck away from being homeless!” But it is true that most people don’t have much of a backup plan in case things go wrong. If you get laid off, do you believe you’ll casually get another job in, say, six months? What happens if it takes two years? What if you never get another job?

America’s lifestyle has been declining for nearly 50 years. It’s been a slow, incremental change, and we don’t really even see it much. Inflation is one factor. Foreign exchange and balance of trade is another factor. Declining productivity is yet another factor. It’s a complex system, with too many variables to say only one thing is the cause.

Today, nearing the end of all the corruption and disinterest we’ve put into the system, we’re finally seeing the real decline in our life styles. Money doesn’t buy what it used to. We don’t see the quality we used to. Many aspects of daily life aren’t there anymore. We’re all racing as fast as we can to accomplish less and less.

You HAVE to eat! You have to have water. You have to have shelter. You have to have clothing. In a modern world, you also have to have an address and, if you want a job, you have to have a phone number. You don’t “have to have” credit cards. A credit rating is important because banks have made it so. Without good credit you can’t even get a job or rent an apartment.

But although a credit rating is important, it’s not fundamental to survival. Cooking or knowing how to prepare food for eating is critical.

Right now, when we still have lots and lots of products in stores, food is “forgiving.” If you learn how to cook and ruin a particular meal, you can go to McDonald’s. You can buy the ingredients again and try once more. If you burn a lasagna or turn out a wooden steak, so what? You can try it again.

But what happens when you get only one chance? What if there aren’t “do-overs?” What if you’re getting food from a food bank, or you’re getting food not by choice?

Learning to cook means not only knowing how to prepare your favorite foods. It also means knowing how to form an edible, and even tasty meal out of whatever happens to be around! Everyone should have milk, flour, sugar and eggs on hand. Even if you don’t use them and have to throw them out, milk and eggs are fundamental.

Do you mark the expiration date on one of the eggs you put in the fridge? How do you know if an egg is still good? You can put it into a bowl of water deep enough to cover the eggs. If the egg floats, throw it out. If it sinks to the bottom, it’s still okay to eat.

In Haiti, mothers are making cookies out of mud and dirt, feeding that to their kids to fool their little stomachs into believing they’re not hungry anymore. Yet we send millions of dollars to Haiti! Is it better to starve than to rise up and overthrow a corrupt government? For the Haitians, apparently so.

Here in America, people puff out their chests and proudly announce that they have no idea how to cook food. They go out to eat every day. They buy fast food. They use their oven to store knick-knacks. But is that really so different than feeding children mud pies? No, not really.

We’re living in an astounding time of history. Food is everywhere. It’s so prevalent, most people think it never will go away. We’ll never run out of food. We’ll always have unlimited choices. Nobody thinks about seasons or food being in or out of season. And so everyone just spends whatever they happen to spend on food.

Can you feed yourself or your family for $4 per meal? How about $2 per meal? It’s not that hard, you know. But that’s the point! You have to “know” how.

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