Pay Attention to the Bottom Line

Strategy Two:  Pay Attention to the Bottom Line

You’ve learned how to manage and store your foods under Strategy One: Bank Your Foods. Now it’s time to look at Bottom Line and determine what you want to spend and figure out how that will fit your budget. Hopefully, this will be a choice, but even if all you have left is what’s left after the bills are paid, the hints below will help.

Pricebook - it can be as simple or complex as you'd like.
Pricebook – it can be as simple or complex as you’d like, but it is very important to know the cost of your food items.

What’s important is how much you spend in total on your food over the course of the year, divided by the month, which will then give a loose idea of what will be spent for the week.

  • It’s easy to fall into a trap where you say “I have $200 for the month for groceries, so each week I will spend $50.00, each day, I’ll have $7.00 to spend. All dinners need to be under $3.50, lunches $2.50 and breakfast $1.00. Just like a diet, that kind of thinking can lead to serious binges or rebellion.
  • It’s important to keep in mind that the best strategy is to buy what’s on sale: The sales aren’t going to be stellar each week, either, which means some weeks you’ll wish to spend more, others less.

Here’s what’s worked for me:

  • Finesse: You’ll need a combination of discipline and flexibility in shopping and planning strategies, two opposing sensibilities. Stick to an overall budget but pick up the best bargains every week. It can be a tight balancing act but will pay off if you figure out and know the costs of your food so that you can judge this appropriately.  
  • Keep within budget: It may be okay to “borrow” from next week’s budget for a great sale price, but make sure to “pay it back” and get right back on track. Never use credit to pay for food. Really, never use credit at all except to buy a house and possibly a car, unless you are disciplined enough to use a card for the points, money back, etc. and pay off each month avoiding the interest charges. 
  • Look for the averages: Buy a variety of foods at different price points and balance your spending over time. Knowing what is the “top” price and the “low” price of each food item you’ll buy can save you a lot of money over the course of the year. Keep a pricebook, a summation of the prices of the food you normally buy, where/when you bought it and the cost – either a simple notebook or one on the computer/phone.
  • Look for value: It’s important to know the “value” of food! 14 ounces of potato chips for $4.99 is not a good value, but a pound of Salmon for $6.99 very well could be. Look and buy bargain priced foods that are nutrient dense and support a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Find a balance: If you want something expensive one night, compensate by serving very inexpensive foods for the rest of the week, even if you have a pantry of more expensive items to choose from. I’d say ESPECIALLY when you have more expensive items! This may very well be healthier, too. It’s a huge myth that healthy food has to be expensive; generally it’s the junk, premade stuff and mixes that are.
  • Buy Food on Sale: Determine to buy the best bargains, use coupons (and yes, they are worthwhile) and perhaps go without if need be. Many sales prices are as low as half off, and most coupons have a value of a dollar. Don’t say, “No thanks, I’d rather pay more!” If in doubt, open up your pantry and cupboads and take quick note of how many items you have. Think how much you’d have saved if you paid 50% less – and how many $’s you’ve passed up by not using coupons.
  • Divide and conquer: Buy larger amounts of lower priced sales items and divide it to use over time. If you buy a larger, more expensive item, say a ham, turkey or roast plan on using it for multiple meals. If you know your budget, it’s easy to determine how many meals one might need to get out of a more expensive purchase to make the purchase worthwhile. If chicken breasts are a great price, stock up and divide into portions for meals, and so on.
  • Plan for expected & unexpected: There will always be times when your budget will be stressed because of some annual expense or unplanned catastrophe, and your budget might vary. These things always happen, so try to plan ahead so you aren’t going through times of glut and famine. Have a repertoire of low budget meals that are so good no one even knows they’re dirt cheap for these times. Plan simple, flexible meals for days when the unexpected comes up. Have a stash of a few meals in the freezer, ready to heat and thaw.
  • Plan indulgences: It may cost a few more dollars more to have a special meal or dessert at home, but it will cost a lot less than “I’m sick of eating beans and weanies and macaroni and cheese, let’s go out tonight.”  An expensive ingredient may be surprisingly unexpected and elevate a whole meal.
  • Budget in splurges: A so-called “well deserved” unplanned splurge after a few weeks of staying on budget can undo all your discipline in the wink of an eye, putting you right back to square one…and leaving you feeling, maybe, like it just wasn’t worth it. When you don’t have something good to look forward to, it’s easy to stop by for fast food, grab dinner out or otherwise blow the budget. Plan these indulgences, especially if you can find great deals with coupons.

Strategy Three:  Know Control Costs/Maximize Profits and Minimize Losses

Links for The Twelve Strategies: 

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Fabulously Frugal Cooking & Shopping

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