Know the Products You Buy

Strategy Nine:  Know the Products you Buy –

A successful business is going to do a lot of number crunching: They know the cost, quality, what’s in the product and what is entailed in producing it. They’ll consider the value of the item. It is impossible to make an informed decision about cost if you don’t know how much food costs and what’s a great price.

Pricebook - it can be as simple or complex as you'd like.
Pricebook – it can be as simple or complex as you’d like.

Is a beer company going to grow their own barley? They may do so IF it profits them to do so, by improving the quality or the cost of their final product. For food think about how nutrient dense is it, is there an another alternative that might be healthier or cost less? Does the item have an emotional pay off? Consider your time as valuable: generally, the more refined a product is, the more you will expect to pay, and very possibly, the worse it is for you.

  • Know when the best time to buy the product is and when the best incentives are going to be offered by way of dropping prices or offering coupons, rebates, catalinas. When your product is priced the best is generally when it is very plentiful or there is stiff competition. Take advantage of every edge you can find in the marketplace.
  • Can you make your own products at home?  Are you going to bake your own bread? Your own ketchup? Your own lunches? This will have to be a personal decision. You’ll have to consider the quality and cost involved. And cost includes the ingredients, the time and the energy. You’ll find that many items you normally buy are easy, better and more cost-effective to make, especially if you use some time saving principles like prepping ahead and making double recipes. Some of the convenience foods, though, are going to save you a ton of time and effort, and might make the difference between eating fast food and eating at home some days. I consider it very worthwhile to make my own stock and some of our bread, and avoid many of the more processed box and frozen foods.
  •  When considering the quality of the foods you can buy vs. the foods you make, really take a good, hard look at the ingredients, additives and serving sizes. Know, too, how to find trans fat in a convenience item, even when the label says “0 trans fat per serving.” Some things just aren’t worth sacrificing your health for, or the health of your family. Boxed or canned food, margarine, or almost anything made from a mix fall into that category for me. On the other hand, real butter, home made ice cream, and mashed potatoes. Ah, that’s another story. For an example of seven ways trans-fat is hidden in a box of brownies, check out my Rant on Boxed Brownies.
  • Try to focus on making the items that make the most sense so you get the largest payoff for your efforts. There is so much information out there from others that have gone through these processes, and sites devoted to making almost anything, that we are in a position to pick and choose what works for us. I loved talking to the folks of my grandmother’s generation and finding out how to make odd/obscure things, and reading old cookbooks, even when I was a child.  I was afraid many of these things were going to be lost for good, but the internet has preserved and passed on so much knowledge.
  • If you love cooking like I do, and are a curious cook, you can very well count some of the time involved in making items as pure entertainment – only it’s entertainment with a pay off – great food and great fun!  I have friends who ate coconut chocolate cheesecake as dessert three times in a row while I was trying to perfect the recipe.  Just couldn’t get it right.  I learned that you may want to have a back up plan just in case of any gross failures of a tricky process or new recipe.  Make sure that there are enough sides, some bread, whatever to eat – just in case.

Rants – The Cost of Convenience – Check this link for general thoughts and links to analysis of some prepackaged items.

Links for The Twelve Strategies:

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Recipes so Good no-one will know you're Cheap!

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