Don’t be a Gambler

Strategy Five:  Be an Investor, Not a Gambler -

A broker analyzes the cost and quality of a product before investing hard-earned money, and considers when/if they may procure that product at a like price in the future. This is key, and I can’t emphasize it enough!  They’ll take advantage of good prices, and invest in a variety of products at different price points, and diversify.  A good business doesn’t buy something just because it’s “cheap” and expect it to pay off, nor do they buy in quantities and pay for storage and tracking of items they can get in the future for a better cost. 

  • Really take a moment to look at the quantity and quality of foods you are serving your family, and I might particularly stress this if you’re very good at shopping, couponing and finding deals, but this applies to us all.  Especially so when we are budgeting.  The ‘stress’ is because it’s easy to get carried away, especially when items are ‘cheap’ or ‘free.’  The quotations are because there really is no such thing as “cheap’ or “free” – you’ve put your time and effort into allocation of your money, the distribution of  your assets and the procurement and storage involved.  Coupons are a good thing and coupon sites very worthwhile – just be careful!

Yeah, someone went overboard!

  • Find yourself 45 minutes and grab a month’s worth of receipts and take inventory of your spending.  Make several categories on a piece of paper.  Meat, Processed Meat, Cheese, Processed Cheese, Whole Grain Bread, White Bread (and include ‘whole wheat’ bread in this category.) Fresh Vegetables, Fresh Fruit, Canned Vegetables and Fruit, Whole grain cereals or Brans, Sugared Cereals, Junk Food, Cleaning Products, Misc Items.  Consider some categories of your own, and add those in as well. 

  • Transfer the amounts and item on each receipt into each category.  No matter how focused you are on spending and serving quality foods, you will likely be shocked by what this cold hard inventory reveals. Most likely, in fact, the more focused on you are on health, the more shocked you will be.  Multiply this monthly amount by 12.


  • How much did all those “sales” of junk food cost you?  Are your cupboards bursting with items you might have never considered buying because they were ‘free’ or really too cheap to pass up?  Can you actually get to the split peas, good oatmeal and wild rice now shoved in the upper back corner because they’re crowded out by mixes and boxed potatoes, boxed cereals, cookies, snack crackers, canned foods, sugar laden ‘granola’ bars, fruit snacks and applesauce cups?


  • Look at your freezer and fridge.  Consider if they are brimming with ‘cheap’ junk food, processed items all bought on sale that you might normally not have bought had they not been such a great deal?  Frozen Pizza, Pizza Rolls (my son’s favorite!), frozen dinners, processed dressings (maybe bought to entice the kids to eat carrots, but now dumped on everything?) bottled marinades?  2 for 1 margarines laden with trans fat because you ‘think’ butter is too expensive?


  • Because you did so well on your spending each week, did you reward yourself or a child with a soda or a candy bar as a pick me up from the register cases?  $1.49 x 52  weeks = $77.48, times 7.65 percent tax, (varies from town to town) add another $5.93 for a total of $83.41.  Did you buy the cheapest brand of trans fat laden oil because you didn’t think you could have afforded olive oil?  Well, there was the money right there.  This is one small item, likely you’ll see hundreds or even thousands of dollars of misappropriation of funds when you examine your spending. 


  • Ah, it’s a little tough to find out that you’ve been seduced by a master when you thought you were in control, but it’s easy to fall under the spell of a multibillion dollar industry.  We’ve all been there, and the only reason I know this is I’ve done it myself at times.  We are, all of us, under the perception that it costs MORE to eat well, when in fact, carefully planned, it costs less.  What we’re losing is going to be the extra fat, from our bodies and our budgets!  Think about “investing” your money in your family and yourself – You’re eating for health, comfort and enjoyment.


  • Really take a few moments now to think about the items you’d really like to eat, the lifestyle you’d like, but didn’t think you could afford.  Especially if you’ve been cutting out perceived “luxuries” while on a tight budget.  Can you find $25.00 a week in your receipts spent on “junk” or items you didn’t need to allocate for a special meal once a week?  When was the last time you went out?  When did the family go to a movie together, or out for ice cream?  To a parade where maybe you had a splurge on too expensive hot dogs from the vendor – but they taste so good because they’re a once in a while treat instead of a massed produced staple microwaved and served on a cheap store brand bun?


  • Look at each item in your list.  Really analyze where you splurged and on what, the amounts you spent on items that you thought were saving you money.  Perhaps you noticed you spent $12.00 every month on sugared cereals, but justified it because it was on sale with a coupon – make the transition, very slowly toward whole grains by first substituting the healthier middle grade cereals like brans and nuggets, then working your way slowly toward something more healthy.  Serve oatmeal or another alternative once a week.  They have coupons and sales for those, too.  They might cost a few pennies more, but it’s money well spent.  Kids don’t like it?  You know what, they’ll eat it if they’re hungry.  Period.  And guess what?  They probably don’t need to be sitting in front of the TV eating three or four giant bowls of Frooty O’s anyway. 

  • As you think about each item, think about how you can slowly transition those changes – it starts with what comes in to the house.  Make a determination to make one positive step each grocery trip by eliminating one problem area and substituting something else.  Tell you family if you wish, make some rules or just begin to make the changes.  Kids begin to fuss because there is only whole grain bread?  Whatever, it’s not your problem, really.  You are not there to cater to the bad habits of the family.  Pay no more attention to it than if they were complaining because you don’t let them play on the interstate or engage in other dangerous activities.  Oh, they don’t eat it, you say?  I say, good.  We eat too much bread. Empty calories.  Let them look at the bread box, look in the fridge, look in the cupboards, sigh, and wander out of the kitchen with nothing.  Now there is a savings – for your wallet and their health.


  • Consider how you are storing and tracking all your bargain items?  Do you have to move things around to get to an item because you have 10 cans of spaghettios (but they were only 15 cents each?)  Do you have to go through now and then and throw out food because it’s become outdated?  Throw out huge boxes of cereal because the kids opened three or four and now they’re soggy?  But it was on sale with a coupon and you got it for 67 cents a box?  Small loss, but the larger loss is the lack of respect this brings – a lack of respect of the food itself, the resources in the production and distribution, and the lack of respect that carries through to how we take care of ourselves.



  • What about the really great deals you got?  10 boxes of pasta because they were 50 cents each?  Can you use it all?  The 10 pound bag of potatoes for $1.99, or the huge can of olive oil from the buying club?  Will it all be used?  Is it is cluttering up your cupboards and pantry, having to be moved away all the time to get to things, or allocated to a dark, out of the way space where it’s rotting away or turning rancid?  Maybe you’ve gotten flour bugs from the 6 boxes of (how many years old?) corn muffin mix you scored for 29 cents each that’s now pushed behind the cereal and hasn’t seen the light of day for years – maybe you don’t even like corn muffins that much, but they were cheap?



  • Are you stressed because you have a ton of that 50 cent pasta, and guess what, it was on sale this week for 25 cents each?  Or maybe you were thinking you’d love to go whole wheat, but you have all this regular pasta you ‘have’ to use up.  Or the potatoes went on sale the following week for $1.19, like happened to me a few weeks ago.  Maybe you’re stuck eating the same old meals week after week because it’s cheap – is it really?  Truly?  Take a look at my postings under my “Cost of Convenience” page and the items I’ve reviewed.   I’ll be adding more.


  • Is the family eating and really enjoying the food that’s being served?  Have they forgotten what real apple pie can taste like because they already filled up on ‘bargain’ pop tarts bought two for one with a coupon?  Is there anticipation because they are getting special treats now and then, made all the better because they are so rare?  Or are they just carrying off huge bowls of sale priced one dimensional additive filled tub ice cream every night after dinner all week, only to plop down in front of the tv and eat it mindlessly, not caring how it really tastes, as long as it’s sweet?  Kids should look like this when they have ice cream!


You can go with this


or with that – too many of us are here!


  • It may be a stretch to think about include the saying of a grace or a blessing or a thanking of some sort before a meal as a business policy, but I believe it is so important.  It doesn’t need to include the invocation of a religious diety, but all the better if it does, in my opinion.  If you don’t have one of your own, maybe once a week, take a grace or blessing from another culture, say it and discuss it as a topic during dinner.  Even a sincere moment to talk about the food before we eat it:  Today I’m grateful we’re having salmon.  At one time it was so rare and fished out there was danger of extinction, but now the farmed salmon has taken off the stress.  Enjoy, everyone. 



  • Enjoy, everyone – isn’t that really the focus of this whole site?  How to eat better for less?  Don’t blame, don’t self recriminate – just slowly nudge the family and yourself back to where you should be, and maybe where you didn’t think you could get to on your budget.

Links for The Twelve Strategies: 

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