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 what you want to spend when budgeting.

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, therefore each day, I’ll have seven dollars to spend, so all my dinners need to be under $3.50, lunches $2.50 and breakfast $1.00.  Just like in a diet, that kind of thinking can lead to serious binges, or even the rebellion of family members.  What’s important is how much you spend in total on your food over the course of the year, divided by the month, and then the week.

  • Finesse a combination of discipline and flexibility in your shopping and planning strategies, two opposing sensibilities.  It can be a tight balancing act but will pay off in the end if you  figure out and know the costs of your food so that you can really judge this appropriately.  Try to have enough flexibility in your budget so if you come across a truly great buy, you  can pick it up.  (If you can make the most of these bargain items, they can be especially worthwhile.)

Pick up loss leaders – the big sale items.

  • Always keep within an overall budget at all times, preferably weekly and definitely monthly.  It may be okay to “borrow” from next week’s budget for a really 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.) 

Credit Cards – rarely a good idea!

  • Look for the averages.  Buy a variety of foods at different price points so you can 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 – either a simple notebook or keep one on the computer or your phone.

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

  • 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 think I’ll even go so far as to say ESPECIALLY when you have more expensive items to choose from.  You’ll probably find that this is healthier, too, and that there is a certain aesthetic involved in knowing that you had something really special, but now are finding the balance.

Lentil Soup

  • If you buy a larger, more expensive item, say a ham or roast or whole chicken, plan on using it for multiple meals.  Knowing that my budget might work out to, say, $3.50 a dinner as discussed above, and I pay $8.00 for an item, I know I will need to get a number of meals out of it to make the purchase worthwhile.  Whether you serve them all in a week, or put part of it aside in the freezer is up to you, but make sure you are able to get your money’s worth or don’t buy it.  See 12 Days of Turkey and 12 Days of Ham for some ideas on how to stretch your food dollar.

Leftover Roast – who knew?

  • There will always be times when you know 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. 

Find the balance!

  • Have a repertoire of low budget meals that are so good no one even knows they’re dirt cheap for these times.  Plan, also for simple, flexible meals for days when the unexpected comes up.  A so-called “well deserved” splurge after a few weeks of bad food can undo all your careful budgeting 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 has a drive through meal ever looked like this?

Crappy food at home can lead to unexpected splurges

…splurges may not be entirely satisfying!

  • Allow, too,  for planned 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.

Vanilla Bean – an expensive indulgence – but might be worth it!

  •  A weekly or monthly planned dinner out to a restaurant with a special or a coupon might very well cost less than spur of the moment pilgrimage, and can have pay offs. as well, in your social well-being.  Yeah, it’s going to cost more than eating at home, but carefully planned can be a special night that everyone looks forward to and enjoys all the more for its rarity.

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

Links for The Twelve Strategies: 

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