How to watch both your waistline and your budget at the same time

Keeping your family food budget on track can be a challenge in easy money times; trying to control it when inflationary pressures are out of control is daunting, but it can be done. There are more than 123 million food budget sites listed on Google. Many seem to dredge up much of the same advice we have all seen: shop on discount day, buy in quantity, comparison shop between stores, look on lower shelves for lower-priced or house brands, use substitute items, cook at home, check nutritional content etc.

Eat to live, rather than live to eat. Not mentioned nearly as often is a very simple rule. Buy (and eat) only what you need to sustain your mental and physical well being. This philosophy means that you start to view food in a different light: no longer as a reward for getting through the day, or as a boredom reliever, or as entertainment, but as fuel to keep you efficiently functioning as contributing member of society.

Change your mindset. Are we entitled to more food because we can afford it? One Internet article recently stated that Westerners consume three to five times more protein daily than their bodies needed. A blogger then mentioned that during their grandparents' lives in the Depression, they lived on baloney sandwiches twice a day. Further comments stated that: "where is it written that anyone was even entitled to meat twice a day, when developing country populations may only have access to meat once or twice a month?" Point taken; the message is that we eat too much of everything, both the wrong and the right foods. In a recent commentary on the rise of affluence in China, it was noted that a significant portion of the Chinese population is now overweight and...it has only taken 11 years of Western-style consumption to produce this eating epidemic.


Keeping your family food budget on track can be a challenge in easy money times; trying to control it when inflationary pressures are out of control is daunting, but it can be done. There are more than 123 million food budget sites listed on Google. Many seem to dredge up much of the same advice we have all seen: shop on discount day, buy in quantity, comparison shop between stores, look on lower shelves for lower-priced or house brands, use substitute items, cook at home, check nutritional content etc.

Eat to live, rather than live to eat. Not mentioned nearly as often is a very simple rule. Buy (and eat) only what you need to sustain your mental and physical well being. This philosophy means that you start to view food in a different light: no longer as a reward for getting through the day, or as a boredom reliever, or as entertainment, but as fuel to keep you efficiently functioning as contributing member of society.

Change your mindset. Are we entitled to more food because we can afford it? One Internet article recently stated that Westerners consume three to five times more protein daily than their bodies needed. A blogger then mentioned that during their grandparents' lives in the Depression, they lived on baloney sandwiches twice a day. Further comments stated that: "where is it written that anyone was even entitled to meat twice a day, when developing country populations may only have access to meat once or twice a month?" Point taken; the message is that we eat too much of everything, both the wrong and the right foods. In a recent commentary on the rise of affluence in China, it was noted that a significant portion of the Chinese population is now overweight and...it has only taken 11 years of Western-style consumption to produce this eating epidemic.

Now that I have made myself hugely unpopular, for those still interested in saving money, here are six basic rules in changing your perception of food while controlling food costs:

1 Eat less. If your goal is to cut your food budget by 25 percent, then serve three-quarters of the portion size that you normally consume. Unfortunately, most people simply will not do this - it is too large a hurdle to give up the 'eat all you can or all you want' feeling. It is encouraging to read about food centres helping their customers control costs but disheartening to see consumer statements such as, "Everything is going up! Last week I spent $150, this week it is $225. Where will it stop?" Guess what, it is not going to stop! You have the power to control your food outlay. Who said you had to spend more, why not decide to stick to your budget? You have that choice.

2 Shop with a hand calculator. Buy food value based on cost per serving - see the two day sample menu chart. A woman of medium height with a weight between 130-150 pounds needs 50 grams of protein per day. What are the best and cheapest sources of that protein? A 24-ounce sirloin steak generates the same protein value as 24 ounces of hamburger - there is a considerable difference in cost for the same amount of protein. While this is one outsize example, comparing the cost of one pound of hamburger ($4.30 per pound and 100 grams of protein) to one pound of potato chips ($11 per pound, 32 grams of protein), we have the same high cost of protein to food dollar value.

You have to eat three pounds of potato chips, a total of 7,500 calories at a total cost of $33 dollars to get the equivalent food value in protein to one pound of hamburger at a $4.30 total cost.

Use the same logic for complex carbohydrates and other food groups.

3 Read the food labels. What exactly are you buying for your hard-earned dollar? The nutrition data label required to be prominently displayed on all food (or purported food) by law in most democratic counties contains a literal wealth of information. Don't know what's in your mystery "food" treat? Go to www.nutritiondata.com, and see the tremendously helpful features, such as:

• Fast-food nutrition facts for restaurants like Arby's, Burger King, McDonald's, Starbucks - those double caramel lattes are expensive and calorie deadly.

• Find foods highest in any vitamin or mineral or lowest in carbs, saturated fats, or sugars.

• Help for newly diagnosed diabetics.

• The ND Pantry: Create and analyse recipes, track your diet, compare foods, and save your favorite foods.

• Quick start: Just one click stocks your pantry with foods that fit your diet, such as low-carb, low-calorie, low-fat, heart-healthy, quick and healthy, or super-nutritious.

4 Stick to basic food groups. Many households today use the takeout order route of prepared foods with little or no idea of ingredients used. Simple meals and plain food do work. Rachel Ray has demonstrated that learning to cook is easy and fun to do. Yes, they can be a bit dull and boring, but remember the goal - are you adding to savings or next day sewage, it is your choice. How can you plan for a secure financial future, if you do not try to save today?

5 Eliminate processed food - except for birthdays and holidays. The higher up the food processing chain you go, the less it looks and acts like food, and the more costly the food value per serving. The potato chip example above is duplicated again and again with sugary or diet soda, and salty snacks of all kinds, as my grandsons say. They, too, has a huge fondness for fluffy puffy zero-food-quality snacks. It is hardly anyone's fault. We have all been conditioned through millions of media ads promoted by food conglomerates to want this food entertainment.

6 Do not throw any food away. In the old days, leftover night was common.

All bread scraps, leftover cereal & milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and a touch of nutmeg was turned into wonderful home made bread pudding.

Today, we buy it sliced ($2 per) - some have no idea how it is even made. Make soup from all those tired fridge veggies, including lettuce (yes).

Why waste dollars you have worked extremely hard to earn?

Food is not an appreciating asset.

One thing that you can bet on - no one will starve on this food for fuel budget.

Use your imagination and work together with your family.

You may be surprised to find that you end up with a weekly cash surplus for a modest night out, and possibly to add to your savings account. You be in control of your family budget.

This is my challenge to you. When you hit your hurdle of high food costs, will you feel incented to change the way that you view food?

Please let me know how you are coping with food inflation, and feel free to send me any family secrets you have to stretch your food dollar further.

Martha Harris Myron CPA -NH1929, CFP® -67184 (US licenses) TEP - Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners. She is a Senior Wealth Manager at Argus Financial Limited, specialising in comprehensive financial solutions and investment advisory services for individual private clients and their families, business owners, endowments and trusts. DirectLine: 294 5709. Confidential email can be directed to mmyron@argusfinancial.bm

The article expresses the opinion of the author alone. Under no circumstances is the content of this article to be taken as specific individual investment advice, nor as a recommendation to buy/ sell any investment product. The Editor of the Royal Gazette has final right of approval over headlines, content, and length/brevity of article.

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