Thursday, September 24, 2009

Grocery Buying Thought # 3: Think Like a Food Manufacturer

Food companies understand how to keep costs down, and we can learn a lot from the ways they practice thrift. Thus today's thought, save money by thinking like a food manufacturer. Here are some of the things they do:

1. Understand that good packaging adds to a foods perceived value, but not its actual value. A lot of times when we shop, we are buying art and novelty just as much as we are buying nourishment. Think about what's inside the pretty package? Is it worth it? Check out to see some silly examples. In contrast, the ingredients food manufacturers bring in to make their products come in boring, utilitarian packaging.

2. Use expensive ingredients as garnish and inexpensive ingredients as filler. Ever notice the size and number of chicken pieces in a canned soup or on a frozen pizza? The difference is that when you make it yourself, you can make the inexpensive filler healthy-- brown rice, vegetables, whole grain bread, etc.

3. Remember small savings add up. I read once about an airline that saved over a million dollars by putting one less olive on people's salads. When searching for good deals on food, it is most important to consistently spend less on the foods you eat most often. For example, if you spend $1 less on the milk you buy every week, you will save $52 in a year. If you spend $5 less on the big bottle of vanilla you buy once a year, you will save $5 in a year. Of course it good to save money on big purchases too, but sometimes we forget how little savings add up.

4. Buy in bulk, but don't get distracted. Manufacturers buy directly from suppliers, in huge quantities. For basic items, don't be afraid to buy a lot at once. Just make sure you really need it. Watch out for the luxury foods sold at warehouse stores. It may be cheaper than you can get it elsewhere, but you probably wouldn't buy that much elsewhere. Sometimes it is better to buy a smaller amount at higher relative cost. And sometimes you should just skip it.

5. Cook a lot at once. Food manufacturers do it for efficiency. You can do it for convenience. Freeze it, or eat it again tomorrow with cheese on top.

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