I have a few passions, two of which are food and finance. You would think they were miles apart initially, but they are completely entwined with each other when you consider today’s importance of a budget (if you don’t have it, don’t spend it), what you eat (processed or “real” food) and inflation (as the dollar goes down, everything costs more).
Let’s start with some easy math. Strawberries are in season where I live and we have some local patches. They sell by the pint, 3 pints, etc, up to full “flats” which typically hold 12 pints. The patch I visit sells a half flat (6 pints) for $12.50 or 2.08 per pint (12.50 divided by 6). Since I don’t buy in smaller quantities I never notice the other prices. Of course, they are in the stores too. For grins and giggles, let’s say that a pint we buy in the store cost’s $2.50, so we are already up $.42 cents a pint (2.50 – 2.08) or 16% to 20% depending on which number you divided the $.42 into. See the beauty of buying larger quantities? You just made money, so to speak. Don’t need, won’t eat that many? Go in with someone on a flat. Crush the strawberries (the older fruit) and eat a bowl or put them on short cake, freeze them for smoothies or some other later date eating. Freezing is one of the best ways to save some dough on food and just save some extra food you might not be able to consume in time.
But onto some more food finance. I am frugal. I see no need for 15 colors of Kitchen Aid mixers, mine is not visible anyway, so who cares what color it is? I feel the same way about food, to a point. It doesn’t have to be visually “perfect” to; A) taste good B) give my body nourishment C) have multiple food product uses D) fit my budget, i.e. cost less. In this light I have discovered my little strawberry patch culls out the non perfect fruit and sells it at a discount. The berries may have some blemishes, a little nibble from a bug, be a little over ripe or some other berry imperfection I am at loss to find or see. They sell these berries at $6.50 a box. This is a large box. It contained somewhere between 18-20 lbs of berries, yes that is POUNDS. So I got a massive amount of perfectly good fruit for $.37 a pound. I am not sure a pint weighs anywhere near a pound. Let’s see, $2.08 A PINT or $.37 A POUND. I’m sensing some massive gains here. I stemmed them all and there was very little “bad” fruit. I might have thrown out half a dozen berries.
From this I got 3 stuffed full gallon freezer bags of berries, 1 large Tupperware container, let’s say 4-6 cups of crushed berries (bring on the short cake!) and 12 half pints of strawberry jam. That’s a lot of food. That’s some Christmas presents in the offing. Even with the other ingredients for the jam, that’s pretty inexpensive food. It does take time, it helps to know how to can and have all the tools (that is coming up in another article). The last time I bought frozen berries they were in the $2.99 a bag range for probably ½ to ¾ of a pound (at the discount store), jam runs in the $3-$5 range depending on the size and mine could be compared to organic. Depending on what you consider your time worth is another factor that would vary considerably. Being very general, my box ‘o berries cost $6.50 and is worth probably around $60.00 retail. Hummmmm. And my perception is that prices are only going up, so in a way, this is an investment that is only going to grow in value. If your half pint of jam goes up in price, you just made money or at least kept the difference you would have had to pay for it at a later date.
The other satisfaction I get is I know where my food comes from. These guys are local, it didn’t travel hundreds of miles to get to my hands. It came out of a field ready to eat and not picked early so it has to ripen on its’ way to the store (green bananas anyone?). It has not been irradiated. I can ask what the berries have been treated with, whereas I have no idea what the ones in the store may have on them (a proven cancer causer in California). Granted the growers could tell me they didn’t treat them but still treat them but, why bother lying? I am supporting a local business not a conglomerate. It tastes like a strawberry, not some red thing with texture that looks like a “perfect” strawberry. I get to learn new things, be it recipes or methods.
The moral of the story? In the end, you have to decide what you want for yourself, your budget and your family. The advantages far outweigh the minuses in my opinion. For me, it is like money in the bank, to buy it now as opposed to buying it later at a higher rate. You always need to eat and you can’t eat paper, but you can plan and store what it buys for now.