Saturday, April 28, 2012

Of Food & Finances

There’s an article in USA Today this week about how the “millennials” are struggling with financial literacy.

They’re not alone. Plenty of “boomers” who majored in liberal arts back in the day, yet failed to pick up an economics course, are probably in the same boat.

For those trying to figure out where to find firm footing amidst all this economic turbulence, I suggest starting with food.

Here’s where I’ll repeat my old “saw” ~ Americans waste 40 percent of the food they buy in grocery stores and in restaurants. Since we all have to eat every day, all that wasted food can translate into wasted cash that could be set aside for a car payment, utility costs or a savings account.

So where do these “millennials” and every other struggling American start?

The answer is in their kitchens. With some planning, we can eat better and spend less.

Somewhere along the way, we mistakenly learned to equate meeting basic needs with deprivation. We stopped viewing having a place to live, good food, clean air and clean water as the abundance that it really is.

So lacking economic certainly or a road map on how to find it, we need to look to the one area that we clearly can control; and that’s what buy and what we eat.

Cut down on the coffee and the soda pop, and carry a water bottle. If you’re spending as much as $5 a day on that, you’ll save about $25 a week, or $100 a month.

Buy more veggies and learn to stretch your meat portions. Meat is expensive, and our bodies need much less protein than we think.

Incorporate whole wheat or gluten-free pasta into your menu planning. True, it’s a source of carbs, but you can lessen its glycemic effect by cooking it no longer than seven minutes. (Keep the pasta portions smaller, and top it with lots of sautéed veggies).

If you’re still stymied by the plethora of food choices, start by buying a bag of apples and eat one every day for a week, without making any other changes. Pay attention to every bite, and truly savor it, knowing that it’s improving your health and nurturing your body. (A bag can cost as much as a latte’!)

Then start doing some simple menu planning. Even just having a fresh garden salad in the fridge can always be a fallback. (Serve it with the kids’ macaroni and cheese; just give them more salad than pasta!)

It’s easier than you think, and you’ll soon find out that it’s “money in the bank!”

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