Monday, May 17, 2010

No Spend Month Day 17: A bit of Math

I don't think I'd be able to even consider this No Spend Month thing if I had not already seriously considered my food budget. I've done this several times since I've been on my own, the last year in particular. Food is something I refuse to scrimp on, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to save.

Bread is my favourite example. I eat a lot of bread. I eat bread like and 18th century French Peasant. (If, you know, they could get bread). I never really thought about bread as expensive. For years I used to eat Dempster's whole wheat, which cost $3.19 a loaf. That's not a lot of money, right? Plus, I have to have bread.

When I started shopping with Mom at Costco, I realized that I could buy two loaves for $6 and freeze one until I was ready to eat it. I was pleased with this savings, so I wanted to calculate how much I saved per year by making this change. Figuring that I eat about 1.5 loaves a week, my savings added up to $14.82 a year. Not too shabby.

A few months later I was out of bread and had no ride to costco. Rather than buying the Dempster's at full price, I picked up a loaf that was made in the grocery store bakery for $1.99. I actually really liked it. I was fresher than Dempster's, and had fewer mystery ingredients. I switched, and calculated my yearly savings again. This time it was a whopping $78.78 over what I was spending at Costco and $93.60 over what I had been spending before. I felt like a very savvy shopper and bragged to everyone.

Late last fall I started making my own bread from a recipe I got from Orangette. (See below). I fell in love with this recipe, and started making my own bread nearly all the time. For one thing, the only ingredients are yeast, water, honey, oil and whole wheat flour, so there is no salt or sugar or any preservatives or mystery ingredients of any kind. For another, it's delicious. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, absolutely perfect for toast or soaking up soup. Finally, I discovered that I find it incredibly soothing to make bread. This recipe only takes 2 hours from start to finish (and most of that it's rising or baking) so it doesn't take too much time, and I get all my frustrations out pounding that dough. Not to mention how wonderful the house smells when I make it. My breadmaking day began to be my favourite day of the week. I didn't know how much the bread cost, but I didn't care. I won't compromise on the quality of my food.

But one especially dull afternoon, I decided to find out. I figured out how much I paid for the individual ingredients and how much of each I used and added it all up. I came up with about $0.90 a loaf. This is a lot cheaper than I had originally thought, and a heck of a lot cheaper than the store bread. How much am I saving a year? That's a yearly savings of $85.02 over the store brand and $179.40 over the original dempsters bread.

To emphasize: In 2010 I will save $179.40 on bread alone over what I paid in 2008. That's a lot of money.

Now, obviously not everyone is into bread baking, but my point here is that the best way to save money is to look at the things you buy the most often and try to think about a way to do it cheaper. Those savings might be small, but they add up faster. Can you buy in bulk? Is a cheaper brand just as good? (or better? As it was in this case) can you do it yourself? Just keep in mind that, when it comes to nutrition, a better price is not necessarily a better buy. Read all the ingredients and nutritional information carefully. Keep your body and your wallet healthy

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