Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Don't Buy Convenience Items

#6 Money Saving Tip - Don't Buy Convenience Items Unless You Really, Really Don't Have Extra Time. There are tons of convenience foods out there. There are cut-up carrots, cut-up fruit, individually packaged cookies, and personal-sized drinks for sale. There are also whole lunches pre-packaged for the busy parent. There are frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal in a bar, and salads in a bag. The mark-up on convenience foods is astronomical, not to mention the amount of extra waste they generate. I think there is a time and place for convenience foods. When you're on vacation, it's very nice to have boxed drinks in the car. And when you throw big parties and are short on time, it's nice to buy a giant sized bowl of pre-cut fruit.

But it's when these convenience foods become a part of your daily life, they will eat you out of house and home before you get a chance to eat them. It's much more economical to buy a bag or box of food such as cookies and portion them out yourself. Or to buy a whole fruit and cut it up. Drinks can easily be poured into sippy cups for a fraction of juice boxes. It would not take too much extra time to make these foods into individual portions.

Here are some examples. A 64 ounce carton of orange juice is typically on sale for $3.00 where I live. That equates to 8 8-ounce portions. A 48-ounce package of 6 individual 8 ounce juices are over $4.00. If you are packaging a lunch for your child, you could easily take 5 sippy cups and fill them with juice in the beginning of the week and still have 3 portions worth for the following week and save yourself a dollar (not to mention helping save the environment). Another example is carrots. Organic baby cut carrots cost $2.99 for a 16-ounce bag where I live. And an 8-ounce jar of organic dressing is $2.99. For $6.00, you could probably divide these up into 8 servings (2 ounces of carrots and 1 ounce of dressing) for 75 cents per serving. Compare this to a 6.75 ounce package of organic baby cut carrots pre-packaged into 3 servings including the dip costs $3.99. This is $1.33 per serving and the servings are smaller! How long does it take to pour some dressing into a cup? The carrots are already baby carrots.

All it takes is a little bit of planning to take advantage of regular sized packages to save you money. And then when you absolutely need a convenience food, you won't feel too bad about buying it and paying more money.

In Real Life (IRL) - I gave some examples of prices at our local grocery store above. But I will share with you what I do for my family. During the summer I went to a natural food store. Generally, their produce is more expensive than in a regular grocery store but I like some of their products, so I shop there on a regular basis in addition to typical grocery stores. Anyway, they had whole watermelons for sale for $5.99. These were grown locally and they were HUGE! I took one home and cut it up. I had to use two containers to store it all because it was so big. As an experiment, I said to myself, let's see what this cut-up watermelon weighs without the rind. I put it on my baby's nursery scale and it weighed over 11 pounds! Wow, that means, I spent just 55 cents per pound for watermelon. If you were to walk into any grocery store -natureal or not, it costs at least $3.99 for cut-up watermelon - sometimes $4.99 or $5.99. For 11 pounds of cut-up watermelon, that's at least $44! I spent just $6! Seriously, it took me about 30 minutes to cut up the thing and I saved nearly $40.

For lunches for school, I make a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the beginning of the week and freeze them. Each night as I'm packing lunch, I pull out a pre-frozen sandwich. Easy as pie. I buy my bread in the natural food store mentioned above as well as my only fruit (no sugar or artifical ingredients) jelly. I generally buy regular peanut butter. I figured out that the cost of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich is about 54 cents if I use two slices of bread and a whole ounce each of peanut butter and jelly and I buy nothing on sale. The pre-frozen pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are 75 cents per 2 ounce sandwich at my local market. I save 20 cents per day and I use natural bread and jelly. Over the course of a school year, that 20 cents turns into many dollars.

I could add lots more examples, but that's just boring. Figure out the cost per serving of some of those convenience foods, and you'll find you can make them or put the "package" together yourself without much effort and for a lot less money.

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