Each month we spend a lot of money on food. And too often we throw away a large amount of food that was not consumed in a timely manner. Whether it be styrofoam containers of uneaten Italian food or less than fresh salad. Over the years we have thrown away a lot of food that was really still edible. For that reason, when finances are tight, I have adopted one simple strategy for reducing food cost. While it is simple, given the culture in which we live, it is not easy. With such difficulty in mind, I do not insist on such an approach with other family members; I only impose this on myself.
3 Approaches to Food
Several years ago, I heard a presentation on poverty in our city. The speaker quoted a book (that I cannot recall) where the author mentioned that in our culture, there are basically three approaches to food consumption.
- When it comes to meals, the upper class are most concerned with presentation or how the meal looks.
- The middle class tends to be most concerned with how the food tastes.
- The lower class, or the poor, are most concerned with the quantity. In other words, will there be enough?
Intentionally Shifting to Another Category
For most of my life I have fit within the category that emphasizes taste. But for financial reasons, there have been seasons when I voluntarily shift to the #3 category. When I did this for a whole year, I would join with my family occasionally to partake of a meal at a restaurant, but I only ate out on my own a couple of times that year. Instead leftovers were my mainstay. Now granted this may not be a full embracement of category 3 as we had food to begin with, but concerning my daily choices, it’s like category 3 in that I was not making food choices based on presentation or taste.
You see, how I apply category 3 eating does not require eating out of trash containers. We as a culture waste enough food that I can usually find a sufficient amount of quality food in my own refrigerator, food that in previous years we may have thrown out. It may not be what I most desire at a particular meal, but it is still nutritious and filling.
I have learned to eat berries and vegetables when they are not their freshest, but still healthy. Or how about leftovers again and again, when something else might be preferable, but this is previously prepared food that is still nutritious and already purchased.
Comparing Our Eating Habits to the Rest of the World
Now before I am labeled as being either too miserly or too radical, recognize how the vast majority of the world has eaten for thousands of years. It wasn’t primarily based on taste as it is presently in our culture.
A few years ago, I researched what my Scotch-Irish ancestors would have eaten just 200 or 300 years ago. I was amazed to find how monotonous and bland their meals would have been. They generally had two meals a day with milk and potatoes at one meal and fish and potatoes at the other. This was their mainstay day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, for a lifetime.
When I consider how my ancestors ate, then having leftover spaghetti one meal a day for three or four days seems quite doable. So open up the fridge and eat up! Hey, it’s already paid for, and requires little meal planning. Just eat what you have, even if it is not the freshest nor the most tasty at the moment. By doing so, you too may enjoy the cost savings! And this approach to meal time is yet another wiser dollar strategy that would free up more time as well!
photo credit: Corrado Forino, Spaghetti al pomodoro_3 via Flicker cc License – 8/21/16 with no changes