The economics of eating
Smaller portions will reduce your food bill (and your waist).
This post comes from Abby Freedman, a freelance writer and daughter of Smart Spending blogger Donna Freedman.
An MSN article
about portion sizes got me thinking about the economics of eating. Food
is, arguably, one of the most expensive aspects of modern life, whether
you make your meals at home or eat out.
We order our days
around meal breaks. We deny ourselves some foods and force others down
our throats -- when was the last time someone willingly ate a rice
cake? Finally, we pay tons of money to gyms so that we can work off all
I don't have diet foods or delivered meals worked into my spending plan. But I do have to fit into a wedding gown in 5 1/2 months. So I decided to try a little experiment with portion size, and see if I couldn't make food a bit more affordable at the same time.
Breakfast of (frugal) champions?
The box of Kashi GoLean
cereal claims to hold eight servings of one cup each. But somehow I got
just over three breakfasts per box, even though I ate only one bowl
Measuring-cup time! Once I started measuring my
servings, the box magically held the advertised amount. Turns out I had
been eating anywhere from two to 2 1/2 cups at a time -- an entire extra
These days, my serving size is a cup and a half. Even
so, measuring the portions gets me two extra breakfasts per box, which
means I will buy 22 fewer boxes a year. This will trim up to $100 from
Speaking of trim, I'm now eating 190 fewer calories
per day -- 38 percent of the daily amount you need to cut in order to
lose a pound a week.
bread is expensive at $3 to $4 per loaf. One day I realized that I care
a lot less about the bread than I do about what's between it.
solution: Cut one big slice in half but use the same amount of filling.
I get twice as many sandwiches with the same amount of substantive
stuff, be it meat and cheese or peanut butter and jelly.
have a sandwich even three times a week, this means nine fewer loaves
per year, a savings of $27 to $36. Four sandwiches per week? That's 12
fewer loaves, or $36 to $48. And let's not forget the savings of 80 to
100 calories per slice.
Don't want to cut out bread? Ease off
on the cheese. Most folks use hefty amounts, and cheese goes for $3.50
to $6 per pound. Instead, use a super-thin slice or even sprinkle
grated cheddar or Muenster and then microwave the sandwich. The cheese
spreads as it melts, so you can use less without sacrificing taste.
Super, slimmer suppers
The average American ate 200 pounds of animal protein in 2005, or about 0.54 pounds per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Like many folks of my generation, I pay a bit more for convenience:
frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $11 to $12 for about
three pounds. The bag lists 10 servings, but most bags have only six
What gives? It turns out the serving size is 4 ounces,
not one breast ,
as I had assumed. An entire breast is about twice the recommended
serving, so cut it in half. Each piece should be about the size of a
deck of cards. You now have a second meal.
In the end, you'll
get twice as many meals. Assuming even $2 per pound of chicken, beef or
pork -- and that's unlikely these days -- you're seeing a savings of
$100 to $200 as portions stretch farther.
Bonus: If you eat just one serving of chicken instead of two, you're skipping about 200 calories.
These three simple changes add up to $200 to $300 in grocery savings each year -- about one-tenth of our average annual grocery costs, according to the USDA.
Meanwhile, I'm taking in 1,500 fewer calories. My grocery bill isn't the only thing slimming down.
Published Dec. 26, 2007
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.