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15 Little Life Hacks

Food and personal finance are similar

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For no apparent reason, today appears to be the day where I post a million things about food. I don’t really know why, but I did skip breakfast.

Above is an interesting image about how food prices have changed from 1985-2000. As you can see, “good” food prices increased, while junk food prices went down. It’s no surprise that we see links between obesity and poverty (PDF with nice data).

Anyway, the reason I’m posting about this stuff today is that I’ve noticed how similar food and personal finance are.

Food: We know we should be eating better, but we don’t. We don’t keep track of what we eat and have no idea how many calories we’re actually eating. (We think we do but we’re completely wrong.) Our friends have pet theories about what’s good to eat, but it’s rarely informed by data and it’s mostly minuatie (“you should eat nuts 18 minutes before sleeping!”). We say we’re going to cook at home more, but never find time to. We spend too much on food.

What’s interesting is that I feel completely comfortable managing my personal finances, but the food issue–a close parallel, I think–is really intimidating. Realizing this has really opened my eyes to how hard it is to get started on a goal, whether it’s personal finance or eating better.

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37 Comments

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  1. Interestingly, there is a clinical link between how people manage their money, and how they treat their food. Eating disorders run in my family, and for the women I know who suffer from them, their finances are disastrous. These issues pretty much go hand-in-hand, in my experience. I’m fairly sure that there have been studies done which show that people relate to money and food with the same part of their brain.

  2. That’s fascinating. I never thought about that. If anyone has seen research about this, please let me know.

  3. I wonder if the price changes are based more on production costs or marketing. As public awareness of nutrition increases, the percieved value of healthy foods increases; are marketers simply taking advantage of this?

  4. This is interesting to hear right now. Over the past two years, I’ve gotten my finances turned around completely. It helps that I’m extremely methodical and all I really had to do was work up a budget and then spend several months training myself to stick to it.

    It was seeing my success with this that inspired me to apply the same principle to my own physical health and nutrition. I don’t believe in dieting, but I was struck with the idea that if I approached diet and exercise the same way I approached my budget, I might see the same turnaround. This article comes at a good time for me.

  5. 1. The first step to eating better is making defining meals you want to eat for the week that are healthy.

    2. Make a grocery list itemizing the items you only need to make those meals.

    3. Go to the grocery store and only purchase the items on that list.

    4. Go home and prepare the meals ahead of time if possible to reduce the cooking time it takes for those meals.

    5. Actually cook and eat the meals you chose in item 1.

    6. goto 1. rinse & repeat

  6. Unfortunetly finance and nutrition goals often counter each other. Vegetables and the like are healthy, but cost dozens of times per calorie as less healthy foods. One of the reasons McDonalds is so prevalent is that it is some of the cheapest food available.

  7. Great topic. I’ve noticed that the foods that are the best for you are usually the most expensive. I think this point was brought up in the movie “Supersize Me.” Anyway, I shop at ALDI, where I can get a bunch of bananas for 85 cents, a bag of salad for 1.09 and the “fall harvest” (a big bag of oranges, red delicious and granny smith apples) for a little over 2 bucks. Yes, I have to put a quarter into the shopping cart. And deal with the fact that there aren’t shelves. Or bags. But I’ll deal with it because the fruit and veggies are fresh and the prices are right.

  8. Healthy food is SO expensive. Even cooking at home is more expensive than eating out these days. We calculated that it would cost $17 to make tacos at home. At tacobell, it would cost us $8 for the same amount of food. How sad is that?

    Pasta and rice are so much cheaper than the healthy things: fruits, vegetables, and fish. If I could cut grocery costs without sacrificing my health, I could save so much more money!

  9. Ramit, Ramit, Ramit . . .

    This seems a tad misleading.

    While the price of fruits and veggies may be increasing, pound per pound you will pay cents on the dollar for produce than you will for meat or dairy. At my supermarket, you can expect to pay about $4-8/pound for lunch meat, $2-4/ pound for the cheapest ground beef or turkey, $2-3/pound for boneless chicken breast, $1-3/pound for ground veal, pork or lamb, $4-12/ pound for cheese depending on quality, $2-4/ gallon of milk, $2-7/ quart of yogurt . . .

    In contrast, I pay less than $0.30 per pound of bananas, less than $0.20 per pound of carrots, about $0.50-.80 per pound of apples, Ramit, Ramit, Ramit . . .

    This seems a tad misleading.

    While the price of fruits and veggies may be increasing, pound per pound you will pay cents on the dollar for produce than you will for meat or dairy. At my supermarket, you can expect to pay about $4-8/pound for lunch meat, $2-4/ pound for the cheapest ground beef or turkey, $2-3/pound for boneless chicken breast, $1-3/pound for ground veal, pork or lamb, $4-12/ pound for cheese depending on quality, $2-4/ gallon of milk, $2-7/ quart of yogurt . . .

    In contrast, I pay less than $0.30 per pound of bananas, less than $0.20 per pound of carrots, about $0.50-.80 per pound of apples, <$1 per pound of onions, garlic, shallots, salad greens, eggplant etc. I can usually find seasonal produce for <$1. Plus dried beans cost a lot less per pound than most meat and dairy. And then there's food costs in terms of associated health care issues, farmer's supplements and subsidies and enviormental impact. So you really pay for junk food twice.

  10. Spyscribbler, my girlfriend and I frequently make yummy tacos at home for less than $5 total for the both of us. What special stuff are you putting in your $17 tacos?!

    The 3 most important things about eating healthy are fruits, vegetables, water. I just try to make sure to get enough of those three, and then I eat some meat or whatever else I want to eat.

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