A finance book I read, The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco, had a very simple but true concept: If you want to get in ‘the fastlane’, you need to be a producer, not a consumer. When you produce things you make money, and when you consume things, you lose money. The author’s point is that if you create a business where you sell goods/services you will create more wealth for yourself, whereas people who just shop and spend their money will get poorer. When it comes to food, this is a double whammy for the vast majority. Not only do people pay for someone else to grow their food, many pay for their food to be prepared either in the form of restaurants, pre-packaged meals, or other processed foods. If you have a diet-related illness, you are a consumer of medical treatments and that would be a triple whammy, but that’s another story…
How often do you make your own food? If you eat at home rather than a restaurant, how much did you really make? Do you make your own spaghetti sauce, or do you buy that in a jar? Do you bake your own cookies? Make your own mustard? I know what you’re thinking, who makes their own mustard? (Here’s a homemade mustard recipe). It’s just a given that people will buy certain things because their lives are busy (because you’re creating wealth for your employer most likely). But as the theory goes, the more you consume vs. produce, the more you will lose. So going to a restaurant is the biggest expense. So big, that it’s already been written about, like those articles about how buying coffee every morning wastes hundreds of dollars. Next, is buying pre-made foods. Are frozen dinners what came to mind? What about ketchup and BBQ sauce? Deli meat? Pasta sauce? Is there any prepared food that is so taken for granted that it doesn’t even seem like you could produce it yourself? In some cases it might not seem worth it (maybe aging wine into vinegar is more a of a science project). But in most cases, I can attest it IS worth it. Not just with cash, but with taste. But the focus on this article is the aspect of finance.
We hear how divorced we are about where our food is from. We eat it without knowing how it was made or how far it traveled. With food, the balance of producing for ourselves to being a giant consumer doesn’t seem like it can go farther. Now we don’t grow our own food, so we buy it. And we sink deeper in the consumer role by not preparing our own food because we go to restaurants or buy processed food. If you want, you can buy certain candy and cookies in bite sized pieces, so companies even do some of the work of eating it for you! How much more on the production side can we give up? I think it is not only critical to our health, but finances that the balance shifts back to being a producer.
My town’s big box health food store sells one organic seedless cucumber for $3.99. Not per pound, one cucumber is seriously four bucks. A packet of organic seedless cucumber seeds costs less than one cucumber. If you failed miserably at growing your own cucumbers so a vast majority of the seeds didn’t work, but you managed to grow one vine that produced one cucumber – you have recouped your costs and then some! But you will probably fair much better than that. Some of the other absurdly expensive food at that store include: $5.99/lb organic bell peppers, $4.99/lb organic heirloom tomatoes, and $3.99 for one small, gluten – free, vegan cupcake. You know how rip-off hamburgers have patties that are way smaller than the bun so they don’t go all the way to the edge? Gluten- free, vegan cupcake artisans learned that trick so the inadequate frosting doesn’t go all the way to the edge. We are just getting sucked dry as consumers and this can’t go on.
People complain diets are too expensive. You aren’t buying subsidized wheat, soy, corn and other commodity crops anymore. You’re buying produce, meat, or dairy that was not from animals fed commodity crops. Since tax payers subsidize the commodity crops, you are partially a producer which is why it’s ‘cheaper’ at the grocery store (and I use the term loosely because there are other costs involved with the environment and health but that’s another story). So here you are as a consumer of food that you did not produce, and it’s apparent that your role as a consumer is leveraged against you. Isn’t time to slow down with consuming and start producing?
One of the best things you can do is grow your own food. Yes, there are a myriad of excuses from weather, to your living quarters. You can grow something. Seriously, if you can dedicate 2 square feet inside with shelves, you can grow a decent amount. According to the seed company Burpee, you can get a 25 to 1 ROI on starting a garden. The National Garden Association disagrees; they state a 70 dollar investment results in 600 dollars of food. The information I have seen when researching for this article does not go into better detail. What you grow will impact your ROI. You must account for many factors of growing produce. Besides growing what you like, consider what is available. If you can always get organic carrots for .99 per pound and you have limited space, skip growing carrots. You should also consider the time for a yield. Some plants take one month, like radishes. Others plants take 3 months. The longer you tie up your soil, the less you grow and the less money you will save. None of those things were mentioned in the statistics I saw, so you may fair better if you grow smart.
Another thing to do is prepare your own food. Less restaurants, less 4 dollar cupcakes, and less frozen dinners. I know, no time and no skill, right? There are easy recipes out there, and plenty have little hands-on time. Roasted meat, pretty much anything braised, and most sauces are so easy! Once you develop good knife skills, it takes longer for the pot to heat up than to chop an onion. And if you don’t have good knife skills, you can buy pre-diced onions but that’ll cost you. And that’s the point…
I’m not dogmatic about this – not everything is worth your time. You might be extra busy from time to time and can’t do it all yourself. But take a look at what you buy on a regular basis. Is everything produced for you? Is this a crutch because you aren’t developing the right kitchen skills or managing your time? Opening cans and pushing buttons on a microwave are not the best skills for a producer. Be aware that despite the normalcy of buying processed food and not growing your own, you are still taking on a role: The role of a consumer. And if you shift to more production, you will have more money.
What do you think? Have you tried growing your own food? How did it go?