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Manage Your Money to Escape the 9 to 5: Part 1 – Grocery Shopping

October 28, 2010

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One of the main obstacles preventing people from escaping the 9 to 5 is the fear of not being able to make enough money to support themselves.

The equation is simple – to make working for yourself a viable proposition you must earn at least enough to cover your cost of living.  In other words, the less money you spend, the less you need to make – and the more time you can spend on your own creative projects.

That’s why over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing a short series of articles taking a closer look at some simple, pain-free steps that you can take right away to reduce your cost of living.

By highlighting how easy it can be to make simple but effective changes I hope that these articles will help you to streamline your finances and edge a few steps closer to a new world of freedom and independence and, who knows, perhaps even a two-hour workday.

But hey, even if they don’t, at least they’ll help you to save a little money…

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First up, here are six easy (and four not so easy) ways to drastically cut your grocery bill.

Buy in bulk

Supermarkets make huge mark-ups by selling basic products in small amounts at inflated prices.  That’s why it always makes sense to consider buying non-perishable goods in bulk.  This is especially true of staples like pasta, rice and flour but applies to tinned products, beer and wine too.

Compare prices by volume or weight

Ignore those bright stickers announcing the latest earth-shattering bargain, smart shoppers always compare prices based on the cost per unit, volume or weight.  Yes, sometimes the headline deal will turn out to be the cheapest, but just as often it won’t.

Cook from scratch

Ever wondered why all the convenience stores on your way home are piled high with ready meals?  It’s because they’re one of the best ways for shops to make money from stressed and tired commuters looking for something convenient for their evening meal.

Make a stand against this cynical exploitation and avoid expensive processed and pre-prepared food.  Not only is it much cheaper to prepare meals using fresh ingredients, it tastes better as well.

If you think you don’t have the time to cook from scratch it’s worth remembering all the time you spend in the office earning enough money to pay for the over-priced gloop they sell you.

Besides, it doesn’t even have to take longer.  Here’s a recipe for one-minute bread.

Some of the best ideas I’ve read lately on simplifying your diet and cutting out the crap are in Leo Babauta’s amazing book The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life.

Shop Late

After the evening rush a lot of shops slash prices on perishable food before it reaches its sell-by date.  If you’ve got a freezer, it makes sense to stock up on perfectly good food while it’s heavily marked-down and enjoy it at your leisure.

Reusables not disposables

Instead of buying four rolls of kitchen towels every week use a washable cloth.  Use soap instead of shower gel, it costs half as much and lasts ten times as long (and there’s no ugly plastic packaging to dispose of either).

When you add them up over a year it’s amazing how much simple switches like these can save.

Don’t stop buying treats

This one might seem counter-intuitive I know – but all those yo-yo dieters out there will know that any diet that prevents treats is much more liable to be ditched.  Why don’t you just bake your own cakes and biscuits?

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And for the hardcore…

Become a vegetarian

Pound for pound, meat tends to be much more expensive than fruit and vegetables.  The production of meat is also much more harmful to the environment.

If giving up meat completely seems a little too drastic, why not consider becoming a weekday vegetarian? That way, you get to save money during the week and eat less, but much better quality and more ethically reared, meat at the weekend.

Grow your own vegetables

OK, this is not so easy if you’re living in a city-centre flat – but every meal you grow yourself means more money in your pocket and more freedom to live a life of your own choosing.

Besides, you’ll be socking it to the man as well.

Embrace freeganism

Based on a combination of ‘free’ and ‘veganism,’ freeganism is the name given to a lifestyle that involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters, known as ‘dumpster diving’.

A key reason for adopting freeganism is the desire to work less.  Freegans oppose the notion of working for the sole purpose of accumulating material items and claim that the need to work is reduced by only purchasing the basic necessities for things such as housing, clothing, and food.

Become a hairy hunter-gatherer

This isn’t as radical as it may sound.  In Britain (where I live), thousands of people still pick blackberries in late summer and early autumn – the same goes for mushrooms.  With a little research, it’s perfectly possible to find a huge amount of free food growing all around us.  If you’re interested in finding out more, I’d highly recommend Food for Free by Richard Mabey.

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If you’re interested in saving even more money on all aspects of your weekly expenditure, two of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject are Adam Baker’s Unautomate Your Finances and Sell Your Crap.

If you liked this article, I’d love it if you signed up for free updates via RSS

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Image Credit – spirit-fire via flickr on a creative commons licence

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