Since my last post, we’ve entered a new year and many of us have made new year’s resolutions. One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight, so this got me thinking about the financial benefits of dieting. This is NOT dieting advice, so don’t think I’m going to give you the answers to maintaining a healthy weight or eating right. I’m am merely going to reflect on a few observations I’ve had over the last year or so.
What I’ve discovered is that over eating is expensive!
This past year, I survived a few different attempts at dieting, starting with a vow to eat “cleaner.” This meant fewer processed foods, more vegetables, and simple preparation of meats. It was probably similar to a Paleo type diet, but instead it was driven primarily by the need to simplify so that I could count calories more easily. What I found was that my perception of portion sizes was way off, which was causing me to go through much more food each week than I should have – racking up nearly $2,500 a month between meals at home, at work, and the occasional dinner out for our 4-person family. But with my meal planning, I was down to under $1,000 a month in groceries, saving myself around $1,500 per month! I was flabbergasted! That’s around $18,000 per year in savings. I could buy a car for that kind of cash or, even better, greatly improve my ability to save for numerous goals. As a financial planner, I was hooked immediately.
I started by talking to my doctor and determining the right number of calories, protein, and carbohydrates for my body type and my goal weight. Then I created a schedule that showed what foods I would eat each day, entering them all into an app that gave me estimated nutrition information. I balanced and traded until it was right, then created a shopping list from my plan. Here is what the schedule looked like:
(I purposely made this hard to read because I’m not providing diet advice!)
As part of my plan to simplify, I scheduled meals so that I was eating leftovers from the previous night’s dinner at lunch the next day. I didn’t plan for elaborate (high calorie) recipes, but I did try to vary the preparation to keep it more exciting, looking up recipes that were simple, low-calorie, and tasty.
The first thing I noticed was that I could stretch the same amount of protein I used to eat at one meal to two meals, cutting those expenses in half. With protein being the most expense part of my meals, the savings were significant. Also, I used to go out for lunch every day for a sandwich or a few items on the buffet, but now I was bringing my lunch every day. That, in itself, was saving me a lot of cash as well – with lunches that usually ran $10-$15 now costing me around $3. Each of the changes I made added up over the course of the week to save me a whopping $375/week.
I then started shopping online. I paid a small fee for the grocery store to collect all the groceries for me and I would pick them up. This served multiple functions: (1) it helped me to avoid temptations to buy other things – I only got what I planned to get and it was exactly what I needed (2) it saved me a ton of time – with putting extra time into planning, it was nice to cut 2 hours of effort out of my schedule to shop for groceries (3) it helped me to see the financial impact – the online shopping tool listed all the prices and I could evaluate my options from the quiet of my living room, rather than standing there in front of the food in the store (4) I could repeat my order if I wanted to – for weeks where I didn’t feel like planning, I could copy an order from a previous week and it was already planned. All these are great reasons to shop online. Yes, there were some glitches, but still well worth it.
Now, not all diets are like this. Many are more expensive and might result in spending more money than before, depending on the type of diet, whether you pay for counseling, etc. So it’s up to you to figure out your own path. However, there may be more significant financial savings once you reach your goal.
About the Author:
Greg Caramanica is the managing member and COO of Arlington Wealth Planning, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor located in Arlington, Virginia. Mr. Caramanica is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, providing financial planning , insurance, and tax services.