Purchasing, Cost Control and Menu Management

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But, eating Paleo is expensive!

Do you know what’s expensive? Spending time going to the grocery store without a plan, buying processed crap in cardboard boxes and jars, and purchasing produce “just cuz”. Then, throwing the produce away when it begins to rot, the jars away when they are half empty, and the boxes away when the processed crap goes stale – that’s expensive.

Do you want to know what’s more expensive? Taking the time and money to do all of the above and then throwing up your arms and going out to eat because, “there’s nothing to eat”. Going out, which takes time, takes you away from home, takes patience and mental fortitude to deal with often shoddy service, and, ultimately, takes your family away from your dining room table – that’s expensive.

We’ve all been there, I’m not claiming that I haven’t. But, when you consider the time value of money, wouldn’t it be more sensible to make a plan?

You know, something that looks like this:

1. Sit down with a notebook and a pencil, or an excel spreadsheet, or a tablet and write out a menu for the week (20 minutes).

2. Write down the ingredients that you will need to prepare the menu you have planned (10 minutes).

3. Compare your ingredient list with the ingredients you have on hand (10 minutes).

4. Compile a final list of the ingredients you need to cook the meals on your menu (10 minutes).

5. Go to the store and purchase the items on your list (40 minutes).

Boom! Ninety minutes and you’re set for the week. It doesn’t get much simpler, but why haven’t you done it?

Spending time and money to buy food that we will pay to keep cold and ultimately throw away is a habit that plagues Americans from coast to coast. At the end of his gymnastics courses, Jeff Tucker says that we don’t typically lose habits, we simply trade one habit for another. I want to encourage you guys to trade the bad habit of throwing food in the garbage for the habit of Purchasing, Cost Control and Menu Management.

Cost Control –  A “Costly” Lesson

I have always loved cost control. When I was 22 years old, I took over a restaurant that had lost between $60,000 and $100,000 annually for seven consecutive years. Within one year, under my guidance, we turned a profit of $25,000. How did I do it? Cost control. Well, I also worked myself to death, but cutting food and labor costs was the name of the game.

The value of the translation of restaurant principles to the home economy is greatly underestimated. I believe that home kitchens should look more like restaurants and less like drawers full of gadgets and counters cluttered with crap. In my work as a private chef, the first thing I would do when arriving to a home was clear the counters. I mean, when you think about it, even a knife block is impractical. And, when you compare the prices of kitchenwares at the restaurant supply house to those of Williams-Sonoma, or even Walmart, Americans are getting ripped off. There’s just something about higher quality for a lower price that makes sense to me.

Busy-ness appears to be the issue at hand. We are all “too busy” to sit down, plan out a menu, compare current stock and finalize a grocery list. But, if we can make time to develop this habit, we will ultimately have more time (and money) which will improve the quality of our lives. If you think about it, a restaurant doesn’t go to a store and wander around picking up items aimlessly. They predict what they’ll need, compare it to what they have, and order precisely the difference – anything over-ordered will result in a ding to the bottom line.

I often feel like a life coach. It’s kind of crazy to think, but our lives revolve around food, time and money, no? If I could teach you how to dial these in and your life were better for it, then you could consider me a life coach, no? Maybe not, but is it possible that you see the connection?

This article is only meant to set the stage for things to come, so I am going to wrap it up. If you think the issue of throwing food away is a small one, check out this article that my man Shabir shared with me. Of the $5.4 million that are spent daily on government mandated produce for school lunches, $3.8 million of the fruits and veggies end up in the trash!

In this series on Purchasing, Menu Management and Cost Control, we’ll explore a number of ways that you can simplify your life, pad your wallet, and make some time. I have worked with many families with my Culinary Crash Courses to help them dial in the above concepts. In doing so, it has been painful for them to realize how much money they’ve been throwing away for so long. I encourage them not to cry over spilled milk, but spilled milk can be tough to swallow, no?

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

I think there is room for a radical overhaul of America’s Home Economics classes and this series will be my effort to make my contribution. I hope that you will follow along.

“Keep It Paleo!” my friends.

Your Pal,

Paleo Nick

(“The Jo!” entered academia today. This is what he had to say beforehand. I control my costs as best I can so that “The Jo!” will have some spare change when he reaches the upper levels of his academic career…)

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