Saturday 9 August 2014

How Do You Buy Food?

It may seem off on a tangent - but I think the way you buy your weekly food shop may say a lot about your investment style. Buying things to feed yourself - to grow or maintain your body - is an essential life-skill; so, I would argue, is buying investments to grow or maintain your wealth.

Maybe thinking about one facet of your lifestyle might help the other? Many people would probably consider my own food purchasing style quite eccentric - but then maybe that goes hand-in-hand with investing style.

So, how do you shop for food? Do you have a shopping list, or are you an impulse buyer? Do you just buy the well-known brands or are you a fan of cheaper 'own label' alternatives? Do buy more 'ready meals' than raw ingredients? Do you prize healthy food - and look at labels for hidden dangers? Do you make a big weekly shop or make smaller, more frequent purchases? Do you do it on-line? Do you use the supermarket or speciality shops?

Hopefully you are beginning to see what I am getting at here: the behavioural parallels between food shopping and investing.

My own food shopping habits are now based around three criteria:
  • Has the item been reduced in price (usually by more than 50% - often by up to 90%)?
  • Is it something that we can freeze or can use in the near future?
  • Is it something we like and reasonably healthy?
Yes, you read that correctly: all the food we eat has been reduced in price.

These rules mean that shopping is an adventure in serendipity. We have no shopping list usually (although sometimes we may need to buy the odd essential item) - instead we rely on the supermarket price reductions for menu suggestions. This can lead to some unexpected ingredients, including some we have never tried before (and some we will never try again). But it is fun, and challenging sometimes to match up odd food items into a single meal. It's a game.

All the supermarkets make reductions - you just have to learn the best times to go - usually late afternoon or early evening. We are fortunate in having three supermarket outlets within walking distance (with a backpack), and the near daily visits have become a regular exercise feature for us (hopefully providing health benefits). Being retired means we have time to do this - not everyone has that freedom, obviously.

We tend to think of ourselves as 'professional' food shoppers - sniggering at the people in the check out queue who have paid 3 or 4 times as much for the same item. We also are wary of the other 'professionals' who snap up the best offers. The ultimate achievement is to get the supermarket to pay you to take the reduced goods away. It does happen occasionally - usually with reduced multi-buy offers.

So, what are the parallels with my investing style?
  • regular visits to the market
  • willingness to look at a wide range of products
  • a focus on value, in particular, value that other people haven't seen or noticed (or even are interested in)
  • a 'financial health' check on any purchase
  • some individual purchases ('raw ingredients') and some ETFs ('ready meals')

Pretty similar, huh?

How about you?

I am not a financial adviser and the information provided does not constitute financial advice. You should always do your own research on top of what you learn here to ensure that it's right for your specific circumstances.


  1. Excellent piece!

    As you asked - about me: I'm just starting out with DIY incoming investing, but I have been purchasing reduced food since my uni years (around 10 years). Here are a few of my observations - I've tried to keep on topic with investing.

    - Go for quality. Good quality meat or fish reductions. Don't worry about the run of the mill reductions (eg bread going off today) - grab a bargain piece of quality meat (assuming you eat meat)
    - Don't buy a reduction if you don't need it or can't eat it. Too often I'm tempted to buy a reduction, when really I don't need it.
    - Be proud of the big reduction sticker. It may not be the sexy investment, but it has a direct saving every time.

    I like this blog a lot, and your ebook really inspired - keep up the good work, please.

    1. Good points Leo - thanks for the kind words!

  2. Great info, and pretty similar to the way I shop too. I have also been downshifting for around 7 years, and have learned a lot along the way, such as which products are 30% cheaper and taste pretty much the same.

    I second Leo's points on meat and fish. Sometimes, there aren't decent reductions e/g/ maybe somebody else just got there first and bought all the steaks on discount. In that case, I go for whole chickens and that sort of thing.

    Best Wishes!