Often the habits that speed you along to an early retirement are not just about the money, they are about your overall well being. Building your health and happiness are in many ways related to building your wealth.

Most people take higher priority in boosting their net worth than maintaining their body’s well being. I am here to tell you that when you are in the grocery store, it is easy to maximize BOTH your health and your wealth.

The simple secret is to stop spending money on plastic and sugar.

Seriously, stop buying pop tarts and cheez-its. No more over packaged carbohydrates and pre-made convenience foods. May I remind you that one of the habits of an early retiree is to learn to mock convenience?. And my god, STOP BUYING BOTTLED WATER. A single filter in a Brita pitcher can clean 40 gallons of tap water. Water bottles may be one of the most ridiculous displays of senseless consumption of earths resources in modern society, aside from 18 MPG Ford F-series people finance to carry ONE passenger along on 4 mile trips.

A side note, the Ford F-series are the top selling cars in america. WHY?! There is no logical reason to own a truck unless you are a farmer. Either that or you own some type of carpentry business that requires carrying a few hundred pounds of equipment in the bed on a regular basis. I see single passengers in empty bed 6 wheeled trucks FAR TOO OFTEN.

Calming back down.. (deeps breaths). Back to saving you money on groceries.

The first step to killing your grocery bill is learning to recognize when you are paying for packaging. Yes, there will always be some plastic wrapping or boxes in your cart, otherwise some of the foods we eat would not last long enough to get to us. However, anything that is bagged up in small quantities with bright colored flashy labeling is usually a tell tale sign of a manufactured food you don’t need.

These things normally have sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients (this or high fructose corn syrup). This indicates that it is not food, it is crap. It is consumed because millions of dollars goes into it’s advertising and there is a science behind where it is placed in the store to taunt you. It is not consumed as a result of people seeking sustenance, but rather from people seeking the temporary pleasure of “yum!”

As far as finding the foods that return you the most sustenance per dollar, well, there is a great way to quantify this, by looking as your food purchases through calories per dollar (CPD).

A typical person consumes 2000 calories per day. This may vary from person to person, but for each individual, the amount consumed is about the same from day to day. This means that the amount you spend on groceries to support your intake of calories is directly proportional to the CPD you get in the grocery store.

To increase your calories per dollar, buy more calorie dense foods. Now some of you might say “More calorie dense foods? I am not trying to put on weight!”. Relax, the number of calories you eat each day will not change without a conscience effort on your part. Eating more calorie dense foods will keep your hunger satisfied longer.The calories you intake will be related to your resting metabolic rate and your level of exercise, not how calorie dense your foods are.

Take a look at your last grocery bill, if your CPD does not average to at least 450*, something is wrong.

Of course, there are some foods that are absolutely necessary to your diet that will be significantly less than 450 CPD. Such as vegetables and fruits. What is important is that you are getting your average at or above the 450 mark.You will find plenty of foods that go beyond the 450 mark, such as peanut butter or sunflower seeds.

A few pointers for saving some big bucks on your groceries.

  • Drop the foods that are prepackaged and ready to go. This is the stuff that is charging you for plastic, preservatives, and convenience more than for food. A good rule of thumb is if it won’t go bad in the next month, I probably shouldn’t be eating much of it.
  • Analyze your receipts to figure out how to make CPD improvements AT HOME. If you walk around the grocery store with a calculator crunching the numbers on every little thing, you will stress yourself out and be in there for hours. Improvements in this area should be seen as an ongoing process. You will see a much clearer picture looking at the receipt at home.
  • As time passes, you will learn to CPD of foods you frequently eat, use this information to improve your decision making skills in the store.
  • Another important thing is to know where to shop. Check out the shopping section in the recommended page to see what places stretch your dollar the furthest.

To start you off, here is a list of a few calorie dense foods that increase your average CPD

  • Brown Rice                                                 1005
  • Nuts (Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans)            520-600
  • Olive oil                                                      1300
  • Quinoa                                                        335
  • Oatmeal                                                     1600
  • Whole Grain Spaghetti                                700
  • Black Beans                                               2500 (aww yeah!)
  • Sunflower seeds                                        1800

You will notice that the above foods are very healthy. Both you body and your bank account will thank you for introducing a diet higher in whole foods.

The foods on this list are suggestions of things to add or increase in your diet, you do not need to live off of them. The health of the foods you buy have a tendency to increase as your CPD increases to an extent. Increasing it obsessively may bring your CPD to 4000, allowing you to live of 50 cents of food a day, but you will be living off of olive oil and peanut butter.

I personally achieve around 600 CPD. This is with a diet high in vegetables (I go through about 5 lbs of veggies a week). I challenge you to match it. It is not much of a challenge, anyone less concerned with having tons of fruits and veggies can easily hit 800.

*Why 450 as the benchmark? For a person consuming 2000 calories per day, this equates to about $30 a week per person. This easily supports a healthy and varied diet that will leave a person satisfied.