Dave Says –

(No more guilt trips!)

Dear Dave,
My parents left their six-figure jobs to enter the ministry when I was in high school. That was 10 years ago, and my mom still regularly asks me to share my money with them. I don’t mind helping out once in a while, but this has been going on for a long time and I’ve started feeling bitterness about the requests and their bad financial decisions. My mom also tries to make me feel bad sometimes if I can’t afford to give them as much as they want. She constantly references their calling, and that I should want to help with that. How can I stop this pattern?

Dear Renee,
This is not a healthy situation for anyone involved. By consistently giving or loaning your parents money, you’ve lost respect for them in the process. The relationship has become strained, and that’s a tough thing for anyone to deal with – especially in a parent-child situation. On top of all that, your mom sounds like a travel agent for guilt trips. It seems like she’s working you over while implying it’s all really for God. That’s toxic.

Going into the ministry is an admirable thing. However, I remember a guy in the Bible named Paul who made tents while he conducted his ministry. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but his line was something like, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” He had a job, remember? So, suggesting that someone work outside the ministry while trying to do God’s work isn’t mean or unfair.

No one should do this to their child, and it’s going to be hard to unravel it all and turn it into a respectable situation. I hope everyone will consider sitting down with a mature third party, and developing a situation where you’re no longer giving or lending them money.

In the meantime, read a book called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. After that and some objective intervention, I think this situation will become a lot healthier for everyone.


(Finding the right motivation)

Dear Dave,
My husband and I make $180,000 a year combined, and we have a net worth of about $1.6 million. We’ve been blessed financially, and lots of times motivated by a survival point of view, but what do you do when you’re not motivated by that kind of thing anymore? How do you find and live out God’s purpose for your life?

Dear Lisa,
Congratulations on your success! You guys really have been blessed, and it sounds like you’ve worked hard for your wealth. If you’ve ever studied psychology a little bit, you may remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Basically, once you get physiological and safety needs met, you feel a need to find other things to motivate you. It sounds like you’re a performance-oriented person. So am I. People like us get our relaxation and even fulfillment away from work in different ways than most people.

My suggestion would be to start thinking about ways you can serve and help other people or causes you care about. This could even mean becoming a stay-at-home mom for a while and really pouring into your kids, if you have them. If it’s something else, that’s okay too. How about this? You’ve obviously been thinking about this stuff for a while. Take a day all to yourself, away from everything and everybody, and bring along nothing but some food and drink, a bunch of notepads and pencils, and a Bible. Open up your mind and your heart to the things you care about and all the possibilities. You have to have a goal that is worthy in your mind, and you don’t have that right now.

I can’t tell you what your calling is, Lisa, but I can say this. There’s tons of joy and fulfillment to be found when you’re working in a way to serve the people and things that matter most in your life!


* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business, and CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 11 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations and digital outlets. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

NYCHA Selling A Stake Of Its Apartments For Fast Cash

New York City’s public housing authority is operating on a $77 million budget deficit. That’s not counting the $18 billion dollars it needs to repair its decrepit housing stock. In order to raise revenue that’s not coming from the state or the federal government anytime soon [PDF], NYCHA is selling a 50% stake in 900 apartments to L+M Development Partners Inc. and BFC Partner for $150 million, plus $100 million in revenue over 15 years and another $100 million in renovations.

“We have to think about supporting those units differently,” Shola Olatoye, the NYCHA chairwoman told the Wall Street Journal.

“Talk to HUD. What our primary funder is pushing is encouraging housing authorities to think strategically about how they manage their property for the benefit of their residents because the federal money is just not there.”

The NYCHA complexes affected by the deal are Section 8 units in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, including Campos Plaza and East 4th Street Rehab.

After the apartments are renovated (at a cost of $80,000 a unit), the developers would be able to receive the difference between the NYCHA rent and the market-rate rent from the federal government; in addition to receiving tax credits, after 30 years, the developers will be allowed to turn the apartments into market-rate units, though the details of the deal apparently allow NYCHA to make the final decision.

“NYCHA is in control here,” a city spokesperson ominously told the Daily News.

Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who represents the residents of the Campos Houses and East 4th Street Rehab, put it this way: “I view it as a road to privatization.”

Planet Money: Episode 707: Brexit



Quick warning – there is one curse word in this show.


Is it blimey?

SMITH: Not a curse word – not here at least. I did not get a lot of sleep last night because all through the night, the United Kingdom was counting votes, and I stayed up to watch it. And it’s weirdly riveting, you know – Stoke-on-Trent votes leave, Trent-on-Stoke votes stay.

GOLDSTEIN: Which is not the same place.

SMITH: Not the same place. It’s weird. It’s weird. It wasn’t until around 4 in the morning their time that they called it. The citizens of the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union.

GOLDSTEIN: So, Robert, we came into the office this morning, and we made a call to England. We called Tim Harford. He’s an economist and an old friend of the show.

TIM HARFORD: How you doing, guys?

SMITH: We’re doing great. How’re you doing?

HARFORD: I’ve had better days. You know, I think we just need a hug.

SMITH: Oh, we would definitely give you a hug if we could.

GOLDSTEIN: Harford you’re the most huggable economist I know.

HARFORD: OK. That’s high praise, I think.

GOLDSTEIN: It’s a low bar. Let’s be honest.


SMITH: We talked to Tim at his house in England, but that’s not where he was when he first heard what happened.

HARFORD: I woke up this morning in Paris.

SMITH: In Paris?

HARFORD: In Paris, hey, you know, where – we haven’t left the European Union yet, so I’m allowed to be in Paris. That’s how we roll in the European Union, or at least that is how we used to roll until the referendum result.

SMITH: So Tim was rushing to catch the train back to the U.K., reading all this news about what his fellow citizens had done. And how did you feel?

HARFORD: How did I feel as an economist, or how did I feel as a human being?

SMITH: As a human being.

HARFORD: As a human being – actually, you want to know the truth? As the taxi driver dropped me off, he said, monsieur, you will always be welcome back in France. And I wanted to cry. I really did. You know, it was just that moment of – what can you do? What can you do?

SMITH: How did you feel as an economist?

HARFORD: Oh, [expletive]. This is going to be bad.

SMITH: Hello, and welcome to PLANET MONEY. I’m Robert Smith.

GOLDSTEIN: And I’m Jacob Goldstein. It was a big morning for everybody on both sides of the referendum. The tabloids in London – they called it Independence Day. The value of the British pound fell to the lowest point in, like, 30 years.

SMITH: And by the time we got up here in New York, stock markets were diving around the world. The prime minister, David Cameron, said he would resign later this year.

GOLDSTEIN: Today on the show, we talk with Tim Harford about what just happened and what’s coming next.


SMITH: The most amazing thing for me about the EU referendum is that it even happened at all. The U.K. almost never asks its citizens to vote on anything, but the EU referendum was designed to solve this really specific political problem for the prime minister, for David Cameron. He’s a conservative, and like the Republicans here in the United States recently, he was facing this really divided party. Some conservatives in Britain hated Europe – always had. Some thought it was good for business. Cameron – personally, he had no problem with the EU.

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, or at least he figured the U.K. would be better off inside the EU. But he knew politically he had to get this issue – in or out of the EU – off the table. He had to unite his Conservative Party. So back in 2013, he made this big speech.


DAVID CAMERON: We will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in-or-out choice – to stay in the European Union on these new terms or to come out all together. It will be an in-out referendum. It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time for us to settle this question about Britain and Europe.

SMITH: And it worked. For years, it worked. The conservatives stopped bickering so much, and Cameron got to stay prime minister, stay the head of his party. The conservatives won re-election. Everything was going according to plan, except for that little promise – the promise of a vote. Eventually, he was going to have to have that referendum, and Tim Harford says he thought he had a shot.

HARFORD: Our prime minister, David Cameron, likes to gamble because that’s backfired for him now.

GOLDSTEIN: Of course, this morning, David Cameron announced that he would resign later this year.


CAMERON: I do not think it will be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

GOLDSTEIN: They do love a naval metaphor.

SMITH: What happened to going down with the ship?

GOLDSTEIN: Too far (laughter).

HARFORD: I mean, this is – this is the biggest humiliation for any British prime minister probably since the Suez crisis of the 1950s. I mean, this is a – this is big. And David Cameron has been prime minister since 2010. He’s been prime minister a long time, and he will be remembered for this and probably nothing else. And he’s got to live with that. He made the decision. He threw the dice. And he likes to gamble, but sometimes you don’t win.

SMITH: What was this vote really about?

HARFORD: I think it’s hard to say what it’s really about because the different campaigns were making very different arguments. And even the leave campaign was actually acrimoniously split down the middle – a bunch of people being pretty xenophobic and saying this is all about controlling immigration and a bunch of other people saying this is all about freeing ourselves from Brussels regulation, European Union regulation and embracing global free trade. So the – I mean, these people are not in a situation to form a government together because this is a very, very different message coming.

GOLDSTEIN: They’re almost opposite, right? One is saying like, oh, like, free trade, which typically goes with free movement of workers, which is just a variant of free trade. The other one is saying no, shut it down. That’s kind of the opposite.

HARFORD: Yeah, yeah. But – it is, but I think the thing is the European Union has come to stand for all kinds of things, rightly or wrongly. It’s come to stand for big government. It’s come to stand for regulation and interference. And we don’t get to make up our own mind. It’s come to stand for an influx of people, and we can’t control that. And I mean, the European Union maybe deserves the blame for some of that, but not for all of it. But because different people blame the European Union for different things and have a different view about what actually is the problem, if there is a problem, that – different people have voted to leave for very different reasons. And that makes this moment very uncertain because it’s not clear who is now going to gain the upper hand and what they will actually want to do.

SMITH: Has there been a moment when you were frustrated with the EU, when you were, like – I don’t know – reading a package of cheese or something and are just like – look at all – look at all the stuff in it. Contents – cheese. Or you know, that you’ve just raged against something that made your life seem bureaucratic and petty.

HARFORD: No, not really because a lot of this is entirely fictional. And we complain about European Union regulations. There’s a great meme going around about how European Union cabbage regulations are 26,000 words long.

SMITH: The regulations for cabbage.

HARFORD: It’s entirely made up. It doesn’t exist.

SMITH: I heard that they worried the EU regulations were going to slow down your tea time by making the teakettle a lower wattage and that the toasters wouldn’t toast as well.

HARFORD: I didn’t look at that one in detail. I seem to remember that it was rather overblown. That’s certainly not something that I’m concerned about. And it’s certainly not something I’m willing to leave the European Union over.

GOLDSTEIN: So you – where you live? Oxford Town or you live in some shire or something? Where do you live?

HARFORD: You could just call it Oxford if you like. It’s twee enough. You know, I pass J.R.R. Tolkien’s house every morning when I take my kids to school.

GOLDSTEIN: No, no, should…

HARFORD: So, you know, that should be plenty twee enough for you guys.

GOLDSTEIN: You live actually in a hobbit house? Or…

HARFORD: Yeah. If it makes you happier to think that, go for it.

SMITH: So how did your, like – I don’t know – neighborhood or whatever – how did they vote?

HARFORD: Oxford as a whole voted strongly for remain. I haven’t seen the breakdown of my local district, but judging by the stickers on the cars and the – in people’s front rooms, it’s remain.

GOLDSTEIN: We asked him, you know, if he knew anyone who voted to leave, and he said he didn’t really. And this actually surprised him because the way politics generally works in the U.K. is that you know a lot of people of different parties. Oh, he’s a Labour person. He’s a liberal person. He’s a conservative. But in this particular case, the referendum did not break down on political lines. It broke down on real demographic lines. He said each group didn’t even know the other one at all. It’s like they were speaking different languages, talking past each other.

HARFORD: So you had the International Monetary Fund, you had the Bank of England, the London School of Economics – all the all the economic experts saying leaving the EU is going to be really, really bad for the British economy. And then a lot of people just said, well, hang on. Weren’t you the guys who screwed up the financial crisis, so why should we believe you now? But they have a point right?

GOLDSTEIN: But, Tim, you are one of those experts. I mean, you’re an economist. Your entire life is saying here are facts. Here’s studies. This is how the world works. And essentially part of this vote is saying we don’t care about that. We don’t care what the experts say.

HARFORD: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I fact-checked the referendum campaign for the BBC. We were just going through what all the different sides of the argument were saying. And I was struck by how little people seem to be interested in facts. And also by the fact that the the leave campaign – they were leading with a – with a alleged fact that was just demonstrably untrue about how much the EU cost the country. And we were going to spend all this money on health care instead.

And every independent expert said that’s just not true, and it didn’t matter. And that’s alarming, as well. I mean, it’s one thing to make an important decision, and I think the country’s made the wrong decision. But British politicians used to be good at misleading people without actually lying. And that particular discipline appears to have been abandoned in this campaign, which is – it’s hard to put the genie back in that bottle, either.

SMITH: Did you fact check the remain campaign, as well? And what did you find?

HARFORD: Oh, of course. And the remain campaign were big on taking economic forecasts that looked gloomy and presenting the forecasts as absolute fact.

SMITH: Is it possible that this is not a big deal? I mean, certainly this morning, it seems like a dramatic event, but these things pass.

HARFORD: I think it’s very hard to make the case that this is not a big deal, but let me try to make the case. So the EU wants to minimize problems. Most British politicians think we should have stayed. So they sit down around a table, and they figure out some kind of deal – maybe a Norway style deal.

Now, Norway has a relationship with EU which is very close. It has to accept most EU rules. It has to pay EU membership fees. It has free movement of people, just like other EU countries, but it’s not actually in the EU, so it’s a very EU-like relationship. So maybe the no-big-deal camp says, OK, everyone sits down, and we stay as close to remaining in the EU as absolutely as is possible to be, which is the Norway model. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but that the case that this is no big deal.

SMITH: But you think it is a big deal, so why? What do you think is going to happen? Or why do you think this is a big deal?

HARFORD: Purely from the point of view of the U.K., we now have political chaos. We’ve got parties in Ireland saying they want to merge with Northern Ireland. You’ve got parties in Scotland saying you want to leave the U.K. You’ve got the Spanish government saying it would like to take ownership of Gibraltar, which is a British overseas territory. The prime minister’s leaving. We don’t know who’s going to replace him. We’ve got a weak opposition. So just the politics of this is a mess.

Economically, you can just look at the markets. This morning, the pound was down 10 percent. The stock markets were down 10 percent. And a lot of international companies invest in the U.K. as a base for doing business with the rest of the European Union. It’s hard to see what a foreign investor – say, a Japanese car company wants to build a factory to make cars. Historically, the U.K. would’ve been a great place to do that – good infrastructure, political stability (laughter) and access to the European market. And now it’s not clear that they – they’re going to have access to the European market.

So most economists think this is going to be bad for the U.K. immediately – it may provoke a recession – and also bad for the U.K. economy in the long run. Opinion’s divided. Maybe it’s 4 percent of GDP. Maybe it’s 6. Maybe it’s 10 percent of GDP. But we’re likely to be poorer in the long run.

SMITH: Any chance for a do-over? Two out of three?

HARFORD: I think it’s unlikely. I’d like one, but I think it’s unlikely.

GOLDSTEIN: Good luck, Harford. Thanks for talking to us.

SMITH: Yeah, thanks.

HARFORD: Thank you very much.

SMITH: You can email us at planetmoney@npr.org at npr.org or tweet at us at @planetmoney. We cranked the show out today in just a few hours, so extra special thanks to our producers. Nick Fountain did most of the heavy lifting. He got an assist from Sally Helm and Jess Jiang.

GOLDSTEIN: Special thanks to Tim Harford. He has a regular column at The Financial Times. His latest book, like many of his books, starts with the words “Undercover Economist.” It is “The Undercover Economist Strikes Back.” If you’re looking for something else to listen to, you can try the NPR politics podcast. This week, their show also is about Brexit.

SMITH: Brexit is the thing that brings us all together.

GOLDSTEIN: I’m Jacob Goldstein.

SMITH: And I’m Robert Smith. Thanks for listening.


HARFORD: It’s all about the pasta.

SMITH: It’s about the what?

GOLDSTEIN: Pasta. That’s what they call – it they call it pasta in England.

SMITH: OK (laughter).

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MoneySense: Spend less, eat better

One man’s quest to cut his grocery bill led him to save $1,500 a year

5 Premium content image

by Mark Brown
May 10th, 2016

From the June 2016 issue of the magazine.
(Photograph by Liam Mogan, Food Styling by Andrew Bullis)

(Photograph by Liam Mogan, Food Styling by Andrew Bullis)

The complex where we lived until recently had only a single chute for waste. Several times a week, I would step into a pair of chewed up sneakers and make the 20-metre stroll to toss our garbage. As a family, we were diligent recyclers—cutting down boxes and bundling newspapers, which we still read—but we paid little attention to our kitchen waste. Bags filled with wrappers and plastic but also egg shells, old peppers and leftovers, were routinely pushed past the trap door and quickly forgotten.

When we moved to a new home earlier this year, our waste became harder to ignore. It now sits right outside our back door, laid bare to see. Thinking about it makes my stomach churn. Not so much the moist slop of decaying food scraps, but the value and volume of the food we carelessly throw away.

During one particularly bad stretch, my family threw out most of a carton of blueberries, a half rack of ribs, rice, baked potatoes and an unopened Costco-sized tray of chicken that had developed a pungent odor in our fridge when life interrupted our meal plans. That didn’t account for leftover scraps from our plates or the untouched dinner snubbed by an occasionally picky toddler who demanded cereal instead of roast chicken. I tallied it up: We tossed an estimated $40 worth of food in a week or so. Reading the wilting leaves in our green bin, I saw an opportunity to reduce our waste and lower our grocery bill.

I’m the resident shopper and chef in the family, so it’s mostly down to me. During weekly runs to the grocery store, I rarely bother with a list. We mostly pick up the same items each week: chicken, a couple tins of diced tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, green beans. Our basket is consistent to the point where I can often guess the total before it gets rung through—typically $115 a week. That adds up to about $6,000 a year, for our family of four.

Apart from the sameness of our meals, this isn’t something we viewed a problem, until we tracked our waste and realized it was. In retrospect there have been too many occasions when the depths of our fridge decayed into a wasteland of half-used onions, liquefied cucumbers, petrified lemons and colourful penicillin colonies hiding half-eaten cheeses—all orphan ingredients from slapdash meals dreamed up on the fly.

We are not alone. At the University of Guelph, assistant professor Kate Parizeau was part of a research team that conducted an audit of residential food waste in the summer of 2014. They cracked open green bins to uncover the rotten truth about how much food is being tossed: The average family generated 4.5 kg of food waste every week. Of that, roughly 2.3 kg were avoidable, while another 0.5 kg were considered to be possibly avoidable. “We were picking up green bins that had been outside for between one and seven days and some of the food still looked pretty edible,” she says.

What’s equally shocking is the cost. According to research by Ralph Martin, the Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production at the University of Guelph, that 4.5 kg of food is equal to about $28 every week or $1,465 a year. Given the average Canadian family of four spends roughly $140 a week on food that means about 20% of our grocery bills end up in the bin. It’s as much as many families spend annually on gas. “People are buying too much and not portioning well,” says Parizeau. “It adds up.”

Of course, inflation and the weakening loonie have also conspired to drive up supermarket bills, as have unusual price fluctuations, such as the one we saw earlier this year when the price of a single head of cauliflower jetted to $8 a head. By the end of 2016, food price increases are projected to outstrip the general inflation rate, which is alarming given how much of monthly spending is earmarked for food. The University of Guelph’s Food Institute expects the average household will spend $8,631 yearly on food, including $2,416 on restaurants. That’s up $345 from 2015, which was up $325 from 2014. That means the average family is spending $700 more on food than they were two years ago. Meats and vegetables are leading the way, up 4% and 9% respectively, and are projected to rise another 2.5% to 4.5% this year. So even if you avoid exorbitant cauliflowers (as I do), it won’t make you less immune to bill creep.
The avg household will spend $8,631 on food in 2016, up $700 since 2014
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That is not welcome news. According to a recent poll by Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute, 57% of Canadians say it’s becoming more of a challenge to put food on the table. Moreover, Canadians are cutting back in any way they can. Almost three out of four Canadians say they’ve switched to lower-priced house brands, while 61% have cut back on meat and 42% have cut back on fruits and vegetables. But do you really have to sacrifice nutrition or the foods you enjoy to save a buck?

I consulted a number of chefs, nutritionists and food experts and, over the course of six weeks, I experimented with the best advice they had to offer. My goal: to cut my $6,000 annual grocery bill by $1,500 or 25%, by reducing waste and shopping smarter. I refused to make any nutritional sacrifices whatsoever, and insisted on continuing to plate meals my family loves eating (because I don’t know about you but I’m not about to adopt a new habit if I don’t enjoy it). I found that with a bit of planning, not only can my family eat great for less, we can eat even better.

1. Run your kitchen like a restaurant

While the average family wastes food like no tomorrow, a 2010 Canadian study found that well-run restaurants waste no more than 5%. I wanted to know what they are doing that I am not and set out to find someone who could appreciate the need to keep costs in check but still cook a kickass meal. My search led me to Suzanne Barr, the driving force behind Saturday Dinette, a modern 35-seat restaurant in Toronto’s trendy South Riverdale neighbourhood.

For Barr, watching costs comes second only to the care she puts into prepping brunch favourites like mushroom stout ragu on toast with lavender ricotta. “Being a true mom-and-pop restaurant, we do everything ourselves here and we watch every penny that goes in and out,” she says from behind the counter.

When Barr noticed that many plates were returning with an untouched buckwheat pancake during her highly touted weekend brunch service, she quickly dropped the serving size from three to two. “It’s almost like food coming out of our mouths and money coming out of our pockets,” she says of the uneaten food that ends up in the dish pit.

Adjusting portion sizes is something that works as well at home as it does at the restaurant. Author and registered dietician Cara Rosenbloom suggests that parents serve their kids smaller portions, offering seconds if they’re still hungry. After all, few people would pack up food that’s been picked over by a toddler, but with the right portioning, leftovers can be saved for another day.

Here’s another reason way restaurants keep their waste to a minimum: They use everything. “That’s how we really keep costs down, we use every part of the vegetable,” says Amanda Cohen, the Ottawa-born chef behind Dirt Candy, hailed by the New York Times as one of the most influential vegetarian restaurants in the United States. “We find uses for them even if they are going bad; we will pickle them or dehydrate them.”

Barr operates the same way. When she gets her order of fennel she mixes it into her slaw, uses the fronds for fennel butter and incorporates the rest into three different cooking stocks she makes. “It’s about getting the most out of every single thing here,” she says.

And if the foods can’t be incorporated on the plate right away, you still have options that don’t require dusting off your grandparent’s canning equipment. “Take a loaf of bread and turn it into bread crumbs,” suggests Barr. “Challenge yourself to make something you’ve never made before.”
2. Shop more often for less stuff

Adjusting portion sizes and getting creative can help you use up stray ingredients, but it only gets you so far. Overbuying is the elephant in the refrigerator. This is a particular problem in North America where many of us take pride in our ability to snap up perceived deals by buying in bulk. All those four-litre buckets of ketchup and pickles, intended to save money, more often end up creating more waste.

A 2010 University of Arizona study looked at shoppers who stocked up on food at low-priced retailers like Walmart and Costco and found that they rarely consider the cost of what they end up discarding. In one case a participant who bought salad greens at Costco for “$3.50 or something” ended up discarding a large portion, but still felt it was a better deal than buying a more reasonably-sized container of greens for $2.50. “The modern American tendency to shop infrequently is at odds with basic human abilities to predict future food consumption needs,” was the author’s conclusion.

It comes down to knowing what you are able to consume, says Sylvain Charlebois, professor of business and economics at the University of Guelph. “We are bad inventory managers at home,” he says. “We live fast-paced lives and at times the food we buy and what happens at home gets the best of us.”

Buying perishables in bulk makes the least sense since they’re the first things that get tossed when we realize we’re too tired to cook one night. But the issue goes beyond stockpiling foods that go off. A 2000 report out of the University of Illinois, aptly titled “Cabinet Castaways,” warned of the risk of products bought for a specific recipe or occasion that never arose. It suggests that as much as 15% of our non-perishable goods are never used and eventually get tossed after gathering dust in our pantries.

Likewise, North Americans have grown accustomed to filling their fridges with so much stuff we struggle to find room for milk. I’m guilty of this. My freezer is packed with bags of ice-encrusted meats, some of which have been with us since we left the condo. Without even seeing my freezer, this frustrates Chef Barr. “What’s in there? Things in your freezer shouldn’t be there more than a month. If it’s there after a month are you really ever going to eat it?” Her rule: Open your freezer as often as you open your fridge and make sure things are coming out as often as they’re going in. Otherwise, “yeah, that freezer is going to continue to grow and grow.”

The simplest way to fight the compulsion to stockpile food: Shop more often and for less stuff.

Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen is a proponent of this idea. Until recently, Cohen operated out of an 18-seat restaurant where keeping costs in check was a matter of survival. “We bought our vegetables every single day. We never had leftovers at the end of the night. We always started fresh,” she says. “It really meant we were using what we were buying and that stuck with us at the new place.”
“It’s better to shop 2x a week than shop once & have a whole fridge of food go bad”
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She says that if you can’t predict more than a few days in advance, then chances are you’re buying food you have no intention of eating. “It’s better to shop twice a week than to shop once and have a whole fridge of food go bad,” says Cohen. “It’s OK to run out.”

This sounded like a logistical nightmare to me. On my first attempt, I went halfway: We did our weekly shopping trip but only bought what we needed to get us through the weekend, and then replenished throughout the week. If we got stuck, I knew we had some meat in the freezer we could chip out from under the ice. To my surprise, the bill rang up to a mere $40. The additional mid-week trip, for fresh vegetables, only added another $10 or so. In terms of food costs we saved $65 off our weekly bill—granted I managed to avoid meat purchases, but that would only add $30 or so for the week, which still put us 20% below our typical bill. If figured that if we did this once or more a month, we’d shave nearly $1,000 a year from our supermarket spending.
3. Don’t sweat the seasonal stuff

By the same token don’t feel compelled to spend extra on organic carrots. Amanda Cohen’s whole business is built on turning common vegetables into high art and she doesn’t. She happily admits she’s seasonal agnostic and has never gone out of the way to buy top-of-the-line fruits and vegetables. She prefers to work with the same produce most of us have in our home kitchens.

Cohen feels consumers get too caught up in the notion of buying locally and in-season. While Cohen says it’s great to support local farmers, the reality is most of our food comes from other parts of the globe. “Oranges are always out of season in Canada,” she offers by way of an example, adding that there’s nothing wrong with that. In a widely read New York Times column, she noted how little most grocery stores stock in the way of local foods. “The fact is, we live in a post-seasonal world,” she wrote. “The vast majority of our fruits and vegetables comes to us on trucks and planes from faraway farms, and everything is always in season somewhere. Make your peace with it.”

When to buy V3

Still I instinctively thought certain foods would be cheapest during the months they’re grown in abundance. After all, it’s when they are freshest and most plentiful. But a detailed study of the Canadian consumer price index, which measures changes in the prices Canadians experience for a fixed basket of goods, revealed otherwise. Going back over 20 years of data, I noticed some interesting patterns emerge. Citrus is cheapest during the first three months of the year, while apples are most expensive during August and September, just when they’re coming into season in Ontario. According to Kelly Ciceran, general manager with Ontario Apple Growers, that’s because demand actually outstrips supply during those months. The cheapest apples arrive in stores in January. “That’s when there are lots of promotions, both from us and our competition,” says Ciceran. “We typically sell more bagged apples at this time which can be less expensive than loose apples.”
Food myth: produce is cheaper when it’s in-season. Apples are most expensive Aug. to Sept.
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Meanwhile, you can save by buying oddly shaped fruit and vegetables at any time. Loblaws latched onto this idea last year when it launched its Naturally Imperfect line of produce, selling undersized, discoloured or misshaped onions, apples, carrots and mushrooms for up to 30% less than their runway-ready counterparts. Nutritionally and taste-wise there is no difference.
4. Work the freezer aisle

You’ve probably heard the old adage that you should shop the periphery of the store, where you find most of the fresh and perishable products, and skip the middle aisles. Nutritionist after nutritionist I spoke with urged me to take a turn down the freezer aisle, for my wallet and my health. “There are studies that show these products are just as fresh,” says Rosenbloom. In some ways, they’re even better. “Often the frozen ones have a higher nutrient content,” she explains. Think about how most produce gets to the store in the first place. It’s had a long journey and nutrients and vitamins like vitamin C break down over time. A bunch of fresh spinach could have spent a week or more in transit. Frozen produce is typically flash frozen within six to 12 hours of being picked when it’s at its peak freshness, she says.

Following Rosenberg’s advice, I picked up a two-kg bag of frozen broccoli from Costco for $10. A bit of math suggested it contained about 20 servings. And while I wondered what Chef Barr would say, I felt slightly better when, a few days later, I noticed a single stock of limp broccoli, enough for two servings, selling for $2 at my local supermarket.

In this case, frozen offered a significant savings—$10 in this scenario—over buying fresh. Using the freezer aisle as a hedge when fresh produce costs are high, or to have on hand during weeks when you don’t know if you’ll have time to cook, will cut my food waste and ultimately help lower my grocery bill. But beware that not every frozen food item is always a deal. Breaking out the calculator, I learned that strawberries are almost always a better deal fresh. It’s only after they top $4.99 per pound that it pays to buy frozen.

I’m confident that I made a wise decision with my bag of broccoli—so long as I don’t forget it’s there. It shouldn’t be a problem: It takes up half the space in my freezer.
5. Ignore best before dates

Here’s an all too common ritual: You reach into your fridge and grab a yogurt, only to notice it was “best before” yesterday. So you toss it out. At the University of Guelph, associate professor Mike von Massow argues that our fixation on these dates is misplaced. The dates printed on packages are really “sell-by” dates, when the food is at peak freshness, he explains. The food is still good, just not ideal for sale. It really comes down to a judgment call, he says, noting we’re often too quick to dispose of leftovers. “If it’s cooked properly,” he says, “you are starting with a clean slate.” If it smells fine, probably is fine. Food feature V2

I find there’s a bit of a “yuck” factor with this advice. I still have nightmares of a teenage encounter with a commercial-sized vat of OJ well past its expiration date. As such, I view expiration dates the same way I’d approach a bomb ticking down: I don’t want them to be around when they go off. For the paranoid like me, sites like Stilltasty.com can tell you everything from how long you can keep that open jar of salsa (one month) and how long you can freeze maple syrup (indefinitely) to how long that tub of yogurt should last past its sell-by date (seven to 10 days, apparently). The key is to manage your stock wisely. That means employing proper food storage and resisting the urge to crack open a fresh tub of sour cream just because the other one has already been open a few days.
6. Cut the red meat (It’s too pricey anyway)

The freezer aisle isn’t the only one consumers should hit; don’t forget the candy aisle, says Rosenbloom. Not because she wants to see consumers load up on jujubes, but because that’s where many grocers typically stock pulses—beans, lentils and seeds—which can be used to help bulk up dishes so you can use less meat. Beef in particular is one of the grocery groups that has risen the most in recent years—with the price of a sirloin steak rising by more than 15% since 2014, according to Statistics Canada.

About two cups of cooked red lentils is all I can handle. Following Rosenbloom’s advice, I added a handful to a batch of sloppy joes, as well as to a meatloaf, and still had plenty of the cooked lentils leftover. I was pleased to see it stretched our ground beef by adding at least two extra meals, even if the recipe had room for improvement. (My sloppy joes look more like chili.)

Each of those meals would have cost $1.73 per person in meat alone, but bulking up with lentils dropped the protein cost to $1.03—a 40% savings. I don’t think I could keep all of our meal prices down this much, but if I did we would save $700 a year. Not a bad return for a $6 bag of lentils.

Tofu is another food that can put a serious dent into your grocery bill, and a great substitute for recipes that call for boneless chicken breast. “For $2.99 you can feed a family of four,” says Rosenbloom. Up for the challenge I decided to take her advice a step further by combining it with another piece of advice Barr gave me when I visited her at the diner. Barr’s tip? Whether it’s meat or vegetable, utilize an ingredient in a number of ways to get the most out of it. For instance, she has beets on her menu three times. “People would never guess that it’s used in so many dishes.”

Grocery quiz embedV2

At home that meant adding bean curd to our menu for two straight days. As someone who eats meat three times a day, a meal of tofu sounded about as enticing as a plate of boiled brussels sprouts to a teen. But following some advice I cubed up some extra-firm tofu and tossed it into some caramelized butter in a sizzling frying pan. It took only minutes to throw together a simple stir fry, but it was surprisingly good and filling. A similar meal using chicken would have cost upwards of $9 in meat costs alone; this cost less than $3, and there was more than enough left over for lunch. Tofu Thursdays is now a meal we look forward to, and we used the leftover protein for a brown fried rice experiment the next day which resulted in another successful side dish.

Meats add a lot of weight to a grocery bill. Even if you don’t want to explore vegetarian options, there are other things you can do to lower this portion of your bill. Consider buying bone-in, skin-on chicken, suggests Zannat Reza, a registered dietician and founder of the food consultancy Thrive360. You can always de-bone it at home or cook it as is, she says. With boneless, you’re paying extra for convenience.

For similar reasons Reza suggests skipping lean or extra lean beef and draining the fat. “Sometimes it can be half the price,” she says. “Obviously if you are making a recipe where you can’t drain off the excess grease then go for the lean, but with a stir fry it’s no problem.” And just as with chicken, medium ground beef packs a ton of flavour.

Just as there are thousands of ways to prepare a plate of spaghetti, there are many ways to reduce your grocery bill and trim your waste. But my goal was to disrupt my own routine to find where I was wasting money. It was a challenge, but not nearly as difficult as I feared. Integrating the tips collected from Chef Barr and others into my daily routine wasn’t overly tiresome and well worth the effort. By my calculations, they have the potential to save me as much as $1,500 over the course of the year. It’s true that few households will ever be as smoothly and efficiently run as a restaurant. I for one have no plans to make homemade stock from my chicken bones and vegetable ends. Those will always end up in my green bin. But even if you only adopt a few of these tricks at home or at the grocery store, you’ll start to notice modest savings. As Barr explains, it’s all about how you utilize the products when you first pick them up. She stresses that you have to be realistic with yourself: “Am I really going to use this or should I just buy a little less?” Who knows, you might save enough to justify grilling up a few extra rib-eyes this summer.

Revealed: Saudi Arabia owns $117 billion of U.S. debt

Saudi Arabia’s tensions with U.S. magnified by cheap oil

One of the biggest mysteries in global finance was just revealed: How much U.S. debt Saudi Arabia owns.

Saudi Arabia stockpiled $116.8 billion of U.S. Treasuries as of March, the Treasury Department announced on Monday, ending four decades of keeping the figure secret.

That makes Saudi Arabia the 13th largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, though well behind the $1 trillion-plus owned by China and Japan each. The Saudi figure was first reported by Bloomberg News based on a Freedom of Information Act request.

Unlike with most other major owners of U.S. debt, the Treasury Department kept Saudi Arabia’s precise holdings secret since the 1970s. Saudi’s holdings were lumped together with that of other oil exporting nations, including Venezuela and Iraq.

But that policy ended on Monday as the Treasury Department disclosed precise holdings by specific countries that were previously grouped together. A Treasury official told CNNMoney the move was made following a review aimed at trying to provide more “comprehensive and transparent” data.

The new Treasury report also revealed that the Cayman Islands, a country of less than 60,000 people, owned $265 billion of U.S. Treasuries as of March. That’s the third-highest sum in the world and a reflection of the nation’s status as a major tax haven. The Cayman Islands does not have a corporate tax, encouraging multinational companies to store vast sums of money there to avoid taxes.

Likewise, Bermuda, another popular tax haven, is sitting on $63 billion of U.S. debt. Previously both the Cayman Islands and Bermuda were lumped together in a group of Caribbean banking center nations.

It is possible that Saudi Arabia owns even more U.S. debt than what was revealed on Monday. That’s because Saudi Arabia’s central bank listed owning $587 billion of foreign reserves as of March. Typically, central banks park the majority of their foreign reserves in U.S. Treasuries. In other words, the numbers don’t really add up.

One possibility: Saudi Arabia could be taking a page out of China’s playbook. Many analysts believe China owns U.S. debt through custodial accounts in Belgium, a relatively tiny country that listed owning over $154 billion of U.S. Treasuries as of March.

americas debt

Related: Who owns America’s debt?

The Saudi mystery had taken on greater significance in recent months. Since the end of 2014 the Saudis have burned through more than $130 billion of foreign-exchange reserves — most likely including U.S. debt — to help cope with the crash in oil prices. The Treasury Department said Saudi Arabia’s U.S. debt holdings of $116.8 billion are down from $123.6 billion in January.

Additionally, rising tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia led the kingdom to make a recent shocking threat. Sources told CNN in April that Saudi Arabia threatened to sell off American assets if Congress passed a bill that would allow 9/11 victims to sue foreign governments. A Saudi source at the time told CNNMoney that the kingdom was “serious” about this threat.

Dumping a vast sum of U.S. Treasuries at once could cause the securities to tank, potentially destabilizing global financial markets. It could also severely hurt Saudi Arabia’s own finances, leading many experts to conclude the threat was empty.

U.S. problem: I work three part-time jobs

Erlinda Delacruz walmart
From full time to part time: Erlinda Delacruz has three part time jobs.

For 15 years, Erlinda Delacruz had a full-time manufacturing job in rural Winters, Texas.

It gave her health benefits and four weeks of paid vacation along with a salary that supported a good life. Then the rug was pulled from under her in 2009, when the plant closed. Since then, it’s been a battle of survival as Delacruz worked a string of part-time jobs. Last summer, she even lost her home to foreclosure.

Delacruz, 55, still works part-time. Except at three different places — Monday through Wednesday she works eight hours a day at a senior citizens center serving meals, and Thursday through Sunday Delacruz divides her time between two other jobs as a cashier at Walmart (WMT) and the Wes-T-Go convenience store.

She barely has time for herself. In all, Delacruz says she works roughly 60 hours a week between her three part-time jobs.

“There’s no such thing as a Friday,” says Delacruz. “I live paycheck to paycheck.”

In all, she typically makes $1,600 a month after taxes. It’s lesser than what she made at her manufacturing job, where she took home $2,000 a month.

Delacruz is one of 2.1 million Americans working multiple part-time jobs, matching the all-time high set in 2014. What’s unclear is how many of these workers choose to work multiple part-time jobs or feel forced to by their circumstances. The evidence suggests the latter.

Related: America’s part-time workforce is huge

americans multiple part time jobs

Part-time work has become a huge worry for experts who watch the U.S. economy. There are 6 million part-time workers who want full-time jobs. It’s well above its pre-recession average of about 4 million workers.

It’s a worry because part-timers have a much higher chance of living in poverty than full-time workers. They’re also much more likely to be unemployed, according to a study by Rebecca Glauber, a professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has repeatedly said part-time workers are one of her biggest concerns in the economy.

Related: Coal workers become computer coders

“Many workers who are stuck now with multiple part time jobs can’t keep up with high tech skills that are in demand,” says Bernie Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group, a research firm.

Baumohl adds that employers are implementing new technology — machines, software — at a faster pace now than workers can keep up with to maintain skills in demand. That’s why there’s a job skills gap in America.

The part-time problem is bleeding into mainstream America through different channels. Donna Berger is a long-time volunteer at the Quakertown food pantry in Pennsylvania. She’s seen a surge in part-time workers showing up for food.

“There’s an epidemic of part-time workers,” says Berger. “They work part-time…but that’s not enough to make ends meet.”

Erlinda Delacruz blue shirt
Erlinda Delacruz (in the middle) with her son and a colleague from work.

Related: U.S. economy adds 160,000 jobs in April

Struggling to make ends meet is tough for Delacruz, a high school graduate who attended college but never finished her degree.

When she lost her full-time job with benefits in 2009, she was stuck working two minimum wage jobs with no benefits. Each paid about $7.25 an hour.

“I went from all of that to nothing, making minimum wage, no vacation, no benefits,” says Delacruz.

She’s slowly worked up to higher wages, earning $10 an hour at Walmart, $8 an hour at the convenience store and $9.60 at the senior center. Because she’s worked at Walmart for a year, she’s been able to obtain health insurance. She’s holding out hope that Walmart (WMT) offers her a full-time position one day.

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Seven years into part-time work, Delacruz appreciates the few benefits she receives. The seniors’ center offered her 24 hours of paid leave a year. She uses the time to go for doctor appointments.

Related: America’s top 10 job-killing companies

Paid time off “is like a luxury nowadays,” she says.

After her home was foreclosed upon last summer, she moved in with her daughter, son-in-law and their kids.

Recently, Delacruz was able to get a loan from a local bank to help pay for a $35,000 house in Winters, a town she has lived her whole life. It’s not much but her voice radiates with pride when she speaks about it. She touts the patio, backyard and front porch.

But she doesn’t expect to spend much time — or money — in her new home. Between payments for the house, insurance and gas, she sees little of her paychecks. Her regret is that she doesn’t have much time left over to spend with her loved ones including her grandchildren.

“There is a drawback on having multiple jobs…I don’t have a personal life,” Delacruz says.

–Heather Long contributed to this story

Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated Delacruz’s income as before taxes. It is after taxes.