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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Eating Better for Less

Some of her suburban Washington neighbors were skeptical about Jo Ann York’s casual claims regarding her family of four’s food bills. So in 1976 she wrote a book entitled “How I Feed My Family on $16 a Week.” With her husband and two pre-teen children York showed how they “eat three balanced, nutritious meals a day, with meat, fish or poultry on the table every night.”

“We eat regular meals and never leave the table hungry,” she wrote. Over-eating costs money as well as one’s health. York recalled Harvard nutritionist (now President of Tufts) Jean Mayer’s advice that “the healthier you eat, the less it costs you.”

What were York’s “secrets?” No secrets, she wrote, just applying the obvious. First, she cooks. Second, she avoids expensive conĀ­venience foods like TV dinners, canned vegetables and canned meats. No bottled and canned soft drinks and no sugary breakfast cereals. These foods, she described, as less nutritious and more expensive then “real” food.

This astute consumer shops for food only once a week, spending at most one hour in the supermarket. She buys with a careful and complete list, looks for specials, knows when to shop (late in the week), reads labels and compares products, sidesteps temptation and impulse, cooks from scratch, wastes little, does her own chopping and slicing, makes her own soups, bakes her bread and wishes for her own small vegetable garden some day. In her 220 page book she tells-readers exactly how easily she goes about doing this and includes a month of her menu plans together with nearly 100 recipes.

Although the young homemaker appeared on numerous television and radio shows discussing her seemingly effortless feats, her book did not sell well. Most books that show consumers how to buy higher quality, lower priced goods and services do not sell well. By contrast, books that purport to advise readers how to invest their savings profitably have been regular best sellers in the past decade.

Well, now comes another book with the title “Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half!” by Barbara Salsbury. This volume really vibrates. “Unbelievable though it may sound,” says the author, without coupons, gimmicks, or sacrifices, for the last ten years I have spent less than half what other four-member families pay for groceries, and even bought the brands we like.” On the book’s cover is the warranty: “If after following the instructions in this book, you do not cut grocery bills dramatically, the publisher will refund to you the full price of the book.”

This book is comprehensive, detailed and well designed. There are worksheets, comparisons of servings per food type and calendars of the best grocery buys each month of the year. Salsbury describes the many supermarket pitfalls and food industry tactics that put consumers over a barrel. She writes about the growing number of buying clubs and food coops which are spreading in many local communities.

Twelve years ago, Salsbury, her husband and two small children were in hard times. They had to live on $5,000 a year. She developed her shopping system then out of need and later found that anyone could do the same and enjoy both the process and the savings.

You won’t find the book in any of the food supermarket chains. Nor will you see it reviewed in magazines or other publications that print coupons, according to the publisher. But you can obtain a copy by sending $7.95 to Acropolis Books, Ltd., 2400 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009. With this advice you can turn the tables on the food sellers and smile all the way to the bank.