How to Lead a Good Life Via Food

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A dish of Angel hair pasta with vegetables and grated sheep's milk cheese.

Good Life and Food

Most people live beyond their means because they want to feel and be perceived as being wealthy.  A Coach handbag or Mercedes-Benz  sedan screams, “hey, look at me I can spend money and feel good about it!”  Feeling good about buying stuff or leading a “high-end” lifestyle is not inherently a bad thing, afterall we all want to live well and be exposed to nice things (even your most extreme cheapskate feels this way – it’s not a Western thing or a by-product of materialism, but rather just human nature).

However, there is a trick to feeling “wealthy” via not hopping on the luxury purchase bandwagon; that is, concentrate on items and things that don’t have a high premium or cost of entry.  So, for example, purchasing a luxury watch or yacht requires a large sum of money yet purchasing high end foods, although still a bit expensive, does not have the same high cost of entry.  My parents, for example, have never driven a luxury car, worn designer clothing, or lived in a highbrow neighborhood, however they do spend a considerable amount of money on quality food each week.  Eating well provides my parents with their own “luxury lifestyle” at a fraction of the price of most luxury goods.

I’ve adopted the same mentality in terms of food and I often splurge on local meats, organic vegetables, and delicious fruit.  I also aim to buy fresh fish each week and enjoy quality cheeses, breads, and wine.  Spending a bit more on food and wine each week makes me (and my family) feel as though we are living a good, high quality, life.  And the bonus is that I’m not overextending my weekly budget or taking on any debt to buy our free range whole chicken or bottle of Southern Italian red.

So, try cutting back on obvious luxury buys like jewelry, cars, clothing, shoes, electronics, products that require a monthly, auto renewing, fee, etc.  and go high end on items that do not have a high price of entry.  For our family, as I’ve said, that luxury item is food/wine.  Specifically, here are some things that we buy each week that provide us with a luxurious lifestyle:

1. Organic fruits and vegetables (whatever is in season)
2. Freshly baked bread
3. Free range eggs (they taste better, really!)
4. Fresh, wild, fish
5. Free range, whole, chicken (which we have our butcher cut into parts for us)
6. Whole bean coffee (which we grind, per use, at home)
7. Organic grains
8. Pasta imported from Italy (so much better than stuff made in the US)
9. Italian tuna in olive oil (you’ll never buy Starkist again!)
10. Freshly cured olives
11. Various cheeses from around the world
12. Italian Olive Oil
13. Wine (including the homemade variety)
14. Fresh herbs
15. Dark chocolate

In sum, don’t be afraid to spend money on things that make you feel special (if you can truly afford the items) because life can quickly become bland and pointless without true, day to day, happiness.   I do have a couple of caveats, however, before you treat yourself to some practical luxuries:

1., you should have no debt outside your mortgage,

2., you should have a 6-9 month emergency cash fund,

3., you should be fully invested in your company retirement plan (401K, 403b, etc.) and,

4., you should have a few outside investments in your retirement portfolio (index funds, mutual funds, bonds, exchange traded notes, etc.)

The bottom line is that you need to have your personal finance basics in order before adopting the above life philosophy.
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18 Comments

  1. These are interesting and worthwhile suggestions. I think that they go hand-in-hand with the idea of making gifts for the holidays because often gourmet items can be grown or raised (ie chickens and eggs).

  2. So true! My husband and I purchased our first quarter beef, half pork and 10 chickens this past fall. It all came fresh from a local farm, and is free range, antibiotic and hormone free. The beef is grass fed, and we are loving it. The taste is amazing! Purchasing in bulk like this was a huge moneysaver. It all averaged about $3 per pound, from the filet mignon to the bacon and ground beef, and should last us a year. I can’t wait for our CSA produce to start this summer. No other luxury can compare to high quality foods, and they are so much better for your health. Thanks for another great post.
    Have you tried making no knead bread, Vince? I found a great recipe, and it is comparable to an artesian round loaf. Awesome!

  3. Hi Jen,
    No, I never tried making no-knead bread, I’ll have to look it up (do you have a recipe?).
    We’re fortunate to have a great bread makers in our area and I tend to buy it each and every day (but I’m going to experiment with bread making soon).
    Vince

  4. The bread is so easy, and you will seriously be shocked at how great it tastes! I got this recipe from a comment on another blog:
    Mix 3 C flour, 1/2 tsp. yeast, 1 1/2 tsp. salt in a bowl. Pour in 1 1/2 C water and mix. Cover with saran wrap and let proof on counter for 12 to 24 hours. Preheat oven to 475 and heat a casserole dish with a lid for 30 minutes. Cover clean towel liberally with flour, turn out dough onto towel and gently roll into ball. When dish is preheated, roll dough off towel into casserole. Bake at 475 for 30 minutes with lid, then remove lid and bake 10-15 minutes longer. Cool 1 hour.
    This recipe has worked great for me. I did look up the original recipe in the NY Times, and it is a bit different (more work). Amazingly… it comes from the Sullivan St. Bakery! Isn’t that your favorite bread source?
    Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html?_r=1
    Enjoy!

  5. Great article! I also like that your luxurious foods just happen to be healthy ones as well. Yeah, Mediterranean-inspired shopping list!
    By the way, I think our parents’ styles were similar. Although we didn’t have fancy things or the lastest fashions growing, we did have good, healthy food. And I recall my mum found it curious that several families she knew, who always had the lastest running shoes or tech gadgets, would complain about the cost of fresh food. She just didn’t understand it, I’m sure for the reasons you described here.

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  12. I was born in Italy, am much older than your parents, and I have always lived like an Italian. I cook at home (unlike you, I have a basement kitchen with two stoves),we have a very large vegetable garden, and, yes, our portfolio consists of index funds, mutual funds, bonds and some real estate. To date, we live our “luxury lifestyle”.
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    hd323y

  13. Thanks for the comment, Elisa.
    How do you know I don’t have a stove in my basement? ; – )
    You seem to be leading a great life, continued success!
    Best,
    Vince

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