Many of my friends have asked how I spend so little on groceries and I thought it was a great time to share some of the changes that we have made. In this day and age the growing cost of living can be crippling, especially feeding a family. Living to your means is difficult and saving money seems impossible. If you are on struggle street, ice cube week, or just want to cut back on what you are spending I hope that these tips will help you in some way.
Firstly, a little disclaimer because there are always those that want to cut the juicy head off a poppy…I do know that my children are not teenagers yet and that my budget will grow to reflect this. Secondly, I am not a Nutritionist or a Dietitian and we eat a diet that suits our family so don’t come asking me for vegan recipes because I only realised a year ago that vegan isn’t a brand of bread.
After the birth of our beautiful chaotic second daughter I found we were spending a ridiculous amount on groceries. I suppose we were sucked in by selection and convenient foods and didn’t buy intentionally. We would not blink an eye at spending $500 a fortnight on food, cleaning products and toiletries. What we realised was that it was limiting the things we could do elsewhere such as save, spend money on our house and of course outings and adventures with our children. We decided that better quality of life meant that for us we had to cut back on the money we spent and the best place to start was the groceries. So here is a few ways in which we cut our fortnightly grocery bill in half.
1.Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. We used to go to the supermarket and see what took our liking for that week. We usually forgot vital ingredients and then made multiple trips back to the grocery store. These trips also included extra things that we really did not need. Now, I meal plan for a fortnight and write a corresponding shopping list. I cannot emphasise this enough! If I got to the supermarket without my list I would turn around and go home. Meal planning is a massive topic in itself so there is a blog post to come on this. Also supermarket shopping use to be a “we” affair and now its only me because we all know men like the treaties.
2. When meal planning ensure you include easy “take-away” style meals on a Friday or when you are likely to fall off the bandwagon. This way its easier to stick to, easy to prepare and you can have a takeaway fix. Some of the Chelsea Winter recipes such as the “Chelsea Fried chicken”, sweet and sour chicken and the burgers are a hit in our house which has helped us to avoid takeaways. Ensure you put realistic meals on your meal plan that fit around your families schedules. Factor in treats or ingredients to make treats. For us, we really enjoy something sweet with a cup of tea at night and don’t have dessert as such. Being realistic about your wants and needs in the week will stop the late night dairy stops when you could have just bought a $3 block of chocolate or tub of ice cream for the fortnight.
3. Shop to season and specials. At the start of every fortnight I flick through the flyers from Countdown, New World and look at Pak n Save online. (All of these can be seen online). It really pays to see what specials are available and shop accordingly. I know you are totes into pork mince based recipes at the moment but mate that shit is pricey when its not on special, not this fortnight girlfriend! A little effort meal planning and shopping around can save a lot of money. Usually I shop around for where has the best specials on meat and dairy such as butter and cheese. Last fortnight I did my full shop at Pak n Save and only nipped into Countdown to grab a cheap Pork Roast and cheese that was down to $8. In comparison to Pak n Save who had no cheap larger cuts of meat and cheese was $9.50. Quite often New World have good mince specials so will often stock up there. It wouldn’t be that unusual for me to do a whole fortnights shop solely at Pak n Save either with fruit and veg from the orchard.
4. Selection is not your friend. I don’t know about anyone else but I used to buy a huge selection of fruits and vegetables with no real aim for their consumption. This meant a lot of wasted food and a lot of wasted money. When meal planning I started to utilise veges that were in season and on special and chose meals with these in mind. For example, One huge cabbage at the Orchard the other day was $2.50, so I included recipes for that fortnight such as chow mein, meat and veg, coleslaw or salad based meals. The same goes for meat. If you are buying one pack of meat for each night as we were, this is hiking your food bill up enormously. If you can have one meat free meal a week go you! and if your Husband will act like his throat has been cut then you have other options. Planning meals around a large portion of meat works well. For example, when pork is on sale one leg can cost approximately $10-$15. We either slow cook this pulled pork style and use this for 4 different meals or roast it and use it for four meals. Quite often this can be used for lunches for my husband as well. Whole chickens are usually on good sales and the same principle applies. For example, 2x $5 chickens = First night a roast, second night chicken and mushroom pasta, third night chicken and vege quiche, and then fourth night I boil down the carcusses and make chicken and vege soup. Again, I could talk for hours on meal planning…so keeps your eyes peeled for the next blog if that tickles your fancy.
5.Don’t be a fussy shit. If the thought of eating chicken four nights in a row makes you want to die then you can always freeze portions and change it up a bit. At one stage we really needed to save as much as possible in a short time and my husband ate chicken for a whole week. He said his farts smelt like chicken but he still smiled at me at tea time like Darryl Kerrigan from the castle “what do you call this Darl?”…”Chicken” (Great movie that, if you haven’t seen it!)
6.In addition to the don’t be a fussy shit, is stop feeling the need to buy instagram-worthy fruit and vegetables. Massive food suppliers such as Supermarkets throw out crazy amounts of perfectly good fruit and veg because we have become too precious to buy the mandarin with a little blemish or an oddly shaped cucumber. Too bad if you are going to have people sniggering at you for buying the penis shaped cucumber it doesn’t deserve to go to landfill!. ‘City Harvest’ in Christchurch are a charitable trust that are now bridging the gap and taking surplus or wasted food from different segments of the food industry and getting it to Organisations to distribute to those that really need it. They state that statistics show that New Zealanders throw away 122,547 tonnes of food a year! A little effort to use our food intentionally and cut back on waste will not only save you money but helps in the bigger scale.
7. Supermarkets are ridiculously pricey due to their need to provide blemish free perfect fruits and vegetables all the time. When I walk into the supermarket I almost faint at the price of a broccoli at $3.50!! Shop local and find an Orchard, vege stall or shop near you. The same size pumpkin I bought at the Orchard for $2.50 was $4 at Pak n Save. $1.80 worth of silverbeet at the Orchard, $3.50 at the supermarket. The photo used in this blog is some of the beautiful fruits and veges I got at half the price and the man knows my name, gives the kids free fruit and carries it all to my car! We need to stop thinking spending ten minutes here and ten minutes there is such a big deal because convenience shopping is costing you at least one to two hours of wage to put it into perspective. I have recently been made aware of community initiative of vege boxes made up and delivered to your door weekly or fortnightly. Be aware of other community gardens and fruit and vege co-ops in your ares.
8. Grow your own! Everyone has to start somewhere, if it is a few buckets with tomatoes or some old tyres with potatoes. Once you get rolling it actually becomes very easy and surprisingly gratifying. Due to backyard landscaping, our vege patch has been on the back burner but I am super excited to get this up and running again.
9. Take your list to the supermarket and stick to it. Don’t get sucked into the stock piling trap because specials are thrown in your face. I know you think you are saving money by buying 10 bottles of dishwashing liquid but at the exact moment at the check out you are only spending more not saving. That and the next fortnight when you need more dishwashing liquid I can bet my left love handle there will be one type of dishwashing liquid going really cheap. (God I hope I’m wrong haha). Ignore the end of aisle savings as they are usually a distraction to the cheaper items that are just down the aisle. Research some of the tricks of consumer marketing and you will be amazed at how we are encouraged to part with our money.
10. Cook from scratch and cut down on pre-packaged foods. Learn to cook and put in the effort to make food from scratch using less pre-packaged foods and flavouring. This is not only better for your health but becomes natural and easy after a while. Home baking is essential and put ideas for lunches and snacks into a little notebook so that you can plan for them each fortnight.
11. Decide on 5 family must haves and don’t stray. For example, my husband will strictly not eat any other baked beans, spaghetti or Tomato sauce other than Watties. Another way to save money by not being a fussy shit is to cut back on expensive toiletries. Believe it or not you can actually get through life hygienically without smelling of Ylang Ylang and Cherry Blossom. You don’t even know what the F Ylang Ylang is, so you sure as hell don’t have to smell like it. A normal bar of soap works pretty well, but of course if smelling like Ylang Ylang is a high priority to you then you can always add to your family top 5 must haves. Although your family might be dark on you that they have to eat Oak or Budget baked beans this fortnight. The cheaper alternatives to most things are in most cases no different so push that food snobbery away because you on a budget girl.
12. Most cleaning supplies can be replaced with Baking Soda and vinegar so the only thing I buy in that aisle is dishwashing liquid and washing powder. For more ideas on this I strongly recommend reading ‘Pig tits and Parsley sauce’.
13. Keep a little notebook with meal ideas that can be quickly looked through for inspiration when meal planning. You can even categorize with mince or chicken for example. This is helpful to then group meals using similar ingredients.
14. Look into shopping fortnightly if you don’t already do so. It is much easy to group ingredients and meals and less opportunity to stray from the budget and meal plan.
We are still improving and finding better ways to do things and I’m sure that others will have other brilliant ideas to pass on also. For us a little bit of organisation and cutting back on luxuries has given us a better quality of life. By no means are we frugal and have no fun. By no means do we not splurge occasionally. I would rather consume food intentionally over a fortnight and have spare money to spend on my family, save and buy nice coffee with hahahaha. If you want to follow me on any cooking, baking, food prep, meal planning to see that we don’t only eat toast and two minute noodles feel free to follow me on snapchat or instagram (MallochMadness)