Tuesday, 24 February 2015

5 Easy Ways To Cut Your Grocery Bill.

Have you ever wondered why your grocery bill gets bigger and bigger each time you shop ? Yes, it could be your kids are eating more.  Yes,  prices do increase on a regular basis and it feels like you are in a never ending battle to keep your food costs under control.

Back in 2010 after Darren and I had paid off our mortgage,  I let my grocery spending slip a little.  Oh,  no  !!!  Wendy out of control in the supermarket,  that's unheard of.  Yes,  it happened.  I was just so glad to be debt free that I wanted to live a little.  Our family's food bill was climbing to well over $450 a month.  In fact,  I wasn't really tracking my spending.

In July 2010 I joined The Cheapskates Club and posted a thread on their forum titled "  Food Shopping Made Me Smile ".  This post described how I'd set myself a new goal of reducing my food budget to $300 for the month to feed my family of four.  So many members asked lots of questions and the $300 a month food challenge was born.  We now have participants from all over Australia joining in the challenge.

In 2014,  my husband gave up his full time paying job to be available to God's work.  Our budget had to be slashed in all areas as we waited on God for provision.  The food budget was reduced to $270 a month and we comfortably stuck to the new budget for  11 months.

I have a little secret to reveal.  For the last 2 months,  my new food budget has been $250 a month.  My family doesn't know ( they will now ) and they haven't noticed a difference.  We are still eating very well and there is plenty of food in the house.


Here are 5 of the tricks I use to keep my food budget so low -

*  Shop with a shopping list.  It sounds obvious but I'm astounded at the amount of people I see in the supermarket with no list in hand,  throwing whatever into the trolley.  A shopping list should have the exact product needed and the quantity.

*  Shop at home first.  As you are writing your shopping list,  check your pantry,  fridge and freezer to see what you already have on hand.  Make it a game to see how many items you can cross off your list.

*  Use unit pricing to your advantage.  Unit pricing  became mandatory in Australian supermarkets back in Dec 2009.  I was jumping for joy.  No need to bring a calculator with me. No more guessing the best deal.  Unit pricing is a great way to find the cheapest price per unit of each product.

*  Do not be brand loyal if you want to cut your spending.  Flour is flour,  sugar is sugar and they all do the same job.  If you can't make ends meet and can't pay all your bills on time,  branded products in your pantry will not give you peace of mind or make you happy.

*  Cut out the junk food.  This includes ready made,  microwave,  pre cut,  individual serves,  pre cooked,  ready to go,  snack size,  bite size, instant and freezer foods.  Generally they are processed and contain colorings,  preservatives and artificial flavourings.  These foods are also over priced for what you are getting.  Maybe save them as an occasional treat.




38 comments:

  1. Hi Wendy
    Wow $250 per month... I thought we were doing well on $150 for two people but I can see there is a lot of room for improvement. You have set the challenge and I am taking it lol....
    Now we are in a new home I am going to be able to grow more fruit and veg so hopefully this will help.
    I am with you on the unit pricing. I was thrilled when it started up. I find it is the most useful tool other than the menu and shopping list as well.
    Thanks for sharing. big thumbs up on the $250..... :-)
    Linda

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    1. Thankyou Linda.

      It's always worth looking at what we buy and reviewing it.

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    2. Hi Wendy,
      My husband was laid off from work temporarily?? I saw your program last year and was amazed to how you could save. we cant do monthly but because we are on pensions we do fortnightly. My problem is that I have diabetes and cannot have some meals with pasta etc. I would like to know how to make yogurt as this is an important part of my diet. Also its great to see another christian making a difference in the world. We too are waiting on God for provision.

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    3. Margaret, I have diabetes in my family. From what I've learnt over the years, you can eat normal food including pasta providing you don't have too much of anything. It really comes down to common sense eating. Dieticians scare you half to death with all the info they give you. My mum is diabetic and eats pasta. Just not too often.

      My yoghurt recipe is in the recipe section at the top of my blog under desserts ( I think ).

      Thankyou for visiting my blog. I hope to hear from you often.

      Blessings.

      Delete
  2. Hi Wendy, Great Post!!! I can't imagine you spending $450.00 P/M on shopping. It's easy to blow out the shopping budget especially if you don't have a Menu plan and shopping list. Will you be posting your Menu plan soon?? Wow!!! $250.00 p/m for your shopping, do you find by cutting back a bit more , you have to cook more or did you just cut out things you didn't really need to buy?? I love seeing your pictures of your pantry, Have a great day, xxx maureen

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    1. Menu plan is coming in the next few days. I had a crazy busy week last week.

      I don't think I've changed the food too much. We haven't bought much deli meat this Summer. We are eating chicken schnitzels, strips and fillets instead. I haven't bought salad dressing except for the pasta salad. We are using my tomato relish instead.

      My girls are not eating as much cereal - not that we buy anything dear. We only have porriage, wheat bix, corn flakes and rice bubbles. All Aldi brand and all the cheapest I can buy.

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    2. I am so glad my Husband eats porridge all year. One is happy with Weetbix. but another would rather go without than give up Special K. We love Aldi $1.19 crumpets as a treat.

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  3. Oh.. Wendy ,
    That's fantastic, you are so inspiring. $250.00 per month!!!!!
    I think this is the first month I will make the $300. mark( though I have come close before) my budget before I saw you on TV was around the 320-350.
    You have completely blown me out of the water..
    I don't think I could ever do that. But it gives me food for thought ( no pun intended ). I will now review my budget.
    Thankyou, for inspiring us all to do better.
    Cheers
    Kathryn

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    1. I bet you could get close to $250. It's all in the brands we buy, the types of food and the price. I never pay full price.

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  4. Hi Wendy. I also find it's getting back to the basics of sifting through a real need vs want that helps me save. I also find that I get tempted to buy when I see an item on sale but I reassure myself with the thought that the supermarket will reduce the price again and so will the other supermarkets and I don't need to buy everything that's on special. I won't miss out on the bargain and pay retail. I can tailor my menu plan to what's being offered on special, week by week. Last blog you asked about my ant deterrent. I got the recipe from Cath Armstrong's book 'Debt free, cashed up and laughing'. I find it works. The recipe is: combine 2/3 cup water, 1/3 cup white vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons dish washing detergent and mix well. Spray where the ants are marching. Hope this helps. Regards, Liz.

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    1. Thanks for the recipe. It's similar to the weed killer..

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  5. Wendy I couldn't agree more with on this. I pre-prepare a great deal of food like you do. It's little things sometimes. For example, cheese slices. Buying these pre-sliced seems easy and convenient. But have you ever noticed that besides being 30-50% more expensive, that the slices are too big for the bread slices? It hangs over the edge and melts onto the foil in the grill or the hotplate on the sandwich maker. I cut my own 1kg block of cheese into thin slices with a cheese slicer, and get about 70 neat little thin slices from a block. They're a better size for our gluten free bread, they're thinner so better for us, and we don't have excess cheese going to the bin because it's melted beyond the edges of our sandwich. They're also a near perfect size when halved, for topping rice crackers...another saving. We adore home made chutneys and relishes for adding a bit of zing to a plain meal or snack too. Put a bit of onion confit or tomato relish next to plain old sausages or steak or corned meat and suddenly it's gourmet worthy. As for snack size and bite size, whatever happened to cutting something to make it bite size or decanting snacks into appropriate 'snack sized' containers. I think that's a really big thing when you have school aged children and saves enormous amounts of money, as you would know. It's redefining what you consider a snack too. When I make zucchini slice, I deliberately cut some into little cubes to make it 'snack size'. Sometimes all you want is a mouthful of something to keep you going so why waste a whole slice when you don't really need it? Great advice from you as always....Mimi xxx

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    1. Mimi, We call the cheese slices " plastic cheese ". It doesn't really taste like cheese and I'd hate to think of the nasties in it. I did buy it when my girls were little. I'm more educated now about what is good for you.

      I'm sure the food companies think we are too lazy to prepare food ourselves.

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    2. Hahaha! Yes I think they do. I think they just want to brainwash us into thinking we need their portion sizes (which of course are always larger than what we ourselves would choose!) are more appropriate than ours. It's very sneaky.

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    3. Oops....sorry....also meant to add that we wouldn't touch the 'plastic cheese' with a ten foot barge pole. My husband rather likes the Coon pre-sliced cheese. He can't tell me why except that he likes the way it feels when he eats it! I buy it once in a blue moon when it's on special, and otherwise he gets his wifes' pre-sliced cheese! Last night when I shopped, I saw pre-made Honey Soy Marinade in the deli...reduced from $8 to $4.80 for a single serve pouch!! Isn't it just honey, soy, stock and cornflour? That's what it is at our house. It just shows the many little ways that we can save so much money, doesn't it? Mimi x

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  6. Your piece on Cheapskates said that you have three freezers. Do you factor in the govt estimate of each freezer costing $20 - $30 per quarter in electricity into your food costs ? Or is it a necessary cost to store your home grown vegetables when you have a glut or buying meat on a good per kg price ?
    I know you have your "one light " rule, I would be interested in a post about how you keep your utility costs down.

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    1. No we don't factor the electricity into our food costs. It's just part of running a house. If we didn't have the freezers we'd be paying full price most of the time for meat. I'd be baking a loaf of bread a day which would use the oven more often. Same with cake / muffin / biscuit baking. I'd have to bake smaller amounts every few days.

      We have a two light rule. I'll post something on electricity costs some time soon. Look out for the monthly theme. This month it's being water wise.

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    2. That's a hugely good point Wendy. I've had similar remarks on our spare freezer and fridge. But as you say, it saves literally hundreds over the year on not having to pay full price for many grocery items. Your bulk baking alone must save you the most enormous amount of money on similar bought products.

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    3. I have a fridge and a separate freezer. Those are normal household items and expenses, but the cost of each additional freezer estimated at $7 - $10 per month means I would include these running costs as part of my food budget. If they save me more than they cost to run fine. But each additional freezer is imho a food cost not a utility cost,
      I never pay full price for meat, and there is plenty in my freezer. I feed a family of five.

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    4. Ananymous, it would be lovely if you could ost your name at the end of your comment so I can address you properly. Thanks.

      When we plugged in an extra freezer we didn't notice any diference on our power bill. I keep a year's worth of bills so I can check the costs and usage.

      We all have a choice as to how we allocate expenses in our household budget. No one includes the running of a tv in their entertainment costs. I don't know of anyone who includes the running costs of a clothes dryer and washing machine in their clothing expenses.

      Having more than one freezer means I can freeze our garden produce, bake in bulk, cook in bulk and generally save so much time around the house which gives me more time to cook everything from scratch. It also gives me time to run this blog and write for the Cheapskates Club.

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  7. I call it "plastic cheese" as well but have you seen the price of it lately, ridiculous!!!!!!!

    My Aldi shop came in at $119 this month and I went to IGA and spent $68......I still have money left for bread, milk and F&V.

    I came home from the shopping and made white choc and macadamia cookies and Mimi's gorgeous chocolate cake recipe made into muffins (Mimi you are an absolute legend and my DD said it's the best chocolate cake we've ever had xxx).

    Unit pricing is so much better. On Friday my DD and her friend were making homemade pizza's instead of going out and he bought over a DVD for them to watch later. She wanted mushrooms so I stood and explained the unit pricing to her. By the time we'd finished she had saved so much just on unit pricing and working out even grating the cheese ourselves was much cheaper than buying it grated.

    Cheers

    Deb

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    1. I'd hate to think of the price for plastic cheese. I usually don't pay much attention to manufactured food.

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  8. You do amazingly well Wendy. And I have loved reading how others are going.
    I like to study prices and compare. Like ham... there is $6 a kilo ham on the bone through to shaved ham in little plastic packets which is over $30 a kilo.... and its icky! And cheese as you say.
    Or rice bought in bulk and cooked Mimis way and frozen if you need instant rice... or small packets of pre cooked rice which are so much more expensive. Most foods now come in a whole range of forms, cooked, partially cooked, frozen, canned... so many choices. I totally agree unit pricing has made life easier. The other day with sugar it was not the biggest pack that was the cheapest per kilo, unit pricing showed me that. Very handy.
    Without my freezer I could not store and manage all the bargain priced meat I get. This is one of the biggest money savers for us.
    Having time/making time to shop in a way that you can check and compare and look for specials.... go through the catalogues etc... this all takes a little time but the savings from it are so big that it is time well spent. (Plus I find it exciting!) xxx

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  9. We have just had to move due to my sons health and have added a households worth of bills to our already existing ones ( havent sold our house so we are renting ) Our grocery budget for 5/6 people is $300 a month and even that is going to have to be trimmed to meet daughters new university expenses... I dread price increases!

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  10. Wendy you have some really tips on this post... I have saved money by looking at the unit pricing and I am able to make better choices in my shopping... Your right flour is flour no matter of the brand and you make real savings by buying the cheapest brand in our staples... This post is great if you want to get started in making small changes in your spending habits and it's not complicated... I really like reading your blog...Thanks for sharing your tips...

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  11. HI Wendy,

    WOW oneday you'll have to show us your shopping list for $250 a month? Does that include meat? Our bill is about $500-$600 a month. I don't have a vegie patch unfortunately but I have been asking my husband to create a patch for me in our garden so hopefully oneday it will happen. I do bake muffins and snacks for the kids for school but a majority of our food bill does go to fruit and vegetables. I shop at Aldi and the fruit market and what I don't get there I get at Coles. Anyway, my goal for March is to try and get as close to $300 as possible. The challenge is on. It would be great to see what is on your shopping list for the month and could you also explain the unit pricing? Thanks for your blog. Love reading it and working at implementing it into our life. I also make up your miracle spray now and works wonderfully. Plus I used a cheap bottle of shampoo from Aldi to fill up the hand washers in our bathrooms instead of buying refill handwash which is more expensive. So I am getting there. :)

    Tanya

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    1. i'll post a shopping list some time soon. At the moment there isn't much on the list as I'd stock piled in Oct, Nov and Dec so I didn't have to do a big shop in the heat.

      Yes the $250 includes meat.

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    2. Unit Pricing was introduced by Aldi It refers to a $/c amount per 100 grams or per kilogram. Or for things like nappies each nappy. It allows you to comparison shop between the various sizes of the same item. For example Milo is sold in so many sizes, by comparing the cost per 100g you can work out the cheapest price. It is displayed on the shelf price label. K

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  12. Hi Wendy,
    I love love love the blog and get excited when I see a new post. I wanted to ask do you pre plan your lunches like you do dinners? I am 29 and hoping to buy my first home this year so looking for ways I can cut costs so as I can put more savings into a deposit. I also wanted to know if you could put up some lunch inspirations for me if possible as I am currently spending $50 per week on take away lunches and would love to know what everyone else on here does for lunch.

    Kind regards Samantha


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    1. Hi Samantha, no I don't plan lunches. When I'm at home I have toasted sandwiches, homemade veg soup, cheese and biscuits, crumpets, salad sandwiches. When I'm cleaning a clients home I have soup or a sandwich.

      The fancier the lunch the more it costs. Back in the day when I worked full tme ( before kids ) I bought sandwiches from home and paid for a lunch on the odd occasion.

      If you want fancier lunches, bring a salad and a small tin of tuna from home. Or a salad wrap. Maybe make lots of quiches in muffin size and freeze for future lunches. Even leftovers are cheaper than buying a lunch.

      The more money you save now the smaller your mortgage wil be.

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    2. Lunches in my family usually involve extras from last night dinner. Today my DH had homemade chilli and rice. Homemade vegie soup can be frozen in individual serves and pulled from the freezer. I have made bulk savoury muffins and frozen them. They all love it when I make sushi californian rolls as there will be extras for tomorrows lunch. And always remember to fill a water bottle at home with tap water.
      Saving a deposit is not easy, your home loan can be daunting - so many zeros. But when you pay off your loan and discharge your Mortgage it's a wonderful feeling. K

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    3. Hi Samantha – congrats on saving for your first home! You will save so much money taking your lunch from home. I cook extra dinner so my fiancé takes extra for his lunch. But I prefer something lighter so I generally take sandwiches with spreads, chutneys, cheese or egg & lettuce. If avocado is a good price, I like that on toast. Sometimes tuna with brown rice with salad or vegies. Tuna patties make a great lunch. Homemade soup is great in cooler weather. And don’t be afraid to get creative with a packed lunch – sometimes mine ends up a bit more like a ploughmans platter with a bit of everything! Even if you don’t take your lunch one day instead of buying an expensive sandwich walk to the supermarket if you can and you will be able to put together a cheaper option. Christina xx

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  13. This is a timely post for me Wendy, the monthly grocery spend this year is quite a bit up on last year so I had already challenged myself to get it down again in March. As you say a few more "snacky" and packaged treat foods in the trolley really do add up!

    Stella

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    1. I always ask myself, do I need those snacks or can I make them ? Then I remind myself of all the nasties that are in them. Works a treat.

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  14. HI Wendy, this post sure led into some interesting discussion. Its wonderful to read. I'm the same when in the supermarket, I look at things, and think, can I make that myself. Thanks to your inspirational posts, cheapskates hints and other hints from the web, the list of what I can make myself is growing by the week. Today I made some wholemeal crackers, marinated some lamb chops in home made marinade, and even better, the chops were 52% off. I have two fridge freezers and a chest freezer. I store a lot of the fresh from the local growers market in the second fridge, and love the freezer space for all the bulk items I've baked or items bought when found for half price. My vegie patch is a work in progress, but am getting better at it. The seeds are starting to take in the greenhouse, so all about trial and error I guess. Withe extra fridge and freezer, my power bill is still a lot less than work mates who only have the one fridge and like you said, you can bake in bulk, and saves running the oven all the time. Keep up the good work Wendy. I look forward to your posts every week.

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    1. It sounds like you are on the right track.

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  15. What a great source of ideas and inspiration! Will go and check the pantry now a sit is already full but I still go and buy more stuff:(

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  16. When it comes to shopping I never shop on an empty stomach as I always tend to buy treats and spend more than I plan..

    I happen to be shopping one day and a lady came up to me and told me I was shopping the old fashion way as I had a list lol.. to me it's called smart shop as I know what I need to get without doubling up and not buy things that are needed..

    People don't realise that if they buy in bulk they can save heaps and a butcher that's about an hour drive away is good for bulk buying and we always make a trip there to buy our meat..

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