We all need to be weaned off the habit of just ‘ducking in’ to the supermarket because, you know, there’s no food at all for dinner and tonight (for once) you will actually be cooking and eating dinner at home. So I’ve put together a few tips—this is what we did when we decided to do a monthly supermarket shop instead of an ‘every few days’ shop. Keep in mind that if you shop frequently, you’re likely to be spending about 50 per cent of your bill on things you don’t need.
The first thing we did was a shop with the aim of not returning to the store for a month—that includes bread and milk. Because the aim was to feed ourselves for ages, we purchased far fewer ‘one offs’ that sit in the cupboard for ages—or so we thought. Three cans of chilli beans went untouched for two weeks, then suddenly we had to use them and ended up on chilli bean overload—we had to—we weren’t going back. Then we identified food we just don’t buy enough of, the food that usually got us going back a few days later. Meat, bread and cereal are big here. For the next shop we doubled these items and simply did not buy the items that we turned to as a last resort.
So, if you like creamed corn toasted sandwiches once every few months, sure, buy a can. But don’t replace it until the next big shop, and don’t buy more unless you actually used it! If you went through eggs in a hurry, balls up and buy a tray. This is much cheaper in the long run.
Also try your absolute hardest to use everything you bought. If you bought flour and vanilla essence, bake a cake. If you ran out of eggs but still have those ingredients, google an eggless cake recipe.
Save up your money—put aside a set amount every week for the monthly shop. And put aside the amount you used to spend on groceries! This means that when you inevitably dip into the fund before supermarket day, for candy bars and milk at the dairy, your shopping list won’t suffer. The usual amount is about $75 a week (if you’re employed!). But even $5 a week will make a difference.
Write a shopping list. The easiest way to do this is to stick a piece of paper on your kitchen wall and write it as you go. Put more on the shopping list than you intend to buy. When you go to the supermarket, use your phone as a calculator and keep to budget. You may find that you can reduce your shopping list by 25 per cent when you have to make the choice between four different bags of potato chips and an extra three meals worth of food.
Don’t be afraid to buy more when your favourite items are on special, but be very cautious with the speed you use them. And, as always, bring a backpack or reuseable bags. At New World you’ll save a hefty 5 cents per bag you bring to the shop. Good luck troopers!