Here are some strategies that we use and that work for us:
Go shopping with a budget in mind
No matter how big/small your family is use a figure and stay within that boundaries. Ours was $160 when we had 2 adults and a teenager and decreased to $125 for just the two of us. If one week we go over and have to buy for example a few toiletries then next week we try to buy less so overall monthly spend is still within $500.
Planning your meals or cooking from what you have?
For years Elena was sticking to buying our usual staples and then cooking from what we had. I have to say it worked really well as we hate doing any shopping lists. We still stayed within our budget but we did throw away some food.
One of Elena’s work colleagues (actually two of them) was always trying to convince her to plan meals and shop accordingly. So one month she gave in to the idea and (sigh) had to make a shopping list..
It was a chore doing it but on the upside Elena was planning meals based on our new cookbook so the meals were new and interesting. Shopping with a plan had given us a definite new advantage – trying new dishes without wasting food.
Actually food spoilage went down as well as we bought just enough ingredients to cook 5 meals a week. 6th meal was a takeaway and we left 7th open as we either go out for an inexpensive meal out or get invited for dinner.
During our 3-4 months of planning meals we also went on no carbohydrates meals so we quite enjoyed that change. It all started changing when we had friends staying with us for a few weeks and we slipped into old routine. A year later we are still cooking with no shopping list but I’d like to re-start.
Planning your meals doesn’t necessary save money but enhances your cooking giving you a meal variety. This brings us to the next one:
Buy things that are on “special”.
That’s pretty much our first and foremost rule and it allows us to stay within our modest budget, even when we had a child living with us.
If apples and pears are discounted this week we get them and if watermelon and strawberries are next week we get them. Of course we mix and match a little bit so we still have variety.
Buy fruit/vegetable in season
Expanding on previous we tend to buy these things in season so we enjoy plenty of fruit and it doesn’t affect our grocery budget.
Even better – shop at farmer’s market.
Unfortunately for us it means driving for 25-30 mins to get to it so we rarely do it but when we lived close to one we were there every Saturday morning stocking up on fruit and veggies.
No convenience/frozen foods.
Naturally we never went for frozen food section apart from maybe a bag of mixed veggies that is good to keep “just in case” in the freezer.
The only “heat-and eat” food we ever bought were meat pies as our son loved them but for years he suffered from constipation that was related to pies, chips and soft drinks. Hence for years we never bought soft drinks. Pies were a special item that was bought once in 3-4 months.
Buy no-name brands or supermarket’s own.
Generally we don’t care if tomato sauces, pasta, rice and things like that are of a certain brand so we just buy basic and the cheapest brand. Elena loves weetbix and actually prefers the cheapest brand over all others!
Some things of course taste better/worse as we’ve found out recently with custard. The first time we bought a cheaper, no-name brand and I have to say that the taste was not the same so we’ll be buying more expensive brand that we both love. We don’t ever want to go so frugal that we don’t enjoy life!
The highest mark up items at your eye level.
So look up and kneel down and you’ll see different brands that are just as good often 25-50% cheaper. Not surprisingly that’s where no-name brands live as well.
Shop without children.
Invariably when Elena was shopping with our son she ended up with more extra groceries than planned even though he was trained from early age by her to look at the price.
Train your children about savings when they are young.
Since our son was 4-5 years old and started to recognise numbers every time he grabbed a product in store I asked him “how much was it” and if he didn’t know I sent him back and asked him to check the price and if they were any cheaper products next to it.
At the same time we had conversations that some things taste better so we don’t mind spending money on them yet others it didn’t matter at all.
By 7-8 years old it became a second nature to him and we hope now when he is shopping with his girlfriend he remembers the lessons.