Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Primer for Kitchen Frugality

I work with some really amazing young women.  Women who are now, where I was 15 years ago...minus the baby!  One of these young women has been doing some very astute surveying amongst her married-couple friends and found herself puzzled by the fact that we spend what they spend on groceries.....and there are five of us.  I keep reminding her that we don't buy toilet paper, laundry detergent or dishwashing powder.  There have to be some benefits of being self employed...and this is one of them.  This didn't account for the still-wide gap between our spending and hers and she questioned me about it the other day.  I don't know that I gave her an adequate answer at the time and I've had a moment to think, so here it is now.  The answer I should've given her, had we both had the time to do the topic justice.

First of all, you know I menu plan and organise my shopping list accordingly.  In the early years of Dh's self employment things were very tight.  My rule was "if it's not on the shopping list I don't buy it".  This was tough if I'd forgotten something.  But that was my rule.  It was only if the item was a matter of urgency that I would break the rule.  I'm not so harsh about that now, but I needed to be back then.

We don't eat huge amounts of meat.  If we're having mince or a stir fry, we use about 1/2 a kilo for the five of us.  Yes, that would be 100g each.  But it is enough for us all to be healthy.  I try to have a meat-free meal about twice a week.  Miss Sunshine makes a delicious frittata!  I also have a price limit on meat.  We eat a fair bit of chicken, because it's cheap, but I won't buy anything over $10/kg unless it's a special occasion.  And on the subject of stretching meat, the reason we have roast chicken fairly often is that I make stock from the bones for soups, as often as I need to replenish my stockpile.  I freeze it if I have no immediate need.

Like my price limit for meat, I also have one for fruit.  I don't buy anything over $5/kg.  You can't imagine the anticipation for being able to finally buy things like grapes and stonefruit, but I watch those prices and do not indulge until the price meets that magical mark.  I have a family who dive into fruit and to replenish it half way through the week with expensive offerings just cannot work on a strict budget.  If you can find your desired fruit in a 1kg package, that is usually the cheapest option, so look around when you're shopping and see what you can find.

I am a little less inclined to watch the prices of vegetables so vigilantly.  I have an approximate idea of what things cost and get pretty crabby when I know prices are too expensive.  I also know where to shop to get the best prices and use that to my advantage.  My vegetable shopping is pretty boring.  We eat very similarly most of the time, so potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms are constants.  Aldi is always the best place to buy all of those.

One of the biggest budget-busters for us is lunch boxes.  When my kids were young and money wasn't too much of an issue I used to buy what I've heard termed as 'snackety-packety' items.  Muesli bars, cheese sticks, mini packs of crackers and the like.  When I stopped that I saved $50/week immediately.  As our financial life has improved one or two of these things have snuck back in.  Boxes of flavoured crackers in Aldi are $1.29 (or somewhere close to that), so the kids put a handful into plastic containers for their morning snack.  These are supposed to be the back up, but sometimes life gets ahead of us.  In our house we bake whatever snacks are required, as often as we can.  The kids are competant bakers so they do much of it now.  When they were younger I would put Mr Busy to bed for a nap and Miss Mischief and I would spend a morning baking while Miss Sunshine was at PreSchool.  I would make two double batches of biscuits (cookies) a batch of muffins or maybe a cake.  And that would do us for a week.  You can freeze biscuits and when defrosted will be just as they were, freshly baked.  No matter what, I never buy packaged sweet biscuits and cakes.  The price and the strange ingredients make it an unacceptable option to me.  Although Dh has a bit of a thing for jam tartlets.  He will indulge in those from time to time.

In the area of 'health and beauty' we use the cheapest conditioner for the girls, from Aldi.  I've found the Oganic Care brand of shampoo in Woolworths to be a really good product and it stops our scalps being so irritated.  The best thing is that it's pretty cheap compared to other more popular brands of shampoo.

In general, I find Aldi's products are often my preference.  The one thing I prefer in Woolworths is tinned tomatoes.  For butter, milk, cheese and other dairy items, Aldi is my preference for both price and satisfaction with the item.  In fact, my kids commented on the grated mozarella the other day, prefering the Aldi brand.  I know it is time consuming to go to two places, but I find it worthwhile.  Where I go to shop, Woolworths and Aldi are across the shopping centre hallway from one another so that makes it easy.  I always need to go to Woollies because they have the gluten free products I need plus a few other things I can't get in Aldi.  But the weeks I can't get to Aldi I really notice the different in my spending.

Those are the main things that enable me to do what we do on the budget we have.  I'm sure there are other little things that I just don't think about!


Left-Handed Housewife said...

I think making a list and sticking to it is at the heart of a thrifty shopper. And stretching that chicken as far as it will go!


Anita said...

Thank you Tracy. I am going to give some of those ideas a go and see if I can trim my spending down.

joolzmac said...

Quite often, buying the cheapest (homebrand)product is not the best way, especially if you do not enjoy the product and it can lead to waste.

I do not like hb baked beans and spaghetti so buy Heinz. I buy Woolworths homebrand cling wrap and foil because it is equally as good as the branded ones. I use homebrand flour, sugar, rice and macaroni. I will not scrimp on coffee - I like flavour and the cheaper instant ones don't cut it.

I also buy boxed savoury shapes and put them in containers or zip lock bags - I get about 6 bags per box for $2 which is heaps cheaper than buying a variety bag for about $6.

Like you, veggies need to be bought but I only buy in small quantities to avoid waste. I buy 2-3 lots of potatoes each week instead of a big bag which usually has some crappy ones in it. I hand pick them for quality.

Anyhoo, I could go on and on. You have lots of good, common sense ideas which people should put into practice. Thanks,


Tracy said...

Anita, I'm looking forward to hearing tales of your shopping adventures :)

Joolz, it sounds like you shop sensibly for your family situation. I shop very differently because our family and budget situation demands the choices we need to make.

Enchanted Moments said...

Thank you for your tips on frugal shopping tips, every bit of info helps and I am all for sharing..if you dont mind me asking about the loo paper, do you have an alternative?

Tracy said...

Sure Suzanne. Dh supplies our toilet paper. He's a wholesaler for hospitality and food service products so he brings home a box at a time. If you can find a business like his where they will sell direct to public, it's worth checking out prices.

Enchanted Moments said...

Thanks for that...I am the women you see on 50c a roll day, with her trolley so full of packets of toilet paper that I look hilarious...but hey, I have somewhere to store it, so why not grab it when its cheap...

Tracy said...

I'll have to look out for you ;)

Rel said...

Great post, Trac, and I have to agree on your thoughts. Likewise, I don't buy any packaged food for school lunches but I don't bake as often as you so my kids just get extra fruit rather than something sweet in their lunch boxes! Doesn't seem to bother them too much :)

Aldi has been great for a number of things and the savings are excellent. So glad there is one in a much more convenient location for us now.

We are a half kilo mince family too!