Tuesday, 5 September 2017
Frugal in the Supermarket - 5 Things I (Almost) Never Buy
Many years ago, now, my husband left a very well paying management job to become self-employed. In those early years it came with a lot of struggles and challenges, when things took a lot longer to get off the ground than he had planned. Thus began a journey, for me, in managing our household budget in an extremely frugal manner. I'm a natural saver, so I already leaned in this direction, but things became quite hard there for a while. Many years later, and with a more stable, sustainable income base I am still inclined to saving money, especially in the supermarket. If you've been here for any length of time you know I hate shopping, so that saves us a ton. But the supermarket must be entered every single week, darn it. Here's some tips to keep costs down in the supermarket, with a list of things I (almost) never buy.
I buy ice cream very, very rarely as a special occasion item. It is not something that enters our house on a regular weekly basis. In the early days of Dh's business it was an item that cost money, for no nutritional benefit, so it got axed from the grocery list. As it turns out, I don't prefer it anyway. It's too sweet, so if I'm going to have something with that rare dessert, I'd rather have cream. And cream is cheaper.
We leave all snackety packety things right where they are, in the supermarket. Cheese sticks, chips, flavoured crackers, cheese & dip packs, muesli bars. Anything you might be inclined to pop in a lunch box; these things don't enter our house. I know, I hear you asking "what do you send for your kids' lunches?" When they were in school they got a sandwich, a piece of fruit and something home baked for recess. If I bought crackers, we bought them in larger boxes and the kids just took a smaller container. I hear, all these years later, the kids had severe lunch box envy. You know what? They got fed and other kids wished their Mum's baked for them. You can never win on this one!
Never is probably too strong of a word here. Every so often I buy a frozen meal for a lunch here and there for me, if I'm desperate. Towards the end of the term I am inclined to buy pre-prepared things like meat pies or chicken Kievs to go with veggies we cook at home. What I am not in the habit of doing, is buying things like filled pasta and pasta sauce, or lasagne that is already made, or pre-made soups, or Mexican dinner kits, or salad kits, for example. We're really just not heat-and-eat kind of people. We lived on the same property as some friends for a little while and something we noticed was that their bins were FULL of meals that came in boxes, already made. It was quite the eye-opener for me!
This is an absolutely never. I make my own, usually using lemon juice or wine vinegars, olive oil and salt. A fancy one might have honey and dijon mustard. Every time I pick up salad dressings in the supermarket I am appalled at the "ingredients" and put the bottle right back. The only thing in this category I buy is mayonnaise, and these days it is the whole-egg kind that has real stuff in it, now that I have the income to support that choice.
Again, I can't get passed the pseudo ingredients listed on the can. Cannot do it. If I have a recipe that calls for a tinned soup I make the rest of the recipe, add the actual ingredient of the "cream of..." soup required, and thicken it with cornflour. The only tinned ingredients I really keep are tomatoes, corn, champignons, pineapple, coconut milk and pie apples. The tinned section of my pantry is pretty small.
I won't say never, but it is certainly rare that I buy things out of the freezers in the supermarket. It's certainly not a habit, but it might happen a little towards the end of the term, when our food life is falling over. I probably buy a bag of frozen veggies a handful of times a year, and about the same in a dessert. I pretty much skip this whole section of the supermarket 99% of the time.
And a bonus (almost) never is yoghurt. I've bought yoghurt a little bit in the last few weeks, but mostly it doesn't make it into the supermarket trolley either. Mostly yoghurt is full of sugar, so the benefits seem to be outweighed there.
Now that you know what we don't buy very often, if at all, you must be wondering how on earth we manage to eat! We eat real food. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, home-baked items and basic ingredients, from which we make meals at home. I'm posting my weekly menus on a Monday again, so you'll see that we eat pretty well. We mostly eat toast for breakfast, although Mr Busy often has microwave porridge (a huge concession on my part, but at least he eats breaky this way). I have leftovers for lunch and the girls make stuff at home. Again, Mr Busy is my compromise here, because he doesn't eat lunch very often, if I make it. I send cup-a-soup's and tinned spaghetti with him so they won't go off and he can eat (or not) as he desires. That boy will be the very end of me! Just as well he's the last.
Including the money I would spend in Costco every 3 or 6 months or so, our grocery budget does not exceed $150/week, for the five of us, who are all pretty much adults.
What things do you never buy in the supermarket? Or, what things would you like to scale back on?