Budget tips

Save money on groceries


Cut your food costs and eat well on a budget.

We’ve all spent too much in a grocery store. We see something tasty and reach for it. A special tempts us. We see something right in front of us at the checkout and grab that too. We find we have grabbed this, that and the other. The total costs a lot, we spent too much. We may come home with biscuits but not potatoes. In the coming weeks we find ourselves throwing out food past it’s use by date. We didn’t think through our purchases and spent more than we needed to. A bit of planning and forethought can save quite a lot of money each week.

There is no need to take this planning to the extreme of planning every meal and snack and then calculating the ingredients needed for the week. It is enough to estimate ones needs for the week to allow good eating at an affordable price.  Many staples items are purchased regularly such as potatoes, onions, pumpkin, carrots, fruit, bread, milk and cereal. Other items are purchased on an irregular basis such as sauces, spices, salt and pepper. The trick is to manage your weekly budget to cover all of the staple items and maintain your stocks of these items you purchase on an irregular basis. Use your creativity to imagine all the ways you can use your vegetables and greens to make an interesting and nutritious range of meals.

  1. Think of what you wish to eat for the week. Consider your budget limitations and your cooking skills to come up with a general plan for your meals and snacks for the coming week.
  2. Make a shopping list restock your staples and such irregular items as you can afford. Think in terms of restocking your larder rather than buying whatever you feel like buying when strolling the aisles.
  3. Decide on the amount you can spend and make any necessary amendments to your shopping list
  4. Stick to the list however you may have the flexibility to make substitutions based on current prices. For example if pears are cheap and bananas are expensive you may buy pears instead of bananas. Do not add more items to the shopping list. Do not add more expense to the list. For example do not buy an expensive cake instead of the cheap biscuits on your shopping list.
  5. Compare prices
  6. Buy the appropriate quantities. In general buy to restock your staples for the week. Do take into account buying a bigger bag may give a significantly lower unit cost. You can certainly buy a bag of potatoes large enough to last you a month if that saves you a goodly sum over the month. This does not mean you will exceed your budget for the week if you are doing this sort of thing every week. One week you may buy a  months supply of potatoes so in the following three weeks you are spending nothing on potatoes but may be buying a months supply of apples in the next week and oats the following week. Even out your buying in advance so you are sticking to a weekly spend that seems prudent and reasonable for you. You are most definitely buying from a list and sticking to your budget however your purchases are not restricted to supplies for the week.
  7. Eat before shopping. Supermarkets often put convenient and tasty snacks right near the checkout so all you need do is reach for one and within a few minutes be eating a tasty snack. It is their job to tempt you and they are good at their jobs. Those snacks are often poor value for money or junk food or both.

You have bought your groceries. The next step is monitoring your budget. If you find yourself throwing food away you need to revisit your food buying habits. Give thought to why you are throwing food away. Why didn’t you use it? Did you buy too much of something or did you change your mind about using it? Did you give sufficient thought to your anticipated consumption when preparing your shopping list? There really is no need to be throwing food away if you give appropriate forethought to your purchases and have some flexibility in your meal preparation. If something is approaching the use by date then use that in your next meal to avoid waste.

Did you go over budget for the week? Going over budget in a particular week is not necessarily a bad thing. You might see a larger bag of potatoes at a very good price and bought enough to last a whole month. You will need to spend less in the following weeks. This is merely a timing difference in your budget. However when timing differences become repetitive you may be looking at permanent differences and kidding yourself that the differences lie in the timing. Never borrow from your own future by kidding yourself that expenditures now will be recouped from future economies. If you spend under budget in one week it is perfectly acceptable to put aside the sum saved for next week so you can take advantage of a bulk purchase.

Grocery shopping is the art of buying what you need to prepare nutritious and tasty meals. As always consider what is important to you and allocate your expenditures accordingly. You may care to ask yourself whether items such as sauces, flavourings, sweets, mayonaisse and salad dressing are things you actually need or want.

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