We have been writing a series the last couple of weeks… on A Table for Ten: How to feed a family of ten day after day and produce at least 30 meals a day 365 days of the year… it just so happens that one of the first questions folk ask, when they discover we have eight kids is: “How do you feed them?” And by them I assume they mean the short folk that surround me!!! Well, we apparently manage to eat quite comfortably and have a whole lot of fun along the way…
The series so far:
This week we are looking at grocery shopping… what to buy, when to buy and mostly how to buy your groceries. There are heaps of detailed tips, in books and blogs, on how to save every single penny… the point is to shop with caution and to have a plan, to know where your weaknesses are and to avoid them. Wisdom is required to plot and plan wholesome meals for a family. Meals that are delicious rather than drudgery!!! The occasional treat rather than treats as a way of life. I have a feeling that shopping cart for shopping cart… it is the rewards and treats that are breaking our budgets and stealing our health… we don’t need rewards for a mornings work or treats because the chores were done by dinner time. I have a feeling that we have been hoodwinked into thinking we deserve great rewards, or expensive unhealthy products, for a our day to day work getting done. Never before in the history of “feeding families” have marketers so cleverly managed to mass-market things that we don’t need or want so cleverly. Our task is to outwit them and I know as we walk into any store with eight kids in tow, that we look like a marketers dream, but give your kids credit, I know ours can spot a marketing ploy a mile away!!!
Se7en + 1’s Fairly Frugal Grocery Shopping…
- Have a Plan: We do have a cooking schedule and we do rotate meals week by week… we will pop that into our final post in the series. A plan just means that we don’t have to spend too much time figuring out what’s for dinner during the week. It means that we can get creative with the ingredients of the day or we can dash out a quick meal if we run out of day. It certainly makes it easier for shopping and having the ingredients in the house on a particular day makes it so much easier on our day and we can start little bits of preparation during the day.
- Have a Person: The Father person does the lion’s share of all the shopping in our house – it just makes sense!!! He likes shopping – I don’t. He is good at finding a fabulous special – I’m not!!! He knows what is new and lovely and he knows what is nasty… and it gives him a chance to change gear on the way home from work – from the man in the office… to the husband and father. Basically he is just the better person to do the shopping in our home. We do all shop together, but that is more like market shopping or surgical strikes (those dashes to the store for the one forgotten item – in and out and done!!!).
- Have a Time: We used to do a huge monthly shop all together… but no-one really wants to give up a sacred Saturday morning for the store and then the rest of the day un-packaging all the products and placing them in the cupboard. So right now we are pretty relaxed and shop week to week and even day to day – you can do that when you know what you need for the day. If you don’t have a plan then you can get distracted in the store… but if you have a plan then you know exactly what you need and there is no need to waiver while you make unnecessary decisions.
- Have a List: Our shopping list is pretty standard fare… Do we need anything for breakfast, lunch, supper? Do we need anything else: Any household products and toiletries. We also assume we will have guests for meals a couple of times a week and we add ingredients to our grocery list to accommodate this. Keep in mind that the food in our home is ours to share and we always seem to be able to stretch a meal to fit guests. We also have a “running list” when we run out of an item we pop the item on the list… it doesn’t take too much work and is a whole lot easier that forgetting something crucial.
- Have Discernment: If we are after a certain product and we can’t get it then we leave it… and adjust our menu slightly. I would rather have nothing than a product I don’t like… If your usual product suddenly has a ridiculous price then take a breathe and do without it for a little while… there is a special looming. No we don’t stockpile excessively, we live in a city and have access to a choice of stores… it would just be ridiculous for us to keep cans and bags of food stocked in the kitchen closet when the store is so close at hand. Honestly, bulk isn’t always better. Buy what you need and leave the rest in the store. Know where you shop for what… we buy certain products at certain stores, the point is, get a routine, if you like a bread from a particular bakery then buy it there… but then avoid the bread aisle at the supermarket – it is a trap and usually at the back of the store for a reason!!!
- Have an Idea of Prices: There are so many specials and offers that are simply distracting!!! And then there are extra specials and “buy bulk and saves” and “buy four products and and don’t pay for two of them” or my favourite: supersize and pay ten times the mini-version price. There is only one rule here: look at the price per unit… experience tells me that the flashier the sticker and the bigger the “apparent” saving the more likely it is that you are being “not so subtly” conned… just saying – check the unit price. I know it is counter-intuitive – but a product like rice say, you would think the 2kg bag is cheaper than a half kilo bag but very often this is NOT the case… and it actually pays to buy the smaller item – don’t believe me… check it out. If you are in the “wet-wipe” market then really take a look at those unit prices, you will simply be amazed – those huge packs are definitely not worth buying or finding closet space for!!!
- Have A Basic Pantry to Work From: The more processed and packaged a product is the more it costs… so we buy less processed food and less packaged products. Because packaging is just my pet hate!!! To get home with a product and unwrap the plastic around the box remove the box and then find yet more plastic… there is no reward for having the most recycling on the block. Also, and quite importantly, unprocessed food is just better for you!!! Buying ingredients always turns out to be cheaper than buying a finished or semi-finished product. Not only is it cheaper to buy your own basics and make your own sauces, breads whatever… it is better for you – you know what additives and oddities are added in. Take a look at tomato soup in the store… for the price of the can you can buy a bag of fresh tomatoes… look at the ingredients: tomatoes and water and flavorants and colorants. When we cook tomato soup – we roast our tomatoes with a little olive oil, garlic, chopped onions, herbs from the garden … and a couple of other goodies… I know which product I would rather eat. Probably the easiest thing we learnt to make was wraps… talk about a fraction of the store bought price, and just recently we mastered nan breads… very good and we won’t ever buy them again!!! Challenge yourself to learn how to make one new item a week and leave those prepackaged goodies behind on the store shelf.
- Skip Tons of Aisles: The best way to save hard earned cash is to stay out of the stores, well if you are in the grocery store… then stay out of the aisles you don’t need. There are tons of items we just never ever buy and we skip all these aisles. Just don’t venture into those aisles. Never enter the soda or the juice aisles, our kids drink water. If you are thirsty drink water, if you need fruit in your diet – then eat it. Fruit juices are really a nightmare of sugar and preservatives and your kids just don’t need them. Never buy shop made biscuits – bleh, it takes literally fifteen minutes to make a batch of cookies with real ingredients at a fraction of the cost and far tastier!!! Pre-prepared cakes – let them go… by the time you have added oil and eggs and milk to your cake mix… you may as well have put flour and sugar in a bowl yourself to begin with, and create instant cakes… Household products: We buy a bottle of dish washing liquid and washing powder every other month – so the “cleaning aisles” hardly ever get a visit from us.
And the Se7en + 1th …
All that being said, these are idea that work for us and your family has to have a plan that works for them. I think the main way to frugal grocery shopping is having a plan and being intentional. Stores are forever telling us about how crazy our lives are and they are hoping for some wild and random shopping when you are in the store… the truth is that if you have a plan and stick to it then you will be able to shop frugally.
Next week we will give a peak into our grocery cupboards… what we buy and how we store it… looking forward to seeing you there…