Posted by: Fern | May 26, 2008

The Monthly Grocery Shop Experiment

Dan and I have spent the last few months looking at our budget and doing everything we can to cut down on what we spend, we’re trying to save up for a motorbike so that he isn’t relying on the (once hourly) trains to get in and out of work and so he can spend more time at home with us, it seems like every time we get some kind of savings up we get an unexpected outgoing jump up from nowhere which depletes it completely, and it’s doing my head in so we’ve been really looking at how to cut back on what we spend. We don’t have many extravagences, we go out for breakfast about once a month, I rarely buy us new clothes and the boy only gets what he needs as he outgrows it, but thanks to my SIL we’re doing great with my nephew’s old clothes, we can’t cut back on the health insurance or the ADSL, the only thing I can think that we could save some money on is to cut back on the Foxtel, and I don’t think that that alone is going to make a massive difference.

The main way I know we haemorrhage money is food, I’m obsessive about writing out meal plans and lists so we never make impulse buys unless it’s meat that’s been reduced, but our downfall is that if there’s no food in the house then we will get takeaway, Burger King, KFC, Chinese, Pizza, etc. So long as there’s something to make dinner from I will never get takeaway, the problem is that grocery shopping is a mammoth task. I’m not overly keen, and flat out refuse to go shopping unless I’ve spent an hour writing out meal plans and lists, Dan hates it with a passion and will avoid going to Woolworths at all cost, even if it means ordering pizza for a week, and Declan is worse of all, the moment we step into a supermarket he starts sooking, you have to be obsessively careful about where you stop the trolley because he will delight in pulling things off the shelves, with every item that you put into the basket he’ll start crying because you didn’t give it to him to inspect first, he just morphs into a demon child. It’s a trial, but as I can’t get to or from the supermarket, or physically push the trolley once it gets half full then it has to be a family affair and because of all this it’s something that gets put off and put off until we’re at a desperate state.

So, this past weekend we decided to have a trial run of shopping once a month, Dan had just been paid and we had an empty pantry so it was good timing, I actually managed to write out meal plans and a list for an entire month – Dan was particularly impressed that it didn’t entirely contain chilli and its derivatives, and we headed off. In another attempt to save money I split the trip over Aldi and Woolworths, picking up what we could from Aldi and then getting the brand names and stuff that we really like at Woolies. If the Declan had been a bit calmer we would have taken a trip to the greengrocers as well, but to save time we ended up grabbing the fruit and veg at the last minute from Woolworths.

We filled a trolley at each store, I came home aghast at just how much money we’d spent on food in the one day. My weekly food budget is $200, this is for food for all three of us and any takeaways or eating out, any money left over I put into my Christmas savings account, and so far with the way we’ve been going it looks like Christmas may be cancelled this year. Our two trips totalled to just over $500, it won’t be our total for the month, as we’ll still need to make trips to the corner store for milk and I’ll have to go to the greengrocers in about a fortnight to pick up some more fruit and veg so we don’t all get scurvy, but even with those extra expenses (and of course my monthly Eggs Benedict!) we should hopefully be saving $200 by buying in bulk and avoiding the fast food, $200 to towards either the bike or the Christmas fund. Woohoo for that!

That said, I could have completely screwed it all up and managed to spend $500 on two weeks worth of food – I shall let you know this time next month, or, if you never hear from me again in three weeks, it’s probably a good idea to assume that I’ve either withered away to nothing, or in a hunger induced rage Dan has decided to barbecue and serve me up alongside the beans and rice that we’ll probably be surviving on by that point!



  1. this is one of my favourite subjects. I love my food and love trying to be economical about it without reducing the quality of what I cook too much.

    One of my tricks is to try and make a meal go over two meals – eg like lasagne. A big one of those can stretch over a couple of meals or more, easily.

    Or cooking with beans and pulses – when we’re feeling poor I call on my seemingly endless store of dried beans and lentils and come up with all sorts of fun things that don’t require much in the expense.

    Sometimes I think it’s not about what we buy, but how far we can make it stretch.

  2. Go girl! I am very proud of you. I agree with Bells, make it larger and make it last! Soups and stewy type things in the winter are really good for saving money. Don’t let Dan tell you he won’t eat healthy food like that – he ate it at home and never complained. Christmas can’t be cancelled – Declan won’t allow it and if Dan wants his bike – not so many takeaways Dan!!!!

    love you

  3. Bells – I love kidney beans! If you’re eating anything I make with mince, spag bol, lasagne, chilli, then you’re generally eating about 50% beans rather than meat, I also put in lots of tomatoes, peppers, onions, anything else I can to beef it up a bit 🙂 Dan bitched about it at first but he got used to it. I love my veg so I’ll throw plenty in, so long as it’s chopped small enough Dan and Declan don’t mind 🙂

    I tend to make up a massive batch of chilli at a time, freeze half of it and then use the rest over about a week, you can have plain old chilli on rice or potatoes, topped nachos, burritos, mexican pasta bake (make a cheese sauce and mix in the chilli, bake) or my copyrighted “faj las”, which is lasagne made with fajitas instead of pasta, it’s awesome.

    Trudy – Thank you! And I’ll be entirely honest, it isn’t just Dan to blame for the takeaways, we’re just as bad as each other 🙂

  4. I LOVE Eggs Benedict! You’ve managed to take a couple steps more than I. I also have to make lists and menu plans and the menu plans never seem to get made 🙂

    So, kudos to you!!

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