As I’ve mentioned before I am planning to be off work next year on maternity leave. Which means living off a third of my usual income, and managing on a little over half our usual income. Planning this out has made me realise how much money we really waste, and trying to live by that budget now as we try to adapt the way I do the grocery shopping has been a bit of a shock.
When you do up a household budget there are some things you can’t avoid, we have all the usual expenses; mortgage, phones, foxtel (which although it could be cancelled, it is still under contract and may be one of the only sources of entertainment with a new baby), utilities, rates, existing loans and of course food. I figure the only thing we can really change in our house is the food and fuel budgets, and although our circumstances won’t be changing next year around food we can shop a little smarter, and regarding fuel for the cars, I won’t be driving 60kms/day to work and back, more like 6kms to the shops and back once a week, and maybe a social visit whenever I can fit one in.
Our Rules for Grocery Budgeting:
- Make a realistic budget – you probably spend more than you think
- Make a meal plan
- Create a shopping list – one you can stick to
- Reassess what you’re impulse buying – what do you REALLY need?
There are so many habits we have when it comes to shopping for groceries. For instance we used to just buy what we needed every 2-3 days, I felt like I wasn’t throwing as much food away, but how much were we really spending? We were running down to the convenience store to buy dinner items and odds and ends, plus picking up things that were on “sale” along the way.
Tips for Meal Planning:
- Make a list of meals you like to eat – I have one with breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even desserts
- Make up a meal plan board – you can stick laminated meal ideas to it as a visual for you and your family so you can plan your grocery list
- Mix up the menu so no one gets board, and take requests
- Make a baking list too, this can take the expense out of snack items as it’s cheaper if you make things yourself
- Have a shopping and food prep day – on this day pack food away in a prepared state to make cooking quicker (pre chop veggies like broccoli)
- On nights where dinner is easier – ie something goes into the oven for 30mins+ prepare something else for another night you would usually get take away as you’re too tired to cook
- If you shop on a fortnightly basis and worry certain ingredients will spoil before the following week – cook that meal this week and freeze it
Food Prep that will Change Your Life:
- Chop and pack veggies into containers – as mentioned above this makes dinner quicker, plus food is less likely to go off and the fridge looks much more organised
If you have Tupperware ventsmarts it’s time to get them out and use them
- Buy cheese by the block – slice some and grate some and put into separate containers or a divided container. Grated cheese often has saw dust etc to prevent clumping, and we ingest this
- Freeze meat that you won’t use in the next few days
- Plan nights where you can easily cook two meals at once
- Pack snacks into a container or tub in the fridge and pantry for family members to quickly grap – at our house as we get a veggie box I am trying to encourage the fruit for snacks
The best plan I have come up with so far has been a budgeted fortnightly shop. For example:
Budget of $250/fortnight (remember I live in Australia so AUD):
- Fortnightly shop of $150-170
- Fortnightly fruit and veggie box of $30-40
- Leaving $30-40 for extras (milk, bread – anything we might run out of)
If you’re struggling to keep your budget down I suggest thinking of all-in meals that will last more than one night such as; lasagne, curries with rice, veggie bakes you can have as a side with different meals or even for lunches or snacks. We have a pizza night where we make homemade pizza on wraps and the ingredients can also be used in salads or other dinners. If we have lasagne I usually have left over lasagne sheets so we make cannelloni later in the week or the following week. I think you just have to look at how your family eats, and what your requirements are. In our household we both often have to eat dinner at work so we eat more “all-in” meals on those nights and have a roast or something that’s nicer eaten fresh on the nights we’re both home for dinner, these are the nights the veggie box comes in handy. I find the veggie box is a cheaper way to buy veggies and they seem fresher, plus they support our local farmers!
The best thing you can do is plan ahead! It seems time consuming but we use an app for our shopping, we have an account we both log into, and then I have a think about our rosters for the fortnight ahead and go from there. It probably takes about 10mins to make up a shopping list and meal plan. My new approach is not to allocate meals for certain days, but rather a list of meals we will be having for the fortnight, I make the ones hubby wouldn’t be happy to make when I’m home, and leave the easier ones with less work for when he’s home, plus some easy go to’s for both of us.