Our fridge broke. It gave in to the stress of having a toddler swinging on its door five times a day and stopped sealing properly. For awhile we used a chilly bin whilst Tim the Toolman fixed it. This meant we couldn’t store too much cold stuff and had to visit the supermarket frequently. Each time the checkout operator announced the tally, I would gasp and wonder why my short shopping list had resulted in a conveyor belt of food and a bill of around $100.
Groceries always seem so blooming expensive even though I go to crazy lengths to save money, like sticking to a meal plan, writing a list, using up all our leftovers and buying fruit and veges at the Otara Markets.
So how come I’m spending enough to feed a small African village? I turned to my mum friends for tips and they came up with some goodies. Here they are so you can avoid taking out a mortgage just to feed your whanau.
If you have any hot tips to add, please comment below!
- Gemma says her biggest tip is to set a budget. She sets aside the exact amount in a special account so there is no choice but to stick to it. She buys budget brands where possible and bakes to avoid buying treats and packet food. “I’ve heard that the cheaper stuff is actually below eye level on purpose, so look down,” she says. Another tip is to always look at how much an item is per 100g – buying in bulk isn’t always the best way to go.
- Angela’s family has a very specific approach to nutrition – five or six small meals a day and a focus on whole foods. To achieve this, Angela says shop around. “We buy our fruit and veg from the Avondale markets, meat from the Mad Butcher, nuts and seeds from an Asian supermarket and all the bits and pieces from Pak n Save”.
- Melissa has totally changed her way of shopping after having her second child and her tips include setting a budget and sticking to a meal plan. “I’ve stopped cooking the budget meals that we didn’t really enjoy and have started getting down to the likes of some Donna Hay, Annabel Langbein recipes. I try to use recipes where I have most of the ingredients or that won’t cost an arm and a leg to make. It’s nice to eat simple during the day and have a nice, tasty meal to look forward to eating in the evening. I’ve found we’re also less likely to say “ah bugger it, let’s get takeaways”. Melissa also shops around, using Countdown’s website to check the prices of big-ticket items before heading out to shop. Another tip from Melissa: “I also try to cook meals that stretch to two meals plus. Since picking up my study again I’m trying to use my girls’ nap time for study so meals which stretch across two nights really save time and money”.
- Michelle lived in England for a long time and has had to adjust her way of shopping now that she’s back in New Zealand. Rather than buying the same brands each week, she says make sure you are flexible over brands and choose what’s on special.
- Meredith says: ” I used to add up as I went on my phone’s calculator. It made me much more aware as we were going around the aisles whether or not I could afford to splurge on ‘treat’ items or whether it was a bigger necessity shop that week. No surprises at the checkout! We also withdrew the allocated grocery budget in cash, and that was all I had available to shop with, so had to make it work as there was no back up!”
- Amanda says she’s made an effort to learn which products are good in the cheap brands/home brands.
- Anna’s main tip is to keep an eye on the specials online each Monday and stock up on the pantry essentials when they’re at silly prices. “And if you’re buying your fruit and veg at the supermarket rather than at cheaper fruit shops and markets, then at least learn when things are in season so you can plan shopping lists and meals without things like fresh tomatoes, etc for large parts of the year,” she says.