Re-thinking Your Grocery Shop and 30 Awesome Tips
Back when I was studying at Uni, we were taught this marketing rule about time, quality and cost.
The rule says that we can only ever have two of these three benefits - and it has never been truer than for the weekly grocery shop!
Yep, you can buy all your veg pre-cut and washed, but they'll be expensive. You can buy cheap, instant meals, but the quality will be fairly questionable. And you can buy top quality, generally cheap raw ingredients, but the preparation and cooking are going to cost you time.
There are thousands of articles on the web about how to get your grocery costs down, but before you go out and buy four bags of frozen hotdogs because they're at a record $2 a bag, maybe think about what you're really economizing...
And then think about what you actually want to economize on - time, quality or price. It's a personal choice, and I think most of us sit somewhere in the middle.
For me, fresh meat and veg every week are a must, and I won't compromise on making them the bulk of my shop. I never buy frozen foods, with the exception of peas, corn, ice-cream and puff pastry. There are also things I don't mind paying a premium for, like the lovely little packs of baby beets at Coles at the moment - they're already cooked and peeled which means less mess for me, and they're lovely added to salads. But 90% of our meals are made from scratch - that means I crumb the fish myself, I roll the hamburgers and meatballs, I make the jam and chutney, and I make custard with eggs.
That said, I also have the time (kind of... lol) at the moment to do this. If I had three kids and worked full time, my grocery shop would probably be a bit different.
There's no right or wrong way to economize your groceries, like I said, it's a personal choice, but I think all of us would agree that the ideal is fresh, good quality, non-processed foods, at the lowest cost, that can be prepared quickly and easily.
So, here are my top tips for making the ideal more of a reality! (They're a little random... and in no particular order... but they're all useful!)
30 Awesome Tips for Economizing Your Grocery Shop:
1. Buy food in season. You've heard it a million times, but I'll say it again - fresh fruit and veg, when its in season, is at peak quality and super cheap because there's an abundance of it. Look out for farmers markets, but also farm gates, local orchards and roadside stalls as well as the supermarket.
2. Buy bulk packages of plain meats, then take them home and split into meal sized portions, marinate or spice them as you like, and store them in the freezer.
3. Or, you could look at getting a whole/half/quarter of a beast straight from the butcher which can be so cost effective, and great on quality too.
4. Buy bulk blocks of cheese on special and grate them at home - the excess stores well in the freezer too.
5. But be wary of buying bulk things on special unless you need that product all the time - chances are, you won't use it.
6. Also, only buy in bulk what you can easily store. It's no good buying the big box of Weetbix when you don't have a container big enough to hold them all and recently had a mouse in the kitchen... sorry - I did this on Saturday lol :)
7. Have a critical look at the recipes you're using. I can do steamed veg, mashed potatoes and pan fried meat in 15 minutes flat, which is why we have it all the time, but pastas and risottos take me for-e-ver. Maybe look at making some lovely tray bakes in the oven - just throw it all in a casserole, then in the oven until its done, sprinkle over some herbs, put some crusty bread on the side, and voila! Rustic gourmet!
8. Try taking one day on the weekend, or just an afternoon, to prepare a heap of meals for the week ahead. Even just marinating meats, making a few pizzas, or doing a frittata for lunches can make a world of difference and save a heap of time mid-week.
9. Try making your own ice cream, biscuits or cordial - you'll see just how much sugar is in them and seriously think twice about how much you buy from the supermarket.
10. Many people try to make a frugal grocery budget go further (and fill hungry tummies), by serving heaps of pastas, rice dishes and breads, which are all basic carbohydrates. However, satiety - the feeling of fullness, is related to protein, not carbs. So try buying more eggs, meat and dairy instead, and serve scrambled eggs, quiches and cottage pie... even custard will keep those little tummies full, and you'll be surprised at how a little goes a long way.
11. Speaking of filling tummies, for growing kids that are never full, try serving a bowl of thick vegetable soup before the main meal - they'll get the quantity to feel full, and it's full of goodness. Soup is another thing that's super easy to whip up on Sunday afternoon and freeze for the rest of the week.