I love holidays. I mean, I really love holidays. We go on at least three a year and a couple of years ago I realised this was not possible without money….. and as I hadn’t suddenly started earning any more, it meant I would need to cut back somewhere. The easiest place for me was the weekly grocery bill. I made the decision I would rather cut back on a few luxuries there so I could go on more holidays throughout the year.
Since then, I have found I have become really good at living within a tight grocery budget and believe the best way to do that is to have no waste. There is nothing more depressing than throwing away food just because it sat too long and went off. I have a heap of really great tips to share and so have decided to post five a week to maybe help or inspire you to also shop well and within a budget!
This is possibly the only way you will be able to shop within your budget and reduce waste. I plan a week’s worth of dinners and lunches with a couple of options for breakfast each day. I make sure the same veggies are used in more than one meal and will budget in leftovers. (I will also start sharing my weekly meal plans each week)
Once you have planned your week, write out your shopping list and go online to your local online grocery store and fill your cart with all the items. This will then give you an approximate cost for the shop. You can then re evaluate your week and see where to reduce costs by substituting or choosing a cheaper item, such as cut of meat or type of fruit.
This way, every item that goes into your trolley has a plan and so won’t end up wasted in the bin. It does take a little extra time each week, but could save you say $40 per week, which over a year is $2000 ( or a week down south!)
2. USE & STORE LEFTOVERS WELL
I like to do a big, slow cook meal at the start of the week, that can be divided into single serves and frozen, and also be used the following night for dinner. So for example, I may do a large bolognaise sauce for lasagne on Monday, freeze a couple of serves in zip lock bags that can be easily stored in the freezer and make spaghetti bolognaise on Tuesday. I find it great to have small serves like this in the freezer, so on busy nights, they just need to be defrosted and stirred through some freshly cooked pasta…. easy!
I may also do a roast lamb on Monday night, use some of the meat for sandwiches the next day for lunches and make lamb biriyani for dinner on Tuesday night. The bones are also used to make lamb bone broth.
The best tip with leftovers, if you really want to keep to a budget, is to serve everyone their dinner and then straight away place the extra meat in the fridge. Have plenty of vegetables for anyone who wants seconds, but hide the meat so it can be used the following day.
3. GROW YOUR OWN HERBS
I have found that herbs are the one thing I tend to throw out before they all get used. I will find a new recipe I want to try and use maybe half a bunch of each herb and then within a couple of days the rest have wilted and are unusable. They are really difficult to keep fresh for more than a few days. So we have started growing our own and there really is no excuse for anyone not to have a few herbs in their garden. They can easily grow in pots or hanging baskets and just choose a few that you use the most. Parsley is a great one to have on hand, as pretty much any meal will be happy with a sprinkling of fresh green parsley on top.
4. DON’T SHOP HUNGRY
All your planning and budgeting for the week can come undone if you shop hungry or even really tired. The trick to a good plan is to stick to it. Only get the things on your list that you have accounted for in your budget. Eat a banana or something before you walk into the store, because if you are hungry you will easily get distracted with something the store as strategically placed (to distract you!).
5. SHOP ONCE A WEEK
Also in your meal planning for the week, you should slightly over estimate how much essentials you will need for the whole week. I don’t know anyone who can duck in to the shops mid week for milk and bread and actually walk out of the store with only milk and bread. So work out how much you go through in a week on average and get that amount in your one shop. Even if you need to freeze the bread to be used later.