Purchasing food is one of my weaknesses. While I was in university I never ate like a student because I had to, it was only if I felt like KD one night. But when I made the connection with how much money I didn't have, and how much I was spending a month on groceries I decided to look into it.
Now Reggie and I still eat well, but we have a few tricks up our sleeves for ensuring nutritious, delicious and cost-effective meals in our home.
- Meal Planning - This translates to: buy only what you need. That doesn't mean that you have to buy in small quantities (more on that in a minute), but it means go to the store with a shopping list. Sit down on Sunday (or some day before your grocery day) and decide what you would like to eat in the following week. You don't have to follow this plan to 'T' but it will definitely help you while you are at the grocery store. Then compare all the items you have for these meals and write down things you are missing on the list. Also, try to purchase things that you can use for more than one meal to stretch your dollar. :)
- Buy Food in Bulk - Be wary of this suggestion. Only buy in large amounts if you are sure you can use all of what you purchase. Grocery items are often less per 100g when you buy the larger container, but if you are not sure if you like it of don't use it frequently and will end up throwing it in the garbage, then opt for the smaller option. With things like meat I will split up large packages when I get home, and store them in the freezer, this is also a good option with bread/buns, berries and some fruits, and baked goods (if you purchase over making yourself).
- Keep a Well Stocked Pantry - I love to bake, so it is essential for me to have all the necessary ingredients when I want to whip up something sweet. I choose to shop for most of my baking needs in the bulk food store. With this option I can get the quantity I want, i.e. a large amount of rolled oats or a very small amount of spices (spices lose their punch quickly, and purchasing an entire bottle from the grocery store is a. expensive and b. often too much, unless you use that spice a lot!), and I don't have to pay for packaging or labels (which can be very expensive, think extra weight and brand names). Other things you can keep in a pantry (aside from baking ingredients) are rice, pasta, beans/lentils, tea, coffee, cereal, nuts/seeds (although most of these should be kept in the fridge so they don't go rancid), canned goods, and some treats like chips or crackers. See a peek of my dry goods pantry above (canned goods and boxed goods go elsewhere).
- Purchase Items on Sale! - For those last few items I mentioned in #3 these are great items keep an eye on! When they go on sale I tend to stock up on a few things that I don't normally purchase. And because you can keep them in your pantry, you can purchase more than you would eat in a week. Most stores put out a flyer once a week, with all the sale prices. I usually spend a few minutes Thursday night (when we get our flyers) and cross check my grocery list with sale items. If there are items I normally purchase on sale, I am sure to get some, even if we aren't out yet - the sale might not continue to my next grocery day. My only word of caution here is similar to the buying in bulk: if it is something you put in the freezer or the pantry then I would say stock up! But, keep in mind that most things still have a freezer/shelf life and I would warn against getting too many fresh things like dairy or produce that you can't eat before they spoil, in these cases you should stick to smaller quantities - you don't want to throw your money away.
- Extreme Couponing :) - So if you have seen the recently popular show in the States you have an idea what I am referring to. It is not possible, however, to be quite as extreme here in Canada. We have stricter rules (ie no doubling up, and we can't actually get money back). But I have been known to save some money using coupons. A few things to remember:
- Keep an eye out for coupons for items you regularly use.
- Coupons often go out for new items, and the discount will be large but if it is not a necessary item you will still be spending money you don't need to.
- You can (sometimes) still use coupons on sale items, and this is a great way to save extra money.
- Most coupons expire in a couple weeks, keep track of when your shopping day is and when the coupons expire.
- Try to always have them on you. In most cases, you have to have the coupons to get the discount.
- I know it can be time consuming to cut, save and organize coupons, but if you make it part of your sale searching time and don't go overboard, it can be a great way to save a few extra pennies!
Thanks so much for reading along, if there are any questions or something you would like me to touch on please comment below.