Shop frugally, shop rarely!

I’ve discovered a great new way to save money on my grocery bill! It’s a simple tip: wait until the very last minute to do your shopping. How on earth does this save you money? Read on Macduff …

First up, if you are anything like me, then every time you step into the grocery store, you will buy stuff. At least $30 worth. Every time! Even when I take a list of items I need I still end up buying stuff I forgot to put on the list in the first place, or stuff I think I should have put on the list (but didn’t actually need after all), or stuff I want to eat (cheese is my biggest weakness, here), or …

You get the picture. Here are some classic ways to end up with extra items in your trolley:

  • Shopping when you are hungry. Most people know about this one: you are more likely to duck down the cheese aisle if your tummy is grumbling.
  • Leaving the house in a hurry. If you rushed out the door and forgot your list you are more likely to buy extra stuff, or forget items you actually do need. This one is really hard to work on, especially with kids. Feeling rushed can also make you want to de-stress by heading down that cheese aisle …
  • Getting sucked in by a “bargain”. A bargain only works for you if it is something you would normally buy. It’s not always bad to give in to a treat when it is on special (I do this!) but supermarkets are cunning, and put things on special more often than you should really buy these treats! Case in point: Brie Cheese. And especially potato chips. And especially especially the soft drink! That stuff is always on special!
  • Not knowing in advance what you want to buy. If you just have a general idea of “get something to eat for dinner tonight” (which is how I used to shop every night after work for years when I was younger) then you are more likely to get sucked in by the ready-made meals. You might also buy something “for tomorrow”, and then forget about it! I used to do that a lot, and food would spoil and go to waste.

These are the big ticket items for me, but you may have experienced other ways of coming home with extra stuff. Regardless of how it happens, all that extra stuff translates into extra money spent, and usually, wasted.

So, less trips to the shops = less spontaneous purchases, and for me: this means saving money! Not to mention the savings on the transport to and from the grocery store.

I’ve experimented since Christmas with my new shopping philosophy: each day I ask myself: “Can I make something for us to eat using the stuff I have at home?”. If the answer is yes, I don’t go to the shops that day. I only go to the shops when I absolutely have to, like when we are about to run out of milk.

Got Milk?
Got Milk?

However, if I only ever buy just enough for that one meal, I’m still going to be going to the shops every day, right? The trick here is to make a stockpile, and use it.

That last bit (I sheepishly admit) was a bit of an oversight for me, at first. Sure, when I buy my flour in bulk and then use it up baking bread, that came as a no-brainer. But I have bought a whole tray (12 cans) of baked beans thinking the kids would devour it … nope. They don’t like that brand, apparently. Okaaaay!

Stockpiled baked beans.
Baked beans still in their tray.

I also buy extra packets of staple foods (like pasta) because I know that will be eaten up. But then when I go to the shop without taking my list … I get another packet anyway, because I couldn’t remember that I already had some stockpiled. Or, I can’t remember where I stockpiled it. >.<

So, stockpiling is a work in progress. But it’s mostly working well for me.

Before Christmas I did a big shop for stuff we use all the time: pasta, dried cranberries, popcorn, dry crackers, rice cakes, etc. – all things that get rapidly used up and that I didn’t want to have to buy when the shops were chock full of holiday crowds. This was doubly true for meat, which I get from our local free-range butcher. I didn’t want to miss out on the Christmas ham, so I ordered some in bulk, and stocked up on some other bits for the freezer.

Stockpiled popcorn and pasta.
Still have most of that popcorn!

With my supplies bulked up, after Christmas I enjoyed a really long holiday from going to the shops. It felt great! I don’t know about you, but grocery shopping is not big on my list of fun things to do. Skipping out on the whole thing was very liberating! Each day Stephen and I would work out what we could eat (it’s so great to share the meal planning with someone). We would eat some meat about once or twice a week, so I didn’t run out until about three weeks into the new year.

Even after I ran out of meat, I didn’t go shopping. I used up all the re-heatable meals waiting in the freezer. We chose vegetarian meals. We ate a lot of salads and way less bread than we usually do. In short, we ate a whole lot healthier!

When I did need milk, I popped to the local petrol station for some instead of going to the supermarket. That avoided me getting any tempting extra items! It was also a million times faster because I didn’t have to get the kids in and out of the car, and there are no queues for service at our local. Win!

Since Christmas I’ve been shopping three times at the supermarket. For me, this is amazing. I would usually go every other day to pick up bread (because I haven’t been baking very much lately) and also milk. So far, I’m definitely saving money! We can immediately see it in the bank statement. No more loads of little transactions on the credit card. Just a couple of big ones, when I’ve stocked up again. And when the shopping comes to a large total, you have a big incentive to trim it down next time!

A peek inside my pantry.
A peek inside my pantry.

Now that my supplies are run down pretty low I’m planning to restock them again by using bargains much more than I have previously. I’ve been researching coupon clipping and stockpiling to see what tips and techniques I can use with the resources available in Sydney. We have a wonderful online market here. I’m hoping I can get good quality produce like I’m used to, but with a bulk savings. Maybe! I’ve noticed that the organic stuff rarely goes on special …

If you have any stockpiling or bulk-buying tips for me, I would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

7 thoughts on “Shop frugally, shop rarely!

  1. Hi Jess, if you’re not opposed to Coles, I find online shopping can (a) reduce spur of the moment purchase (b) save the hassle of going to the shop and (c) allow you to save on expensive items by buying many of them when on special. The delivery charge is ~$10 but if you only do large-ish shops then you can still save. Tara

    1. Hey, that’s true, I did try this out a long time ago, but that was before I was thinking of stockpiling. I bet they have a way of storing your favourites so you can just spot when they go on special …. Thanks for the idea!

      We do have a veggie box service which brings our fresh veg every week, so I love online groceries already. So much better when you have little kids! 🙂

  2. It seems like you are well on your way to having a great stockpile and getting the hang of things. The best tip I can give you is simply to keep track of what you have so you don’t end up with 15 bottles of BBQ sauce or 9 bottles of mustard. Not that “I” have that issue at the moment *cough*.

    I also discovered that organizing my pantry based on certain types of items made it much easier to open the door, glance in and see what I need. I have a shelf for condiments, a shelf for boxed stuff, one for baking goods, and one for canned goods. I also do the same with a deep freezer, meats on one shelf, veggies on another, prepped meals on another.

    I’ve enjoyed reading some of your posts and look forward to more!

    1. Hi Mended Wheels! Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you liked some posts! 🙂

      I must admit, the stockpile is scattered around the house at the moment, and I’m working towards getting my laundry re-organised so that I can put the bulk of it in there. I would love to have everything laid out so all the tinned beans go in one spot, and all the coconut milk in another! At the moment I ran out of space in the pantry and just shoved all the cans in together. >.<

      Putting pantry doors back onto my pantry means I no longer have it tidy like I used to! I am determined to get back there, though.

      Thanks for your tips, they are very helpful!

    1. Glad you found something helpful! I find that grocery shopping is always a work in progress! Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back! I’m always glad of other people’s ideas.

I really love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment! :)

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