Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saving money on your food bill, part 1............

I mentioned last week that I would do more posts on different ways to save money, so I figured we'd start with the food bill. I think most people who want to cut back, the first place they do it is with the weekly food/grocery bill. This will be a multiple post series, as there is too much information to put in one post.

Now everyone is different and everyone has different priorities when it comes to food shopping. For example, some families are huge meat eaters, some families eat organic foods, in some households, there may only be just the two of you, in others there may be 6 of you, but the basic principles that I am going to try to explain apply to everyone.

First of all saving money just doesn't happen, you have to work at it, and that in itself takes some time. For those of you who don't have a spare minute to yourself, you are going to have to work even harder at this to succeed, but succeed you will. There is method to this madness that I am going to have you go through, and doing this step by step will work.

The very first thing you need to do is set an hour or so aside to make a full inventory of what you have in your freezer, fridge and pantries, because despite how organized you feel you may be, I bet there are very few people out there that know exactly what they have in there fridge, freezer or pantry. Now if you do well done, you are a heck of a lot better organized than I am. I write down on a scrap of paper, what I have where, don't use a new piece of paper, that would be wasteful.

Now if you have word or excel on your computer, make up a spreadsheet of what you have where. If you don't know how to do that, write it out by hand indicating what you have and what quantity. I post my sheets on the front of my fridge where I can see it, you may want to keep it elsewhere. Here is a photo of my sheet.

Now the first thing you notice, is that I only have a list made up of my upstairs and downstairs freezers. Those are my "trouble spots" as far as I am concerned. I put things in the freezers only for them to re-surface months later with a bad case of freezer burn. I haven't got around to doing my pantry inventory yet, and I won't be doing a one for the fridge (I'll explain why later.)

So now you have those lists made up, the first thing you will probably notice you have bits and bobs of things and maybe multiple of other I right? As an example, I have 5 breaded chicken fingers, 2 English muffins, a couple of pita breads, so I am going to make an odds and ends meal with a little of this and a little of that to use up these odds and ends.

To do that though would mean I would have to make a menu plan up, right? That is the number two thing that is key to saving money on your food bill. Now in Canada and the States the grocery stores bring out weekly flyer's telling you what's on sale or on special that week. I will say I have no idea what the rest of the world does? I am sure though all stores throughout the world have weekly specials?

Personally for me, I get my flyer's on a Friday night, I go through them and see what's on sale or whats on special that week. I am fortunate that I have all the major grocery stores all within a few kilometres from where we live. If however I only had the one store I would have to shop their specials only.

So by looking at what I have in the house, and seeing what is on special that week, I am able to make up a weekly grocery list. I mentioned earlier I do not need to do a list for my fridge, the reason behind that is that I buy produce and dairy products weekly. I also only buy what I know we can use before it expires. That seems like a simple point, but often you are drawn to those fancy dancy displays in the grocery stores and impulse buy. Which is all well and good if its a can of soup, but when its something that will only keep for a week, you really need to think twice about purchasing it, as there is nothing worse than having to throw out food, you may as well have thrown your money down the drain. That is why doing a weekly menu plan is so important.

Now so far we have probably spent a couple of hours doing your inventory and making a menu plan for the week. Now the thing is, once your inventory plan is done, that doesn't need to be re-done for a few weeks, as you can make changes right on the list you have put on the fridge. When it gets to the point you can't make head nor tale of what's going on, then it needs to be re-done. So on a week to week basis, your main time commitment is going to be planning your menu and looking through the flyer's, if you get them. Most grocery stores have web sites and they all have their flyer's online.

Everyone has different budgets for their groceries, and what is good for one doesn't mean it will be good for another. I know I try to keep my budget down to $300 a month, which is for me and dh. In that budget I include all toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper products and all food. Basically if you can buy it in a grocery store or pharmacy its part of my budget. If we had pets I would include pet food and if we had babies, I would be including diapers and baby formula.

Now I know some families that feed their families on less than the $300 a month, but for us it's the best I can do at the moment. I try to spend $75 a week, some weeks its more, some weeks its less. One thing I do, do is I stock up on things that we use and are on sale. For example, the other week one store had I Can't Believe It's Not Butter on sale for 99 cents. Normally its between $1.99 to $2.49. I bought 8 tubs, as I know that its generally on sale somewhere every couple of months or so. I saved $8 there, it will last the two months and I have room in my fridge to store it. If it only lasted a week, I would have only bought one. If I only had a tiny fridge I would have only bought a couple. I took these things into account before I bought them.

I also buy reduced meat and pop it straight into the freezer. There is generally nothing wrong with it, other than its due to expire in a day or two's time, so why pay full price for it? The only thing I would be careful about, is check how much it is per kilo or per pound, as sometimes even when its reduced you can still buy it cheaper when it comes on sale. I also buy from the reduced produce section, especially banana's, apples and pears. I make pear and apple sauce for dh's lunch and use the banana's for banana bread.

One thing you need to know is your prices. Some people have price books that they make up to tell them how much a good price for certain items are. I have been around for a while (40 + years) that I generally have a good idea if things are expensive or cheap. If you're not sure then by all means write things down.

Coupons.........I use them for certain things, however I am getting away from using them as I try to make more things from scratch. One thing I do, do though is call manufacturers or email them to tell them if I have had a problem with one of their products or really like their products. More often than not they send you coupons for their products. So if its something you use all the time anyhow, getting coupons for that product is a bonus.

So this is it for this week. I need you to make up an inventory of what you have food wise in your house, and make a menu plan. Next week I'll have more tips on how to save money on food.


stitchersanon said...

I cannot agree with your priorities more!! I am one of those sad people who knows exactly what is in my two huge freezers and cupboards all the time. I think it is important to make sure these are kept tidy and everything in its place so it is easy to see if things are getting low!
Also, check your dates: keep things with the earlieat 'use by' dates at the front so they are used first!
I only have one major store near me, and so we stock up on bogg-offs.
Another really important tip is DO NOT IMPULSE BUY: keep a board up in the kitchen for writing down when things run out so when you go to the shops you only buy what you need..
Because things are so dear here, we are running our freezers down and driving 2 hours to go to Eniskillin which is classes as part of GB, and doing a huge shop,. It still works out cheaper with the petrol than shopping here so we do it twice a year for the luxury items...xmas choccies etc.

Keep up you new theme for you blog..lots of people need insiration and and tips

Rinkly Rimes said...

You're as organised as I always hope to be! But I don't achieve it. However, I'm a great list-maker and tomorrow I'm publishing a recipe so maybe we're on the same wave-length to a certain extent.

CookinsForMe said...

Wow, GMTA applies here! I do the same kinds of things you do and manage to feed me and DH for less than $225 most months. It's getting harder to do, though, huh? Thanks for a great entry!

Stephanie D said...

Awesome post! You really have made a science of this, Gill.

Janet said...

As my nearest grocery store is 16 miles away -and is the only show in town- I have to be pretty organized about shopping.

I always make a list of meals I'm going to make, and buy the ingredients I need.

I also keep a list on the fridge of things that have run out or are getting low. Very little goes to waste in my house.

Great post, Gill.

Expat mum said...

Ooh, I've got a headache just thinking about all that work! Having said that, with the help of a flu shot giving me 10% off my total bill, and a discount card, I managed to save $84 off a $200 bill last week. I am still looking at the receipt to make sure it wasn't a mistake!

stitchersanon said...

Hi, dont mind at all, go for it..we are women after all, and it is chocolate.
Besides, after your many recipes for courgettes (which grew prolifically here in Ireland) I feel I owe you one hehe

Caroline said...

Great post Gill.Very helpful I do some of the things already but you have given me some really great tips You always have good practical helpful hints for me Thankyou Caroline

Evelyn said...

thanks Gill! lots of great tips1 i spend about 800 a month, yikes and there is little that is wasted and i cook from scratch alot. I don't have a chest freezer, i do have alot of produce sitting in the basement ready to cut up and freeze. i pickle, preserve and can when I can. i need to take inventory of what I do have. I rarely impulse buy, or maybe I do and don't know it?

What really annoys me is when produce and bread is in the marked down section and they don't post the original price, it makes if hard to guess if it a bargain or not.

I do buy meat on sale and porduce on sale that week. I loved it when I could go in to shop on Friday mornings, lots of stuff was reduced then.

thanks for the great tips! my goal is small right now, to get my monthly bill down to 600 a month. It doesn't help that i have a 10 year old and a 13 year old boy and all their friends that drop in.


Tea Time With Melody said...

I am so glad I happened upon your blog. I was just this day answering my husband "I don't have a clue" when asking what we were having for dinner. The sole reason is because I don't know what is lurking in the freezer or back of the cupboards. I am definately going to take your advise. Thanks.

Clippy Mat said...

wow, i am in awe! i wish i could be so sensibly frugal. i realize my shopping habits are bad. but, i just can't do all of that stuff. can you come over?
i cannot believe the price of groceries now.
i will try to follow some of your tips.
thanks for sharing.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I really want to thank you all for your comments, and your suggestions.


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