Feedback on my groceries experiment

Pictures taken before Easter, hence hot cross buns 🙂

I wrote last month about how I wanted to analyse our grocery spend as we hadn’t done this for at least four years.

Interestingly, my husband was far less concerned about the spend than I was and it turned out that his instincts were correct.

  1. We are well within what we budget for food which, I’m learning from these posts on the blog and on Instagram, is far below what many similar-sized families spend.
  2. We shop at Pick and Pay every week and about once every 2 – 3 weeks we do a Checkers run to top up on small fruits (for the kids’ lunchboxes) and buy chicken (I know, but there’s a certain chicken my local P&P doesn’t stock so we just go get that at Checkers).
  3. I still feel like we buy too many snacks (chips, nuts, chocolates, biltong) but as my husband reminded me, it’s really our only vice as we don’t drink alcohol or smoke or eat out a lot, and… we still keep well within the budget. Fair enough.
  4. Some things I found shocking from actually looking at the receipts is the price of cottage cheese (R30 a tub; 4 years ago R18,99), tissue refills (80 sheets for R15; 200 sheets for R22) and cereals (R40 a box!). A reminder to me that just because one option was better at one time doesn’t mean it’s still the better option – we will now be buying the full box of tissues.
  5. I used to shop the pantry and eat from the freezer in a fairly disciplined way but it slipped a bit over the years. Now I inventory the freezer before making my menu plan for the week and most meals are designed around using up bits of food so it won’t go to waste.  If you’re not intentional, you can keep buying without actually using the food already in your house.

I don’t purport to know your situation but if you’re looking for 3 quick takeaways, here you go:

Make a realistic menu plan. Don’t plan to cook 7 days if you’ve only cooked 3 meals a week for the last year. Maybe set a goal to cook those same 3 meals, but a double batch. And obviously don’t buy more food than you actually are going to cook. Maybe you’re being a fantasy cook?

Watch your food wastage. Be realistic about what you will, and not just intend, to use. I caught myself doing exactly this the other week when I thought about all the lovely winter veggies I wanted to buy. When I looked at the actual menu plan, we only needed two veggies and not four like I wanted to buy. I literally count the potatoes and buy exactly what we need (6 medium potatoes or 4 large potatoes). This goes without saying but shop with a list, on a full stomach.

Plan for easy nights. My goal is that we eat a cooked meal only 4 of the 7 nights. Fridays are eggs/ soup/ toasted sandwiches. One night is leftovers from everything before…. and the last night is usually beef burgers or fish fingers on a roll with lettuce/ tomato, and oven chips. Mondays are my longest days so that is always a freezer meal defrosted. When you only plan to buy what you realistically will cook and eat, you’ll automatically save money.

How has your grocery spending been in April? Is there a specific category (cleaning materials is usually a hot topic, or school lunches…) you’d like me to go into more detail on?

If you’d like individual help on managing your finances better, please contact me. Due to the personal nature of each person’s finances, I can’t hold a workshop where these things are discussed but I do individual or couples’ financial coaching.

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  1. Posts like this makes one think and analyze . I’ve started shopping in my pantry and freezer because I realised I was buying things because I thought we need them not necessarily because we did 🙁 and I have to say it’s made a huge difference. And also ensuring I buy just what we need. I still tend to buy cleaning things in bulk though.

    • So true – some habits are good but many shopping habits are bad for our budgets!

    • Marcia Francois says

      I actually think cleaning things get used quickly precisely because we buy them in bulk. I think the fact that there’s lots makes you use them up more quickly – I’m sure there’s some economic principle over there… but there is a thing in time management called “work expands to fill the time available” and that’s kind of how I think of this.

  2. After Hubby was retrenched a few years ago I really tightened the budget belt and simply out of fear have kept it that way.I have increased the grams I buy for our fish and meat as our boys are growing and when I started the budget my little boy with special needs wasn’t eating solids like we were (he is now making up for last time lol and has been blessed with a fantastic appetite).I love seeing my freezer deplete towards the end of the month knowing I’m right in track in terms of budget.Toilet paper (I buy the 18 2-ply rolls at Clicks as it’s the cheapest R69 and it’s usually on special the months I need to buy it).Cereals on my word the increase to over R 40 made me fume after the supposed VAT increase our supermarkets sure took advantage and as much as I wanted to stop buying and take a stand my little consumers were sad as they really love their cereals Mon-Fri.

    As for household cleaners I ve notice since I’m not buying our chemical filled store bought ones anymore I’ve saved so much.Making my own household cleaners and buying my go to citrus gel bucket (lasts me 6 months)I’ve saved big time.

    • Marcia Francois says

      I completely get the tightening of the belt at retrenchment time. Completely.

      It’s crazy how boys eat, isn’t it?

      I also love seeing my cupboards empty out as it approaches the end of the week or month. It thrills me. I’m a finisher though. Are you one too?

      Tell me more about this citrus gel bucket.

  3. I stopped buying things in bulk, as it does not actually save us money. We just end up buying bulk every month and convince ourselves it is a good buy.
    We buy items for our freezer meals, and it is the only area we buy more then we can use right now, but it saves us cooking later on.
    We never buy cereal. We eat oats if anyone feels like cereal. The boxed stuff does not taste good to us.
    I have a “use all the veggies in the fridge” casserole so we do not waste fresh food.

    • Marcia Francois says

      Agree fully that buying things in bulk does not actually save money.

      I’m very curious about your “use all the veggies in the fridge” casserole. Please share your recipe 🙂

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