Friday, 6 January 2012

Living Series - Savings in the Grocery Bill (Part 1)

Hi and Welcome back!  
To follow on from yesterday this is the first part to my Living Series - Savings in the Grocery Bill. 
I was brainstorming on how best to write these posts as I wanted to make sure I was covering all avenues that I can think of, that I use myself to help me in my quest in lowering the food bill.  So I was thinking about the best place to start with all this, and my answer?  Well of course it should be at the beginning! So particularly if you are in a muddle with your food spending or just have no idea what you could be doing differently or how to start making these savings, I hope this will help you.
I would just like to note now, everything I write about in these posts are my personal experiences.  Everything I suggest as things to try I practice myself, because it is what I tried and what I found worked for us.  I don't claim to know everything by any means and there are other strategies and things to do and try out there, but these posts are simply me sharing what I have found to work.  My quest for lowering our food bill starting about 6 years ago with the impending arrival of our oldest son. I have had many ups and downs in that time and we've researched and tried just about every strategy and published tip that we could find and most of them didn't suit the way we work, which we found after giving them a go.  About 3 years ago I think it was I finally developed a system that worked for us, (this was based around ideas particularly from Sophie Gray and adapted to suit us) and over the past wee while I have added different strategies to what I do and how I shop and I have been able to trim things down even further (thanks goes to Rhonda Jean here for making me see the light on Stockpiling).  So I really hope I can help you and save you time finding the food bill savings light :)

So onto Part 1 - It's time to look in the Pantry!
I think the best place to start is with the biggest place food is kept in your house.  Have you cleaned up in there recently or is it one of the jungles that really needs to be tamed?  Pull everything out onto the bench.  Wipe it down and now start sorting through what you have on hand. Have you got an organised system?  A big part when it comes to writing your weekly/fortnightly/regular shopping list is being able to see or know what you have on hand easily.  It's really hard to be able to do this when you have little packets spread everywhere, and if your like I was there will be the same things opened in different bags.  You can refer to my post here on ideas on how I got my pantry into shape on a frugal budget. I reference in here my beginning of a stockpile but I will touch on this in a future post.
Good places to try if you are after containers for storage are the Op Shop - I got all my large jars there which I store things like dried fruit in for .50cents each,  the $2 and variety shops normally have a selection of smaller storage containers - I got mine about 4 years ago and they are brilliant, I spent $10 and got 5 containers and keep my Icing Sugar, Cocoa, Cornflour etc in them.  For larger container to store things like Flour in keep an eye out in the Supermarkets or The Warehouse (in NZ) for half price sales on their storage containers, I picked mine up for about $5 each at Countdown one day.  Whatever you end up using, just make sure they are airtight, give them a warm soapy wash out first and dry them thoroughly so no moisture is left. 

Now when you are ready to put everything back into the pantry in an organised, easy to find way, discard anything that is past its used by/best before.  Put aside anything that has been floating around in your cupboard for months and you don't regularly use.  Are these items ones that you bought thinking one day you'd use it? or was it something on a special to good to go past but it's not something you regularly use?  Have a think about how you could use it, google a recipe for whatever item you may have and if you can't come up with a way to use it up and get it out of your pantry where it will probably stay for another year or 3 then see if you can give it away to someone who might.  I used to forever keep things in my cupboards that I would pick up on a whim and just sit them in the back of the pantry collecting dust only to be thrown in the bin when I would unearth it years later - what a waste! I make a rule now that I only buy things that I know how to use, or that I know I can use or else it gets left in the supermarket. If I really want to try something new, I research it first before I buy it.

Right that's the first task over, so if you have completed a massive pantry overhaul Well done! if your pantry is already organised and you know whats in it, well done to you to! if your contemplating whether it's worth doing, then I urge you to just start with one shelf - say your baking shelf and see how you get on :)

Next task - grab yourself a cup of tea/coffee, a pen and some paper.  Write a list of all the main meals that you cook regularly.  How many have you got? enough to rotate around in a week or a fortnight or what your shopping period is? if you feel your list is a bit light in the amount of different meals you cook then perhaps you could have a flick through your recipe books and see if there are any you haven't done in a while or would like to try.  Once your happy with your menu list, add to it the breakfast cereals that regularly are eaten, and general things that are used for lunches and baking.  In your pantry (and fridge for sauces etc), right now, do you have all the staples (flour, stock, sugar, salt and pepper, weetbix, porridge etc) you need to make these meals? meat and veges aside that is?  This is the direction we need to start heading in, making sure you have on hand the ingredients you most often cook with.  This saves running out midweek and whipping to the supermarket for 1 or 2 things and coming out $100 later. 

Tomorrow I will write out a list that I found very helpful from Sophie Grays recipe book on what she considers to be pantry staples.  I found this a great starting point and then adapted it to suit our needs from there.

Righto that's the end of Part 1, I hope to see you back for Part 2 which I will be writing about goals/budgets for the food bill and also assessing what you could be realistically making yourself from scratch rather than buying ready made.  Until next time...... :)


  1. Hi Ruth, I'm visiting from Becky's blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading some of your posts.I shall certainly visit again!
    Maria (in Aust)

  2. Ruth this is a great post. I'm in the process of moving so the pantry has had a full sorting through. I definitely need to invest in a few more storage jars and containers.
    Looking forward to Part 2 of the living Series. x


Hiya, thanks for taking the time to comment on my post. I can't wait to read your comments and to share ideas, I am a busy mummy with 2 boys to run around after so I will try and get to comments as quickly as I can...if there is a delay in seeing them published this is why, not because I don't care, I'm just taking some time to smell the roses :)

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