Thrift at the Supermarket.
As the old saying goes, There is more than one way to skin a cat, not that one would want to skin a cat, but still just as there is more than one way to approach any situation and achieve a successful result, there is more than one way to be a thrifty grocery shopper. For me the absolute bottom line for thrift at the supermarket is to stop throwing away and wasting the food you buy. On average Australian households waste well over $1000.00 a year throwing out good food and as the 2019 statistics indicate, we are getting worse, not better!
These statistics are frightening and while to waste this amount of food is criminal, these statistics do not take into account the the time, money, water, energy and production costs of getting the food to the supermarket. So when we waste food, we are not only wasting our money, we are wasting the resources of farmers and others as well as the resources of the natural environment which have been needed every step of the way to bring food to our shelves. Some forethought and planning will go a long way toward eliminating food wastage. The suggestions which I present are strategies I routinely use or have used with success. I found when money was really scarce I needed to shop regularly, however, one can also save money through buying in bulk and certainly for some items this is a very good idea.
Many researchers advise not to shop on an empty tummy, this triggers an emotional response to hunger and results in purchasing more than is needed, so having topped up before hitting the supermarket; here are twelve tips for thrift at the supermarket:
#1 Before the next shop use the fresh fruit and vegetables already in the fridge. Use fruit by making a fruit salad, fruit crumble, smoothie or stew and freeze for later use. Make a salad with the salad ingredients and make vegetable soups, casseroles, curries, stir fries or fried rice with vegetables. Resist buying more fresh fruit and vegetables and tossing the old.
#2 Check what is already in the pantry, fridge and freezer as there is no point in buying more when there is already sufficient.
#3. Create a menu plan for the week and purchase what is needed to eat well for the week; not the next six months. It is not necessary to have everything all of the time – be selective and enjoy a variety of food.
#4. Shop with your list, have a budget and keep a tally of money spent as the trolley is loaded. I usually do this in my head, rounding dollars up or down to keep a fairly close tally although, if it a really tight shop, take a calculator.
#5. Fresh is Best – buy fruit and vegetables when in season and at their peak in flavour and freshness and when the best value for money. It does not have to be perfect to be wholesome. Buy Australian and buy local. The current trend to buy produce that has been grown/ produced within a one hundred kilometre radius is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint. But the principle is clear, the closer to you the food was produced the less impact there was on the environment to get it to you.
#6. Implement an Eat the fruit and drink the water policy. Fruit juice is loaded with sugar and does not have the fibre of whole fruit. Do your family a favour and train their taste buds to love fruit, vegetables and plain wholesome food. Not only will this save money at the supermarket; benefits will flow on to reduced dental and medical expenses. Leave the fizzy drinks behind too!
#7. Look for specials and reduced items. If the product can be consumed before the due date or frozen right away – it is a bargain. Be selective- it is not a bargain if the food doesn’t get consumed by the due date or if even at the reduced price the product is still expensive. When money was really tight we joked that if it wasn’t on special or reduced it did not find its way into my trolley! Nevertheless we still ate and had sufficient to share with others.
#8. Consider portion control. It is easy to over shop and then to overeat because the food is in the pantry.
#9. Buy food which is nutrient dense. In most cases this will be simple food. Basic vegetables and fruits, products such as Weetbix, rolled oats, beans and other types of pulses, lentils, wholemeal breads, pasta, cheeses and some meats. You get the picture. Consider the healthy eating pyramid and leave the sugary breakfast cereals, chips, chocolates, lollies, sweet biscuits, ice-creams, soft drinks on the shelves. These are sometimes foods. Allow for a weekly treat but avoid filling the trolley with rubbish food.
#10. Look for value for money everywhere and endeavour to also support the local butcher, baker and greengrocer. Support smaller independent businesses and buy Australian for the benefit of us all.
#11. Keep an eye on the register as your shopping is going through the checkout. Mistakes do happen so check your docket before leaving the store. The last 2 times I have shopped, I have been overcharged, once the bacon was put through the register twice and the next time my Aussie grown oranges were put through as lemons at over twice the price of oranges. In both cases I did not check the docket until I was home and in both cases just wore the mistakes but in another life, I simply could not have afforded those extra dollars.
#12. So in a nutshell, plan what you want to eat, buy what you need at the best possible price, shop for healthy and nutrition dense foods, now take the groceries home, enjoy happy, healthy eating and be mindful to be thankful but not wasteful.
These tips will contribute to your financial security, improved health and well being, reduced medical and dental costs, they support primary producers and local business plus they are environmentally friendly and reduce pollution. Whoever thought grocery shopping could be such a win/win.
Next post we will look at the thrift of the four week meal plan.