Shopping and Cooking on a Budget

The other day, I was chatting with my friend who’s moving interstate in a couple of weeks *sad face*.  Now, she’s not the most confident cook (apparently she burnt the eggs she was cooking for breakfast that morning – I think cooking lessons may be in order?), but she was asking me about some easy and inexpensive foods that she can cook.  That sparked the idea for this post, because there are lots of things you can do to reduce the $$$ spent on groceries every week, so here they are.

  • Buy in bulk when you see sale items

    This isn’t the easiest thing to do if you don’t have much space, but I’m not talking huge amounts.  And I can’t stress enough that if you don’t need it, or don’t think you’ll use it then DON’T buy it and save your money for buying items that you know will get used.  If you see some meat, poultry, mince or cheese on sale, buy more than you need and freeze what you won’t use immediately. Often items close to their use-by or best-before date are reduced for quick sale and they’ll be fine in the freezer until you decide to use them, so if you see a 2 for $10 mince, it’s worth buying it and keeping one for later.  Non-perishables that can be kept in your pantry are also good to stock up on.
  • Compare prices

    Compare brands.  Homebrand items are almost always less expensive than name brands, and are more or less the same product.  Unless you’ve got a specific brand of a particular item that you like, homebrand is good to go for.
    Marketing and promotions can too often draw us in and we think we’re getting a fantastic bargain when we actually may not be.  A good tip to ensure that your “value” buys really are value for money, is to compare the price on the tag – it will give you a price per 100g.  Similar items can be packaged differently and weigh various amounts, but using the per 100g costing will tell you which one is better value and ensure you’re saving some $$$.
    Another thing to note when you’re looking at buying those “x for $x” is to look at the individual price.  Some supermarkets have been known to cheekily make that “bargain” price more expensive than buying the two items individually!

  • Buy seasonal produce

    Fruit and veg that are in season are usually less expensive than those that aren’t (have you tried buying raspberries in the dead of winter?  $9 a punnet – I don’t think so!)
    Not only will these items be cheaper, but they will also have better flavour, as they have been grown in optimal conditions, and their nutrient content will most likely be superior to out-of-season fruit and veg.
  • Stock up your pantry and fridge with the basics

    Stocking up your pantry and fridge with some everyday items makes it easier for your to cook flavoursome meals and inspire new meal ideas. Some good items to keep in your pantry and fridge include:
  • A variety of herbs and spices
  • Some basic starches – rice, pasta, couscous
  • Tins of tuna (in springwater or oil), sardines, mixed beans and low sodium tinned tomatoes
  • Cartons of low-sodium stock
  • Onions, potatoes and garlic
  • Various sauces, mustards and vinegars
  • Olive oil
  • Basic salad ingredients
  • Plain natural yoghurt (a healthier alternative to mayonnaise and sour cream in dressings and main meals.  Also good on muesli for breakfast)
  • Utilise every bit of space in your freezer

    Not just for storing ice and vodka, saving money can be made so much easier if you have space in your freezer.  You can containers of soups, stews, curries, lasagne and bolognaise sauce.  You can package up leftovers if they’re not eaten after a day or two, or make dishes out of perishable items and freeze that for another time.Other items that can be stored in your freezer if you don’t get around to using them immediately include:
    Egg whites, pastry, most fruits, home made pies, hard cheeses and breadcrumbs (good to do if your cheese or bread is nearing the end of it’s shelf life, simply grate or blitz it up, pop it into zip-lock bags and freeze).


    Image source: Google

  • Cook in bulk

    Just as you would buy in bulk, it also saves money to cook in bulk.  If you’re turning on the oven, you may as well be using it smartly by cooking numerous things at the same time so you can save on some of those electricity bills.  It also allows you to cook in bulk and freeze (hence the need for freezer space above).  You can prepare lunch and dinner meals for the week ahead, portion it up, refrigerate some and freeze some.
  • Plan and shop for your meals at the start of the week

    If you do a big shop at the start of the week, and plan what ingredients you’ll need to buy then you’ll be set for the week ahead and shouldn’t need to quickly pop into the store on your way home.  You can then cook up your meals over the weekend and/or start of the week, and have lunches and dinners all ready to go!Another thing when planning what you’re going to buy is to make a list and stick to it!  Don’t be tempted to stock up on extras “in case” you need it.  You most likely won’t.
    Also think about leftovers and ingredients you already have that may need to be used up and base your meals around that.piggy bank in basket
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach

    Sounds odd but it’s really true.  Just by making sure you’ve had something to fill you up before you go shopping can stop you from making those impulse purchases when you’re wandering the aisles.  There have been some interesting research into this, which you can find here and here.
  • Shop around the perimeter of the store first

    If you think about your local supermarket, you’ll probably notice that all your basics such as fruit, veg, breads, meat and dairy are located around the perimeter of the store.  This is cleverly done so that you have to wander down those aisles of lollies, soft drinks and ice cream to get the bread and milk you actually came for.  Clever, right?  So the best thing to do is get your core items first, then wander down the aisles to get your other foods.  If your trolleys already filled with all the basics then you might be less likely to throw in a block of chocolate and tub of ice cream.

    Hopefully these ideas will help you to save a bit when it comes to your grocery budget, and make shopping, preparing and storing meals easier.  Also, don’t forget to allow yourself treats once in a while without the guilt 🙂

    icecream fund purse

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