Saturday, June 6, 2015

May I take your order?

Penny pinching #3 - May I take your order?

 So for the last two weeks I’ve given some tips on how to grow some of your own food that is super simple and can be done on a budget.  Today I’ll continue the theme of food, with this super-duper extra-points tip on how to save money:

  ~~~~~~DON’T HAVE CHILDREN~~~~~~

Yeah, I know.  They’re cute and cuddly, and sometime they come to be without you actually planning them.  But gosh, they are money pits! I guess I’m feeling it this week after I signed my son up to football.  After purchasing a shirt, shorts, football socks, football boots and a mouthguard for him, I also had to shell out for club fees AND weekly umpiring fees.  But no, the costs don’t stop there.  I’m now going to have to sit and watch him play – rain, hail or shine.  Lightning is the only thing that will send the kids off the oval.  So today I purchased a heavy duty umbrella, and after getting saturated today, I will also need to go and invest in waterproof shoes and a bigger raincoat.

My order?  Uhh...
So how will I make it through the week with what (at times) is little money?  Grocery shopping – wisely.  Groceries are one of the biggest expenses to a household, and one of the biggest differences between those who have a disposable income, and those who don’t.  We are a four-person household – two adults and two primary school aged children.  Our grocery bill also covers all the pet food we buy.  Yet it is two-thirds of the size of my in-laws’ weekly bill – and there are only TWO of them in the house with no pets.

I’m not making judgements – I’m just saying that there is a lot of scope and savings in adjusting your groceries if you need to get extra during the week.

There are 101 ways to save on groceries – shopping the specials, brand labels, etc – but one of the most HELPFUL things I find is menu planning.  Does it sound too hard?  It did to me as well.  Until, three years ago during playgroup with my children, someone gave us the task of creating a menu board.  AND I STILL USE MINE.

My ratty, tatty menu planner

It is torn, splashed, ripped and everything, yet is so so so handy and easy to make.  

Use a sheet of corrugated card (or for goodness sake – cut out a box!) and decorate it.  Left over wrapping paper, pretty pictures from magazines, photos, anything.  Just make it pretty.  All you really need to buy is some miniature pegs on which you write the days of the week.  Then you put a pocket to keep the slips of paper in.   On the slips, write your favourite meals.  Not the recipe – just the name.  For example, I just wrote “Slow Cooker” to remind me what I planned.  It could be chicken or soup or lamb, but whatever I wanted for the slow cooker.

Then find some magnets (I use the ones that the real estate people keep putting in my letterbox) and glue them to the back so you can stick your menu to your fridge.

So how does this help you save money?
1.  It means you plan the week’s meals ahead, and don’t buy superfluous stuff.  For me, it’s not buying the fresh items that will go off.  When I don’t use my menu, I buy things like sour cream or lettuce, then never use them.  It ends up in the rubbish bin.
2.  It means you stick to your planned menu, and don’t have a week of expensive meals.
3.  It means you don’t forget half of the ingredients and have to go back to the shop where you spend more money.

If it sounds hard and restricting, it can be.  But a bit of practice means you will be a pro-shopper in no time.

This is how I use my menu board.
  • ·         First I sigh and remember it’s shopping day tomorrow. Dammit, what do I need to buy?
  • ·         Then I consult the freezer to see what meat is in there.  I use that meat to plan meals first.  Don’t go buying more ingredients if you haven’t used up what’s in the cupboard/fridge/freezer.
  • ·         Then I consult the fruit and vegetable boxes in fridge to see what needs to be used up.  For example, if there is beetroot out of the garden to be used, I cook roast vegetables.  Zucchini that needs to be used means zucchini slice (which is like quiche).
  • ·         From these two consultations, I plan what meals I can, remembering the nights I won’t be around to cook.  Wednesdays is now footy training, so those nights the meal needs to be prepared before the kids get home from school.  Slow cooker, casserole or lasagne will be on the menu for those nights.
  • ·         Then I plug the holes with other things that look interesting.  I try to keep everyone happy by giving them meals they like once a week.  My son doesn’t eat tuna, and will suffer through the meal, only half eating it, so I try to follow it the next night with something he likes.  My husband prefers stir-fries, but the kids don’t.  So I don’t fill the week with stir-fry items, but continue to offer them to the children to get them used to it.
  • ·         I check to see if the weekly meal total is balanced.  I like to have at least one meal of seafood, one meal of red meat that is not mince or sausages, and at least one night using chicken.  I try not to have all pasta meals, mixing it up with rice or meals that don’t take either.
  • ·         Once I know what I’m cooking for the week, I then work out, meal-by-meal, what ingredients I have in the cupboard/fridge/freezer/garden, and what needs to be purchased.



The hardest bit is sticking to the shopping list.  You write the ingredients you need, and try to only buy those things at the shop.  No sour cream “just in case we feel like wraps for dinner.”  No lettuce in the middle of winter that will just go mouldy.

You should only buy what’s on the list.  BUT sometimes there is a really great special on at the shop.  I give myself permission to buy THREE specials that weren’t on the list.  Bargains are bargains after all.
These guys aren't on the menu

  • ·         No staring at the shelves in the supermarket wondering just what can you make your family tonight, and was that a tin of pineapple in the cupboard, or beetroot?
  • ·         You don’t have to think about what you are going to make for the night’s meal.  It’s on the list.
  • ·         You don’t have to think about if you have all the ingredients.
  • ·         You don’t have to pop down to the shop for that tin of tomatoes and come back with $50 worth of groceries.
  • ·         You don’t have to stress that your family is not receiving a balanced diet while you pull out chicken for the fourth time that week.
  • ·         You know what’s coming on the menu, and can plan.  No more, “Oh, whoops, I meant to have casserole tonight, but now it’s too late to start cooking.”

  • ·         No spontaneity in the meals.  “I just felt like fish and salad tonight.”
  • ·         Remembering to plan.
  • ·         When hubby goes off-plan and uses up the sour cream meant for tomorrow night’s wraps in his odd concoction and ruins your menu.

  • ·         Have one meal that you can prepare with minimal effort in your freezer/cupboard at all times.  We are living life, and sometimes life goes awry.  My “emergency” meal is oven baked crumbed fish and homemade chips.  If I get home late because the traffic was atrocious, and don’t have time for making lasagne, then I grab out the fish.
  • ·         I shop once a week.  If you prefer to shop fortnightly, then buy extra pegs and start another week down the other side of your menu board.
  • ·         Put the meal tickets face down, ask the kids to choose one and let them have a “lucky dip” meal each Friday night.
  • ·         When you write your grocery list, group the items together according to where they are placed in the shop.  For example, anything from the fridge/freezer section of the shop I write on the bottom of my piece of paper, and work upward.  Therefore the cold things are grouped together, and it’s easier not to skip over them accidentally in the list while shopping.  The items that sit in the first four aisles of the shop are put on the top LH side of my list, then the last four aisles are put at the top RH side of my list.  Fruit and vegetable are put on the bottom RH side.

I hope this helps, and remember to practice it.  It becomes easier.  Good luck.  And remember, the next couple of dollars you save should be spent on books - my books preferably, but I could be saying that just for my own sake...

How to contact Renae:
Twitter:  @renaekkaye
Instagram:  renaekayeauthor

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