Wednesday, January 13, 2010

non-gimicky grocery smarts

grocery costs are one of the big ones for families and while it is one budget you can play with (not a fixed expense like your mortgage) you still want to be able to eat well, and stay stocked up.

i've always loved the idea of coupons, but was not enamored with the reality (i'm not a fan of shopping unless it's for unnecessary items -- retro notepads, coffee mugs, funky jewellery, knick knacks for the house, magazines ;) so doing it with an extra ream of paper and fidgety kids is not my idea with fun. so i've managed to whittle my bill down without them. (and then to budge it up to include the needs of my littlest who can't tolerate sugar, and then learn my way around that and bring it down again)

i love the idea of a vegetable garden too, but my skills are mostly nurturing decorative herbs -- they look nice, but hardly feed a family of five ;)

and i want to be able to eat steak for dinner and have sushi nights so cost cutting can't cut things like fabulous dinners

the essentials to consider:

- embracing no-name products. i realize some people have a stigma attached to them (i read somewhere that all that yellow in the cart is demeaning to low-budget shoppers which i thought was ridiculous) hello?! non-hydrogenated margarine is the same whether you by the pale green packaging $5+ or the yellow $3

- reading nutrition labels. most of the pricier convenience foods are glorified junk food. often you are better off buying the staples to make them yourselves, or doing without, snack on fruit and veggies, popcorn, (ok, and those on sale chips you can't resist) some things like cookies you can take right out completely and not miss

- follow the sales but not the flyers. flyers usually trigger extra shopping. most stores will have a good selection of low priced healthy products. follow your list or don't. going with an idea of what you want to spend, adding in your head or on a calculator and heading to the checkout when you've reached it means you will be especially concious of the cost per item

- use the grocery savings to make life more enjoyable -- it's easier to get the family on board and leave the junk behind when you can directly link it to a better quality of life -- an extra snowboarding trip, family outing, or $ to entertain friends

- those family meat packages are meant to be brought home and split into several meals, not cooked up entirely for the family in one go and garnished with a packaged sidekick. making your sit down meal an experience: a nice loaf of bread, mixed green salad, a veggie side or two and a healthy portion of meat pre-plated so you know everyone is getting a bit of all the food groups (and you might have an extra chicken wing or two for their lunch tommorow)

- be mindful of your waste - this is where a large part of the food budget goes when one is not looking -- an unorganized fridge, not pacing the purchase of perishables, and wasted leftovers or throwing away a handful of grated cheese here, a half a head of brocoli there. if no one in your family is a fan of leftovers -- stop oversizing your dinner prep -- make enough for one sit down meal or freeze the extra right away. (well labelled with the date)

- meal plan to some degree - even if you don't want to be dictated to by the calendar or want the flexibility of ordering in or going out for dinner, just make sure you have enough dinner options for the shopping period, keeping stock with rice, potatoes, veggies, and meats means you can mix and match them into stirfries, salads, or more meat & potato type meals. if you have a hard time cooking without a recipe try type in two on hand ingredients (ie. apples + pork) and start cooking fabulously gourmet like you've been thinking about it all day

- ride the eco wave - try to buy seasonal produce (ie. not strawberries in the dead of winter), use cloths instead of paper towel, less cleaning product than the label says or use microfibre products like norwex and do without completely or go old school and use vinegar, and cold water wash less is more laundry products save you big time too.

- shop off the beaten path - don't overlook dollar stores for lunch bags, garbage bags, etc -- sometimes you will even luck out on name brand shampoos; try discount bakeries especially if you're hooked on an overpriced brand; and discount liquidators often have cereal, diapers, and canned goods on way below retail price (just make sure to check best before dates)

don't rush to call jenny - we often don't think about but by simply eliminating things like icecream and chips from our grocery list we are removing the need to sign up for expensive weight loss programs (the usual junk food purchasing cycle means we are paying for gaining weight and then paying again for losing it)


  1. Jodi Luck12:20 PM

    Great post Michelle!! They are all good ideas and you make some great points!
    I enjoyed reading it.

  2. excellent suggestions Michelle. what we also do is i buy all my fruits/veggies from a veggie store, most times i pay half of what the grocery store price is. also we buy all our bread at a bread store, more savings!

  3. Awesome ideas Michelle! Loved reading this.

  4. Great ideas Michelle. We're buying tonnes of veggies now as I'm trying to get fit and I'm finding they add up pretty quick if I don't pay attention to quantity. For example, buying three plums at PriceSmart in the middle of winter is NOT economical! Luckily the cashier agreed with me and took it off my purchases.

  5. Great tips, Michelle! Things we all can use this new year!


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