How To Do Your Weekly Shop for Under $50
What if you lost your job today, what if you would lose your house because your bills had gotten out of control…
Necessity is the mother of invention. And necessity was the reason I ended up living on $50/week. I had a good job before I got pregnant after 3 years of expensive IVF, and accidently fell pregnant naturally only seven weeks after my first son was born. That was shocking enough, but when I was made redundant a few months after that, everything changed. See, before the babies were born, my husband and I enjoyed the privilege of living on two wages. I didn’t think about how much I spent on groceries. I bought whatever I wanted – and just put it on my Visa Card.
So, my shop would have been anywhere between $150 and $400….. We ate well, but we consumed a lot of takeaways. Convenient foods cost a bomb, so do fancy cheeses and wine, which we consumed regularly. I also bought lots of microwave meals as we both were working long hours. So when all that came crashing down, and we were faced with the fact that we had two children under 12 months, were owner-building our own home, and were renting as we were building. If we wanted to keep what we had worked so hard for, we’d have to live on $50/week grocery money – I was a tad hysterical.
It couldn’t be done. Well, that’s what everyone said.
I quickly realised crying and falling in a heap wouldn’t solve anything. I wanted to keep the house – it was our dream home. We had kept a picture of what we wanted to build for ten years stuck on the fridge.
I had $50 cash every week to work with…. I HAD to make it work…. My world depended on it. My kids and husband depended on it. It was up to me to make it happen.
First things first, I cut up my credit card. I then did a stocktake of what I had in my pantry, fridge and freezer. I was shocked at how much food I already had in the house. I found 8 tins of Cream of Pumpkin Soup – and I don’t even like pumpkin soup! It was crazy.
Apart from bread and milk – I did no shopping at all for the first four weeks – and just used what I already had. But that only got me so far…
I had to get creative with the foods I didn’t like (i.e the cans of soup) – so I got into the kitchen and started experimenting. By adding a couple of cups of flour to the soup – I made pumpkin scones! Winner!
I then realised, flour is cheap… but it is even cheaper if I buy it from a discount store. So I shunned the big supermarkets and started shopping at a well-known discount branded store. I borrowed my mother’s old CWA cookbook, and started cooking very basic meals using staples. Flour, sugar, spices, pasta. I made everything from scratch. I had a basic vegetable garden, and my Mum has chickens and a lemon tree so I had free eggs and lemons.
I learned about all the tricks to save money at the supermarket, like not buying anything from the middle shelves and looking at the sticker to make sure I got the cheapest per gram. Avoiding all the middle aisles. I bought 1kg cheeses and grated the whole lot by hand (was good for an upper arm workout!) – even started making my own bread because I worked out it was 25c a loaf cheaper – and every cent counted!
There is nothing in this world like freshly made bread – and the kneading is so therapeutic!
A few months down the track, my husband commented on the quality of our meals… and that we had never eaten better. He’d even lost a few kilograms! And we were eating better! We had a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables in our diet because I bulked out every meal with tomatoes, carrots and zucchinis. I substituted 50% of mince for lentils – and no one noticed! My pasta sauce was full of goodness and served over pasta made a super cheap, easy and delicious meal.
I put ½ cow on ‘layby’ with a local farmer and paid it off before Winter. Grabbed the slowcooker out and we had loads of slow cooked casseroles with the cheap cuts of meat.
It’s funny, because as I saved more more and more money on our grocery shopping, I got more and more creative. It was fun, I made a game out of it to see if I could beat last week’s record.
Knowing where your money is going, and knowing what exactly was in our food, was a very empowering feeling. I felt in control. I learned all the tricks that Supermarkets do to try and get us to buy buy buy!!!!!
I found that by shopping the great sales (the sales that get you in the door), and shopping around, I could save even more. I started finding good deals in other places too.
I shopped at the local Markets at closing time and could pick up a whole tray of tomatoes or onions for a dollar or two. I picked up slightly bruised fruit and turned it into ‘crumbles’ or purees for the boys or fruit muffins or ice blocks.
Not a single thing was wasted. Every item was used.
Six years down the track, I’m still pretty darn frugal with my food shopping. I invested in an upright freezer for my yearly ½ cow. I cook in bulk and freeze for later. I make all my school lunches on Sunday so nothing goes to waste (plus it is hot here in Queensland, so food goes bad quickly up here!).
If I can do it – you can too. You just have to think about how badly you want it. You might be saving up for something, you might just not have much money this week – you can still eat well.
The food world is full of ‘schmancy’ recipes and glossy covered cookbooks with ingredients I’ve never heard of. They might be beautiful, but they are useless if you are living on a budget.
Get back to basics. Cook like your Grandma would have done. Get in the kitchen and experiment!
But my biggest tip for anyone living on a strict budget – is to have a goal. And to put a picture of that goal somewhere you will see it all day, every day. Because you will work towards it.
I’m currently in my dream home…. I haven’t paid it off yet – but it’s a goal of mine. So is a pool – so that’s on the fridge!