Last week on the blog I challenged you to think about the work-earn-spend-waste-repeat cycle that characterises the lives of so many of us these days. Whilst I would not describe myself as particularly frugal, I try to make thoughtful purchases and not waste money. Spending less money means I don’t have to work as much in order to support a consumer lifestyle. It also means I don’t accumulate a lot of ‘stuff’. The weekly shop is a good place to begin decreasing overall expenditure. Here are 5 tips you can try in order to reduce your grocery bill.
I first saw this challenge over on the Keep Calm Get Organised blog. It’s amazing what can accumulate in the pantry and freezer, even for a minimalist like me. The idea with the $50 grocery challenge is to regularly audit what you already have and create meals around these items rather than buying more food. It’s also a great strategy for eliminating food waste. You can read about the week I took on the challenge here.
Interestingly, this practice is contrary to what I’ve read on other simple living sites. Many advocate stock-piling groceries. But I think it would require a lot of inventory management to ensure that food is used up before it’s been kicking around for too long and has to be tossed. And speaking of ‘use by’ and ‘best buy’ dates….
Every supermarket has a ‘reduced’ section where terrific bargains can be found. Every week I go on a food rescue mission and can get pretty excited about my purchases. We don’t eat a lot of meat, but I couldn’t go past these good buys at the supermarket recently. It is shameful to think of food being thrown out given the enormous amount of resources that go into its production. And sacrificing an animal’s life only to throw out the meal it gave its life for is downright unethical. Much more unethical, in my opinion, than choosing to be a meat-eater.
A dilemma for me in buying rescue food is the extra packaging I end up with. But I figure that the packaging has already been manufactured and is destined to be thrown out, either with or without food in it. Better to save the life of the food, and dispose of the packaging thoughtfully.
My dream would be to live off-grid and to be able to feed myself from my own garden. But the best I can manage each season is to grow just a handful of things….usually. This summer my garden has been nothing short of tragic, unlike last summer which was a bit more successful. If I had been depending on it to feed myself I would have starved to death before the first week of December was over! We’ve had a long period of intense heat coupled with low rainfall in south-east Queensland. I managed to harvest just a few zucchini, capsicum, cucumber, and tomatoes before all of the plants ‘cooked’ in our metal raised garden beds. Generally my winter crops do a bit better. I’ve got a Jarrahdale pumpkin vine and a patch of sweet potatoes that are coming along well. The beans and snow-peas are up thanks to recent rain, and when the weather cools I’ll put in some bok choy and broccoli seeds.
Can you find out what grows easily in your area, and plant it? Being able to pick even a little bit of this and that to make or add to a meal will reduce your grocery bill. In most areas, lettuce, tomatoes, pumpkins, and herbs like basil, parsley, and coriander grow quite easily.
Few things give greater pleasure than picking food from the garden and turning it into a meal. If you are waiting for your pumpkin vine to grow, buy one from the markets and try some of these easy recipes. Pictured is my spicy pumpkin soup. Other delicious pumpkin recipes on the site include roasted pumpkin and apple soup, and pumpkin and prune cake. Pumpkin, sweet potato, potato, and a few greens also combine beautifully in a vegetable curry.
As well as being added to mixed vegetable side dishes, if you are growing zucchini here are 2 good recipes. Zucchini and smoked salmon fritters are pictured, zucchini slice is a tried and true favourite. Zucchini can also be spiralised as an alternative to pasta. It is delicious with pesto, which I make with either basil or coriander, whatever I have an abundance of. This pesto can also be served as a dip. Why buy those expensive pesto dips when you can easily make your own? If you grow coriander, let it go to seed, harvest the seed and make your own dukkah. It is quite an expensive item to buy, and very easy to make yourself.
Soup weather is approaching once more. Soups are filling and nutritious, and can be made well ahead of time and frozen. Here are a couple more of my favourites, minestrone and curried potato tomato and garlic.
I have started making my own liquid laundry detergent, and haven’t bought a commercial one since. The recipe forms the basis of a good cleaning paste. For years I’ve used a very expensive one produced by a ‘party plan’ company, but no more. This one is just as good and a tiny fraction of the price.
Recently I came across a recipe for a shower cleaner. Cleaning the shower is a job I hate and tend to put off, sometimes for way too long. But I feel much more inclined to face the task now that I have something to simply spray on and wipe clean. Click here for the recipes for these 3 cleaning products.
So there you have it. My 5 tips for saving money at the checkout. Which of these will you try first? Do you have any other good tips to share? What are your thoughts about the ethical issue of rescuing food but generating more waste from packaging? Do leave a comment and share your ideas.