Monday, 20 January 2014

A Saturdays' Frugal Shopping

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NB: No I didn't steal a shopping trolley! It is for use in my building to get groceries from the basement carpark to your apartment.

On Saturday I decided to visit several food stores that I hadn't been to before. I already shop at Pak n Save which is definitely the cheapest supermarket, and I know what items my local Asian grocery store sells that are cheaper, but there are a lot of places I hadn't patronised. It was great to do an appraisal like this, as prices for some items varied greatly. I won't visit each store every week now, as petrol is too expensive, but I will go when I have a few things I need and it makes economic sense to do so.

In anticipation of an extremely frugal food challenge I will be setting for myself in February, I decided to withdraw $140 in cash, and that would be all I was allowed to spend. $140 is at the higher end of what I would normally spend on a weeks groceries, however I decided that whatever I bought would need to last TWO weeks rather than one. This would help give me an idea of how far basic staples would stretch, and really get me in frugal food mode. In the end I spent $135.80; .20c went into my car console for parking money, and the other $4 went into an old piggy bank I have decided to start using.

The first store I stopped at was an Indian supermarket. They had a MASSIVE range of beans and various other legumes, I had no idea how many varieties there are! Not only that but they were all around $5 a kilo - about half the price I found anywhere else. I will definitely go back when I need to stock up. I will probably also purchase flour and rice in bulk there when I have the money for the initial outlay. The only regret I have is not buying bananas there at $1.99/kg. I thought I'd seen them cheaper elsewhere but as it turned out the next cheapest price I found was $2.49/kg. I ended up buying a 700g bag of small carrots for $.99c (perfectly sized for grating into a bowl of pasta, sandwich or homemade pizza), 1.5 cups of dessicated coconut for a recipe I wanted to try for $.72c, and a packet of butter chicken seasoning for $1.99. 

Next stop was a fruit and veggie shop (the one in Gate Pa, Tauranga, for anyone interested). The prices weren't as low as I had hoped, but I did get a large butternut pumpkin for $2, a 2kg bag of large carrots for $3, and two punnets of blueberries past their best for $1 each. I was pretty stoked about them, I hardly ever buy blueberries as they're so expensive! They'll be good for smoothies. Some of their fruit was cheaper than the supermarket and they had capsicum for a low $1 each, but I didn't need any of it.

I then went to the Couplands bakery nextdoor for four of their $.95c mince and vegetable pies to pop in the freezer for easy meals. If I hadn't started making my own bread, I would have stocked up on 4/$5 Couplands bread.

Next up I drove to a store that I hadn't been to since I was a kid - Bin Inn! I didn't even know they were still around until I saw on the internet that they stock something I wanted. As I walked in I noticed a couple of 10kg bags of potatoes at the door for $7.99 each, so I happily grabbed one. Other 10kg bags I'd found were $8.99 - $10.99. The item that had drawn me to Bin Inn was washing soda, to make dishwasher powder when combined with equal parts baking soda. Washing soda was $.36c/100g, and non-food baking soda was $.30/100g. So I bagged up several cups worth of each and shuffled down the aisle a bit - only to discover a bin labelled 'dishwasher powder' for $.60/100g! So I poured both bags back in and instead got 750g of ready-made powder and saved myself $.6c/100g and the effort of making it. Later on when comparing the price I saw on Countdown Online that Active Dishwasher Powder was on special for $5.49 for 1kg, aka per 100g, cheaper than the bulk brand. I would have been miffed except at that point I looked at my receipt and discovered that they had accidentally charged me the price of washing soda - $.35/100g. So it was cheaper, $2.62 for 750g, but next time I wouldn't bother. It was a good reminder that it isn't always cheaper to DIY.

I also bought a small amount of nappy san for $.40c, a little milk powder to make milk for baking for $.67c, a 500g bag of brownie mix (just add egg and water) for $2.31, and 800g of cornmeal for $3.58 to make cornbread. I'd been looking for cornmeal for ages! When I went to pay they forgot to ring up the bag of potatoes and when I pointed out their error they rung them up separately and said to just make it $7, so $.99c off. So that made it $.70/kg which I was very pleased about as I normally buy loose potatoes for $2/kg! Their beans were $10/kg so I won't buy them but next time I go I might take some of my own bottles and fill them with cheap detergent etc.

I then went to my local farmers market to see if they had any cheap veggie plants available. On the way in I spotted a large courgette for $1 so I bought it, and a rosemary plant for $2. The veggie plants looked a bit withered but I bought two different varieties of silverbeet for $1 each, marked down from $1.50 each. When I got back to my car I put the little veggie pots into a plastic bag in the boot and gave them a drink from my water bottle to start to rehydrate them.

Finally it was time to go to Pak n Save, and at this point I had $100 in notes and a few coins left. So I took the notes and my shopping list and did my shop, mostly sticking to the list, just getting a couple of extra specials. I also grabbed several snack items that I knew my daughter would like, not expensive, but not rock bottom frugal and not actually required either. When I got to the checkout, I reserved several items in my trolley and when the tally got to around $95 I had to decide what I wouldn't keep from the leftover items. In the end I didn't buy 2/4 of the snacks for my daughter, nor a can of cooking spray or a coriander plant. I felt a little embarrassed but the checkout lady instantly knew what I was doing and said she and her husband do the same, withdraw a set amount of cash for the groceries each week and don't allow themselves to go over it. She even made the suggestion that next time I keep a running tally on my cellphone as I go! I spent $99.70.

I got home extremely pleased with my loot and happy that I had educated myself through this exercise. In theory I don't agree with visiting several different supermarkets each week to buy the specials, as I feel the cost of petrol negates the money you save, and at each supermarket there is the temptation of buying things you didn't actually need simply because of the variety. But this was well worth it.

Tomorrow: Frugal items I bought at Pak n Save.

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