A frugal shopping challenge dishes up dividends

Confession time: I’m an over-buyer when it comes to food.

I treat grocery shopping like a guilt-free weekly shopping spree rather than gathering essentials. You always need food, right? Who am I fooling? With my weekly food bill creeping up, and my pantry and freezer full, an intervention was needed.

I took the $21 challenge – you choose an aspect of your weekly food shop (or the whole thing!) and put a $21 limit on it. The aim is to get creative with what you already have to meet most of your grocery needs. I chose to set myself a $21 limit for dinners for my family of three for a week.

What I bought and what we ate

I usually spend around $200 a week for my entire grocery shop. I spent $147.16, saving around $50.

$21 challenge, food waste, #foodwastefriday, frugal shopping, budgeting
I spent $17.01 on ingredients for dinners for the week – this is what I brought.

I spent $17.01 on ingredients for dinner for three people for seven days. From these ingredients, and what I already had in the house, I made the following meals:

Continue reading “A frugal shopping challenge dishes up dividends”

It’s not a bargain if you bin it

Welcome to Food Waste Friday. This week, I fell victim to the supermarket’s super-marketers.

First, the good news. The system I implemented last week – designating a shelf in the fridge for items that need to be used up ASAP – is working well. All leftovers, half used jars of tomato paste, etc., were used up.

Food waste, Food Waste Friday, shopping
Broccoli to the bin – Food Waste Friday 3 July 2015

The bad news –1 ¼ heads of broccoli in the bin. I went to steam and puree it on Monday (in an attempt to save it) but it was too far gone. This was a clear case of “bargain blinkers”. Broccoli wasn’t on my shopping list, but I couldn’t resist it at a bargain two for $3. Wow, I could save $1 by buying two! So I did, but I barely used any of it – really, I wasted $2 and a lot of broccoli.

I have written before about how my desire to bag a bargain ends up costing me money and my efforts to overcome this. Today, I’m adding a new mantra for the supermarket:

“It’s not a bargain if you bin it.”

Are you a sucker for supermarket multi-buys? How was the food waste situation at your house this week?

Confessions of a food-waste hoarder

I hate to waste food but, inevitably, it happens. Despite meal planning like a pro, things don’t always work out as planned.

I know I am not alone in this. In New Zealand, where I live, the average family wastes around $563 worth of food every year. In the United States, for a family of four, its around $1600 worth of food each year. It’s pretty shocking.

Food waste, food waste friday
New Zealand’s Food Waste.
Image credit: WasteMINZ

I feel terrible about throwing away what was perfectly good food. And so I don’t – I hoard it. Half empty bottles of salad dressing languish at the back of my fridge until they are a year out of date. A little container of unused canned tomatoes sits growing mold. You get the picture – it’s not pretty. Eventually something smells and I can’t ignore it anymore, and out it all goes.

Well that was until now. I am owning-up to my food waste. I’m starting out with a clean fridge and a new approach. As part of Food Waste Friday, I will report in each fortnight on my food waste.

Food waste, Food Waste Friday
Inside my fridge – 19 June 2015

Am I the only person who hoards their food waste? What’s your best tip to reduce the amount of food you waste?

Is FOMO ruining your money mojo?

I get loads of email, loads, and a large chunk of them are advertising. In an effort to save money I’d signed up to receive the latest offers from, well it would seem just about everybody. I follow them on Facebook too, just so I don’t miss out.

It seems that I have a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and it’s costing me money. If you find yourself hovering over the unsubscribe link but feel a sudden angst you may be afflicted too. The good news is, I’m getting past it and I’ve got some tips so that you can too.

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out (on bargains!)

Fear of missing out is something I am sure all of us have experienced in some way at some time. In the age of social media it’s known as FOMO, and is most commonly associated with millenials. Seeing their peers lives played out in real time across Instagram and Twitter, stokes feelings of anxiety and indecision in FOMO suffers who lose enjoyment in what they are doing to constant obsessing over what they might be missing out on.

FOMO in the digital age plays out somewhat differently for me. I’m not afraid of missing the party of the century – I’m afraid of missing the bargain of the century.

In my circles, it’s all about bargains. When we talk buying stuff we talk bargains, savings, deals. I mean what sucker pays full price these days/ When someone says “nice skirt”, what do you reply? NOT “oh thanks, I paid full retail for it”! To keep up I subscribe to emails from all sorts of stores, daily deal and group buying sites.

The price of buying into bargain hunting

 Since the financial crisis of 2008, bargain hunting has really come to the fore. It’s okay to be cheap, in fact it’s kind of insensitive not to be. Marketers keep us buying more by convincing us of the great savings.

In buying into this culture, I’ve created a big problem for myself. You see, I also buy into believing that materialism is not the answer, that mindless over-consumption is ruining our lives and our planet. So yeah, there’s some conflict there. Constantly trying to reconcile it is exhausting.

Over-spending and over-accumulation isn’t the worst part of the problem for me. It’s the self denial! Sure I make the occasional impulse purchase but its not out of control. For the most part I am good at resisting. And that is the problem – the resisting. It takes a lot of energy to resist. These offers are tempting, they lead me to want stuff, to desire stuff, and then deny myself. Over and over again. You can only deny yourself so often and then surely you deserve it, right? Marketers 1, Self 0.

Taking back control of your bargain-hunting

To get out of this cycle of temptation, self denial, capitulation and guilt I needed a new approach. I wanted a way I could shop around online, without ending up just shopping.

From my experience, here are three things you can do to take control of your bargain hunting.

  1. Unsubscribe from email offers and Facebook too!

Remember the old adage “the deal of a lifetime comes along once a week”. How much will you really be missing out on?

Unsubscribing was liberating, but also somewhat angsty. I haven’t unsubscribed from everything. The weekly specials at my supermarket are really handy for meal planning. There are a few places that have genuine sales a few times a year for kids clothes, shoes and toys that I plan around, so I kept those.

Another area of concern for me was missing out on discount vouchers for local family attractions. So instead of voucher sites, which send me all kinds of other offers, I am following the attractions I visit and want to visit directly. They’ll let me know about the deals I want without wasting energy on the other stuff. I did miss out on a half price deal at the zoo the other day – but no great loss and I am sure there will be another one soon.

  1. Write a shopping list

Yes, the object is to buy less. How does writing a shopping list help? It’s all about getting intentional about your spending. I now have lists for my clothes, major household items, kids clothes and kids equipment. When writing and revising these lists I think about what I need: do I really need it? Do I need it now? What priority is it compared to other things?

Having it written down keeps me focused on my priorities, not those of marketers. I stick to comparing prices for the stuff on the list only (mostly!). Writing the list also gives time for reflection before purchasing – I’ve been surprised that if I just wait it turns out that I don’t need the stuff I thought I needed after all, and I get along just as comfortably without it.

  1. Apply the “stranger test”

The “stranger test” is a quick and easy one to clarify your priorities. If you’re about to make a purchase, especially an impulse purchase, and you have some doubt ask yourself this: If a stranger came and offered me the value of the item I am about to purchase in cash, what would I want – the cash or the item?

Am I over my FOMO? Maybe a little, but not really. Instead I’ve accepted it and in doing so gained some of power back. I’ve acknowledged it as a weak spot and from there developed some simple strategies that, in the face of FOMO, help me keep my money mojo.

Are you a bargain hunter? What strategies do you use to stop yourself over buying?