Grocery Shopping

This is a chore that few of us actually like. In our family, it is a major point of contention. For years, even before we married, it was a tradition for my husband to take his mother in the work van about five miles to the closest large market. At first when I moved over here, we still lived with his family; but even then he wanted me and the baby to accompany them. When we moved into our own flat, the tradition continued. Each Saturday morning early (sometime between 7 and 9 am), my husband, mother-in-law, daughter and I load into his work van. Mind you, the van has only three seats; so I am relegated to the cargo area in the back. We make the ten to fifteen minute drive to the store and begin our weekly adventure.

Although I recognise that this adds some food miles to our Frugal Fam purchases, the larger selection and cheaper prizes make it almost a necessity. We can find items such as pigeon peas that are not available locally and we are carpooling after all.

Fill your bag for life for less.
Fill your bag for life for less.

Of course, adding an active (read…hyperactive) three year old to this equation makes for an interesting scenario. Not only does she absolutely have to have the latest of the children’s magazines each and every week, but she also selects food items that we probably would not purchase otherwise. Her latest favourite is watermelon. That does not even consider the times when she refuses to sit in the buggy and runs about the store to my horror.

Obviously it might be far easier if my loving husband simply continued the tradition and shopped alone with his mother, but he detests the rare occasions when for health or other reasons Emily and I do not come with them. So I compromise and awake early each Saturday to continue the tradition, which I admit that Emily enjoys far more than me.

The biggest problem has been the rising cost of groceries that plagues not only our family, but the world. Before we moved over, his mum would spend fifty to sixty pound per week. When we joined the family, that rose to ninety to one-hundred. When we moved out, there were six of us: hubby, my three adult/teen children, Emily and myself. Our weekly shopping bill was also around ninety to one-hundred pounds. Then last fall my oldest son moved out, but there was virtually no difference in the shopping bill. In February, my older daughter moved out…still no difference. How could groceries for four cost the same as for six?

For three months now, I have been focusing my efforts on reducing my weekly shopping bill from ninety pounds to seventy. I managed to do just that. Let me tell you what worked and what didn’t.

Did NOT Work:

Going to more than one shop. We tried the whole going to discount stores first. It made zero difference in the total cost of the shopping. It was still ninety pounds…sometimes more.

Doing without ALL the little extras. Not buying beer or soda during the weekly shop just meant that we would pay much more at the corner store on impulse. And it made us both resentful of the others needs…why do you get a beer if I can’t have my Pepsi.

DID Work:

Make a list and check it twice. This has been the absolute key to our success. Make your list the day before so that you have time to consider it and confer with others to make sure it is complete. Try to stick as close as you can to your list. Wouldn’t you know it? The one time last week when we did not have our carefully prepared list our bill was over a hundred pounds again. That taught me my lesson. No matter how hectic my week, I won’t go shopping again without my list.

Limit your impulse buying. Even on those items that are on sale; make sure they are truly worth it. I think this may be a situation where our team shopping approach works to our advantage, because we have a rule about impulse shopping…if it is not on the list, we don’t buy it unless we both agree.

Use your coupons carefully. As with impulse buying make sure that it is something you truly need. It does not make sense to purchase something you would not otherwise, simply to save a few pence. On the other hand, I love my double points coupons because they are almost always for things we buy anyway.

I must admit that the huge coupon circulars in the Sunday papers and the adverts that came in the mail from all the stores are something I really miss about the US. They made grocery shopping so much easier. But those are the ideas that work for our Frugal Fam. What have you found works for yours?

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