Part of my day was spent buying some groceries for the week at my local grocery store. It’s one of those things that I enjoy doing because I find it relaxing to go between different aisles and compare prices and products. I’m always running around, so I don’t have much time to wander around grocery aisles, but I had the blessing of doing that today after fixing some paperwork until early afternoon.
My parents raised me to be a frugal shopper and it may be pretty cool to share some practical tips about grocery shopping that I’ve learned from my parents, and of course my maternal grandma who started taking me to the farmer’s market early in my life. The smell was a little overwhelming for me in the beginning (think fresh fish and meat around!!) but I enjoyed those weekend trips after awhile because it was time spent with my mom and grandmother. Plus, as a young child, I found it pretty cool to learn the art of barter early.
1. Grocery shopping is enjoyable when one’s stomach is filled!
As a child, my parents never brought me to a store hungry. Partly it is to minimize tantrums (which was really, zero). They always encourage me to eat before heading to get the groceries. This controls impulse purchases and helps you enjoy it as a leisure activity.
2. Prepare a weekly budget and weekly menu.
This is something my mother taught me early on. When you are learning to cook, it does mean that the first few dishes mean more expenses for you; however, if you regularly cook, it is financially wise to plan a menu and weekly budget that depends on the number of people eating and number of meal plans for the week. Planning menus helps you switch around with ingredients and see which things you can recook (leftovers) and ingredients you can reuse.
3. Bring a list and stick to it.
Write down things in a notepad or even use your smartphone. There are several apps that help in shopping, but I appreciate the handy notepad better. This helps you stay in track of what you need to buy and minimizes those unnecessary purchases (like a bag of chocolates! ;) )
4. Look through some coupons, they can be handy!
One of the things moving to America has taught me is that you get tons of paper in your mailbox. However, some of it is coupons which does help the total a bit. While I don’t endorse extreme coupon-ing, just because the time variable is an important opportunity cost for me, some clippings do prove handy and they may help in that one luxurious purchase you get that week (like some gelato half off plus manufacturer’s coupon). Living in california, I don’t see much extreme coupon-ing, so I’d rather compare prices and purchase from there.
5. Explore recipe alternatives.
There are some recipes that are just so yummy but so expensive to keep cooking. Finding alternatives for ingredients is a challenge but an experimentation worth exploring! Yes, I’m guilty of cutting corners sometimes!
6. Explore brand differences.
I understand brand loyalty, i really do. I prefer my cream cheese to be philadelphia; however, I do buy cheaper cream cheese for baking and cooking. Why? because you can manipulate the flavor. But with my toasts and bagels, i stick with the real things.
Also, for those who have dispensers in their local grocery stores, explore it. Package pastas have increased a little bit, so I do buy pasta from the dispensers like rotini, farfalle, wagonwheel pasta. I get my spices from dispensers because comparitively speaking, most of their prices are better.
7. Enjoy seasonal things when they are available.
When berries are in season, go for it! When pumpkins and squash were in season, I grabbed some, carved them for centerpieces and then used the inside as ingredients for okoy, a filipino verse of shrimp patties. =) It turned out amazing!! Eggnog also is another favorite during the holidays in coffee. Enjoy the seasonal when available and be sure to compare prices. Frozen vegetables are cheaper in winter so my pastas and stir-fry dishes use those more.
8. Buy one item that is a sort of treat for your family.
This week it’s two things: bacon and smoked salmon. My family’s not a frequent bacon eater because we try to keep food healthy. I’m making a food festival for my father tomorrow. I know one of his late cravings is bagels, cream cheese and peach preserves. So tomorrows breakfast is planned with eggs, links, smoked salmon and bagels with homemade artichoke cream cheese and sun-dried tomato tuscan cream cheese spread. I’m brewing some creme brulee coffee, which is the celebrator’s favorite flavor soooo…
9. Be prepared for teachable moments.
This isn’t limited to parents of younger kids. This is a good opportunity to teach kids how to wisely spend money. You can teach your children to list down house necessities (like their bathroom tissue or bath soap, shampoo) and grab them a basket. Again, that depends on their age and interest. Make it fun! ;) As for me, I’m a twenty something single so what I’ve done is brought younger girl friends to the grocery store with me to teach them about buying fresh meat, seafood and getting the right things at the right prices. Two of them are college aged so I took one of them ingredient shopping when she wanted to learn some recipes for college. It was fun, you learn more things about each other that way as well. So yes, mentor up and mentor down!!