Monday, April 23, 2012

Grocery Challenges

There seem to be rumblings around the blogosphere of late about keeping grocery bills down.  I think the first post to get me started on thinking about our grocery bills was Inner Pickle with her no shopping challenge (they just bowed out after 25 days - very impressive; though when I think about such a challenge I just think 'what about dairy?'), then Sarah posted about her pantry re-do and their 'how low can you go' efforts, and finally Rhonda has put up a 50 per cent less meat challenge and a "Slow and Mindful Grocery Challenge".

We already eat a fairly low meat diet.  My Mum actually commented to me the other day whether I was sure Ginger was getting enough protein; I think she is.  I tend to include a lot of vegetarian meals and then meals where meat is a 'flavour' rather than a key component - like potato and bacon soup or buk kut teh (I add rice and greens to make a 'complete' meal).  Thankfully, for the most part Mr Provincial is willing to go along with this.

Our favourite yoghurt reduced to $2.50 a carton.
Some weeks my meal plans feature meat more heavily than others - and in those there is certainly room for some reduction in meat consumption.  But in a week such as this current week (through to Wednesday evening) my meal plan looks like this:
Wed - Dahl (meat free)
Thurs - Buk kut teh (pork ribs, meat stripped off)
Fri - Potato and bacon soup (a small packet of free range bacon) and pudding
Sat - Vegetarian Texas Hash (as the name suggests vegetarian - kidney beans)
Sun - Sausage Rolls (we used lamb mince and sausages - both marked down)
Mon - Spaghetti Bolognaise (beef mince)
Tues - Vegetarian quiche
Wed - Vegan Pad Thai

I think Mr Provincial would rebel if I had any less meat in any week's plan!

And yet, our grocery bills are horrendously high.  They have really blown out this year without Aldi to fall back on.  The last couple of weeks our bills at Woolworths alone have been well above $120.  Mr Provincial also does a market shop for fruit and vegetable which averages about $60.  What can I say, the man loves his tropical fruit!  This is well above our spending for the last couple of years.  We are fighting the fact that everything in Darwin is, well, expensive.  Shipping costs and limited choices make it so.  But, I feel we could do better.  

Bagged up in 8 tablespoon amounts for freezing.  Yield is 14 two litre yoghurt starters - 54c (starter).   Plus $2 (milk) is $2.54  for 2 litres of yoghurt.
I do not get particularly concerned if any one week's spend is high.  I tend to find you get bargains in one particular category in any one week and sourcing those should save you money in the long run.  The week after Easter (with its four day long weekend) I picked up a tonne (not literally) of free range chicken breasts at one-third their original price, and heart smart mince at half price.  That blew out my budget that week but both are meats we do use regularly in cooking and I have the freezer space to put them away.  This past week I picked up a good buy (half price) on the yoghurt I like to use as my starter.  Again, worth spending the extra this week provided we make the saving later.  It is the saving later that I think often doesn't happen:)  The money we save just gets frittered away elsewhere.

So, I am thinking of taking up Rhonda's grocery challenge.  I will be giving the spending limit for a weekly shop due consideration in the next couple of days.  The limitation to my participation of course is baby boy's imminent arrival.  Like a good army son should be he is due this wednesday, Anzac Day!  So, bearing in mind that the next couple of shopping trips may be taken by either my mother or husband (in both cases probably without a menu plan) I am totally psyched up for Rhonda's challenge!


  1. Aside from going complete Vego (which, from the sounds of things, is something your husband wouldn't be too keen on), is there a wholesale meat supplier in Darwin somewhere? Adelaide has one. It's called Holco. I know this because it is where SJ's parents (who are extremely frugal) get their meat. They refuse to buy from the supermarket.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion - I will look into it.

  2. Can't believe your little man is due on Anzac perfect for your family!!
    I like the look of your menu...i seem to bulk everthing out lately with chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans which is making for a windy household lol!
    Sounds like you are doing great...our fruit and veg is expensive too and really shouldn't be, hopefully the patch will provide a little more for us this season! You have me inspired about Rhonda's challenge now!
    Rest up and good luck for the next few days!

  3. It looks like you've got a great balance there between meat meals and veggie meals. I menu plan each week and only shop for 6 days and one day we have leftovers as a meal to save a bit of money but without fail I still spend way too much on food. I've been keeping track of it lately and I can't believe how much more we spend now each week it's hard to know where you can try and save a bit more. We have 3 meat meals and 3 veggie meals and I think that's probably hubby's limit so I will need to try and grow a bit more I think to save. Take care and I hope all is well with you. x

  4. That does look like an interesting challenge! Also, a thrifty but delicious and varied menu. It's definitely tough to keep a budget down in places where food costs are higher. We were in shock after grocery shopping at my mother-in-law's in Canada over Christmas. That far north, there's really no inexpensive local food in the middle of winter, and the transportation costs result in very high prices there.

    I hadn't realized that you can freeze yogurt. Do you make your own with a yogurt maker? Carl goes through a lot of yogurt each week, and making our own is starting to sound like the best option. It's not something we've tried doing, though.

    1. Hi Sarah - I have been making my own yoghurt for the last couple of months. I have been using this method with a lot of success -

    2. Forgot to say - here in the tropics I have got a better result NOT wrapping the slowcooker in a blanket:)

  5. Hi PH! Smart! I have been mortified at some of the prices at our local grocery store lately. I'm going back to my frugal ways when school is out for the summer.
    You have such good ideas! I hope you are putting your feet up. (HUG!)