Become a ‘smart’ grocery shopper and save money | Sunday Observer

Become a ‘smart’ grocery shopper and save money

Ask any urban Sri Lankan housewife what their seven most hated chores are and no doubt she will quickly come up with a list. I can guarantee that grocery shopping will be one of the first three items. Especially these days, they will complain about the rising cost of the grocery bill.

Saving money on groceries is no easy task unless you are a smart shopper. Supermarkets are designed to part you from your money with over-hyped sales, confusing packaging and flashy displays.

A few months ago, ten Sri Lankan urban housewives employed in my workplace, who had exposure to the professional marketing field, got together and created a simple budgetary buying system by tweaking their shopping strategies which finally resulted in the reduction of their grocery bill costs. They managed to cut down on their bills by 15 to 25 percent.There was no magic in what they did. It was just simple common sense, but ignored by most grocery shoppers.

Track current spending

Firstly, keep your grocery store receipts for a month to get a realistic picture of your current spending habits. If you feel inclined, create a spreadsheet to break down your spending product wise, so that you get an idea of where to trim down spending.

The expenditure on food varies according to the income level and the number of people in each household. Consider your other compulsory commitments which need to be met and start from there. Remember you must also set aside something as savings every month. So, take a wise decision.

Shop with a list

Before you leave home, take stock of the items you need, making sure you’ve got things like coconut oil, pasta and other staples you might not buy weekly. Sketch out a few dinner ideas so you know what to buy (and save yourself from having to figure out what to cook on the fly after work). If you organize your list by product type, it’s a breeze to pick up things as you work through the aisles.

Often, the only difference between brand-name and generic products at the grocery store is the packaging. Look beyond the label and compare the ingredients. You’ll find that generally, the ingredients are the same, but the price is different. So, don’t just grab the brand you recognize. Do a little research to find the best deal for practically the same item.

Eat healthier

By simply reducing your portions you can save a lot of money. There’s a greater tendency to serve larger portions on big plates because of the empty space. Once you get used to the portion size of the smaller plate, you’ll know how much you need to buy at the grocery store. Expert dieticians recommend that a serving of meat should be 2 to 3 ounces. A serving of fruit or vegetables should be the size of your fist, and a serving of rice should be the size of a cupcake wrapper. Remember this when purchasing your groceries. Stick to foods that fill you up but aren’t loaded with sugars such as sodas and bakery items. Fruits and vegetables are full of fibre and water, which keeps you full, but won’t add many calories. Beans are another great option because of their fibre content.

Buy produce in season

Buying produce out of season is much more expensive because of the greater cost and effort in production. Ascertain what produce is in season and buy accordingly.

Eat more fruits and vegetables You can shrink your grocery budget by up to 25% and trim your waistline at the same time by adding more fruits and vegetables to your snacks and meals. Research from the American Dietetic Association shows that every member of your family can benefit from this and lose weight. Your budget can also breathe easier as you introduce more fresh produce to your diet.

Eat less meat

Going vegetarian a couple of times a week could save you a lot of money a year. Meat usually accounts for a significant portion of people’s grocery bills, so cutting down even a little would make a big difference over time. If you are a vegetarian, it makes it easier to come up with creative meat-free meals. However, since the rest of the family is not vegetarian, you have to make an effort to cook meatless meals that even your meat-loving husband and kids would enjoy.

Cut down eating out

If you can cut down on eating out, you can slash your food bill significantly. It has now become a routine for many urban families to just order food, whether takeout or delivery; or by going to a restaurant. If rice and curry is ‘messy,’ there are meals that are incredibly easy to make. Pasta does not take much time to prepare. You can make wraps and burritos by wrapping a few things in a tortilla, and sandwiches by putting some things between slices of bread. Most of those things require maybe half an hour’s effort at home. They’re also far more cheaper than eating out.

Develop a smart leftover strategy

When you’re done with dinner and have some leftovers, instead of just tossing the pan into the fridge, repackage it immediately into meal-sized containers.

We keep a healthy supply of reusable meal-sized plastic containers in the cupboard and package a meal in each one. The next day, all you have to do is open the fridge and grab a container and you’re ready for lunch. You can grab it in the morning before you leave or, if you’re at home, pull it straight from the fridge and directly microwave it.

Collect recipes

Part of what makes all of this work is simply having a few recipes, may be in your note book. A collection of recipes that you like and want to make in the future so that you have something to turn to when making meal plans for the week, plus they could easily be modified to meet your needs and tastes.

Experiment for a couple of months and check how it works for you.