Skinflint Sunday: How I fed the 5(or 9, with the pets) of us for $87.19 a week in April.

This was written for the thread  on the Simple Savings website called the ‘$100 Club’ where people are trying to get their shopping totals down. It took me ages to write so I thought I’d pop it on here. My totals include EVERYTHING…. not just food as some people are doing. I hope that this will be able to help other people who have a yen to save some dollars…


Hi everyone! Just saw this. People have asked for how I got our weekly total in April down to $87.19 for a family of 5 adults. (Teenage boys count as adults when it comes to food consumption… trust me!) The key is organisation and a price book.

The January figure of $224 /week was school holidays, plus me being a bit distracted. We had health problems with one of the boys in the latter part of last year and I’d let the shopping slide down the list of priorities a bit. (Actually, I think the total would have been higher…. I was fortunate enough to get the spreadsheet from here and I went through my mastercard to get the shopping totals. But of course the take away meals I was getting during that month were cash.)

The grocery tracking spreadsheet arrived in late Feb. I nearly had a coronary when I saw how much money I was letting bleed out of this house. My son’s dramas seem to have abated so there was nothing worrying on that front to pull my focus away from the finances. I swung into Simple Savings mode again.

Another important motivator was that I also set the goal to pay off my mortgage in 5 years. I’m a single parent and so we rely on my wage, with my 3 younger boys ‘earning’ a total of $190 child support each month. (Don’t get me started on small business owners with cash businesses who hide their money!!!) So any $$$ saved on food goes straight off the mortgage.

First thing was a price book. I went to Aldi and documented the prices on the things we buy. (Basically, I bought one of everything, then totted it all up from the docket when I got home.)

Then I went to the Ritchies supermarket that I use as my main ‘top-up’ after Aldi and walked around with my book writing down the prices there. Then came the two months (Feb/March) of scanning the flyers.

Anything that Coles, Safeway and Ritchies had that was on special that we use, I swooped in and bought multiples. I keep my price book in my handbag so I can check on any price any time when I’m out. It’s a nice feeling to go into the ‘expensive’ supermarkets and waltz out with just their specials in the trolley!

*** One thing I found that I really didn’t expect:

Coles, with their ultra-cheapest no name brand, are an exact match for Aldi. Not the “I love Coles” or whatever it’s called, but the drop dead no name packaged stuff. Handy to know when I’m popping in to Coles to buy their no name cocoa and I also need a couple of Aldi things. Saves me a trip! ****

I also menu planned. I had quite a few meat packages in my freezer (I have a big freezer) so I set myself the challenge of using them up. Every Saturday or Sunday I get out the $21 Challenge book, my recipe books and my list of staples in the pantry and freezer, and plan what I’m going to make. Sometimes things change, but it’s amazing the difference it makes when I can come home from work and the meat is already defrosted/the crockpot is going/the recipe is out on the bench so I don’t have to do the hideous ‘stand in front of the fridge and look inside wondering what I’m going to cook tonight’ thing. We’ve had takeaway twice in the last 3 months.

My totals went from $228 in January, to $167 and $162 in Feb and March (when I was economising but also stockpiling) down to the low in April of $87.19.

These totals include EVERYTHING bought at the supermarket and any other food items bought anywhere else. I don’t have time to go through my dockets and separate the food from the non-food and I figure that we need everything I buy to run the house anyway, so to just count food is a bit of a cheat. (No offense, but that’s how I work it for our house.)

The low total in April was a combination of the big supermarkets not having many specials that were worth me going out and buying, me doing an Aldi big shop at the beginning of the month and then (the big one) having a very busy month both at work and with the boys which meant that shopping was a bigger pain than it was worth, so we ate from the cupboards.

Realistically, I expect that the totals in Feb and March are closer to the mark for us. I always spend around $30 or more on specials in staples that we use over the next weeks/months. We haven’t bought all that much meat since January (just what has been on special) and I ALWAYS stockpile. Always have, always will! So my usual totals won’t reflect the actual cost of feeding/cleaning/whatever else each month. Probably around $130 – $150 a week because of the bulk buys.

But every now and then I’ll have a cheap month like April, which pretty much reflects the ‘true’ cost of feeding my 4 adult-sized teenage boys, the 2 dogs and the 2 cats and myself. It was a nice feeling to watch the total NOT going up.

(I waited till May 1 to do an Aldi shop, just to keep the total down for April! It was $220, which is a small shop there for us. So already I’m about $55/week in May. *sigh* It was fun while it lasted!)

To summarise:

1. Have a financial goal that REALLY pushes your buttons, so that every cent you save feels like an achievement.

2. Use a price book. It’s a bore to set up, but every time you see that the ‘bargain’ you were going to buy ISN’T in fact a bargain and will rip you off… it feels so sweet!

3. Menu plan. Keep an eye on your ‘use-by’ dates and use them by!

4. Do a monthly/fortnightly ‘big shop’ at your cheapest supermarket and then STAY OUT of the shops unless you’re beating them at their own game and ONLY buying their specials. Laugh maniacally as you leave the shop.

5. Grow green leafy veggies. Easy to grow and you can include them chopped in many meals, which gives the kids their nutrition and keeps me from buying food. If you have a glut, chop them up, put in little bags and throw them in the freezer. You feel so fantastic when you use them over the next months… so organic and frugal!

Above all…. I have fun with it and make it into a challenge. When there’s chocolate for sale in the staffroom, every day I resist I go home and transfer $1.20 or whatever it is to the mortgage. (It’s getting so I look forward to when people bring them in!) I haven’t added on my total on the grocery spreadsheet and I’ve reduced the principal. It gives a warm glow….

And that’s what will keep us all going.

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12 Responses to Skinflint Sunday: How I fed the 5(or 9, with the pets) of us for $87.19 a week in April.

  1. saffronlie says:

    I am SO impressed! This is where it sucks to be single, as I spend a bit less than that per week on food for one. Although I guess what I buy does tend to last longer because it’s just me. But I can still learn from your great tips!

  2. Marylee says:

    Congratulations! That’s quite an achievement. Interesting reading which stores you have. Aldi is the only one of them in our city, but I’ve shopped at Safeway in other areas.

    Our grocery bill goes WAY down during Farmer’s Market season.

  3. persiflage says:

    Well done. You are applying so much discipline and intelligence to this, and it is obviously worth it.
    You put me to the blush, but inspire me to improve.

  4. amandab says:

    I am sooo going to get that price book started on my next shop! Although I do one major non-fresh food once a month, we tend to do a few top ups (mostly kitty litter I seem to think!).

    We do go to the farmer’s market fortnightly, and spend about $130 for two weeks of meat, veg, eggs, juice and my daughter’s blue cheese. It does last us at least the fortnight, if not longer.

    As an ex-Ritchies chick (I worked at 4 different stores, starting when I was at uni, then making it to deli manager and then getting the hell out!) I always found them very expensive to shop at and always spent more there than at the major stores. Even now, when I have one local to me again, I refuse to shop there if I can help it!

  5. river says:

    “stay out of the shops..”
    Love to. Unfortunately, I work in one, (Coles), and the manager gets a bit p****d off when people can’t do their rostered hours. Sigh.
    On the other hand, or maybe on the bright side, I almost always walk out empty-handed after my shift. Yay me.

  6. libby says:

    i have an aldi a coles and a safeways in my ‘local’ plaza… I like aldi but you cant get everything there. coles is nearer than safeways so i go there for the other stuff. im going to do one of those books though as the prices do fluctuate too much. I love markdowns (im that mad woman who runs around the shop yelling bargin with my hands in the air like the robot from lost in space!) lol. I have been writing down all my reciepts for the past year and have noticed my spending is getting bigger, im sure im not buying more 😦

  7. Well done. So wish we had Aldi in NZ – keep on hearing rumours it’s coming but nothing so far.

  8. rhu says:

    Well done, and what an inspiration. I love the Aldi specials, although I don’t but their meat or veg. But for pantry goods, they save me a packet. (ha ha – packet… get it? Errr… never mind).

  9. Penny says:

    Nice!! You are one focused momma, and it shows in the tips you’re giving. I love that you transfer $$ into your mortgage instead of purchasing those little things that bring pleasure for the moment. Very inspiring!

  10. Courtney says:

    That is AMAZING that your grocery bills are so small. Congratulations!! I’m single and I spend about that much on just me – yipes!

    What’s a price book, by the way? I wish we had Simple Savings here. . .

  11. fiveandtwo says:

    Ohhh Yeahhh. I’m with you on this stuff. Learnt to do it about 20 years ago when I wanted to quit the paid job and do the not-paid-work option (fortunate to have supportive spouse with small income from paid work).
    – Yes, a REASON for getting frugal.
    – Yes, a menu plan. How else will you know what food to buy?
    – Yes, know the prices. If it’s a great special (for me it’s tinned diced tomatoes, bottles of passata and tinned chickpeas) buy up big. The Price Book means you’ll know if it’s a good deal or not.
    – Yes, have as big a vegie garden as you can manage. Greens, herbs like parsley,basil in summer and coriander. Lettuces, asian greens to pick and come again – mibuna, mizuna. Makes the cooking taste so much better.
    _ Buy bulk. This works for me with a family of seven. Rice, Pasta (here it’s spirali, penne and spaghetti) and lesser amounts of dried pulses. Usually have several months worth stored in those white food safe plastic buckets. Not my favourite kitchen view…yeah, well. It’s a big saving on food for my household.
    Go well in your frugal endeavours.

  12. moonspun says:

    Ooh…very practical, smart and inspiring…thanks for sharing!

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