i love food

Another fortnight, another $40 over my grocery budget. I am trying to stick to a grocery budget of $100 a fortnight, something I think is eminently achievable given there’s just me and some plants in my house. I see lots of people in the blogosphere spend that in a month for a family the size of a circus troupe.

I have been under the grocery budget exactly twice this year, and right on it (okay, 90c over it) once. The other seven fortnights I have been over budget by anything between $20 and $160. (What the hell did I buy that I had a grocery bill of $260 in a fortnight? I’m hoping that was a restocking on Who Gives A Crap and dry goods on sale but I wouldn’t bet on it.)

I noticed this overspending trend last year and I tried harder with the basics:

  • menu plan
  • make a grocery list
  • actually take the grocery list to the markets/supermarket, and

I also started tracking my “unnecessary” grocery spending. You know what I’m talking about, the icecream that somehow falls into the basket, the packet of mince because you forgot to take something out of the freezer, the olives from the deli counter when you haven’t planned a few “grazing” dinners.

Looking back, I have spent about $50 a fortnight more often than not, on things not on the list. This makes it really easy to work out where my money went – impulse buys. And they’re hard to avoid, hard at the supermarket and definitely hard at the farmers markets. If you can resist a punnet of freshly picked in season strawberries, or a nice bunch of bananas or bok choy or icecream, you are definitely better at this shopping lark than me.

So guess what this means? That’s right, a new challenge for me to start. From June 2018 to May 2019 I will be only spending $100 a fortnight on groceries. Once that money is gone, it’s gone and I have to eat out of the fridge, freezer and pantry. I quick glance in each one of those tells me I am unlikely to starve.

The grocery adventure rules are pretty simple (and simply sticking to what I already told myself I would do at the start of the year, and last year, and the year before):

  • menu plan
  • stick to the list
  • eat from the stores already in my home
  • no food waste
  • reduce use of single use packaging (take my own mesh bags, don’t buy the corn if it’s already been cut up, put on a styrofoam tray and covered in plastic)
  • shop more from the farmers markets for in season food, direct from regional producers.

Those last few are more ethical choices, I know. Yesterday I threw out an unopened packet of wonton wrappers that were hiding in the back of the fridge. Had I put some thought in, those could have been put into the freezer, and thus been useable now instead of a whole lot of wasted energy on its way to landfill.

As for the plastic packaging, my state (Queensland) is introducing a plastic shopping bag ban from July 1, 2018. There are some exceptions to this so I’m adding my own ban to include not using the small plastic bags in the fruit & veg section (I have some reusable mesh bags instead), and I am sure those individually wrapped pieces of fruit or veg will still be on the shelves. I, however, have the choice about whether or not to buy them, so I won’t.

As for shopping more from the farmers markets, this will ensure I am buying in season fruit and veg, hopefully when it’s both cheapest and contains the most nutrients. This does mean extra effort, of course. Who wants to be up and out the door before 7.30 on a Saturday morning?

Especially when you know lots of other people will be as well, jostling for car parks and then walking the markets keeping an eye out for those who obviously grow what they’re selling or are part of a group combining their produce versus those who have bought through the central markets and are re-selling. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. The freshness on those larger stands of diverse offerings means the operators are clearly putting their effort into sourcing quality.

I’d like my shopping dollars to support people who specialise and have their hands in the soil and their eye on the health of their livestock. Especially if it’s heirloom varieties and breeds or the markets are their way of reducing food waste because it’s a place they can sell their still perfectly-good-to-eat seconds that don’t meet the cosmetic standards of our major supermarkets.

So that’s it. Time to be a grown up, stick to my budget and live my food ethics.

Any tips?

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