As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I don’t tend to shop to a meal plan. I might make a meal plan and go shopping, but come back with an entirely different shopping trolley of stuff! That’s because:
a) the specials in the catalogues put out by the supermarkets only contain a selection of the offers that week, so it’s hard to know what is on special until you get there; plus
b)you might get lucky with a few marked down items that are close to expiry. It is embarrassing just how excited I get over a tray of meat with 80% off! And then you might want to eat one or two of those items before they expire and so you don’t need to freeze them; and also..
c) I like to shop in the second half of the week because the promotional bonus point type offers run by Flybuys & Coles usually run from Thursday to Sunday. However, I get an organic veggie box delivery on a Monday (I don’t get to choose the day). The veggie box is seasonal and sometimes I get inspired to rethink our menu because the guys at The Organic Scarecrow have thrown in something unusual. One week I received a whole red cabbage, something I would never think to buy, and as a result learned to make a beautiful polish cabbage and sausage casserole and also a braised cabbage side dish to have with a pie. I’ll write a separate post about why I buy organic.
So this means that I concentrate on stocking up groceries when they are low priced, and then make a meal plan based on what I’ve just bought plus what I’ve already got in the pantry and freezer. Then I might adjust that if I have some unexpected veggies arrive on the Monday! I think it’s still important to make a meal plan so that all the fresh food gets used up and nothing is wasted.
It’s a bit like making a household budget for the coming month using the income you earned last month, a really useful tactic when your income is variable. Grocery specials are also variable, so if you want to avoid paying high prices for your food, you need to be able to make a meal with what you’ve got if specials and markdowns are thin on the ground one week. If you want a worked example of the last month’s income/ this month’s budget approach, this is something that Ashley at Blogging Away Debt is working to right now.
I went shopping at Coles this week, and the specials that appealed to me were pretty thin on the ground to be honest. I got two half price loaves of bread (Abbots Village Bakery – the light rye and the country grain are pretty tasty), one is for the freezer, and four frozen Dr Oetker pizzas at $5 a pop, which will keep us going until they are next on special. These and the McCain’s thin base ones are the only frozen pizzas we go for. The cheaper ones in Aldi and the When In Rome range we find barely edible! On special I also got some Oat Milk (I can’t drink a lot of cow milk so use 1 litre per week from the non-soy, non-dairy alternatives), and a big box of cereal bars and canned tuna. I found a meatloaf and some organic chicken thighs both with 60% off. The thighs have gone in the freezer and the meatloaf we will have tonight. To be honest, I’ve never eaten meatloaf in my life, but at $2.30 for this massive chunk of…. something, I was curious!
My targeted offer this week from Coles & Flybuys was to spend $80 and get 500 bonus points (equivalent to $2.50 off the total). I hit $82.38 but $6.30 was for non-grocery items. Add on $40 for the veggie box, take off the non-grocery items and the bonus point saving and that makes $113.58. We are also out of beer, so we probably spend about $130 this week all up.
Here’s the menu plan as it stands at the moment:
Breakfasts all week – a choice of oats, weetbix, weetbix bites, buckwheat flakes, muesli, eggs on toast.
Friday: Lunch – avo on bread; Dinner – meatloaf* with salad
Saturday: L – leftover meatloaf; D – we’ll eat out
Sunday: L – egg salad; D – moroccan-y root vegetable stew with chickpeas and a side of salad greens
Monday: L – left over stew; D – spicy sausage and lentil casserole
Tuesday: L – left over casserole; D – shepherd’s pie with sweet potato topping
Wednesday: L – left over shepherd’s pie; D – ‘sort of risotto’ with salmon, ricotta and spring vegetables
Thursday: L – lunch out with friends; D – frozen pizza or something else easy
Most weeks we’ll have one or two lunches out and one dinner out, so if you want to compare our spend to yours, factor it up or down according to how often you eat out.
Happy grocery hacking!
UPDATE: Meatloaf – not bad at all actually.