Shopping for better buys

Caron from the Waikato has responded to our recent column about low-cost school holiday activities with some great ideas of her own. “I was in charge of my grandkids recently and was determined that they would not be glued to their devices the whole time. I went to my local Spotlight store and bought some natural Hessian which I cut into squares and zigzagged to prevent it fraying too much. I cut an ice cream container lid up to make ‘bobbins’ and wound on a dozen colours of remnant wool. I found some large blunt ended needles for stitching and taught running stitch and chain stitch to make a wall hanging. Then I hammered 4 small nails into the top of a cotton reel for French knitting – complete with a fine crochet hook to knit up the loops. Finally, I found some spare knitting needles and cast on enough stitches for a ‘Peggy square’. The boys really took to the French knitting, and tried regular knitting once I told them sailors learned to knit – and Colin Meads! One child used a piece of the Hessian to draw on with felt pens and made a ‘canvas’ wall hanging for her mother. These handcraft activities were very successful!”

Caron also has a tip for frugal shopping. “I discovered that I can make good savings by buying milk and yoghurt at my local ‘ethnic’ store: they have the best milk prices in my neighbourhood – if you buy 2. The same with 1-litre tubs of very good plain yoghurt. Next, I discovered they have frozen chicken frames – a pack of 2 for $2. In winter I make stock overnight in the slow cooker adding some black peppercorns and fresh herbs from the garden such as bay leaves, sage and parsley. I pour it through a colander to strain, then pick off any usable chicken meat to use as a base for soups. Then I spotted one-kilo packs of good quality dates for an excellent price. They were not stoned, but when used for date scones and sticky date pudding it takes only a minute to remove the stones when I halve or chop them. I’m exploring other products in the store and find familiar ones that are much cheaper than the supermarket – including bulk baking ingredients.”

Here are some more better-buying tips.

If you don’t like supermarket prices, shop elsewhere. Try your local butcher, deli, greengrocer, bakery, or farmers market. They want your business too and will often have great deals.

Buy fresh fruit and veges directly from local vege growers and orchards, especially road-side stalls and ‘pick-your-own’ places.

Rotate your supermarket excursions around two or more supermarkets so you can see which are offering the best deals.

Don’t shop when you are hungry. Those rotisserie chickens are just too tempting, and the cream donuts… irresistible!

If you pay cash, rather than plastic for groceries, you will not only see the money going out of your bank account but you will ‘feel’ it slipping through your fingers like goo! Some oily raggers use their credit card to buy everything – even groceries – to gain reward points. While this may suit some, we doubt most will have the discipline required to avoid the occasional missed payment, which would then erase the relatively small benefits gained from loyalty schemes.

Think of your grocery bill in terms of hours of work. If your after-tax pay is say $20 an hour (in the hand) then a $160 grocery shop is eight hours of hard and gruelling labour!

Always check out the specials before you shop.

If you do buy fruit and vegetables then only buy in-season. Better still, grow your own.

Allow plenty of time to compare prices and find those hidden specials. This may involve complex calculations like dividing the price by the weight of the contents, so make sure you take your calculator!

Don’t buy highly processed food – like “microwave meals in a minute”. You are simply paying for food preparation that you could do yourself.

If necessary, attend SA (Shopaholics Anonymous) – and if you can’t find SA in the phone book it may be listed under the less imaginative name of ‘Budgeting Advisory Service’!