Tag: money

Cutting Costs: Project Groceries

projectgroceries
Recently a question was asked in a Facebook group I’m in – “how much do your weekly groceries cost and for how many people?” I was absolutely shocked when I was the only person who feeds 3 people (2 adults and a toddler) for less than $100 – usually closer to the $50-$75 mark where the norm seemed to be $150+ for the same sized family!

That conversation lead to many people asking how I manage to do it and so I am going to share my methods here.

Grow food where possible.

Now before you cry out that you can’t possibly grow anything because your yard is too small etc – I grow a decent amount of food on my balcony as I live in units. It’s nowhere near enough to sustain us but it certainly helps reduce costs and encourages us to eat healthier. We grow spring onions, silver beet, tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts such as alfalfa. Herbs are worth growing if you use them frequently as they can be quite expensive.

Keep a (digital) price book

There are apps that can fulfill this need or you could even use something like google sheets to create your own. Creating a price book can be time intensive but the payoff is massively worth it. They give you a starting point for what a good price is for each item you frequently buy and allow you to compare which retailer offers the best price if you have multiple choices. For example I live close to a Coles and Woolworths with an Aldi reasonably close by. I reject the idea that Aldi is cheapest because at least for where I live each retailer offers various things at the cheapest price. I never knew any of that before I started a price book.

Buy discounted vouchers

I almost always get at least 5% off everything I buy at Woolworths because I buy e-gift cards online. Coles doesn’t sell them as regularly at a discount unfortunately but you can sometimes buy only1 visa gift cards at cost value (ie $100 for $100) from Woolworths with your discounted wish card, that can then be used to shop at Coles – or anywhere that accepts visa – to allow you to shop at a discount. The discounted wish e-gift cards can also be used at big w and Woolworths Caltex stores.

Buy in bulk

Most of the time (although not always) buying in bulk is cheaper. If you can buy something in bulk and store it so it won’t be wasted (weevils, food spoilage etc) it’s a good way of reducing costs as well as your environmental impact due to reducing packaging. Always compare unit cost (price per kg or L) to make sure it is actually cheaper to buy in bulk – the price book is great for that.

Buy on special

Similar to buying in bulk, if you know you will use it and it won’t go to waste if you see it on special – buy up. This may temporarily make your grocery bill cost more but in the long run allows you too save. I buy milk frequently as it nears it’s expiry and gets marked down and freeze some (don’t go overboard though as it doesn’t freeze well for too long!) Similarly I often buy meat on a mark-down special and then freeze for later, allowing for cheap meat meals.

Utilise the store loyalty program

If a loyalty card takes $10 off my shop I still include that as an income/expense in my budget so technically isn’t reducing my grocery expenditure as far as my budget is concerned – but it is still reducing the amount I have to pay – and that is a definite win in my eyes.

Reduce wastage

The statistics for how much of our groceries goes into landfill is quite honestly terrifying. This is probably the single largest thing you can do to reduce your grocery expenditure. Shop your pantry and make a meal plan before you go shopping. That’s not too at you cant make wiggle room for awesome specials, but shopping your pantry first will remind you what you already have, it’ll allow you to rethink what you need in order to use up what’s in your pantry first. Learn more about the food we eat is another way to reduce wastage too as you can learn to make meals with what you probably used to throw out. I regularly make bone broth with scraps of bone and veggies, I salvage good bits of going bad fruit and freeze for easy smoothie bags, I freeze diced onion an mushrooms before they go bad for later use in cooking (note freezing can change the texture of food – some foods freeze better than others which can influence how they can be used post freezing)

Make from scratch or create your own bespoke version of processed foods

As I have mentioned previously in Cutting Costs: Project Cereal, you can use a combination of different cereals to make your own cheaper (and tastier) cereal. I also frequently make my own tastier, healthier and cheaper pasta sauce from scratch when I buy bulk quantities of cheap tomatoes. When buying processed foods you are frequently paying for convenience so expect there to be more time required to reduce the grocery spend this way.
There are also other methods you can use to reduce the overspend that are hugely well covered, things like avoid the centre aisles, don’t shop whilst hungry and only carry cash, but I don’t find those tips anywhere near as handy at reducing my overall grocery bill. I hope you have found some worth in these suggestions and would love to hear if you have anymore suggestions 🙂   -FIM

Don’t forget to check out other articles in the ‘Cutting Costs’ series!
Cutting Costs: Project Cereal
Cutting Costs: Project Water

Cutting Costs: Project Water

cutcostswaterWater bills are tricky, so much of the costs relates to the infrastructure more so than the actual usage costs, making it often a tricky place to save money. That said there are other reasons for reducing water usage other than saving money. Maybe you’re using tank water as your supply and thus rely on a finite amount of water, or maybe you prefer to use an environmentally sustainable amount of water.

As with all Cutting Cost tips you may find that not all of the tips offered suit you or your lifestyle but I’d rather be thorough with listing tips in the greatest hope of helping the most amount of people. Adopting even one of these tips will hopefully help you reduce some of your expenses.

  1. Collect water while waiting for hot water to come through the system. Once the habit is formed its easy to remember to have a container ready for collecting the cold water while awaiting the hot water to come through before having a shower or doing the dishes. Most times I collect around 2L of water which provides plenty of drinking water for myself throughout the day. I don’t tend to drink the water collected while waiting for the shower to warm up because our older taps imbue a coppery taste. Instead I use that water for filling up the cistern after flushing the toilet.
    Saving = 2-4L/day 14-28L/Week 728-1456L/year
    Potential yearly saving=$2.55-$5.11
  2. Collect and redistribute grey water. This tip can be dependent on your location as some local councils don’t allow grey water usage. Grey water is considered water that has previously been used, it’s things like your bath or  laundry water which can be reused particularly in the garden. Utilising grey water does need to be done with caution as the detergents used may be detrimental to the environment. Grey water is great for helping keep your lawn green but caution is recommended if you decide to use it for watering fruit or vegetable crops.
    Saving = 70-980L/week 3,640-50,000L/year (calculated from efficient model with once a week runtime up to a less water efficient model and daily washing)
    Potential yearly saving= $12.77-$175.50
  3. Reduce your shower time. If reducing the amount of time spent in the shower isn’t feasible, can you turn the taps off while soaping up? We have a shower inside a bathtub allowing me to collect the water for Little Mister to have his bath at the same time I shower.
    Saving= 7L/minute 49-98L(or even more time reduced)/week 2,548-5,096
    Potential yearly savings=$8.94-$17.88 per person (5 person household could be up to $89 saving or more per year)
  4. Turn that tap off when you don’t need it. This is the basic advice – you don’t need the tap running while you are brushing your teeth for example.
    Savings= 5L/minute 140-280L/week 7,280-14,560L/year
    Potential yearly savings=$25.55-$51.10
  5. Check for leaks. Check your water meter and jot down the number it is at. Then use no water for an hour and recheck the number – if it has increased you likely have a leak somewhere. Sometimes this isn’t a feasible means of checking, for example if you are reliant on tank water or live in older units with a shared meter.
    Savings=100-500L/week 5,200-26,000L/year
    Potential yearly savings=$18.25-$91.26
  6. Install water efficient appliances. Washing machines, shower heads, toilet cisterns and taps all have more water efficient counterparts. Whilst the initial outlay may seem counterproductive, they will make their cost back over time due to the difference in savings from water (and possibly electricity) bills.
    Savings=2L/min 14-28L/week 728-1,456L/year or more if multiple appliances are installed. Added benefit – if you are renting out a property water efficient appliances are required in order to pass the water usage charges onto the tenants.
    Potential yearly savings $2.55-$5.11
  7. Don’t buy bottled water. Not quite a water bill slashing idea as it will add extra usage to your bill – however comparatively a 600ml bottle of water usually costs between $1-$3 depending on where you buy it. 600mls of water will set you back approximately 0.002c and also will help you reduce your footprint on the environment.
    Savings = environment and loads of $$
    Potential yearly savings = $1,092-$3,276 based on 3 bottles (1.8L) per day.

So while individually it is seemingly a minor reduction in the bills – from a worst case scenario it’s possible to save up to $365 off your yearly total – or almost $100 per quarter – and up to $3,500 if you stop buying disposable water bottles and instead invest in a decent reusable water bottle. Not to mention the benefits the above tips would all have on the environment long term.

Savings $$ calculations are based on the value of a kilolitre being $3.51 as per my latest water bill (in Brisbane in 2017) on the lowest tier. Averages of how many litres appliances use found through internet searches.

Do you have any water reduction tips?
Have you had success dropping the price of a water bill?


Don’t forget to check out other articles in the ‘Cutting Costs’ series!

Cutting Costs: Project Cereal

cereal2.jpg

I’m picky when it comes to cereal. Ever since I was a kid, light ‘n’ tasty was the only cereal I never got bored of ⅓ of the way into the box (sorry mum!). I dislike porridge and always have, weet-bix gets soggy and gross… but combination cereals, like just right and sultana bran are my kinds of cereal! However… they’re expensive and more often than not the box image expectation and the reality of what’s inside the box leave me totally disappointed.

Solution: make your own cereal!

Now I’m not saying this is the cheapest way to eat cereal, but I find it is the cheapest way to eat this type of cereal, and you can chop and change it entirely to your tastes.

 

I don’t have a set recipe and each batch I make is slightly different but the basic elements I try to include are

  • Corn flakes
  • Rolled oats
  • Weet bix
  • Rice bubbles
  • A combination cereal like light n tasty
    Optional extras:
  • Dessicated coconut
  • Sultanas

Honestly you can use any cereal you have available to you but it’s the quantity of what that averages the cost out for you. For example I use the cheapest of everything available to me (yes, even the cardboard tasting home brand weet-bix!)

Instead of paying around $7/kg for combination cereal, if I combine the following in complete packet sizes-

Combination cereal 770g = $5
Corn flakes 550g =$2
Rice pops 400g =$2
Rolled oats 750g=$1.19
Weet bix 1kg=$2.86

It comes out at
=3.475kg/$13.05=$3.75/kg
Which is by itself a $2.70 saving per kg however, that’s not the quantities I use.

The rough quantities I use are closer to as follows-

10% combination cereal =(.64c)
30% weet bix (crushed)=(.85c)
20% corn flakes=(.72c)
10% rice bubbles=($.50)
30% rolled oats=(.48c)

Or $3.19/kg a saving of more than 50% of store bought combination cereal!

Of course adding sultanas and dessicated coconut bumps the unit cost up a tad, but still it is much cheaper than a store bought version and if times are lean I can tailor the cereal to be cheaper again by increasing more of the cheaper ingredients and less of the expensive ones. The price can also be reduced by buying the cereals in bulk quantities while they are on special, or sometimes stores have multi-buys (such as 3 for $5 instead of $2 each for homebrand corn flakes and rice pops).

For the actual making part I just layer them all into a airtight container and then – to my sons amusement – shake it all up, and serve.

Have you tried making your own cereal?
What ingredients do you include?

PSA: Huggies Little Swimmers Freebie

sample-banner-2_normal

Free Sample (Up to 2 per year) For Huggies Little Swimmer pants.

https://www.huggies.com.au/samples/little-swimmers

I have been told by a swimming instructor that these pants don’t actually contain wee, but just catch poo from escaping. This means if your little one doesn’t poo onto these swimpants you could in theory dry the swimpants in the sun until they look worse for wear. So if you only have the occasional swimmer this could make a packet of these pants last much longer.

The Importance of Setting Goals

goals

OK, so you’ve got some debt, or you are struggling to save money, maybe for a nice outfit or to break into the housing market. I cannot stress enough the importance of setting goals whatever your financial situation. Goals give you drive and motivation to do, or abstain  from certain habits.

For example as I’ve previously mentioned, we had a somewhat insane sounding goal of paying off the remaining $88,000 of a mortgage in one year, a goal that was completed 5 months early! Yes this had extraordinary circumstances as there was a rather large bonus we were banking our goal on, but having the goal helped massively. I know this because after that mortgage was paid off the amazing payments didn’t automatically cross onto the remaining mortgage. I didn’t instantly set a SMART goal for the remaining mortgage during our celebratory stage and the initial few months following paying off the first mortgage reflect that.

Once I set a SMART goal for our remaining mortgage suddenly I could see results as the mortgage began decreasing rapidly. So what is a SMART goal? “Paying down the mortgage” is not a SMART goal unfortunately. “Getting the mortgage down to $100K by June 30 2017” is a SMART goal. Let me explain. SMART is an acronym that goes as follows

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Timed

Looking at my latest goal it fits into each of those 5 categories. It’s a specific goal rather than the vague goal of paying off the mortgage. It’s a measurable goal by using money as the measurable unit. Its attainable, but not too easy, something that I still have to work at to achieve. It’s relevant because paying the mortgage down will release some financial stress, basically the “why” factor of the goal. And finally its timed to have an end date.

In order for a goal to remain a SMART goal you cannot simply create a goal and then walk away from it and expect a brilliant result. Part of it being measurable requires actually measuring it. The frequency of measurement is up to you but for the time being I measure our goal twice monthly. Once on the first of the month, another on the 15th of the month. Others may choose to measure weekly, or even monthly. I suggest monthly as a minimum frequency to look at your finances as a goal can get off track a lot in more than a month.

To me an ideal SMART goal is an A4 (or larger) piece of paper and consists of the following.

  •  The goal statement
  • A measurable chart (almost always a line graph)
  • A list of things I intend to do to reach the goal.
  • Optional: a specified reward once the goal is reached.

Spend a bit of time looking at your income, allow a portion to be set aside for living costs and bills and then from that get a rough idea of what your attainable goal might be and what needs to be done to make it possible, such as reducing your grocery bills or making extra side income. Then be sure to place your goal somewhere you can see and reflect on it frequently.

Have you created your SMART finance goals yet? 

Frugal Fortunes & Fumbles: FFF#5

fortunefumble

Each week I like to look back at the week that was and reflect on whether or not I am still undertaking steps to get me to my financial goals. I am not superhuman and as such I have my fumbles as well as my fortunes and I think it’s important to learn from my mistakes as well as my successes.

 

Fortunes

  • To keep my grocery budget below $50 each week I have to shop for bargains. I scored some great bargains on meat this week with 2kgs of beef steaks at 20% off. I also found a 2kg whole chicken at 20% off.
  • Our local rental DVD kiosk has a free rental code until November for each initial rental (per credit/debit card). My husband and I got to enjoy Eddie the Eagle by simply being aware of something so many people just walk straight past!
  • A while ago I contacted an acquaintance for advice on children’s bike seats. He had been cleaning out his garage and has GIVEN me his children’s old bike seat! I’m so happy as this will help get myself and Little Mister out and about so much more!
  • I’ve discovered a website that allows me to send a few free texts a day and it even appears as if it’s coming from my number – no catches (I’ll post about this later)!
  • With 3 weeks of the month behind us, we are still only at 62% of our grocery budget!

Fumbles

  • Unfortunately had a fail in one of the grocery shops, selected a delicious looking capsicum which cost $2, a few days after purchasing it despite it still looking in perfect condition the inside was filled with mould 😥 It was a little too long between shopping to justify returning it even tough I’m positive it was like that when I bought it.