18 February 2015

Groceries I don't Buy

(which is why we can live on $320 a month)

I buy lots of things.  I buy butter and olive oil and spelt flour and free range eggs and full cream milk and fresh meat and poultry. I buy sugar and pure maple syrup and vanilla beans and almonds. I buy cheese and cream and  rice. I buy a lot of other things too, too many to list here.

I buy ingredients.

What I don't buy is pre-packaged salads. If we want salad I use the lettuce, cucumber, capsicums, onions, tomatoes and herbs we grow in the backyard.

I don't buy cakes and biscuits. If we want cakes and biscuits I bake them, from scratch. I weigh out the ingredients according to the recipe I'm following and turn them into tasty, healthy treats for my family.

I don't buy jam. I can make four jars of raspberry jam for the price of one bought jar. Any my jam tastes so much better and looks prettier on the shelf with its homemade label.

I don't buy instant puddings. I have a recipe for a bulk mix for instant pudding that is too die for, takes about three minutes to whip up and costs around a third of the price of a packet instant pudding.

I don't buy pizzas or pizza bases. Penny Pinching Pizzas are the best and I can make three large pizzas for the price of one bought pizza.

I don't buy pizza sauce either. I use the tomatoes from the garden, along with the garlic and herbs we grow to make a thick, tasty pizza sauce that costs around 40 cents a 500g jar.

I don't buy cordial. Instead I use either free or very cheap fruit to make a delicious cordial without artificial colours or preservatives.  If we want soft drink I make lemonade and ginger beer or rhubarb champagne. They cost around 45 cents a bottle to make.

I don't buy potato or corn chips. Instead I MOO pita crisps. Sometimes they are plain, sometimes they are seasoned with herbs or garlic.  I can make 500g of pita chips for 89 cents and again, I know exactly what's in them, nothing artificial.

I don't buy cake mixes. It is faster and so much cheaper to find a recipe and make your cakes, biscuits, muffins and scones "from scratch".

I don’t buy English muffins or crumpets or tortillas. They are all so easy to make from scratch and taste so much better when they are really fresh. They're cheaper too!

I never buy yoghurt. It's too easy to MOO. And nicer. And less than half the price - I can make a kilo of yoghurt for $1.20.

I never buy meat that costs more than $7 a kilo. I wait until it is on sale and then I stock up. My average per kilo price for meat for my family of five is $5.

I never buy frozen chips or wedges. Again they are tastier, healthier and cheaper to MOO.

I never buy frozen pies. With the pie maker (still going strong 20 years on) and Elaine's Easy Pastry I can make pies to suit our tastes whenever we want them.

I never buy fresh herbs. Apart from being so over-priced ($48/kg for basil anyone?) they are easy to grow in pots and at least then if a recipe requires fresh herbs you know they really are fresh and cost just a few cents per plant.

I don't buy sauces. I make a nice tomato sauce and a great barbecue sauce, my plum sauce isn't bad either. Worcestershire sauce is easy to make and adds just the right amount of zing to casseroles and gravies.

I never buy packaged icing. Seriously why would you? Icing is so easy to make and you can make just enough for your cake and not worry about how to keep the rest fresh until next time you get the urge to bake.

I never buy snack packs of nuts, dried fruits or trail mix. Again they are grossly over-priced and I can just as easily decant a small amount into a ziplock bag from the canister.

I never, ever buy microwave popcorn. It's easy to make either the old fashioned way on the stove, with a hot air popper or using a brown paper bag for the microwave method.

Marinades or marinated meat. Marinades add around $2 a kilo to the price of meat. There are so many recipes for different marinades, all of them made from pantry staples that I'd rather keep the $2 in my purse and just whip up my own.

I never buy pasta sauce. Like the pizza sauce it is just too easy to make, especially if you have a slow cooker. If you use homegrown produce a 500g jar of pizza sauce will be virtually free - perhaps 30 cents to cover the cost of salt and power for cooking?

There are aisles in my supermarket I've never been down, not even to have a look. I used to wonder what was in them but I don't anymore. I can see by what is in other people's trolleys just how expensive those aisles are.

My trolley is always full to overflowing, but it is with ingredients. Everything I buy makes more than one type of thing.

I am positive there are other things I don't buy that I haven't listed here.

My grocery budget is $320 a month and it has to stay at that. Buying ingredients and only ingredients and shopping smarter with a meal plan and detailed list will keep it that way.

Follow on Bloglovin


  1. I need to get organised. Ive managed to stock ready made meals by making larger batches but its the incidentals that i cant manage after work. Do you work outside the home Cath.

  2. Just wondering if your instant pudding mix is one where you have to cook it or is it one that you just add cold milk to?

    1. I've adapted the recipe from the Make Our Own Mixes book. I've increased the powdered milk in the dry mix and I add boiling water to make the pudding. It thickens up beautifully and then chills in the fridge just like a pudding made with cold milk.

      I've never tried it with just cold milk/water - not sure why. This way has always worked for me and it gives the option of having a hot or cold pudding.

  3. I work from my home office Lynda, six days a week. Saturday is my day off. I run the Cheapskates Club, produce a weekly newsletter, a monthly e-mag for members, updated the website, answer emails and questions, run workshops, speak at mother's groups, school groups, etc., do interviews for tv, radio and print media. All in all I spend 8 - 9 hours a day at my desk. Good thing I love what I do!

    I found once I made the decision to cook from scratch that surprisingly it doesn't take that much longer than buying food and reheating or cooking. It is certainly cheaper and healthier.

    I don't do large batch cooking like my mother did, She would spend days bottling fruit or making chutney or sauces. Instead I do smaller batches. It takes under an hour to make four 500g jars of jam so I can have the fruit cooking while I'm doing the veggies for tea. The jars are in the oven sterilising. About the same amount of time to make chutney or pickles. Doubling recipes helps - I always make a triple batch of pizza dough, divide into nine and freeze six for the next two weeks. I already have the mixer out so it takes no longer to do this and saves me time for the next two Thursdays.

    Lots of things don't need constant supervision. If you have a breadmaker it may have a jam setting so you can be doing other things while it cooks. Ditto sauces in the slow cooker. It only takes a couple of minutes to make up a quadruple batch of cake mix and bag it while you are measuring out for a cake or slice or biscuits.

    Time balances out. I only shop once a month, and it takes no longer to buy a month's worth of groceries than it does a week's so for the rest of the month I'm not at the supermarket, looking for parking, waiting at the checkout and driving home to unpack it all. That time I'm not shopping is time I can use for other things - perhaps

  4. You're amazing Cath. I'm so thankful for your work, website and wisdom. I need to implement more of your great ideas.

    1. I am nothing special by any means. Just a wife and mother on a mission to look after my family and live the life I want for us all and happy to share what I learn along the way in the hopes it will help someone else.

      Just remember, baby steps, one day at a time. That's how I do it. I'm still learning, something new just about every day. Not everything I try is a success for my family, but it's worth trying and recording on the website or here on the blog because it might just be the thing someone else needs to help them live a debt free, cashed up life.

  5. Cath this was a wonderful article...I loved how you showed the alternative to purchasing!

    1. Thank you. Just because we are on a tight budget doesn't mean we have to go without the things we love, and we all love our food so going without isn't an option in this house :)

  6. That is a great list Cath. Now I have something to aim for :)

    Thank you for all you do, you are inspiring me to do better, and all this helps to get my mortgage down.



Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment...I just love hearing from you!

Just a couple of things:

Please don't use your comments to advertise your business or goods for sale, any such comments will be removed.