Friday, 8 June 2012

Frugal Friday (8th June)

Early tomorrow morning as usual we shall visit the supermarket to do our weekly shop.  We have shopped this way for a long time, as we find we spend less and it is far easier for me to plan our meals on a weekly basis, if we shop once a week on the same day each week.  I think many families like to do this, as every week when we go to the supermarket, we see the same people!  In fact there is a small group of us, that calls ourselves the "Saturday Club", that all arrive well before the store opens, and park in the same parking spaces each week, very close to the store entrance.  We all know each other by sight and greet and ask after each other, and if we bump into any of the other families whilse we are going around the store, we will stop and visit with each other a while, so over the months and years we have got to know some of them quite well.  Theres a lovely friendly comradeship in our weekly meetings, and although we really couldn't call each other friends, there is nevertheless a sense of having a shared purpose that brings us all together each week, and I feel this is important.  Without necessarily ever saying so, we are witnessing to these other people, by our example as husband and wife, father and mother, and we enjoy our Saturday chats outside the supermarket doors before opening time, just as much as we do the ones we have after our Church service on Sunday, when we share tea and coffee with the rest of the congregation at our Church.   Good people can be found in the strangest places!

This week when we go to the supermarket, I shall be doing our shop slightly differently.  In fact already, as I have thought and planned over next week's menu, I have been doing things slightly differently, because I have made a simple, but quite significant adjustment, to the way that I plan what we need to get when we do our supermarket shop.  Before now, each week when I start to plan my shopping list, I will begin by noting down all the things that I've noticed we have run out of, or are about to run out of, that we will need to buy.  I keep a list on the door of the fridge, and every time something gets used up, or I notice it is going to need replacing, I will note down on the list that we need to buy that item at the supermarket next time we go there.  In addition to this, during the week, I will plan our menu for the following week, using what is available already in our cupboards and the fridge and freezer, and then add to that any extra items from the recipes I plan to use, that we haven't already got.

Now however, things have changed.  Instead of having my "working list" on the door of the fridge, I have devised on the computer a "master list" instead, which is simply an A4 page divided into a 4 column table, with a list on it of all the items that are staples in our home.  Things that we use each and every week - like apples, potatoes, eggs, cheese, butter, tea, fruit juice, washing up liquid, shampoo, toothpaste and so on.  The first and third columns on the page are quite wide, and the second and fourth columns are much smaller, so that these can just be used to place a tick in (or a number, if we are going to buy more than one unit of that item) beside the things we need to get.  There are spaces on the page so that if there are items not ordinarily purchased, or a subgroup of an item such as "spices" or "sauces" that I need to list individually only on an occasional basis, I can write this down.  I have kept the font quite small, so that I could fit everything onto one side of paper.  It took a bit of doing (and some paring down and grouping together!) so that when we go to the supermarket, all I have to do is take the list with us!  No more re-writing it out again to get it ready to take with me on Saturday morning.

The reason for this change is that I believe it will help us to cut down how much we spend on food.  The supermarket is full of wonderful goodies and treats that are extremely tempting, and even though we are very good at only sticking to the list and not getting things that aren't on it, what I have found is happening recently is that we will see some particular item one week in the store, and be excited about it, and instead of buying it that week, it will find its way onto the list the following week, even though we don't need it then any more than we did the week before!  Somehow because we have planned to buy it, we can justify spending the money on it, even though we don't really need it.  But this is still a wasteful way to shop - we are quite literally, giving in to temptation - and we are buying things we don't really need to eat.  This way, by having only a limited selection of items that I know we do need to buy from which to choose, I believe we will be able to shop more wisely.  To put it another way, instead of choosing what we want to buy (and eat) from the whole entire supermarket, we are choosing from a pre-selected list, and that cuts down the opportunities to get things we don't really need.  It is wasteful to buy these things, when we could be putting that money to better use elsewhere.  Although we all enjoy the meals I prepare, and I love cooking them, food is ultimately just fuel to keep our bodies healthy and energetic.  We don't need to have anything too fancy or unsual to keep us functioing well on a daily basis.  For an occasional treat, that is fine - but not every single week! 
Instead, I am going to use my "Master List" to see if I can get our food bill down - and still make interesting and wholesome meals, using the simple ingredients that our mothers and grandmothers would have had.  I've been inspired by the cookery books and homekeeping manuals from the 1950's that I've been looking at recently - and while I don't want us to feel as if we are having to live on rations, as families then would have, I do feel that adopting a more frugal and restrained approach to food preparation and shopping will enable us to have more control over how our money is spent.  Papa Bear thinks it is a great idea, and was very proud of me for thinking it up!  He says he has a "Master Plan" for the money that we save - but he won't tell me what it is!  And we already have one exciting plan for our food shop savings - an exciting trip that's going to happen later this year!  I am not quite ready to share all yet - but I will soon! 

We only have our money to spend once, so its only sensible to make sure we spend it as wisely as we can.  I shall report back on how we get on with this new method of planning and shopping in a few weeks - and hope that the update will be very favourable!