This is a collation of the best ideas from the last years of discussion on the Kiwi Mustachians facebook group – credit to everyone who recognises their ideas below. If you have any more to add, please share them in the comments!
- Take packed lunches to work – café or takeaway lunches can be a hard habit to break, but this one really adds up to big savings. If you don’t like sandwiches, try making double-sized dinners and bringing leftovers to work for lunch, or experiment with lunch burritos, soups or salads.
- Instead of buying supermarket ready-meals for busy nights, cook double or triple portions of your favourite meals that freeze well, and keep a small stock of them to reheat when there’s no time to cook.
- Do your best to avoid extra trips to the supermarket. You’ll save petrol (if you drive) and time from making only one trip, and you’ll be less tempted by snacks, or reminded of things you “need” if you’re not walking up and down the aisles as often.
- Plan your week’s meals before you shop. If you know what you’re going to cook, you won’t buy as many perishables that you can’t use in time, and you’ll be less likely to arrive home during the week to bare cupboards and no plans and give in to the takeaways.
- A Planning Nerd extra: We keep a list of meals we know how to cook on magnets on the fridge, move them left when we have all the ingredients for them in the house, and put them to the bottom of the list when they’re eaten. This has eliminated uncountable numbers of painful ‘I don’t know, what do you want to eat?’ discussions.
- Some items are more expensive at the supermarket. Visit your local bulk store (eg Bin Inn), Asian or Indian supermarkets, Mad Butcher etc and see what staples you can stock up on at a low price. You can compare with some supermarkets’ prices on your smartphone. Don’t drive round 5 different shops every weekend, that’s too much like hard work! Some staples to look for cheaper include rice, legumes, baking ingredients, imported sauces, I even have a recommendation for Kosco’s bags of frozen dumplings – I’m looking forward to trying that one. Let us know your best find in an unexpected place?
- If something you eat every week is on a really good special, buy as much as you can store. We only buy chicken breasts at $12/kg or less, freeze each breast separately in old takeaway containers and are never at the mercy of $18/kg chicken prices.
- Do the math for online shopping for your situation, it has a few hidden benefits – a full post on this topic is coming soon!
- Try your local farmer’s market, greengrocer or farmer’s direct store and check out the seasonal fruit and veg savings. It might be worth it to shop there weekly. You could even swap your weekly trip to the supermarket for a weekly trip to the greengrocer, plan your week’s meals around the great deals you scored, then order your online shopping delivery to suit.
- Is there a food co-op in your area? They provide bundles of in-season fresh fruit and veges at sometimes half the supermarket prices.
- Don’t be fooled by the bulk bin “specials” in the supermarket – sometimes they’re more expensive than the budget brand packet version.
- When buying meat, don’t automatically choose the cut with the lowest price per kg. Have a look at how much waste might be included in that weight (skin, bone, fat etc). The best value for the meal you’re planning might be a leaner, more expensive cut.
- Don’t be taken in by false economy and bulk deals if you won’t use it or weren’t going to buy some anyway. If cauliflowers are 3 for $5, but you’re only going to use it in one meal this week, it’s still cheaper to get 1 for $3.
- If you have the luxury of choosing your timing, shop for groceries on a Monday during the day, as all the specials will still be in stock.
- Try cooking a few meat-free meals, as meat is often the most expensive part of the meal. Burgers with black bean patties, vegetarian nachos and falafel wraps are all meals that I think taste best meat-free. I’d be keen to hear from readers with their favourites.
- Does your work provide free food that you avoid because it’s unhealthy? Mention it to those in charge, perhaps with some ideas of your own. Chances are you’re not the only one who’s keen to eat well, and most companies love to get on board with anything that promotes the health and well-being of their staff.
- Grow some of your own herbs, fruit and vegetables. If you’re not into preserving fresh produce, look for plants that yield year-round, rather than all at once. Last year I ended up with 124 tomatoes ripe in one week! Overwhelming at the time, but it made great pasta sauce to keep in the freezer.
- If your pantry is overflowing with bits and pieces, challenge yourself to a buy-nothing week and just eat what you have at home. Use the Supercook.com website or similar to help plan what you can cook with what’s on hand.
For some, there’s nothing quite like a cold one at the end of a long day, so I include a few frugal drinking ideas.
- If you drink wine regularly, see if you like the look of any wine deal sites. One FireKiwi member is a fan of Vinomofo.co.nz
- If your friends consistently invite you out to drinks that cost $12/pint, you could try setting up the pub at home.
Some scavenging and DIY carpentry can set you up with a bar, a few stools and a leaner. Grab a small (energy efficient) fridge and a string of fairy lights* and you could have every second Friday-drinks BYO at your place. (YMMV, this won’t work for everyone, but if I inspire even one new backyard-bar, that’s enough.)
*Or a less cutesy decorating alternative to suit.
- For the winter version of backyard bar, try inviting friends around for mulled wine – cask red and orange juice plus the spices does the trick, nothing fancy needed. Mulled cider is also great.
- For the craft beer enthusiast, try brewing your own. There’s a lot of interest in, and support for brewing your own beer and cider at the moment. It has some start-up costs ($500- $1000 to get a setup that can make a decent brew), but once you get into it, you can get “micro-brewery” craft beer for ~$2/pint. If you and 3 friends each spend $250 on brewing gear, you can pass it around to a different mate every weekend and have 4 different brews to share around.