Saturday, 25 June 2011

Is shopping once a week the best way to save money?

Whenever a conversation about budget eating comes up, it almost always comes down to how often you shop.

My view has always been that doing a large weekly shop is potentially wasteful as you never know exactly how the week is going to pan out. I prefer to shop just before the weekend for what we're going to eat over the next three or four days then take stock once I see how much I've got left in the fridge or the storecupboard and when I know what our movements are for the coming week.

It's easy for me admittedly because there are only two of us at home now, I live in a town where the shops are open 'til late and I work from home. But I still think that buying food 7 days ahead can result in buying more than you need.

Against that you might argue that the more times you go to the shops the more likely you are to be tempted. And that if you're on a tight budget you need to cost things carefully and that's more easily achieved in one shopping expedition. There's also for many the cost of getting to the shops.

What may be worthwhile, either way, is costing exactly what you spend in a week as Linda of With Knife and Fork revealed she'd done recently on Twitter. (The answer was £7-10 a day for two. And she wrote down everything, including teabags!) And then try shopping an alternative way. If you go to the shops regularly try a weekly shop. If you do a big shop try two or three smaller ones as I do. See if there are savings to be made.

You might also try and have what I've previously described on the blog as a No Food Shopping Day - a day when you live off what you have in the storecupboard, freezer and fridge. I suspect a lot of us could manage for the best part of a week like that, essentials like milk and fresh fruit and veg apart - and even then you probably have frozen veggies you could use up.

What have you found is the most economical way to shop?


Frugal Student said...

I do one main shop per week and then one or two cherry picking stops. It works best for me.

Fiona Beckett said...

That's a pretty good compromise between the two. And, as you say, it's what works best for you that counts.

Charlotte said...

I think it also depends on where you live -- if it's a haul to the store, you're better off (esp. considering gas prices) stocking up and then filling in the gaps. I once lived in an expensive ski town where the closest "big" grocery store was 45 minutes away. We'd go down about once a month and stock up on staples, then fill in at the expensive resort store in between.
If you're in town, and it's not such a big deal, and if you're disciplined, then shopping more often gives you the opportunity to shop the sales.

I tend to do a "big shopping" about once a week. This summer, we've got a farm stand (from Oregon) that shows up once a week, so I've been shopping there when they're in town. And if it ever warms up, I'll start eating out of the garden.

Green Bean said...

I like the idea of No Food Shopping Day or Days. I try to do it every so often to save money and clean out the cupboards. I'm always surprised by how decent the meals are that we make on those days.

Soph said...

We do one big online order around once a month, depending on when the cupboards start to look despairingly bare, then top up in between with vegetables from the grocers' shop down the road. We don't have a car, so the online delivery fee is only economical if you do a huge order all at once. And the feeling you get on the day the food is delivered is amazing - oh the potential meals!

Sarah said...

I do a weekly shop and that's it, come what may. The only exception is if I'm entertaining and decide quite late what to cook, but I don't do that very often.

I shop on Wednesday afternoon as Saturdays are pure hell in the supermarket.

I find that it works pretty well as my boys tend to eat the same snacks and cereal, I buy seasonal fruit and veg and pick meat according to special offers if there are any. My food budget stays pretty constant although prices have gone up in the last 18 months and so my caddy has too.

Pancakes make a good store-cupboard meal.

Fiona Beckett said...

Good points, Sarah. Midweek is a good time to shop if you're doing a weekly shop and you sometimes can pick up some good post-weekend bargains. Agree with you about pancakes being good storecupboard standbys too.

I think getting a delivery is also a good way to go if that's the way you like to shop, Soph. Good for heavy and bulky things too.

And to tell you the truth Green Bean I often enjoy the meals we fling together from what's in the cupboard more than meals where I go out specially to buy ingredients

Wish I had an Oregon farmstand near me Charlotte. I went to Portland farmers' market last year and it was absolutely amazing!

Jolayne said...

I find that it's more important for me to have a good list then how often I shop. My list not only includes what I'm going to buy, but how much I expect it to cost. When I get to the store, if something is more expensive than I thought, then I need to make up the difference somewhere else, by buying less of some treat item, or buying a cheaper version, or something like that. I have a weekly food budget, and do my absolute best to stick to it.

My family (of 4) and I also have 'crunch' months. A month where we spend as little as possible, eating from what's in our cupboards and buying only fresh produce, dairy and eggs. It worked pretty well this last month, saving us about 40% of our usual monthly budget. You can't do this all the time, as you have to replenish what's in the cupboard, but it makes me find ways to adapt recipes to what I have instead of just running to the store.

Lucy, Crumbs said...

Great post. We are a family of for and I tend to do a big shop once a fortnight and then top up in between. We also have live off food in the cupboard days. We call them "cub Grub" and it is unbelievably satisfying when faced with an empty looking fridge to rustle up something delicious. Our favourites are rosemary tortilla, pancakes with bacon and sweetcorn and prawn pasta (we always have frozen prawns in the freezer). Perfect.

Fiona Beckett said...

Love the idea of cub grub and crunch months though I'm not sure I could manage that degree of self-denial for a whole month. Cheap Weeks perhaps ...

Colleen said...

I shop every two weeks. My trips are planned around the basics we eat consistently and sale items. I buy many things in family size packages which I then repackage and freeze (mostly chicken and fish). Thanks Jolayn, I thought I was the only who put an expected cost next to the item. For me if it is not a necessity, I won't buy it. We will either forgo it or find a suitable less expensive alternative. We are blessed with a wonderful vegetable shop which has fresh veggies and fruits at great prices and best of all it is family owned. I plan our meals around what we have and try to create new and exiciting dining adventures.

Tesco Vouchers said...

I'm with the frugal student on this in that we do one main shop and then a few smaller shops. We used to do one main shop but I think it does work out cheaper to do smaller shops.

In the past we had our main shop delivered by Tesco and tried to utilise the free delivery vouchers available, then just did a top up shop as required. The Tesco vouchers are a little thin on the ground at the moment so we just do our main shop at whichever supermarket seems to have the best offers on, usually Asda, Tesco or Morrisons. If they have a vouchers available for free delivery we will do it online, otherwise, we call to our nearest supermarket.