food

The four ways Aussie mum Jody Allen slashed her weekly shop from $200 to just $50.

How much do you spend on your weekly grocery shop? Is it more than $50?

For Jody Allen, back in 2011, that figure was looking a little more like $200. She was a mother-of-one, had her second baby on the way and with little warning, was made redundant while on maternity leave.

While living on one income, and with a calculator on hand, Allen realised she only had $50 to spend on groceries a week. So, after “crying for a week”, and fearful of losing her house, the now mum-of-two pulled herself together and worked out how to save cash in every element of her weekly shop.

Now the author The $50 Weekly Shop, Allen is using her own experience to make sure families all of sizes can cut down their own weekly spend on food as a means of spending money on the things they value a little more.

And one thing she wants to make sure you know? Being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap.

Saving on the staples

According to Allen, buying “generic brands is a key principle of the $50 weekly shop”.  Don’t go overboard, and don’t feel distracted or attracted to the pretty colours and cute images on the packaging, Jody writes in her book.

“Many generic-brand staples (flour, sugar, oats, etc.) are made in the same factories as the branded ones and contain the same ingredients,” she says.

If you’re going to scrimp, scrimp on the staples. Things like olive oil, flour, sugar, butter and even frozen vegetables can by bought in generic brands. Buy puff pastry rather than make it in order to save both money and energy and use cocoa instead of cooking chocolate because it’s cheaper and it stretches further.

More than that, Allen stresses that families should be buying staples in bulk. She recommends heading to local markets at closing time to see if you can save on a buck, or going to cheap variety stores – like your local $2 shop – to snag a bargain.

“The supermarket isn’t always the cheapest place to buy, especially if you are able to buy in bulk,” she writes.

“Sometimes you’ll find spaghetti sauces, nuts and dried fruits, canned tuna or salmon, rice, olives, soups and cereals [at a variety store].”

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Make use of loyalty cards

One thing Allen is sure about is the fact that not enough people make use of catalogs, loyalty cards and coupons.

Use catalogs, she urges, and chase the sales, but make sure you’re strategic about what you’re travelling for, and whether it’s worth your time and energy.

“A shop would have to offer at least three fantastic deals to make it worth my while to make a special trip there – otherwise I’m just wasting money on fuel.”

For so many, loyalty cards can be difficult to keep track of and store in a wallet that’s already brimming with cards and coupons. Easy solution for that one, Jody says. An app will solve all your problems.

“I downloaded an app called ‘Stocard’, but there are many similar apps available. For each loyalty card you get, you simply enter its details and then you can throw it away. Every time you need to swipe your loyalty card, just open the app and it’s all in there.”

Store your food properly

One of the key ways Allen writes about saving money comes down to being able to store it correctly to give a longer life.

Of the staples, Allen suggests putting a celery stick inside your bag of bread because the "bread slowly absorbs moisture from the celery, keeping the bread soft". And don't worry about it affecting the taste, Allen is positive it has no impact. Avocados should be kept in paper bags to avoid them ripening too quickly, a big block of cheese can be grated in a food processor (or something similar) so they can be frozen in zip-lock bags to avoid going mouldly quickly.

Oh, and as for bananas? Bananas should be stored in a fruit bowl with the end of the bunch wrapped in plastic wrap as a means of keeping them for a few extra days.

Financial planner Canna Campbell shares how you can save on your weekly grocery bill. Post continues after audio.

Take tips from the Depression Era

According to the mum-of-two, the money-saving tips born from the great depression "are such an amazing contrast to the entitled, wasteful, throwaway society we live in today". And it's time we made use of them.

Of note, and in Allen's own words:

  • Get another week out of your bottle of sauce or jar of mayo by adding a few drops of water
  • Compared to earlier generations, we are eating way too much and moving way too little. Let's eat less.
  • Instead of going out for burgers or pizza, make them at home. Cook more and go out less

Jody’s book, The $50 Weekly Shop by Jody Allen, published by Penguin Random House and available now, RRP $24.99.

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