Exactly how a self-confessed "cheapskate" mum-of-three spends $80 a week on groceries.

Cath Armstrong believes families can eat well by spending just $80 a week on groceries. The Melbourne mum-of-three, who runs The Cheapskates Club, says she’s shocked at how much money some families do spend.

“I’m stunned that they come to me, and say, ‘Look, we’re going to lose our house or we can’t afford to pay the school fees or we can’t fix the car, but we can spend $300 or $350 a week on groceries,'” Armstrong tells Mamamia. “I’m like, ‘Seriously, folks, trim it back a bit!’ When you can’t do those things but you still think it’s okay to spend that much money a week just on food, there is a problem.”

She believes that over the past 25 or 30 years, people have been encouraged to spend.

“There is no understanding out there that funds are limited, folks. You have an income and if you spend more than that income, you’re going to lose out.”


Cath Armstrong. Image via Today Tonight. 

Armstrong gives eight ways that people are wasting money on groceries.

  1. Buying convenience foods, such as prepackaged salads. "The packaged coleslaw is about three dollars for a size that will serve a family of four for a single meal. But if you spend another couple of dollars by buying the cabbage, the onions the carrots, you'll get a week's worth of coleslaw."
  2. Not having a detailed shopping list that says how much of each food is needed. "People don’t know how many apples they need for the week, or they don’t know how many tomatoes they’ll need for their salads, so they just pile it into their trolley. There's often a lot of food waste because they haven’t planned properly."
  3. Throwing out fruit and vegetables that are still edible. "If tomatoes look a bit soft, they're still good to eat. Tomatoes are good to eat until they're furry. Limp celery can be freshened up in a bowl of iced water and made crisp again."
  4. Sticking to favourite brands. "If you see the same or a similar product cheaper, buy one and try it. If you don’t like it you can always go back to buying your regular brand."

    Might as well try a cheaper brand. Photo via iStock.

  5. Buying things like taco seasoning that can be made up at home. "Even the generic packets of taco seasoning are over two dollars each and they’re 30 grams. It’s so easy to make. I fiddled around with a few of the different recipes I found online and made one that we like."
  6. Not making multiple meals out of one cut of meat. "I usually get three meals from a leg of lamb. I cut the meat off for dinner that night. I cut another lot of meat off and put it in a container with gravy and it goes into the freezer. That becomes our roast dinner the following week. Then I take the rest of the meat off the bone and chop that up and I will make a curry or shepherd's pie. Then, of course, the bone goes into the freezer because I use that for stock."
  7. Serving up too much food. Armstrong suggests cutting back on kids' portion sizes, but slowly, so they don't notice. "We eat too much and we eat too well. Try using smaller plates. If their plate is full to overflowing, they're usually happy."
  8. Doing top-up shops when food runs out. "If it’s gone, it’s gone. I don’t buy more until the next shopping day. If they eat all the oranges in one day, then they miss out. I'd say to my kids, 'If you want to have 12 Weet-Bix today, that’s fine, but you’ll be hungry at the end of the week because there won't be any left.'"