I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
-Money, Money, Money by ABBA-
ABBA said it all in the verse above. Living in the city is really tough to your mental health, to your patience and also to your pockets.
If you are actually lifting an eyebrow, questioning the truth in my statement, just hear me out.
If you are able to plant and harvest your own food within the compounds of your tiny balcony just as how our grandparents are able to in the kampongs, it will definitely save us a lot of heartache. Unfortunately, that is all wishful thinking.
Be it in clothes, transportation or food, making a budget is very important especially in a city like Kuala Lumpur where the price of a glass of ‘sky juice’ can cost you a ringgit!
What we need to do is make the best of what we have. In other words, make a groceries budget. For most city dwellers, most of our money goes to food because we either;
- Have no time at all to cook and need to buy takeout; or
- Buy groceries but hardly have time to cook and waste; or
- Buy groceries on a whim
So, I understand the disappointment and anguish you feel when you keep on wasting money over food you do not need and decided to share with you the best way to be able to enjoy good food and at the same time, keep your groceries budget within RM150 every month.
Impossible? I think not!
Wallet-friendly tips and tricks right here
The solution to this age-old problem is an easy one. I know there are many websites and blogs that share tips and shopping hacks available all over the internet but what makes this one different and a better guide is because it is doable and there is a hundred percent chance you will not fail in this endeavour of yours.
However, it must be noted that this budget is applicable to singles and newlyweds that are not planning to expand their little family anytime soon. With the ever-increasing prices of items and products, the amount of RM 150 might need to be tweaked and changed from time to time.
Let’s get straight to the matter, shall we?
Going on a shopping spree is very much like going to battle. You need a strategy that requires you to be cunning and calculative. After all, the main goal here is to save you from unnecessary expenditure. So, here are THREE things you need to do before setting foot into a supermarket.
Tip #1 – Make a meal plan
Credit: Liezl Jayne
This is the one important thing that everyone seems to think is unnecessary. Making a meal plan restricts you from overspending and buying things that you do not need. You will buy exactly the amount of ingredients that you will use and nothing will get wasted. Pretty simple, right? Plus, making a meal plan does not take you more than 10 minutes. It is not like you are cooking for a 100 guests or anything.
Tip #2 – Set a monthly groceries budget
After making your meal plan, proceed to the next step; calculation. Budgetting does not mean you setting a random number. If it is that easy, you will not be reading this article in the first place. To set a groceries budget, it is best you check out the recipes of dishes that you have chosen to be included in your meal plan and look at the measurements required.
Yes, other then helping you to create the perfect dish, the measurements provided in a recipe helps in the calculation of buying the ingredients. Remember, it is not about what you WANT but what you NEED.
Tip #3 – Research the grocery store
Many of us choose our shopping location based on distance and variety. I am not saying it is wrong because that is the logical thing to do. However, do you know that the pricing range for grocery shops, hypermarkets and supermarkets differ from one another. Some things are cheaper in one and some in another.
You may feel that this tip does not much difference to your expenditure but think of it this way; if you can save a ringgit or two a month just by being a little selective, imagine the accumulated amount saved in a year. Need help to make the decision? Read Butterkicap’s findings on the cheapest places to buy your groceries according to specific categories.
During Shopping Tips
Now, you are all set to go out on a shopping spree! But, wait. There are still a few things that you need to think of before rushing through the whole process. Take it slow and enjoy it.
Tip #1 – Look at the bottom and upper shelf
Credit: The Times
When choosing a product, where do you usually pick it from? Is it the top, bottom or center shelves? There are marketing strategies which you may not be aware of that also have an effect on our buying habits.
When you see items on a supermarket shelf, you are actually looking at a planogram, a diagram or model that indicates the placement of retail products on shelves in order to maximise sales. In other words, it simply means that products positioned at eye level are likely to sell better. You may find that the more expensive options are at eye level or just below, while the store’s own brands are placed higher or lower on the shelves.
Next time you are in a supermarket, just keep note of how many times you need to bend down, or stretch, to reach something you need. You might be surprised.
Tip #2 – The earlier the expiry date, the better
Credit: Adam Murphy
When we select a product, we always choose products that will expire within 2 or 3 weeks. We rarely choose the ones that will expire soon. Actually, you should start choosing the latter! Why? Because it will create an urgency for you to cook.
You feel more obligated to go into the kitchen and start cooking with the fear that the ingredient is going to go bad soon. So, if you happen to plan of going to a supermarket soon, make sure you check the Deals section first because you will never know what culinary treasures you might find there.
Tip #3 – In-house brands are not bad
The biggest misconception among Malaysians is that anything that is cheap is usually of low quality. I do not know how we have come about to that conclusion just by looking at the price and the brand but that is one statement that is proven to be wrong. In-house brands have the same quality as the expensive ones on the shelf but they are much cheaper because they are mass-produced. If you check the ingredients for both in-house and a well-known brand, you will realize that you have been duped for so long.
Congratulations! You have made it passed the paying counter, drove all the way back home and now you are in the comforts of your kitchen. However, that does not mean you have successfully adhere to the groceries budget you have set.
The final step of being a wise spendthrift is to ensure the longevity of the groceries you have bought. No point buying them and end up seeing them spoiled because you do not store them properly.
Tip #1 – Store greens
Credit: Organized transitions
The first things that will go bad first are fruits and vegetables. That is quite annoying really because the second you are in the mood to cook and open your fridge, only wilted vegetables and soggy fruits greet you. Such a turn off.
To avoid from having this problem again in the future, invest in some ziplock bags and the moment you come back from your grocery shopping, take time to sit and arrange your greens into separate bags. No more heartache over rotten veggies again!
Tip #2 – Nothing is useless
Usually, when we cook, we unknowingly waste some important bits of our ingredients especially parts of vegetables that we assume are useless and inedible. The roots, skin, tough stalks, stems etcetera can be reuse by using them as readily available stock for you to use in your soup, stir fry and so on. Upcycling will help to optimise your groceries budget, so you won’t need to buy the same items multiple times.
Tip #3 – Early preparation is always best
Living a busy life makes you unable to spare time to cook all the time. If you are always on the go during the weekdays and only have time to breathe and relax on the weekend, take time to prepare your meals for the week.
Do not make things complicated for you. Prepare quick yet tasty dishes as well as some cut fruits and freeze them in your freezer until you are ready to take them out and eat them. Easy, smart and definitely no wastage.
Do you think these tips help you? Wait until you check out our meal plan created based on the ingredients I bought recently during my RM 150 groceries budget challenge. Be on Butterkicap from time to time to see my update on the meal plan!