At Simplymuslimmom home, we rarely eat out or get take outs. These convenient food endeavors are not budget friendly and we prefer our homemade meals that cost much less and tastes way better than store made food. Making great meals on a budget didn’t happen overnight though, it happened after many years of cooking experiments through trial and errors.
We try to eat well on a budget and shop from a number of stores. But, if you’re not careful you can rake quite a bit from these trips these stores. The grocery stores are designed in a way so you’ll find it very convenient to over spend- from the store lay out to how the store smells. The stores want your visit to be your one stop shop for pretty much anything that you may need, from Neufchatel cheese to nail polish.
Sticking to your grocery list is the best way to ensure that you’re not spending too much money at the grocery stores on things that you don’t really need. Here are 5 things we steer clear from when we’re at the grocery store-
It’s always going to cost more if someone else did the prepping for you for your food. Things like cut up vegetables/fruits/meats fall into this category, be it in the fresh or freezer section- it’ll always cost you more than the whole vegetables/fruits/meats. Besides, you get so much more when you buy them whole. Buying whole foods also minimizes and eliminates wastes.
These days you can find almost any kind of cooked food at the grocery stores, from cooked oatmeal to stir fried rice, there’s something prepared for everyone who comes shopping. These convenient cooked foods come with a price tag that don’t sit well for my budget. I’m also averse (and cringe to think of it) to so much packaging that goes to landfill produced by these pre-made cooked food containers/bags. I get much bigger and better quality food for the price that these ready-made foods can cost. The only exception I make is frozen vegetable pizza from Trader Joes’- at under $5, these organic pizzas are a lifesaver.
Our fridge and pantry have 0 number of condiments- not counting the maple syrup that we use for our pancakes and waffles nor the butter that we eat with our breads. We use olive oil, salt and pepper for salad dressing. You won’t find any jars of dubious looking things in the fridge that makes you wonder about its date of purchase. The lack or absence of myriad condiments saves us eating ingredients that we can’t pronounce, reduces clutter and and saves money.
Snacks and desserts-
We have a junk food policy at Simplymuslimmom home. You can eat junk food all you want as long as it’s homemade. We make almost all the snacks and desserts at home, from waffles to layered cakes for Eid and everything in between. If there’s something that intrigues me at the grocery store, I look up the recipe and make it at home. I believe you can make a great anything with consistent efforts and patience. The only exceptions are the potato and plantain chips that we buy from Trader Joes’ for under $2.00.
Single serving anything-
Single serving products always cost more than their bulk counterparts. Their small size and cute look can play a number on you that ensures paying an acute price. These items include chips, juice, chocolate, dried nuts and fruits etc. Sure, the single serving makes self-control easier but you must pay for the small serving and it’s cute packaging. If you want to limit your consumption, you can always buy a bigger quantity and then split the contents into smaller reusable containers/bags.
Trendy foods are rarely budget friendly, from Buddha bowls to Octopus dishes to Jackfruits. These foods are foraged from all over the world, decimating rainforests and oceans, not to mention your budget. Saying no to these items is a consistent challenge, especially when you have kids. These food fads pop up frequently and all on a sudden it’s a necessity. I say no to meat jerky, dried kelps, pomegranate juice, nut butters, flavored drinks (hot or cold), different types of cooking oil and sriracha.
Soda and juice-
Sodas are a big no at Simplymuslimmom home. On rare occasions, we buy juice but it’s a treat not a need. Both of these drinks are highly processed and contains loads of sugar and we are better of without either.
Anything over our price limit-
We have a price limit for everything to keep things into check. Before adding an item to the cart, I read the labels first to rule out haram and unhealthy ingredients, check the price according to it’s limit and then add it to the cart. A price limit is decided based on the food item’s quantity, quality and price.
Impulse buys from the checkout line-
The checkout lines are always well stocked with impulsive buys- from magazines with updates on celebrity lives to mints to improve your breath. These items are never on our grocery list yet they look so enticing with their looks and a seemingly small price tag. But the end result that follows these impulse purchases is almost always regret.
Non food related items-
Grocery stores keep a lot of non food related items to make things easy for you and your little ones. These items are not frugal friendly and not the best quality either. For example, pots and pans, utensils, clothes etc. may seem like a good idea to get from the grocery store but they won’t be the best your money can buy. The exceptions that I make are Trader Joe’s greeting cards, dishwashing detergent, toilet paper and shampoo. I also buy cosmetics and toiletries from Whole Foods when they have an excellent sale going on.
I have compared price and quality between stores for the grocery items that I regularly buy and now only go to the stores that offer the best prices for the quality that I want for those items. It may seem like a daunting task but the good thing is that you only do it once per item. Once you know the lowest price available for your items, your grocery shopping will become much easier and more frugal insha Allah.