In the last week I have started Day 2 and Day 3 of ERE’s (Early Retirement Extreme’s) 21 Day Makeover. Day 2 is de-cluttering and managing stuff. The main tasks set are basically clear your clutter, list it on freecycle and get a bike. Day 3 is grocery shopping.
Clearing your clutter is not just a matter of clearing knick knacks and things. It is going deep into everything you own and really evaluating if you use it, get value from it or are just holding onto it for sentimental reasons.
I have some things I keep on a seasonal rotation. In Canberra you get the hideously hot days in summer (that to me means anything over28°C! lol) and beautiful freezing days (think regular minuses) in winter, guess which season I prefer? I have blankets and warm clothes for winter I store away and bring out, because I don’t need them in summer! Often we are told to get rid of anything we haven’t used in the last 6 months and for many things that is true, but the exception is seasonal items that you use each year. That only applies if you DO use them!
I have gone through my entire unit. I have managed to get rid of 3 bedside tables, clear out my craft cupboard so that can go, magazines, books, baby things and some other random things. Surprisingly, despite having cleaned out my unit recently I still had so much I wasn’t using. 1 month ago, I seemed much more attached to lots of my things than I am now.
I listed what I could on freecyce, what I couldn’t is going to the tip in the morning. It is so freeing to have bagged up so much stuff to get rid of. It’s just things, most of which is completely unneeded.
The other part of Day 2 is to get a bike. I will need a bike trailer for my daughters as well. The cheapest I have seen this is $130 in Sydney, but I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a bargain!
Now, onto the grocery shopping. Before you roll your eyes and think I’m going to talk about couponing, I’m not. For starters, we don’t have coupons in Australia. Well, we get deals on pizza and coffees on the back of our dockets, but that’s it. We don’t get grocery coupons.
But that’s ok. From what I hear most coupons are for highly processed junk, not the sort of food you should be eating anyway.
So the first part day 3 is to use up all the food in your house. I decided to get all the dry goods out of my cupboards and put them on my bench where they are in front of my face. I have also written up a list of everything in my fridge and freezer and stuck it above the food.
That is pretty much what my bench looks like now. Not in the picture is the 5kg of rice and big tub of bread flour I have.
I’m pretty sure I have enough food to keep me going for a while! I will get some fresh fruit, but the challenge to use up everything I have should mean I save a fair bit!
So, after you have used up all your food, you need to scale back what you eat. Get used to more simple and plain foods, as well as repetition. If you look at food as fuel, you realise you don’t need to eat as much food or as big a variety. It’s sad that the average household we throw away something like 1/5th of what we buy. Why? Because we eat what we fell like. Instead of eating leftovers, we throw them away. We cook more food than we can actually eat. Portion sizes have blown out of control.
If you got a dinner plate from the 1950’s and compared it with a dinner plate now, you can see why we are obese. We eat BIG portions of everything, coz the bigger the better, right? WRONG!! Oh so wrong.
Another thing you would notice if you compared what we eat today to earlier decades is the lack of variety compared to now. But you know what? They were happy. They didn’t need 30 different dinners a month. They ate pretty much the same thing week in and week out. You know what? This can work out to be much cheaper, because you get used to simple meals and soon realise that life does not revolve around food!
Basics like rice, some veg, fruit, lentils and beans cooked with some spices can provide a variety of nutritious, cheap meals. It makes for easy shopping too! Most of these you can buy in bulk for cheap from Indian or Asian grocers.
Another great way to reduce your grocery bill is to get free food. Check your local area for fruit trees, blackberry bushes etc... Barter with your friends, neighbours and family for any excess fruit and veg they might have in exchange for you doing something for them. If you have fishing gear, put it to use.
Groceries don’t need to cost hundreds a week. They shouldn’t cost hundreds a week. That’s easier said than done. Changing habits can be hard and if you have kids, they can whinge and kick up a stink about not wanting whatever you have served. Serve it in different ways and be patient. It may take a while for them to come around to eating differently. They may not come around to lentils, but what other areas can you cut back your food bill?
For me, my kids are 2 and 1, so I have started them on things like oats for breakfast, lentil curries, TVP, rice and things. Being so young they will just adapt to whatever I feed them. Sometimes there are tantrums and they don’t always want what I give them, but they soon come around. The key is to start kids when they are young. If you feed them oats and veg as their first foods, avoiding sugar and sweets, you give them a better start and yourself more chance of maintaining a healthy budget and lifestyle for years to come. That said, yes my kids eat junk, not health food ALL the time! I’m not that good. lol
What do you do to reduce your grocery bill? Any special tips or tricks? Do you have any great vegetarian recipes?