Are You Savvy?

It didn’t take long for me to realise that living in Auckland can be very expensive. Not having a comfortable income just adds insult to injury. That’s the worst thing about student life really – handicapped finances. Every week is about budgeting, budgeting and more budgeting.

I never cooked so much in my life until I moved to New Zealand to study. Cooking everyday cuts down weekly costs, thus it’s more of a must than a choice. I enjoy cooking, don’t get me wrong. But before this, it had always been just an interest and a few occasional meals for friends. Now, it’s more to cook or go broke in 2 days from eating out!

Cooking everyday also means managing our own grocery shopping every week. Back in Malaysia, mom and granny did all the shopping and cooking for the family. Naturally, I am absolutely clueless of the prices of usual items like meat, fruits or even salt and sugar. During those rare occasions where I need to do light shopping for a dish I decided to make for friends, all I do is pick up the items, pay and go. I am ignorant of price tags. Even if the cashier overcharged me, I wouldn’t notice!

Living in Auckland on limited finances has taught me how important it is to be a savvy grocery shopper.

Every weekend, Terry and I shop for groceries. Hypermarkets and supermarkets usually mark up prices of their items and select a handful to go on special every week. The trick is to rotate the items we pick up every week, according to the rotation of items on special in the hypermarket. Or put it simply, I follow their weekly newsletter closely. It’s like our little hunting adventure every week 😉

At times when I really needed to buy something that is not on special, I usually pick the cheapest brand or I stare at the shelf really long trying to make up my mind on the best choice in terms of quality and quantity. That explains why my grocery shopping session usually takes more than an hour!

I trained really hard to stop buying things (especially snacks) that I simply feel like eating that particular week, but only items that are necessary and on special. An item on special may be usually less than a dollar cheaper than its normal price but you will be surprised how the cents add up in the grand total. Every cent does count!

In addition, Terry makes the habit to take a mental note of the prices of items we usually buy. Items like rice, bread, meat and fish (per kg), and a variety of canned food, their prices are at his fingertips. Doing this enables him to help me recognise better deals if I saw these items selling at bargain prices at another shop I don’t usually frequent.

Every item I put in my cart, I remember the price. Nobody is perfect and sometimes items on special isn’t really registered as a special on the cashier’s system. While queuing up to pay, an approximate grand total is worked up in our heads and if this number is within 5 dollars of the cashier’s, we are good. If we get overcharged on a particular item, we notice it immediately. Usually, it’s a mistake we made in reading the price tag on the shelf, and we would return it on the spot. In a few other occasions, it was the system’s fault.

I used to think that being savvy at grocery shopping is a waste of time because it takes too much effort and the savings insignificant. How ignorant was I!

I guess it takes a lot of growing up to acknowledge that it pays to be savvy at shopping. It pays to be a savvy shopper knowing that you are always aware of better deals and on alert in case you get overcharged for nothing! Everytime I look at my shopping receipt (which indicates my total savings), I feel accomplished seeing that I made an effort to save 🙂

Are you a savvy grocery shopper? Do you compare prices of items? If the cashier overcharges you, would you realise immediately?



18 comments on “Are You Savvy?

  1. Chin Fen says:

    I never cooked in my life until I moved to Australia to study!! Me & YH do the same thing every weekend as well 😛
    International student life, I guess…

  2. vixter2010 says:

    When I was a student, I was exactly the same and lived on a lot of tuna pasta as it was so cheap! Food prices seem to go up all the time so you’re doing the right thing. I spend more now because I have more money, I think like anything the more you have, the more you end up spending and I like meat, which is never cheap. Keep up the bargain hunting!

  3. nadia says:

    Yep, I was just like you when I was a student. Now it’s the husband who manages the finances (fortunately), which basically means I pick up anything I want while grocery shopping and he pays.

  4. I am a supermarket bargain shopper all the way! The weekly advertisements decide what is for dinner. Certain stores sell paper goods & cleaning supplies for cheap. While others have deeper discounts on produce. I feel like a sucker if I pay more.

  5. D... says:

    I’m a coupon clipper and I try to plan out my trip to the supermarket. I also am a Costco member, but that sometimes doesn’t work out the cheapest. When I was a kid I don’t think I got it, and there are sometimes when I just splurge, but I think growing up forces us to be better shoppers.

    And thanks for putting me on your list of awesome reads, that’s so sweet, kind and wonderful.

    Love ya,

    • Tien says:

      Agree, when I think of my splurges during younger days, I can’t help but shake my head. And I love coupons and loyalty cards too!
      You’re welcome Danielle, it’s because I think you are really awesome!

      • D... says:

        I shake my head at younger Danielle too, I don’t know what possessed her to spend like a silly girl. Oh well, grown up Danielle this she’s funny now. My key chain is full of rewards cards too. I think I have more cards than keys.

        Oh Tien you’re so sweet!!! I think you’re awesome too. I think I have got to get a blogroll up too.

  6. Nicole says:

    I live for the sale flyers too!! 🙂 Food is so expensive these days, that I always base my meals around the items on sale.

    • Tien says:

      Very true Nicole! Sometimes it’s a good thing because you don’t have to crack your head trying to think about what to cook, just look at the flyer eh? LOL…. 😉

  7. Claire says:

    Even as a working adult I have to be a savvy grocery shopper 😛 It’s expensive to eat out all the time and frankly, I’m more bored of trying to figure out where to go and what to eat. I’d much rather just open my fridge and see what’s there!

    I do my groceries at different stores because some places sell better and fresher meat but don’t have a good variety of veg and household products that are bloody expensive. But I make sure that the 2nd place I go to is on the way so that I don’t have to go out of my way just for it.

    • Tien says:

      I know what you mean Claire, sometimes eating out everyday could be boring too. Yes, that’s what I do too, buy certain stuff at certain shops. With the traffic in KL, you’ve got to make sure it’s all on your way 😉 Btw, I am missing Char Koay Teow already….sighs but I don’t have a wok. Even if I have a wok, I can’t possibly whip up a real authentic plate of CKT! If you happen to eat CKT sometime soon, eat one more portion for me yea? 🙂

  8. Claire says:

    Yeah, when I first moved to PJ, Colin & I used to eat out every night (mainly because we never bothered to fix the kitchen light :P) but after that I just got SO sick of it and yearned for home cooked food so much!

    But I think at the end of the day, I do it because I really do like cooking 🙂

    Maybe you could get a wok-pan…. but I’m quite sure you can do it in a pan…. oh and I’ll be back in Ipoh next week… I’ll eat and take pix for you 🙂

  9. shinloo says:

    i do not usually look compare the prices while grocery shopping coz my mom does it 🙂 but when i do shop (grocery of other), i will usually keep an eye on the cash register as the cashier scan my items. that way, i don’t need to do a mental calculation on how much is the total but i only need to remember roughly the price of each item to check if the system is correct. if it’s wrong, i’ll notice it immediately and which item. 😉

    • Tien says:

      Hahaha, I know, that’s why I was so ignorant too. You are better than me. When I used to shop alone, I didn’t even bother! Good on you 😉

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