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?