Feeding The Family – When and Where Are We Shopping?

food expenditure

This post is part of a series on family finances. You can find the other posts in the series here:

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Since comparing what I spend on food for a family of seven to those who responded to the survey, I have tried to decrease our weekly food bill as we were spending considerably more. I did discuss possible reasons for the difference in my last post, but I did still think there was room to move and I should be able to cut back on our spending.

Our usual shopping routine is as follows:

  • Basic grocery items  – An online monthly shop. I do at times though mix this up and go do the monthly shop at the supermarket just to the browse the aisles and see what is new.
  • Meat – Bought monthly from a butcher and freeze it.
  • Fruit and veg – each Saturday Mr I gets up early and goes to the market and buys it all there. We now have to do a mid week top on the fruit on Wed or Thu, depending on the fruit in season and the space in our fridge! We keep the apples in the fridge, so they can take up a bit of space.
  • Bread  – bought on an as needs basis from local bakeries or when I am out and about.
  • Milk – bought on an as needs basis, generally by Mr I in the evening.

As we were at the end of our monthly cycle, I decided not to do a big monthly shop and try weekly shopping. Weekly shopping and shopping around. Instead of just going to one of the majors, I did the bulk of the shopping at ALDI including meat, fruit and veg this week too. The Saturday sport schedule didn’t permit a trip to the market. We did also go to two other supermarkets to pick up some items which we could not buy at ALDI and items which wanted that were on special.

While it is difficult to make an assessment on one week, I did spend much less than what I had been spending – approx 38%. BUT this figure does need to be justified:

  • I did deliberately work on using as much food as possible from what I had on hand, which I normally do every few months.
  • I had just stocked up on all my nuts, seeds etc and made a large batch of my breakfast cereal.
  • It took a lot more time to do it this way. I needed to look at the supermarket websites before I did my major shop. I needed to keep track of what I bought at ALDI and I what I still needed to purchase and then we made as another two trips to the shops.

I am going to try shopping like this for a few more weeks and see how it goes. I can only even think about attempting this type of shopping routine as I have time through out the week where I can make these trips without the kids. I would not have even contemplated making three trips to the shops with little ones about! And probably the biggest factor of all is that ALDI is now my closest supermarket. Prior to the new store opening only a couple of months ago, it would have been too time consuming to drive to an ALDI for me.

The range of fruit and veg at ALDI is limited so we will still try to make it to the fruit and veg market. I am keen to see how the figures hold up over a month. I will still plan monthly though as my monthly planning process gives me weekly plans and planning for a month is more time efficient for me.

So enough about me! What about the readers of the blog?

Where are we shopping for our “main”shop?

1 where we shop
64% of respondents currently do their main grocery shop at a major supermarket. When I cut the data to see how much readers where spending by store, the findings were interesting:

Average amount spent per week on their total food bill:
All respondents:$198
Respondents who shopped at independent supermarkets:$197
Respondents who shopped at major supermarkets:$195
Respondents who shopped at ALDI:$185
Respondents who shopped online with major supermarkets:$228

Not all stores are included in this table, for example only three respondents did their main shop at Costco, so too small to be statistically useful. The significantly higher spend by families who shop online was the surprise result from this data for me. Although given I was spending more than average for a family my size and I shop online, perhaps it shouldn’t have been?

People who shopped online with the major supermarkets tended to have bigger families, with 20% having more than three kids, compared to the majors where only 12% of families had more than three kids, however that would only be able to explain part of the difference. This is certainly a factor in my decision to try alternative shopping methods, now convenience is no longer such a huge factor for me.

Where are we shopping for our fruit and veg?

1 fruit and veg shop
The most popular places to purchase fruit and veg were the major supermarkets (39%), followed by the green grocers (28%). Only 12% of respondents shopped at some type of market.

Average amount spent per week on fruit and veg:
All respondents:$58
Respondents who shopped at major supermarkets:$56
Respondents who shopped at green grocers:$58
Respondents who shopped at farmers' markets$63
Respondents who shopped at markets:$55
Respondents who shopped at ALDI:$47

ALDI was significantly cheaper than other places to buy fruit and veg, but as the range is limited, I wonder if these shoppers also stock up elsewhere on top of this?

The most popular places to purchase fruit and veg were the major supermarkets (39%), followed by the green grocers (28%). Only 12% of respondents shopped at some type of market. There is also the big question of who is buying organic fruit and veg which the survey did not cover. Quality of produce is also a significant factor in determining where I will purchase our fruit and veg, that is, I am happier to pay a little more for quality produce.

Where are we shopping for our meat?

1 meat shop
Again it was the major supermarket chains which were the most popular places for families to purchase their meat for the week (40%). The butcher was the second most popular (35%) with the none of the remaining shops accounting for more than 6% individually.

Average amount spent per week on meat:
All respondents:$45
Respondents who shopped at major supermarkets:$43
Respondents who shopped at butchers:$49
Respondents who shopped at farmers' markets$46
Respondents who shopped at markets:$43
Respondents who shopped at ALDI:$43

The major supermarkets, ALDI and markets all saw a similar average weekly spend on meat, $43. The butcher has the largest average weekly spend, so again the question of organics and quality would come into play with these figures too.

Shopping around

shopping for specials
The last section of data I analysed tells I think, the most crucial part of the story on spending on food for the family. Only 25% of respondents regularly went to more than one place to take advantage of specials and this was significant in reducing their expenditure.

Average amount spent per week on total bill - shopping around:
All respondents:$198
Respondents who shopped at more than one place regularly to take advantage of specials:$181
Respondents who shopped at more than one place occasionally to take advantage of specials:$198
Respondents who never shopped at more than one place to take advantage of specials:$218

Of course there are other costs to be associated with shopping around – petrol, time, tolls, parking etc. Only you will know exactly if this type of arrangement would work for you and if it would be worth the effort. The figures however do give food for thought if you are trying to reduce your weekly expenditure on food.

Do you shop around? Can you not be bothered? Love to hear your experiences.

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Comments

  1. Rachel @ The Kids Are All Righ says

    It’s taken me a while to get into a routine with the grocery shop. It always depends on the age of kids and what you can cope with! But I am really liking my routine now. I do a weekly shop at Aldi on a Friday arvo with my 5yo – this doubles as our mum and daughter time :) – after school and before I pick up the 3yo from daycare. The few other items I need that I can’t get from Aldi I will get at the local IGA as needed – it’s not often.

    I order meat online from an ethical meat supplier every 3-4 weeks. This is a new move for me – I’ve gone from trying to buy free range or organic meat at butchers and never sure of what I was getting, to finding a supplier that does all the research for me – and they are fantastic (Feather and Bone for Sydney readers).

    I will get some salad, fruit and vegies from Aldi. I don’t mind the range and the prices are great, but because most things are pre-packaged I don’t like all the plastic trays and coverings, and some things come in too large quantities for us. I have a fantastic family owned grocer not far from us so I will alternate stores and use them as well, and if I make it to the local markets on a weekend I will always pick up some locally grown F&V there.

    I think we spend around $200 a week for our family of 5, and that is including sustainable meat.

    • says

      You do very well Rachel! How do you go for things like fresh herbs (I needed chilli and coriander today for example) or does your ALDI stock them?

      • Rachel @ The Kids Are All Righ says

        My teen passes a great little supermarket after school on the way to the train station, so if I think of it in time I can text her what I need and transfer money to her bank card; there is another good grocer I pass between home and daycare; or if it is late in the day I can ask hubby to drop into a supermarket in the city as he leaves work :) They are my three back-ups.

  2. Jane says

    At this time I shop online for groceries, fruit and veg from a local market and meat from a butcher. I am not interested in shopping around for specials because my kids are all young and so the time it would take makes it not worth while for me. I reckon online shopping could be costing more because the products have a higher mark up than if you purchase the same products in store and less specials are available online. Personally, I would rather pay a little bit more and stay out of the shops!

  3. Lilani Goonesena says

    Thanks for a very interesting post.

    I used to grocery shop online and would happily do it now but the delivery fees $10+ to do so now just pisses me off (especially as I am a stay at home mum so I am home a lot during the day).

    Now we do a weekly grocery shop at one of the main supermarkets. Meat we buy at the butcher outside the supermarket, or at the supermarket if they have free range.

    Actually I say “we” but I mean my husband takes the toddler on the weekly grocery shop while I mind the 6-month old at home. There just isn’t enough time in our time-poor lives for the leisurely grocery shopping of old!

    http://www.freezecheese.com

  4. says

    Wow, really interesting results there.

    I haven’t read your other posts in the series, but I’m going to go back and take a look. I am trying to redo our budget – we sort of fell off the budgetting ladder somewhere between kids two and three I think, and we seriously need to get back on it! I think we spend far too much on groceries (given our income).

    What I’ve been doing lately is trying to plan my week’s meals – dinners & school lunches, on Monday, and shop accordingly. Sometimes I only get Monday-Thursday planned (after all, I’m at work Thursday & Friday, so then it’s the Husband’s job), but even that helps, and then we can usually scratch something together on the weekend from what’s left. It does seem to help, if only because I’m not ducking into the shops as often.

  5. Pippa van Wijk says

    I try to stay out of the shops and have joined a co-op of like-minded families. We get organic fruit and veg fortnightly for $80 and meat from a biodynamic farmer who delivers near our our house – we buy every 2 or 3 months. Nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruit etc I organise through the co-op every 3 months and we buy in bulk from a wholesaler – I would spend about $150 every 3 months. That only leaves a few things to buy which means I can go the the supermarket once a week and spend about $20-$30. I am less tempted by impulse buys as I already have so much food in the house (although crumpets and chocolate often sneak in!) I have loved the community aspect of co-op buying as well as the saving we are making.