Grocery Groundhog Day: why is it so hard to stay on track?

For a few months now I’ve really been struggling with the family grocery budget.

It’s not something I am proud of at all.

It’s not something I am proud of, especially because I have written posts right here about streamlining costs, getting more out of your budget, and doing things differently.

It all started back in October when I was asked to be part of an ABC Radio series called Reboot Your Life.

Ironically, the segment I was interviewed for didn’t run here on the Gold Coast (and I haven’t found it online), but basically, it was about getting a couple of people together and seeing if they could change their spending habits for the better, in the lead up to Christmas.

Grocery Groundhog Day and how to stay on budget

We were asked to keep track of our spend using ASIC’s Track My Spend app and then report back to the group and a financial advisor about how we were going and where we were struggling.

I really, and I mean really, wanted to decrease our grocery spend because it was one of the only ways I could see to free up some cash for saving. And, suffice it to say, I became a little bit obsessed…

It didn’t work. No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t budge it.

I tried getting my fruit and veg separately from a local supplier and my meat from a local butcher while buying pantry staples and home supplies from ALDI. Unfortunately, that made my spend much higher and my life became way more complicated.

So, I stopped doing that and went to ALDI for everything (sort of). But then I found myself ducking into other shops to pick up a few fresher looking and/or organic meats and vegetables, and a couple of things that they just don’t stock. That meant the weekly spend was slightly better than before, but not at my target by a long shot.

Then I went back to grocery shopping online at Coles or Woolworths. This was slightly soul destroying for me because I really liked the idea of buying local and I’m not always super impressed with the quality of their fresh produce. But shopping online with the “Big Two” is a way to actually stick to the allocated amount. You can remove or change things so the cart all adds up to the goal number. It’s also super convenient when you have kids and don’t want to drag them along for the weekly shop, so a delivery fee seems justified when I think of the hassles it removes.

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The upshot of all this is: I don’t know if there is a perfect solution for sticking to a lower grocery budget.

One thing I have found has helped is meal planning. I have written about this a few times before, but I really think it’s a key element of bringing things back on track. When I have a plan, I spend less and I feel better about what I’m buying.

It feels light, mindful, and uber organised.

So, I did a four-week meal planning course with Stacey Clare – A Healthy Mum at the end of last year, which was awesome (I’ve even done a testimonial for it here).

Things are starting to get back on track and I am slowly easing up my expectations.

I think I need to focus on the progress we’ve made and be grateful for the financial awareness I’ve achieved in the past 12 months.

The grocery shop is just one of those things that might take a while to perfect…

Have you found an awesome way to do your grocery shop that allows you to buy good quality fresh food, without blowing the budget?