I have been menu planning for a while and find its a great way to take the daily dinner stress away. I have been doing a fortnightly plan for a while and it works well for us. I'm a bit of a fan of the Cheapskates and Simple Savings sites and recently decided to go for a month menu plan as they both recommend it. It took a little more time to do than a two week plan but the savings in time and money have been quite substantial.
The biggest saving for me has been buying my groceries on line. It probably takes about as long over all, but saves me soooo much money and stress that I think its worth it.
Here's what I did...
*This post is specific to shopping online with Woolworths, Qld, Australia - and its a long post... You have been warned! :) Most useful to people able to use it, I think! ;)
I use Woolworths Click and Collect system. I believe Coles has a version but there are a lot more pickup area's for Woolworths than Coles - well at least in my area.
The difference between "delivered groceries" and "click and collect" is that I get charged $30 to get it delivered and only live a few kilometres away from the supermarket, where as the click and collect has no extra charge. You simply choose and pay for your groceries on line, nominate a time to pick them up, jump into the car and slide into the pick up lane and they are there waiting for me, packed and ready to go into the car.
The big advantage is that I don't have to step foot in the shopping centre and so am not tempted to get anything else from anywhere else. I have seen Mums not even need to take the kids out of their car seats as they are within arms reach of them at all times when picking up groceries. I have spoken to lots of Mums who say that this alone makes it worth it. They can leave the kids to play while they shop on line at home with a cuppa and a biscuit and then bundle the kids into the car and pick up the groceries without having to unbuckle them from one seat and pop them in another and traipse through the shopping centre and then the supermarket and put up with the whinging, tantrums and demands.....
One lady I spoke to a lady in the pick up lane who lived on the Islands just off the coast. She shops once a month on line, comes over with the 4x4 does all the jobs that need to be done on the mainland, takes the kids to a park, picks up the groceries and heads back for the barge in the afternoon - much less hassle and much less stress for her whole family.
The other big advantage is that after a big monthly shop, I am tired and often fall for the end of isle specials - chocolate especially, while I'm standing in queue... Its much easier to resist those specials when I'm on line shopping!
So how is it done and what do you need to know?
First I have a menu plan and from that I write my shopping list. As I look through my recipes and/or make the decision of what's for dinner each night, I pop the ingredients on a list. I divide mine up into meat, veges, dairy, etc so I can see what I'm doubling up on - 2 lots of sausages (one for a stew, one for a BBQ and then one lot of sausage meat to make meatballs with. That gives me the flexibility to look for a bulk special when I get to the shopping stage. It means that if sausages are on special I can use them for making meatballs instead of buying the sausage meat separately. If I didn't have my list like this I might not have noticed three lots of sausage.
Then I go and look in the fridge, freezer and pantry. You will be surprised at what you already have and what you could use instead. The dish could use the chicken you already have rather than buy some or maybe change the meal to chicken stew as you already have some and drop the beef stew... if I have enough of it already - I cross it off the list.
I also have a master shopping list with soap, shampoo, shoe polish, light bulbs, cat biscuits - non edibles - as well as basics such a flour, sugar, bread and tea that might not appear on the dinner ingredients list. Again - check the pantry before you start to order.
Then I log into Woolworth's online shopping site. Its free and they know no more about you than they would if you shopped in store - you can always fill in the details with not so real details if this doesn't sit well with you - but remember, you will have to pay with a credit/debit card at the end of your shop.
Then I simply create a list - if you look around you will see the "list" icon. Its a pad and pen symbol near the top of the web page. Click on it to open it.
Then after I have typed in each item on its own line you click on the "find these products" and the site takes you to a page with all those items on it. So if butter was the first thing on your list it will list all the butters items they have along with anything with the word butter in it - butter cookies, butter chicken, butter beans.... etc.
Have a look down the left hand side and see if you can see the dairy, canned, fresh etc categories. When you use those ones it refines the search down to butter, dairy rather than everything with butter in it. Once you find the item you are looking for, simply select the item you want along with the quantities. It will go into your cart on the right hand side of the page.
Go back to your list and search the second item on your list the same way. This way you aren't searching random areas hoping to find what you need. The list function has a save button on it and you don't have to search for the same products each time. Just skip to the next item if you already have butter, for example. I leave it on the list anyway to remind me to check weather I have my regular items or not.
If you aren't getting the results you want - have a look at the top for the search bar. It can take a bit of practice and insider knowledge to get this one right. For example the home brand honey puffs are under honey poppa's. You cant find them under anything else - both words spelt right too... I have resorted to getting the packet out of the bin to find the right name to search. You can search by brand as well which can be handy!
Once you have been shopping with them a few times, the top row starts to become your regular/staple items that you have bough a few times before. So when I put in cream, I get both sour cream and whipping cream on the top line as I have bought both of them a lot in the past.
You can also shop by category from the left hand side. once you click on dairy, the menu will expand where dairy was to include cheese, yoghurt, cream etc that you can click on to further refine what you are after. It depend on how well you know what you are looking for!
There is also an online specials tab in the top lot of green tabs. This a good place to look to see if what you want is on special or to see if what is on special and worth getting.
I find meat to be quite good value on line as they always give you a bigger piece than you ordered and there is no extra charge - but this depends how you feel about supermarket meat... If I order 1kg of chicken, I usually get 1.2kg picked and waiting for me as they don't cut it to the exact size that you ordered. If you are ordering pre-packaged meats, the same thing happens. If there isn't a 1kg piece when they go to the meat cabinet, and only a 1.5kg or a 998g they will give you the 1.5kg for the 1kg price you have already paid. Not a bad system. I haven't had any problems with being undersold and I have been doing this for well over a year now.
For fruit and vege, there is a note section that you can let the picker know what you need. For example if I want a red onion for a single salad I will say "please, just a small one. Its just for a single salad" and usually I get a small one otherwise they will automatically pick the biggest red onion they can find! Again - I haven't had any problems ordering fruit and veg as they are picked by a human from the actual supermarket - not from a warehouse or from "out the back". But they will also go out the back if something isn't on display to see if they have it there for you too!
In that note section (when you are paying and checking out) I usually write something about using as fewer bags as possible and not to bother bagging cereal boxes and loo paper. I also add a nice note to the picker like "thank you" and "have a nice day".
You will need to choose your location to pick up from and I usually also check the window for availability when I first log on. That lets me know how much time I have to get my order in and to plan my day. It remembers your preferred pick up location but you can change it if you are going to another place for some reason.
I have discovered that if I pick and pay before 11pm the day before I want my order (when I'm that organised...), I can usually get it first thing in the morning. If I order before 7am, then I can usually pick up about lunch time. If I get my order in before 9am I can pick up after 4pm. Check before you commit yourself by paying that the time that you want to pick it up is suitable for you that day. Because your order is picked by real people and they have to have a closing time to give them time to get more staff in if they end up with hundreds of orders that day! If I'm ordering it after 9am I will probably not be able to get it till the next day - that's the major pitfall for me. If I'm not organised - I have to go in or wait an extra day.
You also have to order more than $30 before it will allow you to pay for your order. You can, however, use the shopping cart as a shopping list - adding to it as you remember what you need and then paying for it when you are ready to get it all.
As you are checking out, there is a list with all your items on it. On the left is a check box for "substitutions". I check this box so that if they are out of stock of the brand I ordered, they will replace it with the next expensive item. ie, if they are out of home brand baked beans they will give me a can of some name brand baked beans at no extra cost. This doesn't happen often but kinda fun to try new brands when it does! If you don't check the box allowing substitutions, they will just refund you the cost of the item when they are out.
Another advantage is that I can get the husband to pick up the groceries on his way home! You have to show ID when you come to pick up your order, so as long as you and the person picking up have the same surname, there isn't a problem. I believe if you send a note with the person picking up and maybe ring the store to let them know, someone else could pick up your groceries for you at a pinch. If you run late from your allotted time slot. The groceries are still there waiting for you. They are packed into crates, fridges and freezers waiting for you - not on the dock! I believe they call you the next day if you don't come in and put the groceries back into stock and refund you if you don't contact them in 24 hours - but I haven't done that... yet!
I haven't tried going in early either... I'm simply not that organised!
When you get your order in your car, quickly scan it and check that you have all your items against the list they give you. You can see the through the bags and you don't need to unpack everything. Back in the beginning I had a few issues with missing items but I think its more or less resolved with the handheld computers they use these days when they pick your order. If something is missing - they will send some one to get it for you on the spot. If you notice its missing when you get home - check your emails before you call the store. It might be completely out of stock and they have already credited the item cost back to your credit card. However, the store has always been good at getting a missing item for me if I call them and let them know.
Something else to keep in mind is that if you do do a large shop and you go over a certain amount ($150 I think, but don't treat that as Gospel) then you can get it delivered for free. The delivery fee is waived at a certain price point making that option a lot more viable for the monthly shoppers! Again - check before you pay to see if the system will give you free delivery at a time that suits you.
I have been using the Woolies Click and Collect system since just after they started it and I really like it. This post is just to share information. I don't get anything from Woolies for this (I don't think they even know I've written it!) It took me a while to get the hang of it but I think its worth persevering with it, gaining the time and saving the money. I have halved our shopping budget since I started doing this as I don't fall for all the specials on the shelves and its easier to stick to my list at the kitchen table than in the supermarket itself.
I still find myself in the supermarket each week as people turn up unexpectedly and you haven't a biscuit in the place. Or maybe Woolies was out of big cans of Olive oil and so was I, so I have to go and get it from somewhere. Or I simply forget to order something and sooner or later need to go and get it.
I get my veges at the markets or local farm weekly and most of my meat from a butcher out west who delivers a monthly order to a local organic farm. I get my milk delivered, which cost extra but we never run out and I help keep a local in his business. I get my seafood from a fishmonger when we have it and we do a cheap "junk food opportunity" at the local food court on a Thursday night. They have 1/2 price specials to get rid of their stock after 7.30pm so I give every one $10 and tell them to get what they want and to give me the change. I usually end up with a Laksa or a salad and the students/kids, a fast food burger. Everyone is happy!
Let me know if you have tried it or know any other tips to ordering on line!
Greeen-ness: Not sure supermarkets are green...
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for saving money!
Time cost: Probably about an hour for your first shop as you muck around trying to figure out how to make it work. Half that time once a month once you are sorted.
Skill level: Basic computer skills - and knowing your way around your local woollies!
Fun-ness: Nice to be able to shop after dinner or before breakfast without the hassles and with a cup of tea!