Just so you know, this is not me:
Brazen Careerist blogger Daniel Bowen talks about the seven effective habits of highly frugal people. He says frugal types go out of their way to take care of every purchase and spend money on maintenance, as that’s cheaper. Instead of buying, they make things, they set a budget and do extensive research. They are also big on points and coupons, because they know everything adds up. They are also very switched on to all the news about issues like rates and deals and, most importantly, they understand the difference between what they want and what they really need. That means they know how to set priorities.
However I am pondering new ways to be frugal, since I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so poor at the moment.
Well, poor is a relative term. I’m not poor, by any stretch of the imagination. I have a pretty expensive house and mortgage to support, a nice (well, I think it’s nice) car, yada yada yada. I’m not struggling — I just seem to have less money than usual. Which is probably because last year I upgraded my car, my water heating, bought two suits, shouted the family to a Wii at Christmas, etc etc…
I did that thing I did once before where I looked at all my outgoings. And I noticed that for November, January and February, I spent about $1500 on groceries.
Is this high? For 13 person-nights per week at my place? That’s about $10 per person-night. Is it a lot? I don’t know. But I wonder if it can be lower without sacrificing quality.
When my sister and mother praised Aldi in the past, I dissed it. Sure cheap prices, but if you can’t buy everything there, what’s the point?
But over the summer break I heard similar praise, and given there’s nothing stopping me buying different things from different places, and I pretty much go past an Aldi every fortnight when visiting my dad, I thought I’d give it a try, with a couple of caveats:
- My sister cautioned me that some of their products are a bit crappy or risky: tea, soap, meat, fruit and veg. And the Aldi dishwasher tabs scratched her glasses. She’s not keen on the pasta, but she’s married to an Italian. On the other hand, she says cereals, biscuits, dried fruit, bread, juice and tinned goods are all good.
- Food miles. Some of the Aldi in-house brands are made in Australia. Some are imported from Europe. (Yet another sign that oil is still too cheap.) So I decided I’d be checking labels carefully and only buying local products.
So I went in and got a bunch of things on Sunday to try. Here’s how it goes price-wise.
|Usual Safeway product||Typical Safeway unit price||Aldi equivalent||Aldi unit price||Bought||Saved|
|Just Juice/Apple Time etc||$1.145* – $1.55 / litre||Westcliff juice||$0.945 / litre||4 l||$0.80|
|Sanitarium Weetbix||$0.5025 / 100 gms||Golden Vale Wheat Biscuits||$0.259 / 100 gms||1 kg||$2.43|
|Sultana Bran||$0.608* – $0.907 / 100 gms||Golden Vale Sultana Flakes||$0.538 / 100 gms||1 kg||$0.70|
|Beechworth honey squeeze||$1.14* – $1.30 / 100 gms||Bramwells honey||$0.873 / 100 gms||400 g||$1.07|
|Pura Light Start milk||$2.185 / litre||Farmdale light||$1.29 / litre||2 l||$1.79|
|Woolworths sliced peaches||$4.63 / kg||Sweet Valley peach slices||$3.49 / kg||1 kg||$1.14|
|Leggo’s tomato paste||$0.664* – 0.752 / 100 g||Carloni tomato paste||$0.258 / 100 g||500 g||$2.03|
|Val Verde passata||$0.415 / 100 ml||Carloni passata||$0.242 / 100 ml||700 ml||$1.21|
|Helgas mixed grain||$0.582 / 100 gms||Bakers Taste Homestyle mixed grain||$0.352 / 100 gms||850 g||$1.95|
|Safe toilet paper||$0.563 / roll||Dandy Enviro Friend toilet paper||$0.499 / roll||6 rolls||$0.38|
I spent $30.06 (plus a surcharge of 30 cents for paying by credit card) on a sampling of products, and evidently saved $13.50 (taking into account that some products are on special at Safeway this week).
For the minor inconvenience of detouring past, dealing with taking and packing my own bags and using trolleys that require a $2 bond, I reckon that might be worth a trip every few weeks to stock up on staples.
Based on what I’ve sampled so far, no complaints so far on the quality.
Mind you, brand loyalty may come into play. I’ve eaten Weetbix for probably more than thirty years, and may continue to buy the brand name.
Of course, Coles and Safeway both have two sets of in-house generic brands, which in some cases may be price-competitive with Aldi. Coles’ Smart Buy and Safeway’s Home Brand, I must say, are totally uninspiring due to their packaging. I wonder if the fact that Aldi takes the trouble to make up product brand names and design colourful packages helps here. Have I really fallen for style over substance?
But Coles also has You’ll Love Coles and Safeway has Select, which are the equivalent to Aldi’s in-house brands, and said to be higher quality than the plain brand ones. They appear to be a bit more expensive than Aldi, but obviously worth considering — particularly Select, since I normally shop at Safeway anyway.
- NineMSN: Supermarket savings (April 2006)
- AAP: Coles supermarkets cheaper than Woolworths, Aldi still better (2 March 2009)
- GroceryChoice: Melbourne survey results
- Aldi Reviews — forum of people reviewing Aldi products