Living from paycheck to paycheck does not have to be a bad thing

We are a family of 4 living from paycheck to paycheck most months and I have gotten our groceries down to between R2000 and R2500 a month*. We aren’t big eaters but we like to entertain and there are more than 4 kids eating and drinking in my house most days.

*Added in: This does not include entertainment. 

1. Meal planner & Leftovers

We have a menu that we eat by most months. Yes it can get a bit boring, but it saves me loads of thinking and cooking time. We generally have the following:
Monday – Pasta (chicken or beef)
Tuesday – Stir Fry (chicken)
Wednesday – Try something new
Thursday – Stew (chicken or beef)
Friday – Egg & Toast
Saturday – 2 x Braais or Eat out
Sunday – Roast (chicken or beef)
We eat a lot of chicken as it is much cheaper than beef.

Depending on how much food is leftover from the previous night we will mostly have it for lunch the next day or we will have it for dinner again. Eg. the other night I made a large Mac-n-cheese for dinner we only ate half of it and the next night instead of making whats on the menu I made some chops and served it with the leftovers. Saved me time, money and less dishes.

2. Shopping List

Planning your meals and writing out what you need for each meal makes it less likely that you have food in your cupboard or trolley that you won’t cook. I have a standard list with most thing I need to buy for the month like the girls lunch items and my cleaning supplies and toiletries.

Once I worked out my menu I would insert the food items onto the sheet including how much I need of each item and what the cost was at the store the previous month as well as how much I’m willing to pay for each item.

3. Specials

This may be the most obvious way to cut down on costs, but I hunt for specials like a crazy person. Have you seen extreme couponing? I will be a rock start. Around to 20th of a month my budget it worked out and I then start downloading and collect all the special leaflets from the stores in our local mall as well as all the shops that are within walking distance from my office.

My sheet has an average price column followed by a column for each store and I then fill in all the prices and discounts offered at those stores. I will then mark what products I will buy at what store. This means I will get to my local store at month end with my list and compare prices as I buy and if it is cheaper elsewhere (within walking distance from my office because driving for a R2 save is stupid) I will go buy those items the next day.

If there is a really good bulk special i will spend a little extra because it saves me loads in the long run.

4. Checking your cupboards

Do you really need 6 shampoos? I generally use 1 shampoo a month so I try to have 2 in the cupboard. Our tomato sauce lasts for 3 months so I check my bottle monthly and as soon as there is a third of a bottle left I buy a new one.

My list has how much of what I need on and I check every cupboard in my house the day before I go shopping and mark off what I don’t have to get. This saves money as well as space in my cupboards.

4. Go without

This may seem silly but note that we do not go without important things. There are certain things that i just refuse to pay more for. I do not pay more than R49.99 p/kg for mince so if I cannot find it that price I don’t buy it. If the cheese is over R69 p/kg we don’t have cheese.

5. Repacking

I buy a 1kg pack of deboned picked breasts and instead of placing the entire pack in the freezer I repack them into bags of 2 breasts per bag. This saves me from using too much meat for a meal and if I need more I can take out another without having to cook for 8 people to not feel like I am wasting food. This takes time to repack and freeze but its saves money and prevents wasting.

How do you save money on your monthly shopping? If you have any tips please share them in the comments.

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17 thoughts on “Living from paycheck to paycheck does not have to be a bad thing

  1. I always thought I was quite organised when it comes to grocery shopping but you are SUPER organised… I am adding average prices on my grocery list right now.. very clever to compare them monthly. x

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  2. Oh I love this Charlotte! Thanks for all the tips, I must admit I buy my groceries at the same shop every month without thinking twice about check else where for specials, I will try and use your tips for my shopping trip next week and I’ll let you know how it goes!

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  3. Wow, I love how organised you are! This is something I struggle to do. I also make the lists and TRY to do the shopping but something always pushes me off tract. Guess I just have to become more disciplined. Thanks for this…

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  4. OMG you will not believe how much I spend on groceries (also family of four plus helper) but also shop specials. I think most of it is waste and as I was reading this thought you are a stay at home mum but a working one. Good job. I am inspired thank you but I love lamb too much have it nearly weekly but will need to make sacrifices. Thank you thank you. Glad I came across this. Now off start stalking you and reading your blog.

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  5. LOVED this post! Just this evening I proudly told my husband that I’d gone down from a VIP Woolies Cash card member to a valued member – he was a bit confused as to why I’d be happy with the fact that I’ve moved DOWN the rung, but I cringe if I think back to how much money I used to blow every month, and all because I used to do last-minute grocery shopping at Woolies. It’s shocking, really. We used to blow around R4000 for two people – R4000 that we didn’t have, mind you – until we had a very rude awakening after my son was born. Now, we’ve managed to decrease our monthly food budget to between R1500 and R1800 for three, and we eat really, really well! I became vegetarian at the beginning of the year so we’ve also started buying less meat (my husband still eats meat, so he’ll have chicken once a week, and beef once a week), and it’s saved us SO much money. I completely agree with you, though – planning is key (though I’m not nearly as organised as you are! Totally wish I was, though!) Can’t wait to ready up on your October menu and budget. 🙂

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