1 March 2024

Grocery shopping and bill paying

I gave up looking through supermarket specials catalogues years ago when I realised that 90 percent of what they reduced in price was junk food: fizzy drinks, sweets, chips, biscuits, sugary cereals, cake mix, canned soup etc.. Grocery prices started rising before Christmas and while many of us are used to higher prices, we're all looking for value for money so it's still very difficult shopping for fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, staples and cleaners. I put cleaners in there because although I don't buy washing liquid, spray and wipe or any of the common cleaners, I do buy borax, washing soda, laundry soap, vinegar, disinfectant, oxy-bleach, dish liquid and White Magic Flat Pot Scrubbers. Those scrubbers are very effective, they're $5 each, you can wash them in the dishwasher or the washing machine and they last well for at least six months. 

This is my general cleaning kit. It contains disinfectant, a homemade spray of water, vinegar and a few drops of dish liquid, small bottle of vinegar, brushes, eucalyptus oil, bicarb soda, a duster and rags.

This is a robot wet mop brought back from South Korea. Sunny and Kerry gave it to me as a Christmas gift a few years ago.  It's fabulous.  It uses plain water with a dash of vinegar.

I use the borax, washing soda and laundry soap to make laundry liquid, I use vinegar, disinfectant and dish liquid for general cleaning and the oxy-bleach on stains or in the washing machine to make sure everything is cleaned to the standard I want.  One 10 litre batch of homemade laundry liquid lasts for about four months, so I'm not weighed down by the cost of buying a bottle of Cold Power or Radiant every week or two and bringing in all that extra plastic into my home. Buying ingredients for homemade cleaners will save you a lot of money and it's ongoing so the savings continue over the years.

I usually have my groceries delivered from Woolworths but two weeks ago I decided to do a test shop. I always knew Aldi was cheaper because we used to shop there but I moved away from them when I thought the quality of their fruit, vegetables and meat weren't as good as they once were. To help me with my test shop, I made up my shopping list on the Woolworths app as I usually did but didn't pay for it - I just had the list in my phone. The app automatically creates a shopping list on your phone with weights and prices. Then I went shopping at Aldi and as I walked around the shop, I could compare the Aldi prices with the exact price Woolworths were charging for the same product. An average Woolworths shop cost me around the $100 mark (that's for me and Gracie) and the Aldi shop was around $80. So I'm back at Aldi for the time being. I've always believed Aldi sold the best dairy products and I'd pleased to tell you that they still do. Their butter is $6.39 per 500g against Woolworth's Western Star butter at $8 per 500g, recently reduced from $9 per 500g. Their milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt are all excellent and cheaper than the same products in Woolworths. I'm pleased to say their nuts, tissues, tea, and general groceries are cheaper too. Most of their products are made in Australia, their fruit, vegetables and meat are all local and for the foreseeable future I'll be shopping there. If you think you might change too, download the Woolworths or Coles app, make up your shopping list and take that list to Aldi to make a real comparison. I hope it helps you make the most of your grocery money.

Get into the habit of shopping with the UNIT price in mind, not the product price. The unit price must be displayed near the product price for you can compare before you buy. For instance, I buy a 1.5 kg bag of Australian traditional rolled oats, grown on Australian farms and it costs 17 cents per 100 grams or $2.60 per 1.5 kg. If I bought Uncle Toby's traditional oats, they would cost me 65 cents per 100 grams or $6.50 per kg. I've eaten rolled oats since I was a child and there is no difference in the taste of these oats. Getting into the habit of shopping by unit price, you will save money. Look at generic brands too. Some, but not all, of the generics are good but you have to test them first. If you want to test a product, buy the smallest size you can and go for it. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

If you cook from scratch or you're planning to, having the staples you need in your pantry will make cooking easier and will open up a wider range of meals you can make on a regular basis. Your staples are the ingredients you have on hand to make the food you usually eat. My pantry staples are: plain, self raising and bread flour, cornflour or arrowroot (to thicken sauces), salt, pepper, curry powder, chilli, onion and garlic powder, dried italian herbs, dried oregano, ginger powder, mustard seeds, sweet paprika, honey, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, shredded coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, vinegar, tea, rice, barley and pasta. In the freezer I keep two 500g blocks of butter and in the fridge I always have milk, mustard, dried yeast, eggs and cheese. I usually have the following in my stockpile cupboard: tins of salmon and tuna, baked beans, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and passata. The start of a lot of meals I cook are onions, carrots and celery but when I cook asian food that changes to garlic, ginger and green onion, so I have those ingredients on hand too or will be ready to buy them when I shop again. If you can work out what ingredients you need in your pantry/fridge/freezer to cook your favourite meals without going to the supermarket you'll make things easier for yourself. Set yourself up with the ingredients you need but don't go overboard on things like spices because they'll go out of date before you use them. Just get the basics - salt, pepper, flour, sugar, tea, coffee, rice and whatever it is you need every week to keep you going.

I wish I had more information on bulk meat shopping but I haven't bought bulk meat for years. If you have family or friends who will share the purchase with you, and you have a large freezer, it's an excellent way to save money on meat. Here is the last blog post I wrote on bulk meat.  You can get a general idea of the process in that post and it will give you an understanding of weights as well as how to order.

Rice pudding is a delicious breakfast porridge and is much cheaper than commercial cereal. I make rice pudding or rolled oats porridge for six months of the year and when I see the prices of those other cereals, I just smile and walk on.

Rice pudding - ½ cup white rice with 2 ½ cups of milk and a 1 tablespoon sugar. Place everything in a saucepan, bring to a gentle boil while stirring so it doesn't catch, then simmer for 15 minutes. OR, make it the night before, store it in the fridge overnight and reheat in the morning.

Looking through my collection of 1970s and 1980s recipes.

Try to be flexible too. If you don't have fresh garlic, use garlic powder; if you don't have passata, use tinned tomatoes or make a cream sauce. As you become a more experienced cook, you'll know what you can use in place of something else. There's one thing for sure, when you're a cook, you're always learning. I've been cooking from scratch for most of my 75 years and I know there's still a lot to learn.

I really wish I still had a chest freezer. I have the freezer at the top of my fridge but a chest freezer would help me shop less often.  I'd be able to store milk, packs of flour, blanched vegetables bought on special as well as more cooked meals. If you're just starting out, think about getting a chest freezer, it's a very wise investment.

The harmful effects of ultra-processed foods such as cereals, protein bars, fizzy drinks, ready meals and fast food.  

Paying the bills

In the past, Hanno paid all the bills and I had to learn, very quickly indeed, about how to do it so I didn't pay late fees or have the electricity cut off. Now I have a master bills list which is made up of all the bills I pay during the year: every month, three-months, six-months and 12-months. I made that list by going through the previous year's online bank statements. I also add up how much I spent on groceries in the previous year and focus on reducing that with smarter shopping. Like my bills, yours are probably paid in a variety of ways - by Direct Debit, BPay, Credit Card or online transfer. When you set up each account, choose the payment option that's easiest for you. Having a list made up will help you organise your bill paying and when you see amounts deducted from your bank account, you'll be able to check them off your master list or if their not legitimate, you can report it to the bank immediately.

When I get an online notification about a bill and it's not due for payment for a couple of weeks, I put the date due in my online calendar and set the calendar to send me an email reminder three days before the due date. That's been working well for me but work out what will help you and make it a regular thing. 

~~~  πŸŒΏπŸ’œπŸŒΏ ~~~

I'm finishing this post now but I feel I still have important things to tell you 😡‍πŸ’«. I might remember them later today, if so, I'll add them here.  I do hope you're helped by some of the above. Grocery shopping is an important part of family life and in these difficult times, we all need to save where and when we can.

I hope you're doing well and looking forward to the change of seasons like I am πŸ₯°.  



  1. Oh, Rhonda, it is so good to have you back! Do excuse me for commenting on this post, it's so exciting to be able to! I commented on your newer one, and it's not yet appeared. I wonder if there is a delay? So I am testing out commenting here and you are very much free to delete this one, if indeed you are reviewing before publishing! Much love to you. Jackie

  2. Rhonda , I have followed you for years, there was a time when I was unable to make comments, not sure why? Anyway I would just like to say that what you do is amazing. I wish they taught this in schools. I grew up with a Mum who cooked from scratch and can remember the shock I felt when a work colleague made curried sausages with a packet mix base. Thank you Rhonda😊

    1. There are a couple of high school that use Down to Earth as a text book, Lisa. 😊 Your curried sausages story made me laugh. Good grief! πŸ˜‘

  3. We have porridge once or twice a week but rather than adding sugar we add sultanas and cinnamon with some extra fruit added when cooked.

  4. With a weekly Coles bill that seems to go up every week I’m going to give Aldi a go! I’m interested in nutrition and just read a fascinating book called “Ultra Processed People” - learnt so much as well as the awful practices of the big multi national companies. Cooking from scratch is the way to go!! Thank you Rhonda. Carolyn πŸ™

  5. Your comment about having to quickly learn bill paying is something that happens all too often. A couple should always BOTH know what bills are and when and how to pay them. I always handled the family finances so when my dh passed, I had no problem. However, I always insisted that we sit down once a month and go over our expenses and bill paying. I didn't want him to be out of the loop if something happened to me.

  6. I love oat porridge for breakfast usually with fresh berries but the price now that out of season, I have turned to frozen blueberries. Baked sliced pears are lovely but take longer. I got hold of steel cut oats and used them for nearly a year, more expensive, a different flavour and texture but sadly no longer available. I am always silently amazed how people complain about a bill arriving. They arrive at the same time every year so should be easy to plan for but planning is a skill and should be taught in school, along with basic cooking and household management. Hope u have an amazing Easter and are blessed with sunshine. Everyone in SE Qld is tired of the rain. Erin


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