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
TOTAL $13.50

* Special price this week. Prices sourced from Aldi and Woolworths/Safeway web sites.

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.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

16 replies on “Frugality”

I’m delighted you found products (and savings) satisfactory to you at Aldi. My relatives in the UK shop Aldi. I shope Aldi here in the USA.

The canned/tinned goods are wonderful bargains. The whole grain bread here is wonderful (and so much cheaper than at the “regular” grocery store). Some of the meat here is good and the grapes and broccoli are beyond reproach; fresh and delicious.

Want to be jealous? I only have to pay a US 25 cent deposit to borrow a cart/trolley….far less than what you must deposit!

I’m just jealous that your Aldi provides their own brand of Weetabix. If only my local Aldi would do that!!

We don’t mind their tea bags, the Organic ones. They are our usual tea. Give it a try next time you are at our place, it’s actually quite nice.
We also get their weet bix, as well as the Coles own brand weet bix and both are a pretty good comparison. Have tried the black and white Coles home brand weet bix and they are too crumbly for us.
We now have an Aldi near us, with the resident Coles nearby, so generally we go to Aldi, then finish the shopping list at Coles, then often the local grocer for F&V and a bulk meat place for meat. The meat place we used to go to is now a little too far to be convenient, so I’m hoping to get to a more local one soon – there are stacks of them in our new local area.
I figure if it’s convenient to shop there and not too far out of the way, then it makes more sense. I’m conscious of the money-cost, but just as much these days of the time-cost. If you can find that balance, I reckon that’s the best.

We are Aldi converts too. Like you we scoffed at the idea, equating them with the ‘no name’ brands of the other supermarkets but when you’re attempting to feed a family of six on a tight budget something has to give. But when we tried them we were pleasantly surprised.

There are some products that are decidedly iffy – we too fell victim to the dishwasher tablets when we had a dishwasher – but some of their products we actually prefer now. Their organic tea is fantastic and their baby products are not only cheap but are often better than the more well know brands. At a time where every cent counts they’ve been a great help.

I’ve been meaning to start a page listing all of their in-house brand names, some are very clever plays on existing brands.

We spend $200 per week on groceries for ’28 person/nights’. $7.14 per person. That may be economy of scale. But my wife is an excellent frugal shopper – buying for future need when the specials are on, etc.

Not sure where I once read about the ‘No Frills’ type branding done for Coles/SWay’s own brand items – perhaps it was even on this blog? Anyway – the point of the article was that they are deliberately made to look unattractive for the obvious reason that they’d rather sell you the higher value (profit) stuff. It worked on a number of levels, not least of which was some peoples aversion to being seen with ‘no brand’ packaging in their shopping basket/cupboards/kitchens . . .

We saved heaps by moving over to Aldi for our main grocery purchases… taking $40 to $80 savings depending on the week. We still need to do a run through at Safeway to get the items we can’t get at Aldi, but a small price to pay for such a saving.

What hurts now, is doing the Safeway shop after Aldi, you’re trolley is only ¼ full (compared to the overflowing trolly you had at Aldi) and the Safeway trolly still cost you as much or more than the Aldi one.

We shop at Aldi in the city every week. They sometimes dont have a lot of stuff (fresh vegies being a prime example) if you go later in the day, but the prices can’t be beat. Milk and Margarine and Cheese are all MUCH cheaper than elsewhere. The worst part is having to lug it all home from the city. I tend to buy heavier things at Coles which is near my gym and the rest of the stuff we try and get at Aldi.

there’s an Aldi opening on Victoria St Richmond probably in the next 12 months I’d say, my only gripe with them is they don’t appear to be in a hurry to open one in Hawthorn.

I believe that the import of EU non-high end food is due to all those farming subsidies as well as the oil price being too low..

From looking at the Safeway Homeshop website, many of the prices online seem more expensive than my actual store (I guess its to make up for the delivery costs). I stick with Safeway despite giving Aldi a try (it just seemed so BORING!)- very limited range, quality was very inconsistent and I found that the price ‘savings’ could have equally been made if I had gone with Home Brand. For me its just not worth the inconvenience of driving further, doing my own packing and waiting in a queue the length of Flinders St Platform 1!

I happened to glance in my local Aldi’s the other day and the thought which popped into my head then was that the customers looked like cattle being herded through the registers. The conveyor belt was a mile long! Not my cup of tea I’m afraid but then again I am only shopping for one and bulk buying is not a necessity for me.

I find that some of the Coles and Safeway own brand items are as good as if not superior to main brand items. I especially like the organic range of items which Coles stocks too.

I buy some of my groceries at Aldi. I like their Tandil dish soap and Protaine knockoff of Pantene shampoo and conditioner. I have long hair and some shampoos will leave it hard to comb and tie into a pony tail. Aldi is good for some things but it has a limited selection. I am surprised at some of the specials they have on things like air conditioners, tools, washing machines, as well as other appliances and household things. I live a short walk from the store on Inkerman St. in St. Kilda.

I’m not a believer in budgeting and I don’t know how much I spend each week.

However I believe in questioning the necessity of every expenditure at or before purchase, and if it is still wanted, whether the same product can be bought in a different form, or for a lower $/100g.

Even things in different product categories (which is a method of differentiation in pricing and thus stratifying the market and extracting profit from those who can pay more, and sales volume from those who won’t) might be much the same product in substance, though not presentation.

For example, there is not much difference in the ingredients between tomato sauce and tomato paste. A yogurt with a spoon will be much dearer than one without. A large bar of chocolate will be a lot cheaper than the same weight in a pack of ‘kid-size’ bars. Ditto for dried fruit.

As for Aldi if it was as close as the other shops, but wouldn’t travel especially to go to one. It’s mainly geared to families with trolleys, and the lines aren’t worthwhile for the smaller purchases.

My choice comprises a Safeway (limited range, being rebuilt into a full range one), an independent supermarket (sometimes has discounted goods, incl a bargain basket), and an NQR. Safeway accounts for about 70% of spend, NQR maybe 15% and the independent maybe 5%.

While the Safeway is in the middle, the optimum order is Safeway last, after the others have been looked at first (though often I don’t go to the independent). At this time of year NQR gets a visit first – this is furthest from me, but permits a walk along the beach from home before shopping!

I love the aldi ricecream -and its half the price of any other ricecream.

when aldi opened, i had ‘repo man’ like expectations. i was sort of looking forward to it.

BTW, your namesake is preaching only one brand of frugality – the one that assumes your time is worth nothing. Which is not the case for the financially successful, because then time becomes the limiting factor, not money.

>He says frugal types go out of their way to take care of every purchase and >spend money on maintenance, as that’s cheaper.

Taking care is good, but you can’t just say maintenance is cheaper – when there are 3 main options – ie cheap/unreliable new, quality new, secondhand life-cycle costs are not straightforward.

>They are also big on points and coupons, because they know everything adds >up.

Not if you need to spend an hour extra travelling time to get a benefit worth only $10 – that is not being economically productive or saving energy. Savings through points are marginal, loyalty schemes change their rules and participation subconciously justifies bad purchases or paying more than necessary.

>most importantly, they understand the difference between what they want and >what they really need. That means they know how to set priorities.

Agree there.

We use Safeway home shop as it saves us money … not because items are cheaper (they’re not), but because:

* We don’t buy anything we don’t actually need
* Very time efficient: there’s no confusing store layout to encourage random walks up and down aisles needlessly travelled

That said, we use Aldi for nappies now that we’ve run out of the CostCo / Kirkland ones. Aldi’s nappies are very nearly as good as the CostCo home brand diapers, Kirkland, which are by the far, the best diapers we’ve ever bought – bar none including some of the Huggies we bought thinking they were okay (they’re not – they suck!). Kirkland’s nappies don’t leak, keep in explosive diarrhea, they fit well, and take a tremendous amount of liquid for those huge night time loads. We loved Kirkland diapers so much, we bought a new box and sent them to Australia at huge expense in the hope that CostCo would be here before they ran out. Oh well.

I’m looking forward to CostCo coming here to Australia. They rock. You might be buying 10 or 20 lbs of meat, 2 liters of washing concentrate or 20 kitchen towel rolls as there’s only bulk items, but you save well over half on the most expensive laundry and bathroom items. For example, a 96 oz (about 3 litres, and good for at around 45-90 washes depending on top loader / front loader) bottle of Tide washing liquid concentrate costs roughly $7.00. This about 1/3 – 1/2 the price you can pay at Safeway or Giant. Although it’s a $50 per year joining fee, CostCo saved us several hundred dollars in the two and a bit years we used it whilst in the USA.


I refuse to use Safeway’s “Select” brands since I learnt a bit about how they screw over suppliers (there was a 4-corners show on it a while back)

My local safeway also started giving shelf space to these products over brand names that obviously weren’t prepared to pay for the shelf space.

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