Rising Food Prices and How You Can Stay On a Budget
It’s no secret that prices are going up by the day and the fact that Ramazan is just round the corner isn’t helping our budget either. Whereas many countries around the world offer subsidized Ramazan packages, in Pakistan there is a trend of hiking prices of key commodities. Regardless, inflation is upon us and many individuals are looking to keep a ‘halka haath’ (light touch) on their spending.
We’ve put together a few simple things that you can do to try and stay on track with your budget:
Shop from your pantry
This may sound obvious. But it is astonishing the number of items that land in the trash from your kitchen because they have expired. Challenge yourself and try to use only the items available in your pantry/fridge before you run to the grocery store again. This will cut down wastage and keep you from spending more money on more things that may end up in the trash too.
Plan your grocery trips
Not only does planning your trips save you money, but also saves your time.
- Plan your meals in advance and write down a shopping list.
- But first, do a double check and see if you have any products hidden away at the back of the cabinet that you may end up buying again.
- Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. Have a nice meal before leaving so you are less prone to giving into cravings.
- Stick to the list. It is tempting to pick off an interestingly packaged item off the shelves but that’s just going to lead to a decomposing jar of whole grain mustard that you have barely touched.
- Shop in bulk and shop at wholesale stores. There is no shortage of wholesale markets in Pakistan. Stock up for 2 weeks, if not the whole month. Fruits and vegetables should be a weekly affair, meat can be bought monthly, and non-perishables (like toilet paper, tissue, detergents, etc.) can be bought bimonthly.
Kitchen and cooking tips
- Cook large batches that you can freeze for later. This diminishes the need to order food when there’s no time to cook. There’s always something to heat up and eat. Nihari, paye, koftay, palak, basic marinara sauce, are all good options to freeze.
- In order to make meat dishes more filling/nutritious and larger in quantity, consider adding a small portion of meat to a base of vegetables/legumes. Palak gosht, chicken and daal, chukandar gosht, consider adding potatoes to your kofta curry or even murgh cholay.
- Use leftovers in a creative way and make sholay (a dish that is basically a combination of leftover foods, eaten like haleem).
- It may be worth your while to take a trip to bazaars that often have vegetables available at good prices- Sunday Bazaar is a good option.
- If you have been blessed with a green thumb, then consider setting up a small herb and vegetable garden where you can grow basics like coriander, green chilies, tomatoes and lemons.
Other life tips that will help your budget
- It’s really easy to think that you ‘need’ to buy something when it is not often the case. When you pick something up in a store, ask yourself if you can make do without it. If yes, then put it back- it’s not easy, but you’ll feel better once you’re home and have a fuller wallet.
- Try home-made alternatives. Picking up a cup of coffee or chai may seem like a small thing but when it retails at around RS 350 for a latte and RS 200 for tea- it makes more sense to make your own and use a travel mug. The same goes for smoothies and juices.
- Lunch and the annoying mid-day hunger pangs tend to have you reaching out for restaurant menus. Make sure you have small snacks ready and a lunch packed from home so you aren’t spending RS 500 a day on ordering food and snacks.
- Allocate your budget at the beginning of each month, or week. You set an appropriate amount for your monthly or weekly kharcha and divide it suitably. 30% for food, 20% for entertainment, 30% for bills and payments, 20% miscellaneous (or whatever you think is best for your lifestyle). Weekly budgeting may sometimes work out better. Consider this: you’re done with your weekly budget, but you have only 2 days to go till a renewal. It’s easier to exercise your will power for 2 days rather than the possible 10-15 days of a monthly budget.
- Do a bit of research before impulse buying. It’s very likely that what you want is cheaper elsewhere- this applies to food, groceries and apparel.
What budgeting tips do you swear by? Share with us in the comments.