A long time ago, when I lived in America, we were not wealthy, but we managed to make ends meet and even saved a bit of money from time to time.
I new how to find good deals when my family needed STUFF, and I was a very good grocery shopper, always merging my beliefs about what is quality food with my desire to spend less. So I bought antibiotic-free kosher chickens at SuperTarget, or wherever they were on sale. I scoured reduced racks for organic cereal for 90% off, and paired those purchases with coupons. I shopped at BJ's or Sam's Club too, finding great deals on things like organic coffee, big bags of avocados, organic shelf-stable milk boxes, juice boxes for treats, etc.
And then, we made Aliyah. I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of giving up pesticide-free foods I'd gotten SO used to buying. I had a hard time finding healthy ready-to-eat snacks and treats for the family. Strawberries were suddenly a luxury, and we'd had them regularly in Florida! My kids had a hard time with the new flavors of Israel - bananas tasted different, milk tasted different, and to this day, one of my former yogurt loving children will NOT touch Israeli yogurt! Everything seemed like an uphill climb. I sought out familiar brands online and at health food stores, but suddenly my grocery spending was completely out of control!
Eventually, I realized it was time to adjust, using a bit of tough love - "Kids," I said, "from now on, we are going to learn to love the foods of Israel". And we started to reign in the spending (around the time this blog was "born").
Here are some ideas I have if you are struggling to adjust to Israeli grocery shopping, and if you are spending more than you can afford:
1. Decide what your maximum expenditure on food will be per week, and do NOT allow yourself to go over. It helps a lot to add up your purchases on a calculator as you walk thru the store! I have been seen at the grocery store many, many times carrying a calculator! (Now I mainly use my phone, but you can see my well-worn calculator pictured above!)
2. Do not buy any convenience foods - these end up costing a lot and are usually not so healthy. Find acceptable alternatives tailored to your family's needs. If you're buying bourekas, consider serving roasted potatoes (even with a sprinkling of cheese melted on top it will still be less expensive!); if it's cookies, consider baking your own, or substituting with fresh fruit, if you're buying frozen pizza, find a way to make your own easily, or else at least save some of the expense by making pita pizzas...
3. Get to know the list of price controlled foods. While you are getting your bearings, it's worth it to buy the cheapest bread, eggs, etc that you can.
4. Find alternatives to cereal. In America, cereal is a dirt cheap breakfast, especially with sales and coupons. Not So in Israel! Here it's expensive. Try making oatmeal, breakfast muffins, or other simple breakfast options.
5. Fresh fruit in season is the least expensive sweet treat you'll find. And when you buy what's in season, they will taste best AND will give you the best value. (If you have access to a shuk, you'll often get the best deal there! I saw tons of fruit at the shuk in Teverya for 10 shekels for 3kg last week - and yes, even stalls with a teudah had this price!) Oh - and if you have space in your freezer, buy extra fruit, chop, and freeze for out-of-season use! You can also freeze those deliciously sweet grapes for an awesome treat.
6. Buy fresh vegetables at the best price you can find! I really try to get lots and lots of vegetables for 2 shekels/kg - Seek out the deals! You'll be eating healthy for much less money!
7. Carrots and cucumbers make a great snack. Make a simple dip (chumus works, as does techina, or many other options) if your family won't eat them plain. They are a lot less expensive than crackers and pretzels!
8. Eggs can be the basis of a meal, and are a pretty inexpensive protein. So are legumes. Get to know lentils and black beans and chick peas! Save the chicken and meat for Shabbat.
9. When your budget is not very flexible, don't stock up! You don't need to pay interest on a minus in the bank because you have 3 months worth of food in the pantry. There will be another sale. (If you are trying to build a stockpile, then you'll need to find a way to clear some room in your budget to do so - don't go into minus for a stockpile!)
Those are my thoughts for today! Please help me add more tips to this list - leave me a comment below about how YOU control your spending.