Canberra Dad - tales from the front line of new parenthood

With Emma on maternity leave, we can’t be so carefree with our grocery bill any more. We live just around the corner from Hughes IGA, so if I was cooking dinner and we were short on something, I’d just run up the road.  IGA totally had our number: they charge more for pretty much everything, but when it’s 7:00pm in winter, driving to Coles just seems too hard.

Now Jack’s arrived (14 weeks and counting), we’re trying to be more organized. We’ve been getting into bulk buying.  I have an Aldi list. Every two weeks, we drive out to Weston Creek Aldi and stock up on the staples. Peanut butter, cereal and canned tomatoes live upstairs for when the kitchen stocks run out.

Also, I have to put my hand up and admit that I love the whole Aldi experience.  They had me at trumpets.  Years ago, when they first came on the scene, I wandered in and there, in the middle aisle where they always stock the random specials, were discount brass instruments.  It’s like a revolving exhibition of ‘strange things you wouldn’t expect to find in a supermarket.’

Just recently my friend Lauren started raving about Costco.  The way she described it to me sounded like a Bunnings of food: a massive warehouse with 10 kilo bags of sugar.  Lauren described buying a cheesecake the size of Texas, and it only cost her $12.

We had to check it out.

Costco is out at Majura Park, in discount warehouse land.  Driving out there, it feels like Fyshwick but more vast, and more empty. We lined up, signed up, paid the $60 yearly fee, and got our photos taken. All very clinical — a bit like getting your driver’s license renewed.   Then we were set loose on hectares of stock reaching up to the ceiling.

We wandered, dazed, intimidated by the scale of it all.  None of the order made sense.  Garden gloves sat across the aisle from cartons of Beck’s Beer. Navigating this on five hours of sleep didn’t help.  At least with Aldi, all the stores are laid out the same way, so you can walk in and know exactly where to look for stuff.  I put a 2kg bag of onions in our gigantic trolley, just so I didn’t feel useless.

The fruit and veg section depressed me: everything wrapped in plastic and stacked in cardboard.  The 2.27kg bag of oranges was a bargain, but would we really get through that much fruit before it spoils?  We could actually end up wasting money.  Maybe when Jack’s a teenager that kind of volume will be more relevant.

I swooped on a 1kg tub of bocconcini for $12.89.  I didn’t have the Coles price in my head, but I know that’s phenomenally cheap, and I’m a sucker for cheese.  I saw some discount haloumi, and I was in dairy heaven.

We’ll definitely make our money back on the cost of joining: contact lenses and tires were two expenses coming up anyway, and Costco’s prices seem lower by a mile.

Emma had a good point, though, as we drove home, munching through our 1kg jar of cashews.  “Do you think, because we’ve got more food, we’ll just eat more?”