I go through waves of being really good at getting my grocery shopping streamlined and as inexpensive as possible – and I have other times where I just cannot comprehend how a handful of things in my trolley ended up costing upwards of a hundred dollars!?! Sometimes it does get a little bit out of control!
I was planning to do some kind of “$50 grocery challenge” but that very quickly became frustrating for both me and my family who have become accustomed to certain comfort foods so the plan was abandoned for the sake of harmony.
However, I still managed to save a good $100 that fortnight, so my efforts were not in vain. That’s real money back in my pocket (or saving account – whichever)
So here is my Top Ten Tips To Save Money On Food
Have a Plan
If you do NOTHING ELSE to reduce your spending, this would be the single most important thing you can do to spend less – and get exactly what you need. If you don’t have a plan how do you know what to buy? Wandering around the supermarket with the vague idea that you need to get “some kind of food”, it a recipe for disaster. Or… in my case… a recipe for eating nothing but impulse buys for the week and having to return to the supermarket several times to pick up the things I didn’t know we actually needed – ending up spending a whole lot more in the process. It’s a good idea to have a menu plan – and a list of anything else you need before you head to the shops.
Often you’ll find better value if you buy your fruit and vegetables in a green grocer, meat from a butcher and even bread from a bakery – then head to a supermarket for everything else. We’re fortunate that at our local shopping centre we have all those shops, plus a choice of Woolworths, Coles and Aldi all under one roof. I would buy most of our pantry and cold items from Aldi, but there’s some things they just don’t sell so then I’ll pop into one of the other supermarkets. It is a lot more time and messing around – especially with children – so sometimes we will just go straight to Woolworths and buy the lot in the one place – but we do pay a lot more for it. We also used to live near to a local farmers market which was ah-may-zing for value, quality and selection. If there’s something like that near you it’s worth checking out!
Buy In Season If Possible
I’ve even Googled “What vegetables are in season *this month*” before writing my menu plan for the fortnight so I could shape my meals around what is likely to be freshest, at it’s best and more than likely – cheapest! Producing fruit and vegetables in the season that they can grow locally is cheaper than storing them for months or importing them from overseas. Makes sense to buy when things are most plentiful and going to be best value for money.
Cook More From Scratch
The more packaging and processing a food goes through before it gets to you the more it usually costs by volume. So generally the more you make yourself from the most basic ingredients the cheaper your overall food expenses will be. I often bake a cake every week, cut it up into pieces, pop them in freezer bags and freeze them for school snacks throughout the week, which much cheaper than pre-packaged snacks.
Eat Less Meat
Meat so often is another expensive component of a grocery bill. You can still have meat – just maybe smaller quantities and less often. Obviously this doesn’t apply if you already don’t eat a lot of meat, but if every meal involves a big slab of meat then that might be one area you can cut back your spending.
Buy In Bulk
Okay, so, if you do really want to have heaps of meat most days of the week buying in bulk can be one way to make that more affordable. If you have a big enough freezer (or possibly a deep freezer) have a chat with a butcher (or even a couple of butchers to compare prices) and see if they can do you a deal on large quantity of meat (like half a cow). This works for other food and products as well, either stocking up when something you use is on sale, or shopping at places like Costco – if you haven’t been to one here are two good blog posts that how Costco measures up against other supermarkets: “10 Things To Buy At Costco” and “The Cost of Groceries in Sydney.” One thing a friend does with shopping at Costco is buying not just for themselves, but their siblings family and their own parents as well – and splitting the costs between the 3 households. That way they get the savings without being stuck with 200 rolls of toilet paper.
Plan Your Treats
I think this is really important and it’s where I do often trip myself up. I’ll write a detailed plan of everything we need for all our meals for the week, including snacks for during the day, and I diligently do not deviate from my list. And I get home and think – gee I really could go for some chocolate right now… and so I make a trip up to the shops specifically to buy said chocolate… do you think after I’ve gone to that effort that I just buy one chocolate block and be done with it? No. I make the trip worthwhile…. with two blocks of chocolate, a tub of ice-cream and then whatever else I happen to impulse buy on my way out. OR if you’re inclined to just grab treats as you shop – planning for it t cut back on the initial shop – could also be wise.
Waste Not – Want Not
Wasting food is a big expense. Every time you throw away food you are throwing away money. Sometimes avoiding wasting food simply means planning a little better. If you have a meal planned that is going to use half of something – if that something isn’t freezable or doesn’t have a long shelf life, then plan another meal that uses the other half for the next day (or however long it has left before it’ll expire). Also check your fridge, freezer and pantry before you go shopping so you can plan to use up anything that needs using, and so you don’t double up on items you don’t need. Finally one thing I need to work on is being realistic about whether or not left overs are going to be eaten before they go off in the fridge. If it’s a decent sized serving – or could make another family meal – I put it in a container and freeze it and then have it another night. That’s practically a free meal right there!
I find if I’m completely locked in to a plan I can end up spending a bit more, because I miss opportunities to save money. I’ll look out for what’s on sale, what vegetables are extremely cheap that week, what meat might be on clearance to eat or freeze that day – I’ve even stood to the side at the supermarket and quickly googled recipe ideas to use certain things that were unexpectedly cheap that day, because I can always change my plans if it’ll save a couple of dollars.
Identify Where YOU Spend The Most Money
If you still don’t know where it is that all the money is going, it’s worth looking over your receipts and really working out where it is that you spend the bulk of your budget, because your shopping habits might be something completely different to what I’ve outlined. Keeping in mind it’s amazing how quickly a few $5 items can add up.
Chilli Con Carne
Tuna Mornay Pasta Bake
Three Winter Warmers (Pumpkin Soup, Cheesy Mac with Hidden Veggies and Bacon and Pea Risotto)
If you have any more suggestions to save money on food please add them below!