With the rising cost of living and food costing more than usual, you might be finding that your budget isn’t stretching as far as it normally would.
Many of us are looking for ways to save money on our supermarket shop, whether that be through making clever substitutions or trying different foods that are more affordable.
Thankfully, there are some smart strategies you can employ to get more in your shopping trolley and ensure you meet your budget. Of course, it does require some planning and discipline, but it’s definitely achievable.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to do a grocery shop.
Budgeting is king
Jennifer Richardson, a financial adviser and founder of Got Money Honey, said everyone should have a budget.
“Having a budget gives you control. Once you have budgeted and set money aside, you know that’s your limit. Whereas, when you’re shopping without a limit, those extra things go into the shopping trolley and you spend more,” she said.
Having a separate everyday spending account to pay for things like groceries can be a great way to manage your budget and put a boundary in place to ensure you don’t dip into funds intended to pay for something else, added Richardson.
Shop online and shop less frequently
Richardson said shopping online, rather than physically going into the grocery store, can be a good way to stick to your budget.
“Shopping online for groceries means you aren’t tempted by the in-store smells and end-of-aisle specials,” she said.
“The other great thing is you can see the total cost of your cart before you check out. If it is over budget, you can remove some items or swap them out for cheaper versions. Even though you pay a delivery charge when shopping online, that outweighs what you might be tempted to overspend on in-store.”
Shopping less frequently, such as fortnightly or monthly, means you can buy in bulk and stock up on cheaper non-perishable items.
“Weekly shopping will always cost you more than fortnightly and monthly shops because you do tend to add extra things in. Even though you might need to get fresh fruit and veggies in between, you can stick to just getting those items on supplementary shops,” Richardson said.
Plan before you buy
Before you even step foot inside a supermarket, it’s important to plan out the meals you’ll be cooking for the week or fortnight ahead.
Dietitian and behaviour change scientist Dr Kirsty Seward said people can make the biggest savings if they’re prepared to put in the planning time.
Batch cooking meals will also allow you to buy meat in bulk, which often works out cheaper.
“Consider creating meals that use the same type of meat, so you can buy things like chicken breasts in bulk, or using recipes that have similar ingredients,” she said.
“When you have a meal plan, you’ll know how much of the ingredients you’ll need so you’re not wasting food and therefore wasting money.”
Buy seasonal and look for cheap cuts of meat
Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season is an easy way to keep your grocery bill down, as these items are often cheaper.
You can also consider fresh produce that is well priced year-round.
“Things like leafy greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and apples – their prices don’t really fluctuate too much,” Dr Seward said.
“Budgeting comes down to eating consistently too, and if you tend to eat similar foods each week then you’re more likely to keep your budget consistent.”
Also consider the cut of meat. Minced meat is often cheaper than a fillet cut, while tougher cuts that are great for slow cooking will be cheaper per kilogram.
Avoid ‘one-off’ ingredients in recipes
When meal planning, avoid using recipes that call for one-off, random ingredients as they are usually highly priced and unlikely to be used in other meals.
Instead, Dr Seward recommends creating meals from the ingredients you’ve purchased rather than cooking to specified recipes.
“Look at what you typically buy and how you can manipulate those into different meals or how you can present it differently. For example, meat and veg can be a plain meat and veg meal, or it can be turned into a stir fry, or you can make it a pasta meal,” she said.
What about people on special diets?
Buying cheap staples might be suitable for those who are able to eat whatever they want, but what about those who need to meet dietary requirements and follow a special diet such as gluten free (coeliac), dairy free, or low FODMAP?
Dr Seward advises shopping around to see if you can find speciality products on sale.
“Gluten free bread can be expensive so see if you can go a week without bread, or substitute having bread one week for sweet potato toast,” she said.
If speciality products are on sale, buy extra quantities and freeze them (if suitable) for future consumption, Dr Seward suggests.
More tips for saving money on groceries
- Only ever shop with a list – and don’t divert from the list. It takes discipline but will help with sticking to a budget.
- Compare the unit price for foods – see how much the item is priced at per 100g. This will help determine whether a product is more cost effective when buying in bulk.
- Buy meat and freeze it – save money by buying meat in bulk packs, on special, or nearing its use by date.
- Frozen is often cheaper – frozen berries are always cheaper than fresh varieties and they have the same nutritional value. A bag of mixed frozen vegetables will also be a lifesaver for evenings when you want to whip up a stir fry in no time.
- Buy generic brands – generic branded staple items like flour, sugar and tinned goods are often the same quality as their more expensive branded version.
- Eat vegetarian one or two days a week – this will help with keeping costs for meat down. You can still get protein from plant-based sources like beans and legumes.
- Make a leftovers omelette – use any leftover vegetables and herbs to make an omelette.
- Buy more tinned goods when on special – when items like canned tuna is on special buy more of it to consume in future weeks.
- Use loyalty rewards to get money off your shop – Woolworths Rewards and Flybuys are ways to accumulate points that can convert to dollars off a future shop.
- Purchase gift vouchers at discount – then use them to pay for your grocery shopping.
TELL US: Do you have any tips for saving money on your grocery shop? Share your advice in the comments section below.