How to reduce the cost of your groceries

How to reduce the cost of your groceries

The weekly grocery shop can really take a big chunk out of your budget. Australian households without children are spending between $150 and $200 a week on average on food and drink.

At the same time, a 2016 report by RaboDirect found that as a nation, we’re scraping $10 billion worth of consumable products into the bin. That is a lot of unnecessary waste.

The good news is that it is easy to start reducing your weekly grocery bill. It simply takes a bit of upfront planning.

Pay cash

It is so easy to pay for everything by using EFTPOS. Sure, shopping without cash is easier. You don’t have to queue up at an ATM or go to the bank. It is that convenience that makes it so simple to impulse buy food or drink that you just don’t need.

Next time you grocery shop, take out your grocery budget in cash first and leave your EFTPOS cards at home. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can reduce your food and drink bill just by shopping with cash. Visit the Australian Security and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) Money Smart pages ‘different ways to pay’ to find out more about how this can give you budget relief.

Reduce food wastage

There are many of us that worry about not having enough food in the pantry. With most major supermarkets opening seven days a week, you really needn’t worry about running out of food unless you live remotely. How many times have you gone to clean out your pantry, to find unopened food products that are now out of date?

There are many ways to reduce how much food and drink you throw away, here are some ideas:

  • Don’t throw out leftovers. Depending on food safety considerations, freeze leftovers for another meal or find some creative ways to use them in your next day’s meal planning. If you have leftover food, search online recipe planners like Taste using the ingredients you have on hand. It adds variety to your meals too!
  • Plan your meals for the week. Only buy the ingredients you need to get you through to your next grocery shop.
  • Serve food in adequate portions. Unless you’re running marathons, you don’t need a plate piled high with food. If reducing portion size is a challenge for you, try using smaller bowls and plates. It really works!
  • Store food well. A lot of food wastage is due to poor storage, particularly when it comes to fruit, vegetables and herbs. Here is a fantastic illustrated guide of where to store food in your fridge to keep it at its best – where food goes in the fridge.
  • Start writing down what you’re throwing away. If you find you’re filling your council waste bin and more, keep a log of the food you’re throwing away for four weeks. At the end of the four weeks, you’ll soon see what you’re buying too much of. Time to remove those ingredients from the shopping list!

Only buy seasonal fresh produce

Some of us are sticklers for buying our favourite fruit and vegetables, even when they’re out of season. If you love blueberries, and you’re buying them all year round, the price can triple when they’re not in season.

When you go to a green grocer, shop for fresh ingredients that are the cheapest. Fresh ingredients in season are usually cheaper because they’re in abundance, and likely to be quality in flavour and texture too! To find out what fruit and vegetables are in season, here is a handy seasonal food guide.

Buy grocery specials in bulk

There is an exception to the rule of buying food and drink on specials in bulk. Don’t buy food and drink products that you simply won’t consume, no matter how cheap they are.

Buy your favourite non-perishable products when they’re discounted, in bulk - provided you have ample storage. Limit this rule to foods and drinks that you regularly replace weekly. For example a one kilogram jar of peanut butter is only a ‘good deal’ if you eat peanut butter on a regular basis. Don’t buy anything, no matter how cheap, if it may end up in the bin.

The same rule applies for cleaning products and hygiene products. Buying bulk toilet paper when it is heavily discounted is always going to be a good budget decision. But buying litres of sunscreen on special, when only one or two of you will be using it, may not be a budget friendly idea.

Buy at discount supermarkets or grocery clearance stores

Do some research on supermarkets in reasonable driving distance of where you live. The price differences from a supermarket in one suburb, compared to one two suburbs away can sometimes be worth the extra cost of fuel. Look into discount supermarkets, or grocery clearance stores that specialise in stocking excess food and drink products, end of season products or products where the labelling has since been updated.

Grow your own herbs, vegetables and fruit

Establishing a vegetable or herb garden and fruit bushes or trees can be costly to set up. However, if you’re a bit of a green thumb, or willing to make home grown produce a hobby the initial investment can pay off over time. If you're friendly with your neighbours, consider swapping home grown produce. A productive lemon tree in your backyard along with a few favourite herbs can not only add flavour to every recipe, but it can be a very satisfying hobby.

Read our article ‘How to grow fruit in a small outdoor space’ if you’re interested in exploring home grown foods.

If you aimed to save just $10 every week on your groceries, that adds up to either $120 at the end of the year to add to your grocery budget to help cover the costs of entertaining at Christmas, or an enjoyable day trip on a bus tour to somewhere special. Now imagine if you could put $30 a week back in your pocket!

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