Grocery bills are usually one of the biggest portions of a budget behind a mortgage or rent, so it makes sense that groceries are also one of the quickest and easiest areas to cut back and save money.
There are endless tips out there offering advice on cutting your food bill, but these top 10 ways to save money on groceries are the best of the best, and are guaranteed to save you $100s, if not $1000s of dollars each year.
1. Know when your supermarket marks down meat and fresh produce
This tip can easily save you up to 80% of the original shelf price so it’s worth working out the time of day your local supermarket marks down meat and fresh produce, as well as bakery items. This will often be on the weekends or late at night. At my local grocery store, I have discovered pre-packaged fruit, vegetables and salads are marked down late Saturday afternoon, usually around 4pm, while huge discounts can be found in the meat section when the store first opens at 11am on Sundays. Be sure to stock up on items that freeze well, such as meat and bread.
2. Shop in bulk and split with another family
With Costco opening in cities around Australia it’s now easier than ever to buy in bulk and save some serious amounts of money on things you regularly use. If you find that the packaging size is way bigger than your family could reasonably get through before it expires, consider splitting the items with one or more other families. That way everyone benefits from the cheaper price without wasting food. Just a word of warning, some items in bulk buying stores like Costco can actually be more expensive than regular supermarkets so always pay attention to the unit pricing.
3. Cook simply
If you are making meals that use expensive ingredients there is a good chance your grocery bill is going to be much higher than it otherwise could be. It makes sense that the simpler you keep your cooking, the cheaper the total cost of the meal will be. If a recipe contains an expensive ingredient substitute it for something cheaper or even leave it out altogether if it won’t have an affect the taste of the dish.
4. Pay attention to unit pricing
Comparing prices between brands is a great way to be sure you are getting the best value for money, but it’s also worth using the unit pricing on the shelf price tag to compare pricing across different packaging sizes in the same brand. Often, and this especially happens when one particular size is on sale, the smaller packaging size will actually work out cheaper than the larger size. Never just assume that the largest pack is the cheapest.
5. Meal plan based on weekly specials
Meal planning based on the weekly supermarket catalogue specials is a great way to take advantage of specials that are often up to 50% off. Flick through the catalogues each week with your shopping list and meal plan, and take note of anything that is heavily reduced and could be incorporated into a meal. For example if sweet potatoes are in season and extremely cheap come up with meal ideas that feature sweet potatoes as a major ingredient, such as a soup or sweet potato topped cottage pie.
6. Consider generic brands
Generic brands won’t always be worth the cost saving, but often they will still taste great and give the same result as more expensive, name brand products. Sometimes they even come from the exact same factory. Experiment with generic brands and work out which you like and don’t like. You probably won’t even notice the difference with staple items like sugar, flour, milk and butter.
7. Buy in-season fruit and vegetables
In season fresh produce will always be significantly cheaper than out of season produce that has been shipped in from overseas. Plan your meals around vegetables that are currently in season and dirt cheap, and buy current season fruit.
8. Avoid pre-packaged food
There seems to be a huge amount of pre-packaged food in supermarkets these days, even down to pre washed and cut celery sticks and apple slices, all wrapped in plastic! While these might save you a few minutes time, the time saving will outweigh the extra cost. Cook and prepare as much as you possibly can yourself. The same goes for baking; if you like to bake, you could save a small fortune by making your own bread, flour wraps, cakes and biscuits.
9. Shop once per week
If you are in the habit of popping into the shops often to get a few bits and pieces, you could be coming out with way more than you intended, and spending more in the process. Shopping once per week at most and sticking to a list is the best way to only buy the things you actually need, and avoid those impulse purchases.
The best way to make sure you only need to shop once per week is to start to take note of how many multiples of each product you go through in a week, and buy at least that amount during your weekly shop. For example, if you go through 3 bottles of milk per week make sure you regularly buy that amount each time you shop. As for items you buy less regularly, keep a list on your fridge and each time you notice something is getting a little low add it to the list.
10. NEVER shop on an empty stomach
This is a common money saving tip, but that’s because it can make a huge difference to your total at the checkout. If you head to the supermarket while hungry you are going to feel like buying everything on the shelves, whether you really want it or not. If you eat beforehand you will be more likely to shop with your head rather than your stomach, and you won’t find your trolley full of items you didn’t realise you even needed!