According to Canstar, a two person household spends an average of $146 on groceries, and a household of five spends $215.
This comes out to $7592 and $11,180 a year respectively. Budget Direct says that the average Australian household’s weekly grocery spend is even higher, at $254.96, which comes out to $13,257.92 a year.
However much you think you’re spending there are definitely ways to cut down and getting into good grocery shopping habits can eventually save you tens of thousands over the years.
Saving on groceries can also make you feel less guilty when you want to splurge on a meal out and settle your worries about your finances in general.
Here are 10 ways to save money when grocery shopping.
Look beyond the supermarket
Sometimes even when you think you’re getting a good deal at the supermarket, there’s an even better deal lurking for you somewhere on the internet. For example, catch.com.au actually does groceries and sometimes they’re extremely cheap. While there are plenty of good value deals for food, you can also get great deals on cleaning products such as laundry detergent or dishwashing liquor or health essentials like deodorant and toothpaste. Particularly if you spot a good deal for something in bulk, quickly snapping it up on catch can save you plenty over the long term.
Try online supermarket shopping
The biggest money saving advantage of doing your grocery shopping online is extremely simple, you can always see exactly how much money you have in your cart. This means that if you set yourself a budget of $150 and you can see that you’ve already spent $90 and you’ve only got through cheese and a toothbrush, you might be in some trouble.
Being free from the temptations of flashy promotions in aisles and being able to watch the price in your cart will help you make much more measured shopping decisions. You’ll also obviously save yourself time, energy and even fuel by not lugging yourself down to the supermarket.
Rethink your meat habits
There are a few different ways to save money on meat without taking the leap and becoming a vegetarian. The simplest is to pick one or two meat free days a week and force yourself to dream up some meals that don’t feature any meat. Instead plan some meals where you get your protein from things like lentils, eggs, nuts, tofu or beans, or even trading red meat for fish once or twice a week.
Another good way to save on meat is to reduce your portions of meat in a meal. The simplest rule of thumb is that meat portions shouldn’t be larger than your closed fist. While some people might be used to eating plenty more than that, the best trick is to pad out your meals with more inexpensive options. This means taking some meat out of your meal but adding extra of your cheaper ingredients like rice, beans, potatoes, pasta and vegetables.
While eating less meat is half the battle, the other half is that when you do buy meat, you buy cheaper meat. Chicken and fish are normally the cheapest meats to buy and handily, they are generally healthier than red meats.
You can also save through eating different cheaper cuts of meats than you might be used to picking up. For example, trading short rib for beef shank or rib-eye for chuck steak will save you plenty over time. With chicken you can save by buying a whole chicken if you know you’ll use it, or go for wings or thighs to get the cheapest cuts.
Head to the supermarket at the end of the day
For a bit of a simpler tip, doing your shopping shortly before the supermarket closes can help you in snapping up some good deals. Supermarkets will slash prices to get rid of perishable produce at the end of the day. It can also be a great value time to pick up easy food options like ready-made meals or supermarket snack boxes.
As a bonus, for even better deals, if you have a farmers market in your area, heading there right before close will get you the absolute best deals you’ll get on fresh produce.
Start meal planning
It’s a tip you’ve heard before and it’s a terrifying one to really commit to, but if you really need to cut your grocery prices it’s going to be one of the most effective ways to do it. If you do find a method that works for you and manage to commit, you’ll feel benefits not only through savings but reduced stress as you take away the ‘what’s for dinner’ worries.
The main money saving benefit will be reducing waste as you won’t spend money on things you don’t need anymore. Estimates say that about 30% of what we buy at the grocery store ends up getting thrown out, so reducing this waste is a huge saver for yourself and also good for the planet.
Frugalandthriving.com.au lists their meals plan process as writing out a master meal list, taking stocktake of your current supplies and creating theme days like ‘pasta Wednesdays’ or ‘fish fridays’ to simplify the process. Then simply shopping the sales and being wary of your planning, don’t plan an incredibly complicated dish for a night when you know you’ll be busy or tired or even use your spare time to prep meals for the rest of the week.
Get creative with your leftovers
There’s a big difference between throwing out veggies that you didn’t finish the previous night or repurposing them into a stew or pie filling, getting a bit more creative with your leftovers can hugely reduce your food waste and save you money.
A great tip is to use a website or app like SuperCook. On SuperCook, you can put the ingredients you have into the site and it’ll run it through various recipe books and websites and tell you what you can make. This is the perfect way to throw together a delicious meal out of your leftover meals or ingredients, rather than letting them go to waste.
Your freezer is your friend
The facts that freezers freeze food isn’t exactly an industry secret, but becoming a bit more strategic with freezing your food can save quite a bit of money. Some good tips for freezing include wrapping your food extremely tightly as air exposure can ruin your food, to fully chilling hot food in fridge before putting it in the freezer, otherwise large ice crystals will form. Another is to label and date your food so you don’t end up with unidentifiable frozen items that you toss out just to be safe.
Some foods that can be frozen better than you might think include cheese, ginger, spinach, tomato paste, grapes, berries, pesto and really way too many to name. Considering larger varieties of food to freeze can allow you to preserve foods you’d normally toss away and sometimes buy in bulk if there’s a particularly good sale on something.
Learn to bulk buy sensibly
Bulk buying can save you time, space and money. Buying larger portions of non-perishable dry foods like flour, grains, pasta, rice nuts, seeds and dried fruit will save you plenty over the longer term. With other items such as tinned and canned foods or frozen vegetables, snapping them up when on sale then stashing them away is always a frugal move.
While you don’t want to accidentally venture into becoming a hoarder, if you see a good deal on non-food items, that can be worth snapping up as well. For example, if you saw five toothbrushes for extremely cheap, you can grab them and you won’t have to worry about buying a toothbrush for a long time. Other non-food groceries that can be good to keep an eye out for include shampoo and conditioner, soap, baking paper, dishwashing and laundry detergent, toilet paper and plenty more.
Pay attention to per unit pricing
Peel your eyes away from the big, bright price tags and turn your eyes towards to the per unit pricing. In Australia this will generally be per 100g or per kilogram. It’s fairly simple but keeping an eye on this will stop you from being deceived by packaging or misleading deals. So, if you never want to open a pack of chips again to see that it’s barely a quarter filled, this is the way to do it.
Keeping an eye on per unit pricing essentially saves you the trouble of having to try and eyeball what’s giving you the best value or even pulling out your calculator and doing the maths yourself. Rather than comparing price tags when comparison shopping, first check out the per unit pricing and see which one is actually cheaper and overtime you’ll save yourself a lot of money.
Learn the supermarkets tricks
Everything from the milk stashed way in the back and the cheery pop music seeping out the supermarket speakers is designed to make you spend more money, being a bit more aware of these tricks will help you stop falling for them.
For example, companies pay to have their products stocked at eye level, meaning you’re more likely to be looking at it as you stroll through the aisles, but really looking above or below is likely to score you a better price.
Supermarkets also use loss leaders, which are essentially items sold so cheaply that the supermarkets make a loss on them, however, they are designed to draw you into the store and make you spend on other products. An example is toilet paper, as supermarkets know that sometimes you’ll need to head in just for that, but the toilet paper will be right in the back of the store and by the time you’re back at the counter you’ll have two trolleys full of things you never knew you needed. Simply sticking to your guns and only picking up what you need will stop you from falling into these traps.
Another good thing to pay attention to are advertised deals where the per unit pricing is actually the same. For example, you might see five packets of chips for $10 and get excited and buy five packets thinking you’re getting a great deal, but sometimes if you look at the tag a packet will only be $2 anyway, meaning you’re not actually saving anything.
To go through all supermarket tricks would require a dissertation, but simply being a bit more savvy about what they’re trying to lure you into will stop the cash from escaping your wallet before you even know what’s happened.