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How to Save on Groceries

How to Save on Groceries

After enjoying the benefits of having two incomes the past 2 1/2 years, we are back to living on one income with baby on the way.  Thankfully here in Australia we receive 18 weeks of paid maternity leave from the government after baby is born.  My plan is to stretch it out to last almost 12 months instead of 18 weeks.  Can I make it work? 

Since reworking our budget again and again since I finished work, I am determined to save money on groceries. After our mortgage payments, food is our biggest expense! 

What do a family of five spend on groceries? 

Our family consists of two adults, one teenage and two almost teenagers. Plus, 3 cats! We were spending about $300 to $350 a week on groceries when I was working full time.  That includes cleaning products, personal items and cat food!  

My goal is to reduce our grocery spending to $210 a week.  Saying that, I think it will be a challenge but possible.  At least it’s nothing like my student days when my total grocery budget was $20 a week.  

If you search around on the Internet, there are lots of tips about how to save money on groceries.  I have found some of these ideas save you money on food, but some really don’t.  Read on to find out what things will make a difference!

How To Save Money On Groceries

Meal Plan

Let me say this, meal planning will only save you money on groceries if you are planning to cook inexpensive, budget friendly meals.  Just knowing a head of time what you are cooking doesn’t help! Especially if your meal plan includes a nice piece of steak and gourmet veggies. 

Check out these ideas about how to make meal planning work for your family.

I don’t personally use a meal plan.  You can check out what I do do for my weekly planning here.  Instead I have a rotation of meals that our family enjoys, and I make sure that the pantry or freezer are stocked with those ingredients.  I also cook depending on what meat we find reduced in price.  

Ok but if you are someone who finds themselves buying takeaway a lot or popping into the shops because you don’t know what to cook for dinner.  Then planning ahead would be helpful!  

I would also suggest stocking the pantry/ freezer with some really easy meals.  Baked beans on toast anyone? One of my family’s favourite easy meals is carbonara (packet of pasta, eggs and bacon).

Click here to learn more about freezer cooking!

Buy Fruit And Vegetables In Season

Yes and yes!!  This is a good thing to do anyway because you end up getting the freshest produce which is grown locally.  Why would I be interested in oranges from Israel just because I can eat them out of season?  Generally, seasonally produce is cheaper too!

Use Supermarket Rewards Programs

This is a dumb idea for genuinely saving money on your grocery spend.  I do my main shop at Coles and use the Flybuys rewards program.  I save about $100 a year using Flybuys, and offers.  The issue is that you have to spend more to save more with most reward programs.  

Avoid Recipes That Use A Special Ingredient

Nothing wrong with being creative with your cooking, and sometimes it’s what you need to get out of a slump. So yes, use special ingredients all you like!  Instead be mindful of getting the best price for that ingredient.  Often a smaller Indian or Asian specialty store will have items cheaper than the main supermarkets.

Sometimes you just have to make a Pad Thai!!

Don’t Be A Brand Snob

This is a tough one! I am going to go with saying you can be a bit of a brand snob and still save money on your groceries.  Obviously, buying generic homebred items will save you money quickly.  I can’t do it with everything.  Like pasta or chai tea powder… the cheapest brands taste terrible.  

But I have made one big brand change to save money on our groceries.  Instead of buying the premium bread for $3.90 a loaf I now buy bread for $1.29.  That makes a difference when I am getting 4 loaves or more a week.  

Shop Online

I have been shopping online on a weekly basis now for about 6 months.  Yes, it saves money because I am not tempted to impulse buy.  A written shopping list will also help with limiting impulse buying.

I also like online shopping because I can set a budget and remove or add items to my shopping cart to stick to that amount.  

The disadvantage of online shopping is that you can’t look out for those once off discounted items like meat etc. 

Grow Your Own Food

I have found that growing vegetables doesn’t save me money.  I have a veggie garden simply because I enjoy it! It’s a hobby!  My vegetable garden costs me in terms of time, water, mulch, fertiliser, seeds and seedlings, as well as the veggie soil mix to start the beds off.  

Finding a low cost fruit and veg shop will save you more than growing your own vegetables!

Cut Down On Unhealthy Food

Unhealthy food can cost more but then so can good quality healthy food.  The low fat mince we buy is definitely more expensive than the mince meat with a higher fat content.  

I would add stop buying “treats” or snack food if you want to save on your grocery spend.  Fresh fruit and vegetables can be a cheaper option, or cooking from scratch.  Usually, that’s healthier for you too!  

I made this salty/sweet popcorn recipe recently rather than buying pre-packaged popcorn.  So yum!

Cook In Bulk

I would change this to buy in bulk.  Often the price for a bulk item is cheaper than a smaller amount of the same item.  One simple change I have made is buying 3l milk rather than 2l milk. Also buying cat meat in bulk rather than the smaller quantity.  (Though still looking for one that all 3 cats will eat!)

But do remember to only buy what you need.  Bulk items are not a bargain if they are going to sit in your pantry for a year or more because your family doesn’t use that quantity of food.

Ok so here are some more ideas that really will save you money on groceries!

Check The Unit Price

I saved money on this week’s shop with an item I buy regularly (muesli bars) simply by checking the unit price.  I was going to purchase the smaller packets of muesli bars that were on special.  Until I noticed that Coles has a bigger 16 pack available now.  The unit price showed it was a better deal than those on special.

Always good to check the unit price between different products and between different quantities of the same product!

Look Out For Discounted Items

We have already been doing this for a while, buying reduced meat that is close to the use by date.  Hubby wins the award for the biggest bargain – salmon.  

My find this week was a free range whole chook discounted to $3.00 kg.  I put it in the slow cooker and have shredded chicken for a number of meals.

The key to saving money by buying discounted meat is look at the original price per kg. Was it a good price to begin with?  Anything marinated tends to be overpriced to start with and isn’t always a good deal even after being discounted.

Also look at how much the item has been discounted by. We only buy meat that is reduced by at least 40 to 50%.  80% is even better!  As we have some meat in our freezer I can wait for the better discounts.

Buy Items Only When They Are On Sale

Obviously this is not possible to do with every item on your shopping list.  But I do have a list of items now that I won’t buy unless they are on special. Either we go without it or I buy enough to stock the pantry or freezer until it is on special again. 

For example;

  • Frozen chicken pieces
  • Frozen parathas
  • Cereal
  • Muesli
  • Ice cream
  • Dry cat food
  • Washing powder

Shop At More Than One Store

I usually have one main supermarket I shop at plus a fruit and vegetable store.  Occasionally, I will get speciality items from an Indian store.  

Now that I am focused on reducing our grocery spend by over a $100 a week I am intentionally shopping at more stores and going where it is cheaper for those products.  Yes, it takes a bit more time and planning but not a lot more.  

That means I shop half price specials at both Coles and Woolworths and now buy milk and yoghurt at the veggie store where it is cheaper.  

Stock Up 

For all the things you can do from this list to save money on groceries, the biggest would be to stock up.  Creating a grocery back stock (without going over the top) means you can take advantage of specials, discounted food, avoiding takeaway etc.  Even having 1 to 2 extra items on hand can make a difference.  

That’s why I love our new chest freezer!

Due to the size and ages of our family we tend to go through food quickly.  So there is a regular turn over in our back stock of food.  Change the amount you stock up on depending on the needs of your family.  Again food that goes out of date and is wasted, is not a savings at all!

More Ways To Save