Do you know how much you’re actually spending on your groceries? When you take into account all the extra trips you do for bread/milk/other forgotten items, you might be quite surprised! A big chunk of our budget can go on groceries, but with a few simple tips and tricks, we can significantly reduce the amount we spend at the supermarket each week. Here’s how:
1. Snob the snacks
Eating less is probably the most obvious way to save money on food – many of use eat more than we should – but it’s hard to know where to cut back without starving yourself. Start by cutting back on snacks, which are responsible for the majority of our overeating and which also cost the most. Avoid the chippie and chocolate aisle altogether so you’re not faced with the temptation.
2. Write a list
And stick to it! You’ll be less likely to impulse-buy, and this step will also save you on mid-week trips.
3. DIY veggies
Although it’s tempting to buy things ready-to-use, you’re paying for it. Chopping and washing your own vegetables will cut down on costs and stay fresh for longer.
4. Bulk buy
This is only one for the wise. It can save you a lot of money, but only if you have safe storage and are sure you’ll use it all before it goes bad.
5. Cut the waste
New Zealanders throw away an average of around $450 of food waste per year. You can prevent food wastage by being leftover-wise (can you freeze it or take it for lunch the next day?) and by only buying what you need, then storing it correctly.
6. Meal plan
This one not only saves you money, but also preserves your sanity as you don’t need to figure out what’s for dinner each night. Cutting down on fast food or quick convenience meals will also be better for your health!
7. Drink water
Soft drinks and juices are expensive and unnecessary. Get into the habit of only drinking water at home and save the other drinks for a special occasion. This might even help with tip #1 as dehydration is often mistaken as hunger.
8. Try batch cooking
Preparing food in large quantities and freezing half or several other portions saves money by allowing you to buy in bulk and helping to avoid take-away when you haven’t got time to cook.
9. Extend your meals
Meat is one of the most expensive food items, so use less meat in each dish and bulk up instead by adding extra vegetables, beans or rice to your dishes.
10. Meat-free meals
An even cheaper option to save on expensive meat costs is to plan a couple of hearty vegetarian dishes once or twice a week. Go here for some great vegetarian dinner ideas.
11. Choose your cuts wisely
Mince is a cheap and versatile meat that’s popular with children. There are other cheap cuts, like chuck steak, osso bucco or chops, which taste delicious when slow cooked in stews and casseroles, like this inexpensive Slow cooker Irish stew.
12. Make your own
13. Pay the right price
Start taking notice of grocery prices so you’re able to know when you’re getting a good deal or whether it’s worth going to another shop to get it for a cheaper price. Have a look at the supermarket catalogues and if something you use often is significantly reduced, consider buying multiple items, especially if it’s something that won’t go off.
14. Categorise the freezer
If you’re a batch-cooking whizz, you might have a large freezer packed with lots of food. To make sure you eat everything before it goes off, make a freezer inventory list that you keep in a folder beside the freezer. Include expiry dates if you know them, and check the freezer inventory list before you go the shops so you’re not buying things you already have.
15. Buy in season
If you buy fruit and vegetables that are in season, chances are you will be spending less money and your meals will taste far better.
16. Grow your own
If you have the space in your backyard or even a balcony, you can grow your own herbs and vegetables. Freeze any extra vegetables and herbs that you produce so you don’t waste any. If you really can’t grow your own herbs, be sure to freeze any extra herbs that you buy in olive oil, as herbs are something that we usually end up having to buy far more of than we actually need.
17. Create a basics list
You’ve got a shopping list of the ingredients you need for dinner, but then when it comes to household staples are you relying on your memory? Keep a starter list of all the basics (cereal, cleaning items, bread, nappies, toilet paper), which you can check over before you leave home each week. It’s also a great place to start with your shopping list.
18. Use shopper dockets
As long as you only use coupons and shopper dockets to buy things you would normally, they can be a great way to save dollars, so check every receipt, cut out the ones that are appropriate, and place them in a box which you can take shopping with you.
19. Choose your store wisely
Whether you do all your grocery shopping at a one of the main players, or just shop there for some of the basics then get your meat and veggies from the butcher and market, find out what works best for you. But remember, there’s no point getting cheaper vegetables if you have to drive half an hour out of your way to get them!
20. Shop by yourself
If you can in any way manage to leave the kids at home, do. Not only will you get the job done much faster, you’ll avoid the constant requests for additional items.
21. Eat before you shop
You spend more money when you are hungry, so make sure you’re not shopping on an empty stomach.
22. Take the empty fridge test
If you couldn’t get to the supermarket, could you make a meal using what’s already in the fridge (as well as the freezer and the pantry)? Give it a try – it’s a great way to use up fridge items that may soon be expiring.
23. Use home brands
While you may still prefer to use your favourite brands for some specific things, consider switching to house-brand for everyday staples such as milk, flour and sugar.
24. Shop late in the day
Chickens, bread and other items can be heavily discounted late in the day – perfect for buying and freezing until use. Different stores can have different times when they discount items, so ask yours when the best time to shop is.
25. Learn the tricks of the trade
Supermarkets have sneaky ways to make you spend more, such as placing the budget-priced items on the top and bottom shelves and the more expensive items at eye level. So look up and down for savings and don’t fall for the enticements on offer around the check-out … be strong!