Food is a large ticket item in the family budget, and only getting bigger. Outside of the mortgage, for most families it is the biggest household expense. So how can you save money on your food bills?
We are all guilty of heading to the shops without a definitive plan, only to find yourself picking up random ingredients in the hope you can cobble together some meals for the next few days or the week. Having a comprehensive shopping list that covers all the meals and all ingredients for each meal means the pantry and fridge are well-stocked and the meal can be on the table at a decent hour. It also means you can buy from the cheaper supermarkets if you have any locally, and you are less likely to throw out unused food (wasted money) as well.
Reduce your supermarket visits to one a week. Most Australians are going three times or more on average, which gives you more opportunities to impulse buy. A little bit of organisation with one larger shop will save you both time and money.
If you are at the supermarket or butcher and find meat on special, grab it. Meat can be a really expensive part of your food bill, so specials can have a big impact. Buy the meat and marinate it before freezing it so you have instant meals ready a few weeks in advance.
Ready-made sauces, meals or even marinated meat are expensive – far more so than preparing them yourself. It only takes about 5 minutes to create a marinade from base ingredients and it will save you significantly at the checkout. Many ready-made sauces can also be high in either sugar or salt, preservatives and thickeners. The marinade ingredients can be quite cheap and give you many meals rather than just a one-off meal. Your fridge is also less clogged up with partially used jars.
Discount supermarkets and generic brands are another great way to save money. You can find things up to 50 per cent cheaper than named brands. Try them in smaller quantities first to see whether they suit your taste and cooking.
Consider online shopping as another way to save, as you only buy what you need rather than being tempted by additional items at the end of the aisles or the checkout. Once set up it can be really fast. Look out for the supermarkets offering special promotions to recruit you as an online customer. You can often get your delivery free as a new customer.
Top 7 tips for saving money at the supermarket
- Plan your meals so you don’t waste money on food that is not eaten
- Shop once a week rather than multiple times
- Look at what is on special and buy in bulk
- Look at generic brands or go to a discount supermarket if one is close
- Buy seasonal food: it is always cheaper when in abundance at your local green grocer
- Make your meals from scratch as first principle cooking costs less and is better for you than buying pre-packaged expensive sauces etc.
- Shop online to avoid impulse purchases.