Households across Australia are doing it tough right now with many looking for simple ways to save money and ease the strain. While there are some luxuries that can be easily cut from our daily needs, food isn’t one of them and if you’re not careful, the amount you spend on it each week can blow out pretty quickly.
Whether it’s for yourself or your family, these 29 simple tips will help you save money on your food and grocery bills.
We’re all guilty of running to the store to buy one item and walking out with an armful of goods we don’t need. But any budgeting expert will tell you that this is a money drainer and that one big shop a week will save you money in the long run. Write up a meal plan before leaving the house and be strong in not returning again. Forgot an ingredient? Substitute it with something you already have at home.
Google recipes you can make from what’s already in your kitchen
Have you actually looked at what’s in your pantry lately? It might feel pretty empty but you’d be surprised at what a forgotten tin of chickpeas or bag of self-raising flour can turn into. Whatever it is you have hiding back there, google it and see what amazing recipe you can turn it into!
Choose no-name brands
Don’t be a brand snob! No-name brands are often just as good as the others but without the price tag attached. Supermarkets use visual tricks like putting cheaper options on lower shelves so that it’s easier for us to grab the more expensive option. So, if you’re shopping in-store, be sure to take notice and give no-name brands a try.
Start a veggie patch
Growing your own food doesn’t just save you money, it’s rewarding and often tastes much better than the produce you find at the supermarket. If you have kids, it’s also a great way to get them involved in some hands-on fun. Not ready to commit to a full patch yet? Start out with a herb planter box. They’re easy maintenance and you’ll have an endless supply of fresh herbs at your fingertips.
Buy seasonal produce
Getting to know when produce is in season is a sure-bet to save you money. Out of season produce is imported from overseas and those costs are passed down to the consumer. Next time you’re in a supermarket, pick up one of the free magazines they hand out. Most of the recipes you’ll find in there are seasonal and most likely in-stock.
Another tip for avoiding impulse purchasing is to shop online. On top of not being lured into the junk food aisle, you’ll often receive great discounts that only apply online. Sale items tend to be conveniently grouped together under one page, meaning stealth shoppers can theoretically do an entire shop from the bargain bin.
Avoid processed foods
Not only are processed foods not great for your health, they also tend to be expensive and lack the versatility required to use in multiple recipes. Think fresh when you do your shopping. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and small amounts of protein are healthy, versatile and kind to your wallet.
Go vegetarian – at least once a week!
Some people really struggle to cut out meat from their diet but if you’re serious about saving money, having at least one meat free day per week is a simple way to cut down on your grocery bill.
Worried about protein? There are so many ways to get your fix that’s much cheaper and healthier than expensive meat. Look for lentils, eggs, nuts, fish and beans.
Stock up on frozen veggies
There’s nothing worse than purchasing veggies only for them to shrivel up in the bottom of your crisper with no hope of return. The good news is that frozen veggies are a budgeter’s dream. They’re cheap, last for months and are frozen at their peak nutritional point, meaning you’ll get the most out of them when it comes time to cook.
Buy in bulk
Have you come across a really great deal lately? Stock up on it. This isn’t an excuse to go crazy and horde ridiculous things you don’t really need but a bit of sensible bulk purchasing of items you love or cheap pantry staples can help save money in the long run.
Basmati rice is cheap and has a much lower glycemic index (GI) than other varieties of rice, making it better for your blood sugar levels. Rice is also versatile across a huge range of cuisines, meaning you’re less likely to get sick of it in a hurry.
Download grocery shopping apps
Download the apps of your favourite supermarkets and use them to compare prices before you do your shop each week. These apps are also great for alerting you to weekly bargains which can be sent straight to your phone.
Go to farmers markets at the end of the day
The beauty of a farmer’s market is that by going straight to the source and cutting out the middleman, you’re saving money before you even begin. Savvy shoppers also know that come closing time, traders drop their prices considerably to clear stock, so try and get there in the last hour or so before closing. As an added bonus, you’ll be supporting small, local businesses rather than corporate supermarkets.
Don’t waste anything
It’s all too easy to throw away vegetables that look a little wilted or leftovers you didn’t eat last night – but in many cases, all you’re really doing here is throwing away money. Most foods can be reheated completely safely and sometimes even taste better the next day. Don’t waste anything!
Use leftovers creatively
Veggies that are starting to turn make for great stews and pie-fillings and leftovers from last night’s dinner can always be turned into a hearty breakfast of bubble-and-squeak. Looking for a creative lunch box idea? Have some fun a repurposing your leftovers into something new.
Bring lunch to work
When you’re in a rush in the morning and trying to get the kids or yourself out the door, it can be all too easy to forget your packed lunch or think you’ll just grab a takeaway from the joint around the corner. This is a big no-no for serious savers. Make packing your lunch for work as pivotal to your routine as cleaning your teeth. The best trick is to pack the night before so all you have to do is grab and run out the door.
Use cleaning products for multiple purposes
Despite what the ads tell you, you don’t need 100 different types of disinfectant for different rooms of the house. Invest in a good quality multi-purpose spray, bleach, glass cleaner and dishwashing liquid and you’ll have everything you need to keep your entire property squeaky clean.
Stick to water
Juices, soft drinks and cordials may taste fun but they’re often packed full of sugar and are an unnecessary burden on your wallet. All you really need to stay healthy and hydrated is a glass of water and the best part is…. it’s completely free.
Make coffee at home
If there’s one thing Australians are passionate about it’s our great barista made coffee. Unfortunately, if you’re trying to save on your food and grocery bills your daily cup or two from the local cafe is going to add up fast. Have beans on hand at home and at work so there’s never a need to pop into a pricey coffee shop.
Re-evaluate your bathroom essentials
When it comes to toiletries and bathroom essentials we often stick to the brands and products we know and love. But for many of us, this loyalty means we’re often overspending or purchasing items we really don’t need. Rather than just reaching for what you know, do some ‘best budget beauty products’ research online and be open to trying something new.
Shop at Aldi
Because of their preference for no-name brands, Aldi is always going to have a competitive edge on Woolies and Coles. If you’ve got one in your local area, get down and compare prices to see if it’s worth making the switch.
Stock up on non-perishables
Making food from scratch is cheaper than pre-made convenience meals or takeaway food. The good news is that many of the base ingredients you need for cakes, curries, pastas etc are non-perishable and extremely cheap to purchase. Think flour, lentils, pasta, beans, longlife milk and anything you can keep in your pantry for long periods of time.
Use spray-on oil
Olive oil is great for you and tastes delicious but it’s also expensive. Want to get the same benefit for a fraction of the price? Switch from your normal oil to a spray-on version.
Ditch the alcohol
This is tough for many Aussies to swallow, but one of the fastest ways to save on your food and grocery bill is to ditch or dramatically reduce the amount of grog you buy each week. As taxes on alcohol continue to skyrocket, there’s no better time to think about changing your habits.
Pad out meals
Many people see meat as the central component of a dish but for various health and financial reasons it’s best to minimise your portions and bulk out your meals with inexpensive options like rice, potatoes, pasta and veggies. This doesn’t mean you have to lose your protein entirely, just opt for smaller portions. As a rule of thumb, meat portions should be no larger than your closed fist.
If you’ve got little ones hassling you in the lolly aisle it can be really hard to say no when the only other option is a public tantrum. While it’s not always possible to leave the kids at home, it will help you make clearer decisions and stick to your shopping list.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry
If you shop when you’re hungry you’ll naturally buy more food than what you need and will often reach for the high fat, energy hits that cost money and damage your health. Aim to go shopping after a meal so that you aren’t tempted by naughty treats you simply don’t need.
It might sound archaic but couponing is still alive and well. Whilst it’s not so much about keeping clippings from newspapers anymore, there are plenty of dedicated internet sites out there giving out promo codes that can be used across nearly all supermarket, restaurant and food delivery services in Australia.
Write a budget and stick to it
The success of any of these tips rely on your ability to write a budget and stick to it. If this is something that you’ve struggled with in the past, finding a way to stay accountable is going to be your best bet for success. Try downloading a money tracking app or nominate a friend to keep you in check.
Unlike some financial institutions, Debt Negotiators don’t make promises we can’t keep. We’ll carefully look at your unique financial situation and work with you to create achievable solutions you’ll feel good about sticking to.
If you’re struggling with any debt, contact our friendly team today to find out how we can help.