Top 10 Ways To Save Money On Food

HideTrolley Eating cheaply doesn't have to mean eating poorly. Here's our top tips for shopping for food more efficiently without spending a fortune.

Picture by Hidesy

In practice, saving money when you go to buy groceries isn't difficult: it just requires a degree of planning and a modicum of common sense. Unfortunately, racing around a supermarket at the end of a working day tends to mean both quantities are in short supply. In the following list, hit the original post for a detailed discussion on each point.

10. Work with a list

Having a list works on several levels: you don't make impulse purchases, you've (hopefully) got a plan that makes use of food you've already got at home, and if you're aiming for uber-efficiency, you can even list items in supermarket order. For further reduction of impulse buys, try writing your list a day ahead of time and then edit it before shopping. (Original post)

9. Compare prices properly

It's not always easy working out the actual cost of goods sold in different quantities — but in practice, any large supermarket should now include 'unit pricing' that makes those comparisons easy (and from December, that will be a legal requirement). It's not necessarily as useful as having a multi-store price comparison site, but since we're not getting one of those, it's a start. (Original post)

8. Check the expiry dates

Buying goods that are just about to go out of date can be a waste of money, so make sure you check carefully, and understand the difference between 'use by' and 'best before'. (Original post)

7. Make use of loyalty programs

Spending purely to "get more points" is often a false economy, but so is not signing up for a scheme if you're shopping regularly in a store anyway. Getting something worthwhile from your points can take a while, but occasionally massive savings do appear. For extra discounts, check out coupon aggregators and Perkler to track multiple loyalty programs. (Original post)

6. Bulk buy when it makes sense

Buying in bulk can make sense, provided you can use the quantities involved. That manifestly isn't always the case, but for non-perishable items (and presuming you have the space) it's often a route to major savings. Check out reader advice on the best items to stock up. (Original post)

5. Use everything up properly

Plastic containers aren't always designed to give up every last drop, but getting in the habit of draining contents can add up to a fatter wallet in the long run. (Original post)

4. Embrace your freezer

A well-organised, properly-functioning freezer lets you take advantages of specials, re-use leftovers and generally have a less wasteful approach. The keys? Proper packaging, labelling and a willingness to acknowledge that some stuff probably isn't worth keeping. (Original post)

3. Stage an occasional clearout

Throwing out food is wasteful, but so is keeping expired or never-going-to-be used items that are taking up shelf space you could use more productively. We've recommended a new year clearout in the past, but it's a strategy you can try any time. (Original post)

2. Never shop on an empty stomach

If you shop while you're hungry, you're much more likely to indulge in junk food, or purchase stuff you fancy right now. If you've got time to plan a list, you've got time to eat something before heading out. If you're really in a rush, wolf a couple of bananas.

1. There's nothing new under the sun

In the spirit of that last tip, most of this advice is not a new discovery, or a reaction to the way modern supermarkets are organised. Shopping tips from 1958 are just as useful now as they were then. (Original post)

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


    Eat less.

    Shop at markets and/or 'ethnic' stores*, and cook from scratch, avoiding most processed/pre-packaged foods (exceptions granted for occasional Doritos and Pringles!). Cheaper, tastier, healthier food - sounds like a win all round to me (and has resulted in my losing weight without trying).

    *we're spoiled in Melbourne, totally spoiled - most of the food in our house comes from Vic Market, with top-notch free range meats and eggs from Gasworks farmers' market ( for inner-Melbourne markets), and 'special' ingredients / bulk buys of rice/grains/spices etc from my favourite Indian store (near Victoria/Church St in Richmond), the Asian store at Vic market, and the Mediterranean supermarket in Sydney Rd, Brunswick.

    "6. Bulk buy when it makes sense"

    I've started doing this with toilet paper. I swear they're ripping us off when it comes to's just a bit of tissue and they charge ridiculous prices knowing they can get away with it.

    "2. Never shop on an empty stomach"

    This is so true. Ever since I made a point of eating before shopping, the impulse junk food buys have stopped. It also means less instances of my waistline regretting that packet of chips I should never have bought...

    Great list, although my parents tend not to have an actual list (they do keep in mind which specific items are a must), most of the other aspects covered in the list are well-used by us.

    On the topic of toilet paper, recently we almost had a "catastrophe" (two rolls of toilet paper in the house, and we're a family of 5, so it's like a roll a day). We had to buy a small pack from the supermarket before we bought our bulk pack, and when my parents went out to get the bulk packs, they bought like 3 (also, we have 3 toilets in the house). These bulk packs have like 72 rolls of TP in each, so we're stocked for a while.

    Also, as we're Chinese, we tend to buy a fair bit of specialty ingredients, supermarkets just charge way too high for a lot of them. There's a bunch of suburbs close to us that sell the things we need and at good prices, so it's good for us.

    7. Make use of loyalty programs

    I can highly recommend the Franklins loyalty program. You get points for every $ spent, bonus points for specials that you trade in for store credit. Over the course of last year I earned enough points doing small shops (for just me and a child) to get a $20 discount one week, and a completely free grocery shop at christmas which really helped at a time of the year when money is tight.

    Another Tip:

    Grow your own veg. It might cost a small amount to set it up, but as an example: a packet of lettuce seeds costs $3 and you get 1200 seeds in the pack - thats 0.003 cents per lettuce. Compare that to the supermarket price and its a huge saving!

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