Food is the largest expenditure in everyone's budget after housing and transportation (especially if you live in Sydney or Melbourne). But unlike the top two expenses, there are a lot of ways to manage your grocery budget month to month to cut back on extraneous costs.
Here are a few tips to try.
To maximise your dollars, sign up for your local grocery store's loyalty program for big savings. You can also sign up for email newsletters for more potential savings.
Coupons are of course a big source of savings. You'll find your grocer's in your local paper, and if you use Amazon, there are weekly coupons available, too.
Plan Your Meals
To cut back on costs, plan your meals around what's on sale or ingredients you can buy in bulk. If you're new to the meal planning game, sites like Budget Bytes offer meal tips and tasty recipes. If the store is out of the sale-priced food, ask for a rain check (in other words, when it's back in stock you'll get the sale price). Ask customer service or a cashier how to sign up.
And if you have food that's about to expire, don't let it go to waste. Use a site like SuperCook to craft recipes around the ingredients you do have. Here are a few resources we have on that:
- The Start to Finish Guide to Saving Time and Money on Food Prep
- How to Plan Your Meals, Stress-Free
- 12 Strategies for a Successful Meal Prep Day
- What to Do When Meal Prepping Never Seems to Work for You
- How to Shop, Cook, and Eat Healthy When Eating for One
- How to Plan Meals When You're on a Tight Budget
- How to Save Money on Groceries and Keep Making Awesome Food
Only Shop for What You Need
Before you head out with your meal prep list in hand, take stock of what you have. You can use an app like Out of Milk to keep track (notebook and pen works just fine, too).
This includes forgoing temptations, like a 10 for $10 sale. Those might seem like a good deal, but make sure you check the unit price, so you know whether you're actually saving money.
Stock Up on Cheap Basics
By keeping your pantry loaded with meal basics, you'll save money in the long run. That includes things like brown rice, beans, dried spices, peanut butter, flour, eggs, canned tomatoes and tuna, oatmeal and frozen fruits and veggies (more on that below). That way, if you have to work late or are having a lazy weekend, you have staples around to make something easy and inexpensive.
If you have a few really pricey items on your list, like a meat, consider swapping them out for a cheaper alternative. For example, you can trade Jasmine rice for Basmati and lentils for quinoa for some savings, or try dried beans instead of canned. For meats, Bon Appetit recommends beef shank in place of short rib, chuck steak instead of rib-eye and lamb neck rather than lamb shank.
Learn Your Store's Tricks
Your grocery store employs a whole host of tricks to get you to spend more. For example, food manufacturers pay to keep their food at eye level, or displayed around the store - look above and below what's right in front of you for a better deal. Another tip: according to a study from IHL Consulting Group, impulse purchases dropped by as much as 32 per cent when shoppers used the self-checkout lane, because there were fewer temptations.
And don't be afraid to embrace frozen food. While you might think "fresh" produce is always healthier, that isn't necessarily the case. It could have pesticides or have travelled a great distance, losing nutrients along the way. Reader's Digest has a list of fruits and veggies you might be better off buying frozen, including berries and spinach. As for meat, ask your butcher what time of day it usually gets marked down, and read this for tips on saving money on meat.
Have more tips? Let us know in the comments.