Grocery shopping. Love it or hate it, it’s something that can’t be avoided.
Do you hurry around the shops in a blind panic, tossing things into the trolley? Only to realise that you’ve been listening to your stomach grumbling the whole time.
Maybe you stare at the shelves blankly, vaguely wondering what you can cobble together with whatever you already have at home (but you’re at a loss because you can’t quite remember…?!).
Or do you order online, buying the same items pretty much every week only to find that you have a surplus of something you didn’t really need.
Whichever of these sounds like you, don’t worry. Here are a few easy ways to shop smarter and smash that weekly food budget!
Plan your meals
Meal planning is a great place to start before you hit the supermarket.
Try and outline what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner (plus any snacks) over the next seven days.
Then make a list of recipes for each meal and the ingredients you’ll need. Don’t forget to check in your cupboards/in the fridge to save you from doubling up on items which you already have.
With a solid plan, you should be able to get everything you need in one go. This will help you avoid extra trips to the shops during the week. It may take you a little longer and force you to be prepared but it’s definitely worth it.
Before you go shopping, check to see what’s in your pantry and fridge
This one may sound really obvious but it will give you a better idea of what you can make with the things you already have.
- Do you have a bag of carrots in the fridge? Use some for boiling, throw a couple in a soup, cut up some fresh carrot sticks for a healthy snack and mash some with a parsnip.
- A bag of spinach? Have some in a salad, wilt a handful in boiling water, throw some into a brekkie smoothie and stir a cupful into some savoury muffin mix.
- A bag of rolled oats? Make porridge with a handful of fresh fruit, cook up a batch of homemade oat slices and whizz some up as a breadcrumb-type coating.
The more you can incorporate things from your pantry into different meals/snacks, the less you will have to buy. By thinking smart, you won’t waste anything either.
Find out which items are on special
All supermarkets have weekly specials which can be really great but….
Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap. Decide exactly what you need and make sure that you use it.
Check the internet and in the weekly flyers to see what they have on offer. Make a list of what you want, the price and where it’s on offer. That way you won’t miss out on anything.
Take advantage of the lower prices and plan your meals around whatever is on offer. If you’re buying items that are close to their use by date then cook them up as soon as you can and either eat or freeze the meals.
Do you have lots of space in your freezer? Cooking up big batches of food in one go and then freezing it up into individual portions is a brilliant way not only to save time but money too.
Buying ingredients in bulk will always work out much cheaper.
Ideas for easy batch-cook dishes:
Don’t be afraid to go to different shops to get the best deals
Most of the larger supermarkets are relying on you to pay full price on the bulk of your items so that they can make a profit.
Don’t feel like you have to do a full shop in one place, go to a few different supermarkets and shop the best bargains if you can. It may be a little more time consuming but it will save you lots of money.
This is where keeping track of items on special offer (either online or in the leaflets) will come in useful.
Go for the supermarket’s own brand product
Always go for the supermarkets own brand product over the big name brands (or at least be prepared to try it). If you’re not completely convinced about this one, check and compare the ingredients on the back of the packaging. In all likelihood, the contents are exactly the same if not very similar.
Buy whole rather than pieces
Buying a larger cut and dividing it up into smaller portions is another good way to make your money go further.
For example if you’re going to have a couple of meals with chicken, it’s often cheaper to buy a whole chicken rather than individual pieces. You can even use whatever is left over (any bones etc) to make into a chicken stock or a delicious broth.
If you know that you won’t be able to use the whole chicken up over a few days then cut it up and freeze it into more manageable portions.
Always buy loose over pre-packaged
Never go for the pre-chopped/pre-packaged/pre-washed fruits or vegetables, it’s almost always much cheaper to buy them whole and loose.
Things like mushrooms, celery, capsicum, lettuce and pumpkin usually fall into this category.
If you’re not sure about pricing then check the $ per kilo small print label beneath the item to see that you’re getting the most for your money.
Go shopping near closing time
If you can, try and go shopping just before the grocery store is about to close. This is when you can grab some really good bargains, especially on fresh items or items that have a limited shelf life.
A packet of smoked salmon for a few bucks? Get into my basket!
A bag of potatoes for 50 cents? Yes please!
A roast chicken for a few bucks? Dinner sorted!
If you’re feeling extra adventurous – check out your local famer’s market for your fresh fruit and veggies.
The fruit and veg is often cheaper, of a good quality and it’s a plus that the money is going direct to the grower. Also, if you wait until the market is about to close, growers will often slash their prices and you can get some great deals.
If the veggies you want are out of season, check out the frozen aisle
I love frozen veg, it’s hassle free (ie. no preparation involved) and so quick and easy to just throw a handful into whatever you’re cooking for dinner.
Frozen veggies are just as good for you and usually a whole lot cheaper. They last for ages in the freezer so there’s no need to worry if you haven’t eaten them by the end of the week.
Just pop the bag back into the freezer and grab it out whenever you’re ready to use it again.
Check the area at the back of the store for a shelf or rack of reduced items
You know what I’m talking about, the rack full of random bits and pieces that no one else wants.
If you usually just walk right past it, next time take you’re at the shops, take a closer look. See if there’s anything there you can actually use. Dried herbs close to their sell by date? Some cereal with a ripped box? Dented cans?
Sometimes it’s just the packaging that has been damaged but the contents are still perfectly fine. The supermarket can’t sell the item for full price so they just want to get rid of them.
You can always find some great bargains there so don’t ignore the discount shelf!
Check the loyalty rewards scheme
Almost all supermarkets have a loyalty rewards scheme. It’s usually free and simple to sign up.
Some stores will give you money off for reaching a certain amount of points.
Plus, stores will also sometimes offer you bonus deals connected to your personal shopping habits. Eg, extra points on items you regularly purchase or vouchers to try out new products.
Use a shopping app for cashback
If you like to do your shopping online then this one is for you!
There are quite a few websites out there that will offer you cashback if you do your shopping through them.
How does it work?
It’s quite simple really. All you have to do is download the app to get started. Then just login to the app and access the grocery shop website and shop away.
Once you have made your purchase (your item/s will still come directly from the retailer), you’ll be able to claim back a small percentage of your grocery shop total. The money will then get paid back into either your bank or your PayPal account.
In short you get paid for shopping!
It’s not just groceries either, there are a heap of big brand stores you can earn cashback through….ASOS, Apple and Expedia to name a few.
Don’t be tempted by the items stocked by the checkout
You know – the ones with the shiny wrappers…they’re there waiting for you as you pay for your shopping. Resist their call, say no and walk right past. Your wallet and your waistline will both thank you!
Hopefully some of these tips will help you stick to your weekly shopping budget!