how to save money on groceries
A few ways to get the biggest bang for your buck at the supermarket.
Unless you’re a self-sufficient farmer or an extreme couponer, groceries are likely to make up a pretty hefty portion of your weekly budget. It’s especially tough when there's so much delicious nosh out there (who can resist a fancy-schmancy French cheese or the occasional box of specialty macarons?). Luckily, there are a few things you can do to cut back on your food budget. And if you need a few meal ideas, check out our previous school of frankie article on cheap-arse meals.
PLAN SHIT OUT This is an obvious tip, but it’s always good to be reminded that planning your meals in advance means you’re less likely to have perfectly good fresh produce going to waste. Weekly meal plans, like these ones from Good Food, have already done it for you. Meal-planning apps, such as Paprika or Mealime, can also be used to keep track of your favourite recipes and break them down into shopping lists.
BE PICKIER WITH YOUR PROTEINS Sorry, meat-loving folks. Animal products like meat and dairy tend to be the dearest products in your shopping trolley. Try swapping out the mince in your regular meat lasagna with beans (cheap!), lentils (also cheap!) and other high-protein options.
COOK LOW AND SLOW If you’ve gotta have your beef, pork or lamb, ask your butcher about cheaper, lesser-known cuts that aren’t as popular with customers, but are equally tasty. Here's a bonus fun fact: the tasty art of American slow-cooked barbecue was developed as a way to get more depth of flavour out of traditionally cheaper cuts of meat.
GROW YOUR OWN HERBS Growing your own herbs and veg isn’t just a bougie trend for inner-city apartment-dwellers; it’s a bonafide way to save money. Plant the herbs you tend to use most in your cooking, in multiple pots if you have to, and use them to zhuzh up the simplest meal. A super-successful parsley, basil or coriander plant can be turned into regular batches of pesto you can freeze and plop onto any meal. Have a squiz at our guide to growing your own veggies, or Little Veggie Patch Co’s nifty tips if you’re curious.
PEEP THE UNIT PRICE Though one bottle of olive oil might look a bit exxy, it could be a cheaper buy in the long run if it contains more olive oil per millilitre than its competition. Most supermarkets will list the unit price of each object; start using it to differentiate between brands. Check out the ACCC’s guide to deciphering unit prices here.
CONSIDER THE GOOD STUFF Let’s stick with the olive oil example: a higher-quality olive oil might be more expensive, but it’s likely to have a stronger flavour, which means you’ll need to use less of it in your cooking. The same goes for flavour-adding products like vinegar, yoghurt, soy sauce, dried herbs, etc. That doesn’t mean you need to go all out on the priciest olive oil in the shop, but do pick products that are more likely to delight your taste buds.
SHOP FRESH OR FROZEN Don’t let your food go to waste! Super-fresh produce is going to last longer, which means you have more time to cook it. That means it’s worth getting seasonal produce from your local farmer’s market, or even buying slightly underripe fruit. Frozen fruit and veg is also a great option if you’re one to waste produce. They’re often frozen as soon as they’re picked, so they’re packed with nutrients, and you can add them to any dish when you’re ready to cook. Here’s a list of fruit and veg it’s worth picking up from the freezer aisle.
COMPARE, COMPARE, COMPARE Prices can vary wildly between supermarkets, fresh food markets, specialty grocery stories and even wholesale food markets. If you have multiple supermarket options close by, it’s worth spending a day comparing the prices of foods you buy regularly (your local Asian grocery store, for example, might have cheaper and tastier fish sauce than the Woolies). Apps like Frugl will help you keep track of the most affordable options.