Recently a question was asked in a Facebook group I’m in – “how much do your weekly groceries cost and for how many people?” I was absolutely shocked when I was the only person who feeds 3 people (2 adults and a toddler) for less than $100 – usually closer to the $50-$75 mark where the norm seemed to be $150+ for the same sized family!
That conversation lead to many people asking how I manage to do it and so I am going to share my methods here.
Grow food where possible.
Now before you cry out that you can’t possibly grow anything because your yard is too small etc – I grow a decent amount of food on my balcony as I live in units. It’s nowhere near enough to sustain us but it certainly helps reduce costs and encourages us to eat healthier. We grow spring onions, silver beet, tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts such as alfalfa. Herbs are worth growing if you use them frequently as they can be quite expensive.
Keep a (digital) price book
There are apps
that can fulfill this need or you could even use something like google sheets to create your own. Creating a price book can be time intensive but the payoff is massively worth it. They give you a starting point for what a good price is for each item you frequently buy and allow you to compare which retailer offers the best price if you have multiple choices. For example I live close to a Coles and Woolworths with an Aldi reasonably close by. I reject the idea that Aldi is cheapest because at least for where I live each retailer offers various things at the cheapest price. I never knew any of that before I started a price book.
Buy discounted vouchers
I almost always get at least 5% off everything I buy at Woolworths because I buy e-gift cards online. Coles doesn’t sell them as regularly at a discount unfortunately but you can sometimes buy only1 visa gift cards at cost value (ie $100 for $100) from Woolworths with your discounted wish card, that can then be used to shop at Coles – or anywhere that accepts visa – to allow you to shop at a discount. The discounted wish e-gift cards can also be used at big w and Woolworths Caltex stores.
Buy in bulk
Most of the time (although not always) buying in bulk is cheaper. If you can buy something in bulk and store it so it won’t be wasted (weevils, food spoilage etc) it’s a good way of reducing costs as well as your environmental impact due to reducing packaging. Always compare unit cost (price per kg or L) to make sure it is actually cheaper to buy in bulk – the price book is great for that.
Buy on special
Similar to buying in bulk, if you know you will use it and it won’t go to waste if you see it on special – buy up. This may temporarily make your grocery bill cost more but in the long run allows you too save. I buy milk frequently as it nears it’s expiry and gets marked down and freeze some (don’t go overboard though as it doesn’t freeze well for too long!) Similarly I often buy meat on a mark-down special and then freeze for later, allowing for cheap meat meals.
Utilise the store loyalty program
If a loyalty card takes $10 off my shop I still include that as an income/expense in my budget so technically isn’t reducing my grocery expenditure as far as my budget is concerned – but it is still reducing the amount I have to pay – and that is a definite win in my eyes.
The statistics for how much of our groceries goes into landfill is quite honestly terrifying. This is probably the single largest thing you can do to reduce your grocery expenditure. Shop your pantry and make a meal plan before you go shopping. That’s not too at you cant make wiggle room for awesome specials, but shopping your pantry first will remind you what you already have, it’ll allow you to rethink what you need in order to use up what’s in your pantry first. Learn more about the food we eat is another way to reduce wastage too as you can learn to make meals with what you probably used to throw out. I regularly make bone broth with scraps of bone and veggies, I salvage good bits of going bad fruit and freeze for easy smoothie bags, I freeze diced onion an mushrooms before they go bad for later use in cooking (note freezing can change the texture of food – some foods freeze better than others which can influence how they can be used post freezing)
Make from scratch or create your own bespoke version of processed foods
As I have mentioned previously in Cutting Costs: Project Cereal
, you can use a combination of different cereals to make your own cheaper (and tastier) cereal. I also frequently make my own tastier, healthier and cheaper pasta sauce from scratch when I buy bulk quantities of cheap tomatoes. When buying processed foods you are frequently paying for convenience so expect there to be more time required to reduce the grocery spend this way.
There are also other methods you can use to reduce the overspend that are hugely well covered, things like avoid the centre aisles, don’t shop whilst hungry and only carry cash, but I don’t find those tips anywhere near as handy at reducing my overall grocery bill. I hope you have found some worth in these suggestions and would love to hear if you have anymore suggestions 🙂 -FIM
Don’t forget to check out other articles in the ‘Cutting Costs’ series!
Cutting Costs: Project Cereal
Cutting Costs: Project Water